24 February 2014, The Tablet

Ukrainian Catholic archbishop welcomes president’s departure

A Catholic archbishop in Ukraine has expressed hope that the nation can start to heal if it turns in “a pro-Western policy direction” following the removal from office of President Viktor Yanukovych on Saturday.

After days of violent confrontations and political upheaval and the deaths of more than 80 people and the in the country, Roman Catholic Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Metropolitan of Lviv, said: “I think that the events on the Maidan [Independence Square] are a chance for Ukraine if they will change the political system and lead to a more pro-Western policy direction.

“Thanks to them, there is hope for the healing of the state, for greater justice and for simplifying the conditions for foreign travel as well as for facilitating the conditions for foreign investors,” he added.

Yesterday Orthodox clergymen led a prayer service alongside a crucifix and an image of Our Lady of Guadalupeat the site in Kiev where opposition protesters were killed.

Opposition protesters took control of Ukraine's capital at the weekend, seizing the office of President Yanukovych as parliament voted to remove him and hold elections in May.

Mr Yanukovych left Kiev, went into hiding and the parliament issued a warrant for his arrest. The new Ukrainian Parliament, dominated by the opposition, struggled to work out who was now in charge of the country and its ailing economy. There have been fears that the country could split in two – a Europe-leaning west and a Russian-leaning east and south.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow issued a plea for peace in Ukraine on Sunday, also expressing concern about the “tragic division of our Church” in Ukraine.

Calling for an end to the bloodshed by “minds clouded by violence”, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch denounced “attempts to use political power to resolve the question of the Church in Ukraine”.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow patriarchate, which is allied with the Russian Orthodox Church, is one of three different bodies vying for recognition as representative of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev patriarchate is led by Patriarch Filaret, who was excommunicated by Moscow when he sought to set up an autonomous Orthodox hierarchy in Ukraine, and the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, has links to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople.

Last week policemen burned a makeshift chapel set up on Kiev’s Independence Square – the centre of mass opposition protests for nearly three months – by Ukrainian Greek Catholic clergy. The police also attempted to beat open the doors of some churches in Kiev to arrest injured demonstrators.

On Thursday, a lecturer at the Ukrainian Catholic University, Bohdan Solchanyk, was among the people killed by police in Indepenence Square. A sniper’s bullet pierced his head.

Pope Francis and Ukrainian church leaders have called for an end to all violence and a commitment to dialogue for the good of all Ukraine. In Kiev, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said: "I state with great sorrow that calls by the Churches to stop the shedding of blood and seek a peaceful settlement of this conflict were not heard."

Photo: CNS/Reuters

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