30 March 2020, The Tablet

Ukraine church offers premises for Covid-19 patients

Ukraine church offers premises for Covid-19 patients

The special train from Kiev to Moscow evacuated Russian citizens to Moscow and brought back Ukrainian citizens from Moscow to Kiev after Ukrainian authorities shut the country's borders amid the spread of the COVID-19
SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

Ukraine's Greek Catholic Church has agreed to re-purpose its buildings as hospitals and care centres during the coronavirus epidemic, as other religious denominations also stepped forward with practical help in containing the crisis. 
"The Church's primary purpose is pastoral care – and our medical chaplains are already working in hospitals at this tragic time," said Fr Lubomyr Javorski, the Church's patriarchal economist.
"But we also have many property resources which can be used during the pandemic. These can be converted into hospitals, but also made available to physicians away from their workplaces and to people returning from abroad with nowhere to quarantine themselves". 
The priest outlined the proposals in a video message, after a Sunday homily by Ukraine's Greek Catholic leader, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, offering to turn parishes, churches and monasteries into health facilities and rehabilitation centres.
The Church's Information Department confirmed the offer had been welcomed by the country's premier, Denys Shmyhal, during talks with the archbishop, who had now set up a special Church centre to co-ordinate the initiative.
It added that its cathedral at Ternopil was already being used to store and distribute "protective equipment and essential supplies" for city hospitals, while young Church volunteers were also collecting funds for Ukraine's health service. 
In a homily, Archbishop Shevchuk said his Church would "do everything possible" to prevent doctors "having to decide who should live and die" due to a lack of medical supplies. However, he added that the Ukrainian authorities should also "declare a political quarantine" by avoiding "decisions likely to cause social tension" during the pandemic, and "resist the temptation to use quarantine measures to harass or repress political opponents".    
"If needed, the entire ecclesial and spiritual space will become hospitals for saving human lives," the archbishop told Ukrainian health workers. "You must teach us how to do it – but we can learn quickly and well, so we can save lives with you". 
Ukraine's newly created independent Orthodox church and its Moscow-linked rival have both also offered premises for treating coronavirus victims. 

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