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Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk (CNS/courtesy Ukrainian Catholic Church)

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has denounced Russia’s seizure of a Catholic church in Ukraine’s Kherson region, calling the structure’s rededication for the Russian Orthodox Church a “sacrilege”. Source: NCR Online.

The Church of St Archstrategist Michael, located in the village of Oleksandrivka in the occupied Kherson region, was captured and joined to the Russian Orthodox Church during Holy Week of the Julian calendar, said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk in a May 2 homily at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kyiv. 

(The Julian calendar remains intact for the present in Ukraine until after 2025, when all Ukrainian Greek Catholic parishes will follow the Gregorian liturgical calendar.)

The archbishop said that images of the confiscated church – which honours the archangel’s role as leader of the heavenly host – evoked “the words of the prophet Elijah, who cried out to the Lord, saying: ‘Lord, your prophets were killed, your altars were destroyed. I am left alone, and my life is being sought’.”

Construction on the church began in 2017, some 11 years after the formerly Orthodox parish was officially received into the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The seizure is part of a steady campaign by Russia to suppress the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, along with Catholicism in general and other faiths, in occupied areas of Ukraine.

In December 2022, Yevgeny Balitsky, the Kremlin-installed head of the area’s military-civil administration in the occupied Zaporizhzhia region, banned the UGCC, the Knights of Columbus and Caritas, the official humanitarian arm of the universal Catholic Church, denouncing all of them as agents of Western intelligence. The document confirming the ban came to the attention of UGCC only in December 2023.

The Kyiv-based Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF) reported on March 23 that since the beginning of the year, Russian militants calling themselves “Cossacks” have seized UGCC churches and adjacent property in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, while barring “believers of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to enter the churches and the territory for prayers and worship.”


Shevchuk: Russian rededication of Catholic church for Orthodox faith a ‘sacrilege’ (By Gina Christian, OSV News via NCR Online)