Ukrainian Catholics fear increased oppression

Nearly 97 percent of voters supported leaving Ukraine and joining Russia in the Crimean referendum vote on March 16, fueling an already perilous conflict in Ukraine. The question Ukrainian Catholics are asking is: How will this and other growing tensions impact religious freedom? Still-vivid memories of the underground Church do not paint a hopeful outlook.

In a recent editorial in OSV Newsweekly, the Editorial Board said:

“Catholics in Ukraine are no strangers to struggle. On the front lines of the ongoing fight between the East and the West, Greek Catholics under the Tsarist Empire were forced to convert to Russian Orthodoxy. Under Communist rule, churches were destroyed, and priests and other faithful martyred. Those who survived to carry on the Faith were forced to worship in secret. It was only Ukraine’s declaration of independence in 1991, following the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism, that paved the way for religious freedom.

Now, many fear that the past 23 years are in danger of being erased. In an interview with Catholic News Service, Father Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a pastor in Kerch, Ukraine (in Crimea), said no one knows what will happen next.

Watch this video from Catholic News Service to hear from a Ukrainian Catholic priest about the struggle. Father Mark Morozowich says the past is not something they want to repeat.

The Russian Orthodox Church issued a statement March 19 on the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea. Read it on Zenit.

Also read coverage of the crisis in Ukraine from OSV Newsweekly:

Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.