Ukrainian Church Condemns Police Action in Kiev's Independence Square

Expresses Support for "Peaceful Character" of Protests

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The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has strongly denounced police action against protestors in Kiev’s “Independence Square” after police stormed the area which has been occupied by protesters for over a week.

“We are profoundly disturbed by the actions of the state security forces on the Maydan Square in heart of Kiev conducted under the cover of the night,” the permanent synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and the members of the permanent synod condemned “the action directed towards restricting civil liberties, especially the freedom of expression and peaceful civic manifestation of the citizens of Ukraine.”

The permanent synod also expressed its support for “the peaceful character of this civic gathering” and declared its “rejection of any type of violence,” Vatican Radio reported.

For several weeks, Ukrainians have been protesting President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to scrap key trade and political agreements with the EU. The violence has plunged the ex-Soviet country into its most acute political crisis since the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands filled Independence Square, and dozens of masked protesters tore down a statue of Lenin. The protestors were still holding nighttime protests on the square when elite Berkut anti-riot police and interior ministry special forces moved against them at around 2:00 am, according to AFP.

The agency said thousands anti-riot police surrounded the square and then forcibly entered the area, pushing demonstrators away. Despite the use of force, Ukraine's pro-opposition Channel 5 said there were now 10,000 protestors on Independence Square after the police actions in what appeared an increasingly chaotic situation.

In its statement, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church declared its “support and solidarity with all those on the Maydan Square who are standing with dignity and witnessing to the dignity of their fellow citizens and of the whole nation.”

“We strongly support the peaceful character of this civic gathering and declare our rejection of any type of violence,” they said. “We pray to God Almighty for peace, justice and the triumph of truth for our people.”

“In this time of great trial by the words of Jesus Christ that were proclaimed in all of our churches this past Sunday offer encouragement: "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed!"”, they said.

The protests in Ukraine, known popularly as the ‘Euromaidan’, began on the night of 21 November 2013 due to large public support for closer European integration, as well as the resignation of the government. Ukrainians have shown preference to extending economic ties with the EU while a minority appear to support closer trade links with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, Thomas Edward Gullickson, wrote on his blog Dec. 10 that “justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.”

“As the days pass here in Ukraine, the world is being treated to an ongoing and hopefully ever more profound acquaintance with what is at stake in or on ‘Euromaidan,’” he wrote. “Facile or dismissive assessments of what is happening are out of place, disrespectful of the reality that is there for all to see.

“Nonetheless, for much the same reason, whatever you say you are bound to sell someone short; we are dealing with an hour in the life of a people, an opportunity which has true potential for greatness. It is all too evident that what is going on here could be stifled, it could end in tragedy, but it won't fizzle. A historic passage has taken place and all the world must take account of the great Ukrainian people as they stand now before the world. Stereotypes or reductive classifications from the past must finally be abandoned.”

He concluded by saying that in many ways ‘Euromaidan’ “embodies what is ailing in the world today, while not failing to shine forth as light and promise in a people's quest for dignity and the right to self-determination.”

“We stand by all these men and women of good will and pray for their nation, its integrity and progress,” he wrote.