Pope Francis met privately at the Vatican with the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church on Monday, the day after pro-Russian voters on the Crimean peninsula voted to secede from Ukraine in a referendum the US and EU called illegal, reports CNS/NCR.
While Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Eastern rite Church in Ukraine, declined requests for interviews, it was assumed his talk with the Pope would include a discussion about the fate of the Ukrainian Catholic priests ministering in Crimea.
Ukrainian Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris, head of the Ukrainian Church's external relations department, issued a statement on March 15 saying Fr Mykola Kvych, pastor of the Dormition of the Mother of God Parish in Sevastopol, was taken from his Church that morning, 'seized by two men in uniform and four men in civilian clothing.'
Earlier in the week, Bishop Gudziak said, the Church's leadership had urged Fr Kvych and the other priests in Crimea to evacuate their wives and children to mainland Ukraine.
'The priests themselves returned to their parishes to be with their faithful in a time of crisis and moral and physical danger,' he said.
Several hours after Fr Kvych was taken from the Church, the Ukrainian Catholic Church's information service reported he had been freed after questioning, which apparently focused on accusations that he had been organizing anti-Russian riots.
The next day, however, parishioners helped him leave Crimea. He told the Church information service that 'several unknown individuals' continually rang the doorbell of his apartment, then tried to break in. When they left, he took the chalice and paten he uses for Divine Liturgies and some important documents and left the city.
Photo: Ukrainian Catholics parade in Kiev
FULL STORY Head of Ukraine Catholic Church meets Pope Francis (CNS/NCR)