Church ‘Returned to Catacombs’ in Ukraine

Ukrainian Catholic leaders have warned that their church is being driven underground again, a quarter-century after it was re-legalized with the end of Communist rule. “In Crimea and eastern Ukraine, we’ve already effectively returned to the catacombs,” said the Rev. Ihor Yatsiv, the church’s Kiev-based spokesman. “It’s a sad paradox that history is being repeated just as we commemorate our liberation,” he said on Dec. 18. The priest spoke as Ukrainian Catholic communities in Russian-occupied Crimea approached a deadline on Jan. 1 for re-registering under Russian law. He said the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church had no legal status in Russia and would therefore be unable, in practice, to register. Father Yatsiv said Russian and separatist forces had not officially refused to register Ukrainian Catholic parishes, but had ensured it was impossible because of the lack of legal provisions. He added that there was no effective government in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, where rebel groups did not recognize Ukrainian Catholics and were “imposing whatever rules and regulations they choose.”

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