Over the weekend, the Ukrainian community was shocked to learn about the abduction of a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest by armed men in the Crimea.
On Saturday, 15 March, a group of militants kidnapped Rev. Mykola Kvych from his parish church, Assumption of the Virgin Mary, in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. Besides providing pastoral care to the local Ukrainian Greek Catholic population, Father Kvych has also been ministering as a chaplain at the Ukrainian navy base. After several hours of interrogation and torture, the priest was released. However, his kidnappers reportedly warned him that if he continues his ministry, he will be tried and punished severely.
Two other Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests — Rev. Ihor Havryliv and Rev. Bogdan Kostecki — have also reportedly been approached and threatened by radicals because of their pastoral work. But reports indicate priests have been resisting intimidation tactics. Catholic News Agency reported on Sunday:
Priests in Crimea of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has received numerous oral and written threats in recent weeks, as military tensions have escalated on the peninsula; several were warned to leave Crimea, yet have remained with their flock.
“Our priests and bishops have been very close to the people,” said Bishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Vladimir-Le-Grand of Paris, according to Vatican Radio. “We’ve been inspired by the example of Our Lord (who) went a long distance from fellowship with the Father to incarnate himself and be in our reality.”
The church’s priests in Crimea have been inspired by Pope Francis, “who said a pastor needs to have the smell of his sheep. And our pastors have been with the people, and they’re today with the people enduring this occupation in the Crimea,” Bishop Gudziak noted.
“Every abduction is a terrible event for everybody involved,” the bishop stated, emphasizing that “it’s a gross violation of human rights and God-given human dignity.”
Canada’s ambassador for religious freedom, Andrew Bennett, has expressed concern over the situation, stating, “On behalf of all Canadians who value freedom of religion and adherence to the rule of law, we call for an end to such practices of intimidation and for those responsible to be brought to justice.”
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