Ukrainian Primate Lauds U.S. Bishops

BALTIMORE (CNS) — The new primate for the world’s 8 million Ukrainian Catholics lauded the work of the U.S. bishops’ annual national collection to aid the church in Central and Eastern Europe.

The collection “has provided financial support for the development of basic church structures which had been destroyed by the communist regime,” said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, who had overseen as apostolic administrator a Ukrainian eparchy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before his election as primate earlier this year.

“We will always remember” the help given by the U.S. church, Archbishop Shevchuk said Nov. 14, the first day of the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.

The church in Ukraine — the largest Eastern church by numbers — has benefited from the financial assistance, he added.

“Today the church is undergoing a period of rebirth and resurrection,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “We are blessed with many vocations. Our seminaries now have three applicants for every available space.”

The archbishop suggested the church could aid Ukrainian society.

“Our society is just emerging from the post–communist ideology,” according to Archbishop Shevchuk.

“Ukraine is undergoing tremendous social and economic changes today,” he continued. “We are marked by a lack of credibility in government and our social and political institutions.”

The country’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, was convicted in October of abuse of power and sentenced to seven years in prison in what some Western observers denounced as a show trial.

The church, he added, can offer “a society based on Christian principles” and “a distinct moral authority.”

However, Archbishop Shevchuk noted, “a majority of the population in Ukraine does not identify with any of the churches.” But by the same token, he added, “there is a tremendous opportunity for evangelization.”

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