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Fathers Ivan Levytskyi and Bohdan Heleta who were released from Russian captivity on June 28 (Vatican News)

Two Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests seized by Russian forces from their church in Berdyansk, in south-eastern Ukraine, in November 2022, have been released, according to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Source: OSV News.

Redemptorist Fathers Ivan Levitsky and Bohdan Geleta, who served at the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, were among 10 prisoners who have been returned to Ukrainian authorities.

President Zelensky announced the news on June 28 on his Facebook page.

“We have managed to free 10 more of our people from Russian captivity, despite all the difficulties,” wrote President Zelensky, who recognised “the Holy See’s efforts to bring these people home.”

Moments after the announcement, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church posted the news on its website, along with images of the two priests taken during their imprisonment by Russia. Both appeared to have lost significant amounts of weight, and their heads were shaved. The priests gazed directly at the camera, holding up religious medals in their right hands and raising their left thumbs. Fr Geleta smiled.

Metropolitan Archbishop Borys A. Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, speaking from Ukraine, said: “We still don’t know what kind of condition (they are in) and what kind of trauma they endured.

“We are glad that they’re safe and we hope they can recover from this ordeal,” he said, describing the priests as “confessors of the faith,” an honorific title historically used to describe Christians who have publicly professed Christ amid persecution.

Also freed along with the two priests were Nariman Dzhelyal, deputy head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, who was captured in Crimea in 2021; civilians Olena Piekh and Valeriy Matiushenko, held captive since 2017-2018; and five civilians captured in Belarus: Mykola Shvets, Natalia Zakharenko, Pavlo Kupriienko, Liudmyla Honcharenko and Kateryna Briukhanova.


Ukrainian Catholic Priests Freed From Russian Captivity (By Gina Christian, OSV News)


Ukraine: Zelensky thanks Holy See for its help in the release of two priests (Vatican News)