A Ukrainian Catholic bishop has warned that the Church could lose its legal status in Crimea under Russian rule and pledged to use 'all possible means in the international arena' to defend it, reports The Catholic Herald.
'Greek Catholic communities like ours are denied rights in the Russian Federation, which we see as a violation of freedom of conscience and religion,' said Bishop Bohdan Dzyurakh, secretary-general of the Ukrainian Catholic Synod of Bishops.
'We hoped these restrictions wouldn’t be applied to our Church in Crimea, but we’ve been told all religious communities must now re-register there. This means the local government usurps the power to reject those it sees as a threat. After the recent ethnic cleansing, this will amount to religious cleansing.'
Bishop Dzyurakh spoke to Catholic News Service in early April as pro-Russian protesters stormed Ukrainian government buildings in the eastern cities of Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv, raising fears of a new Russian military intervention after the March annexation of Crimea.
He said the situation in Crimea remained 'tense and dangerous' for Catholic clergy, after one priest was arrested and threatened with prison, and others were branded 'Vatican agents' and warned to leave.
'Catholics are still leaving Crimea — hardly anyone remains in some communities, and it’s hard to see how our pastoral work can survive,' he said.
'We’re consulting legal experts about our rights under international law, since these are issues of fundamental religious freedom too important to be left in the hands of local officials.'
Photo: Pro-Russia protesters scuffle with the police at the regional government building in Donetsk, Ukraine
FULL STORY Ukrainian Church battling to remain legal in Crimea (The Catholic Herald)