Municipality of Ukraine Returns Churches to Catholics

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ODESSA, JULY 29, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Civic authorities in Ukraine unanimously voted to return Church buildings, confiscated by Bolshevik revolutionaries over 80 years ago, to the Catholic community.



Municipal deputies will hand over the property to the Latin rite Catholic diocese of Odessa-Simferopol, reconstituted by John Paul II in 2002 over the diocese that existed before the revolution.

The buildings will provide Bishop Bronislaw Bernadsky with a desperately needed office and parish hall. In addition, they will also be used for diocesan authorities and the Christian charity organization, Caritas.

With a diocese of 9,000 Roman Catholic lay people, 25 priests and 24 nuns, the buildings will be in large demand. As well, on Monday, the Pope created the exarchate of Odessa-Crime of the Greek-Catholic Church in the diocese.

The communists had also confiscated Odessa city's only Catholic church and turned it into a gym. When it was returned to the Church 10 years ago, the building needed thorough restoration.

Many Catholic communities in the region have had their buildings returned but money shortages are delaying restoration work.

Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity which supports persecuted and deprived Christians, is responding by giving more than $100,000 to Church projects in the area.

The Ukrainian government, with the approval of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on July 17, is pressuring the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to return the historic Pochayiv monastery to the Russian Orthodox Church. Local councils and organizations such as the Ternopil Regional Council are resisting the hand over, saying that the monastery is important to Ukrainian culture.