23 January 2014, The Tablet

Ukraine Government threatens pro-EU Greek Catholic priests

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said the Government has threatened his Church over its involvement in the pro-EU protests in Kiev that have escalated into violence.

Opposition leaders were due to meet the Government today, a day after two people were killed in clashes with police, the first reported deaths in the months-long protests that have followed President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to distance the country from the European Union.

Some Greek Catholic clergy have been involved the opposition protests, celebrating Masses in Independence Square, where hundreds have been injured in the past week.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said he received a warning from the Ukrainian Culture Ministry saying that priests needed official permission for worship services in public places such as Kiev’s Independence Square, otherwise the Church’s official registration could be reviewed.

Archbishop Shevchuk said the Greek Catholic Church is not involved in politics but “cannot stand aloof when believers ask it for spiritual assistance”.

He added that the only way to resolve the political crisis in Ukraine was an honest and open dialogue, and that such a dialogue would have to be based on the Government's willingness to listen to the people.

While most of the Ukrainian Churches publicly support the European integration of Ukraine, some Roman Catholic bishops have recently criticised the leaders of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for going too far in its support of the Ukrainian pro-European opposition and for forgetting about the country´s Russian population.

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