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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

3/14/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Many fear their communities will be outlawed if Ukraine falls under Russian rule

As Russia moves to tighten its military and political hold over the Crimea and the Ukraine, many Ukrainian Catholics fear that their churches and communities will be outlawed. "No one knows what will happen," Father Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a pastor in Kerch, Ukraine says. "Many people are trying to sell their homes and move to other parts of Ukraine."

Ethnic Russians make up 58 percent of the Crimean population, with Ukrainians 24 percent and mostly Muslim Tartars about 12 percent.

Ethnic Russians make up 58 percent of the Crimean population, with Ukrainians 24 percent and mostly Muslim Tartars about 12 percent.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/14/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Ukraine, Crimea, Catholics, oppression


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Our church has no legal status in the Russian Federation, so it's uncertain which laws will be applied if Crimea is annexed. We fear our churches will be confiscated and our clergy arrested," the priest said. He says that his church feared Russian rule would inflict a "new oppression" on Ukrainian Catholics, whose five communities traditionally make up about 10 percent of Crimean peninsula's 2 million inhabitants.

"Many have already stopped coming to church, after being branded nationalists and fascists by local provocateurs," Father Milchakovskyi said.

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"The Orthodox have always insisted they're dominant here and done everything to make life unpleasant for us. If they're now given a free hand, we don't know whether they'll behave like Christians or follow the same unfriendly policy," he said.

The Eastern-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church was outlawed between the years of 1946 to 1989. The strongest members lived their faith clandestinely, while others attended an Orthodox church or no church at all. The government confiscated all church property, giving some buildings to the Orthodox and putting other buildings to secular uses.

Archbishop Shevchuk says that Ukraine's now-ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, had threatened to ban the Ukrainian Catholic Church because of its support for pro-Western opposition protests.

A vote by the Crimea to rejoin Russia is on everyone's mind here. "Everyone says the results of the referendum are already known, although many would vote to remain in Ukraine, or to retain Crimea's autonomous status," the priest said.

"The referendum will have no legal status, and we don't even know who'll conduct it and count the votes. But we're deeply anxious it will be used as a pretext to act against us," he added.

Ethnic Russians make up 58 percent of the Crimean population, with Ukrainians 24 percent and mostly Muslim Tartars about 12 percent.

A bishop with Crimea's Orthodox Church associated with the Kiev Patriarchate, which backs the new Ukrainian government, said several prominent pro-Western activists had disappeared. The statement said there was a "real danger to the lives of Ukrainians" in the territory.

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