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Worsening persecution in Ukraine

The Holy Father has appealed for constructive dialogue between the Ukrainian government and protestors amid worsening violence in the country, which has sparked fears of persecution of the country’s Catholics.

Addressing the crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Angelus Prayer on Sunday, Pope Francis said he is praying for the people of Ukraine, in particular ‘for those who have lost their lives during the violence of the past days, and for their families.’ The Pope said he is praying the parties involved will ‘avoid resorting to violent actions, and that the spirit of peace and the quest for common good may prevail.’

Weeks of protests in Kiev have escalated into violent clashes between police and demonstrators angry that the government didn’t sign a deal to bring it closer to the European Union.

On Monday, Ukraine’s justice minister warned anti-government protesters occupying her ministry she will call for a state of emergency if they do not leave. Olena Lukash said she would ask the National Security and Defence Council to introduce the measures.

Andrew Bennett, Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom has warned that the Ukrainian government is persecuting Catholics as the political crisis grows there.

Mr Bennett said President Viktor Yanukovych’s attempted intimidation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church could be the start of a wider crackdown on churches in Ukraine as the civil uprising continues.

Mr Yanukovych has offered opposition leaders a power-sharing deal in an attempt to appease the protestors but violent protests continue.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, has begged his countrymen to pray for peace and unity as political unrest continues.

“With great dismay and sadness we witness the events taking place at the moment in Kyiv,” the archbishop said. “In view of these exceptional circumstances, I would like to appeal to all the faithful of the church, the Ukrainian people, and to all people of good will. In the name of God, stop the bloodshed! Violence was never the way to build a free and independent state! Bloodshed will never reconcile hearts or bring a positive outcome.

“I appeal to the Ukrainian authorities: listen to your people, hear them, do not use violence against them or repressive mechanisms. I appeal to our episcopate and clergy: Especially at a time like this watch over the souls entrusted to you.”



—This story ran in full in the January 31 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.


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