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News

Ukrainian Catholic priests flee Crimea after Russian takeover
26 March 2014 12:33 by Josef Pazderka

Several Catholic priests in Ukraine fled the country’s Black Sea region of Crimea after receiving threatening phone calls and messages from local pro-Russian armed militia and being abducted for several days.

“The situation is very dangerous, we all hope that Western political forces will stop (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” said Fr Bronislaw Bernacki, Roman Catholic Bishop of Odessa-Simferopol.

With the growing numbers of Russian troops and local pro-Russian militia, pressure has mounted on people in Crimea who did not recognise the Moscow’s sudden takeover of the Crimea peninsula, including Ukrainian Roman and Greek Catholic priests in the region.

“We need help and spiritual support … a miracle, a miracle of peace,” said Fr Jacek Pyl, a Roman Catholic priest in Crimea. The head of the Jesuits in Ukraine, Fr David Nazar, called the annexation of Crimea a “completely illegal occupation”.

While most of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches condemned Moscow’s actions in Crimea, the Russian Orthodox Church called it “the peace-making mission” that “should guarantee the Crimea citizens the right to self-determination and close ties with other peoples of historical Rus”.

Fr Vladimir Legoyda, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, added: “We pray for fraternal blood to never be shed on the Crimean land and for God to keep all residents of the peninsula – Russians, Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and representatives of other ethnicities – in peace, wellbeing and consensus.”

Above: Orthodox clergymen pray next to armed servicemen near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean. Photo: CNS/Reuters