In the ongoing battle between the government of Ukraine, who wants to partner with Russia, and the people of Ukraine, who want to partner with Europe, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (in full communion with the Catholic Church) is occupying a central role, as this story from the Global Post reports.
The Church was persecuted by the Soviet Empire many years ago because it failed to become part of the Russian Orthodox Church which had submitted to Soviet Communism.
Perhaps sensing inevitable backlash, President Viktor Yanukovych has offered an olive branch to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church by saying religions should be able to offer services anywhere.
The president’s press office issued the statement Tuesday after Ukraine’s Culture Ministry sent a warning letter to church officials about their work with pro-EU demonstrators.
“People should have the right to pray where they wish,” Yanukovych said, according to the presidential press service.
“We need to relax the legislation requirements and ensure believers have an opportunity to pray where they wish.”
The culture ministry sent the letter to church officials saying they’re breaking the law by offering outdoor services to protesters, Agence France-Presse reported.
Upset Ukrainians have besieged Kiev’s Independence Square, or the Maidan, for two months after the government abruptly rejected an agreement with the European Union in favor of ties with Russia.
The Greek Catholic Church has erected tents in the square where people can pray, give confession or even have babies baptized.
The letter to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk reminded him that it’s illegal to hold services outside a church.
“We thought that the prosecution of priests was a thing of the past,” Shevchuk said in response, according to AFP…
The church dates back centuries and is unique in that it embraces Byzantine traditions and the Roman Catholic Church.
It was forced underground in the early 20th century as a threat to Soviet rule. Hundreds of UGCC clergy were sent to Soviet gulags for refusing to embrace the Russian Orthodox Church.
Retrieved January 17, 2014 from http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/140115/ukraines-greek-catholic-church-stares-down-government-and-wins