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Russian Catholic leaders pledge to work with Putin after election win

March 22nd, 2018 Posted in International News Tags: ,


Catholic News Service
WARSAW, Poland — Russia’s minority Catholic Church has pledged to help build a civil society after the nation’s March 18 election and called on President Vladimir Putin to “justify voters’ confidence” after his victory.

“Our church always stresses its readiness to work with the Russian Federation’s secular powers on important issues, such as building a civil society and forming healthy life patterns,” said Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary-general of the Russian bishops’ conference. “Although we don’t currently face any special barriers to our service on Russian territory, we suffer the same problems as the rest of society with bureaucracy, corruption and the ambiguous implementation of laws.”

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Viewpoint: ‘The cry of humanity: peace, peace’


That Halloween season Strategic Air Command bombers with bright orange markings started flying low over our schoolyard to land about four miles away at Philadelphia’s airport. It’s a memory confirmed by histories that report it was Oct. 26, 1962, when B-47s were deployed to civilian airports in a DEFCON 2 alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As an 11-year-old following the news, I assumed the problem of Communist Russia’s missiles in Cuba would be resolved by the United States invoking the Monroe Doctrine to keep the Soviet Union’s weapons both out of Cuba and the entire Western Hemisphere. Read more »

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Have you heard? A U.N. treaty, backed by Vatican and U.S. bishops, has banned nuclear weapons


Catholic News Service

The passage of a United Nations treaty banning the possession of nuclear weapons comes at a time when the majority of world’s nations are frustrated with the slow pace of nuclear disarmament.

Even with such a pact, years in the making, there is no timeline for total disarmament, arms control experts told Catholic News Service. Read more »

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War between Christians is a scandal; Ukrainians need peace, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The only word worthy of being heard in the throes of war is “peace,” and there is nothing more scandalous than a nation made up of Christians engaged in conflict, Pope Francis said.

“When I hear the word victory or defeat, I feel such great pain, great sadness in my heart. These are not the right words, the only word that is right is peace,” he said, when commenting on the escalation of violence in Ukraine. Read more »

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Pope urges Europe to nurture religious roots, sow peace in its borders


Catholic News Service

STRASBOURG, France — The project of European unity and cooperation, ensuring peace on the continent and helping others find peace as well, requires a real commitment to dialogue and respect for others, Pope Francis said.

While the pope did not specifically mention the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia, both members of the Council of Europe, he told council members that a “great toll of suffering and death is still being enacted on this continent.”

Pope Francis speaks during a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis speaks during a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Visiting European institutions in Strasbourg Nov. 25, the pope marked the 65th anniversary of the 47-member Council of Europe, which was formed to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law on the continent in the wake of the destruction and division sown by the World War II.

Where is Europe’s energy, idealism and constant search for truth, he asked members of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, ambassadors from the 47 member states, the 47 judges of the European Court of Human Rights and other guests, including representatives of the religions present in member countries.

“Europe should reflect on whether its immense human, artistic, technical, social, political, economic and religious patrimony is simply an artifact of the past or whether it is still capable of inspiring culture and displaying its treasures to mankind as a whole,” he said.

“In a world more prone to make demands than to serve,” he said, helping one another and promoting a peaceful resolution of conflicts must be at the heart of the Council of Europe’s agenda.

“The royal road to peace , and to avoiding a repetition of what occurred in the two world wars of the last century, is to see others not as enemies to be opposed, but as brothers and sisters to be embraced,” the pope said.

Pope Francis told the Council of Europe, as he had told the European Parliament earlier in the day, he realizes members of the Catholic Church in Europe have not always been blameless, but that the church constantly commits itself to serving others better, a commitment that government and international organizations must make as well.

He pleaded with the European institutions to be more serious and creative about increasing employment, particularly for the young. The high rate of unemployment among young people, averaging 20 percent across the 28 member countries of the European Union, is “a veritable mortgage on the future,” he said.

“Achieving the good of peace,” he said, “first calls for educating to peace, banishing a culture of conflict aimed at fear of others, marginalizing those who think or live differently than ourselves.”

Using the international forum of the Council of Europe, Pope Francis condemned “religious and international terrorism, which displays deep disdain for human life and indiscriminately reaps innocent victims.”

“This phenomenon,” he said, “is unfortunately bankrolled by a frequently unchecked traffic in weapons.”

The call to peace, Pope Francis said, first involves stopping violence, but it goes deeper and the Council of Europe project is to sow peace through the promotion and protection of human rights.

Using the image of a tree, growing tall but firmly rooted in the earth, the pope insisted that the European project cannot succeed if it does not maintain and nourish its roots of Judeo-Christian values, beginning with the sacredness of human life and the pursuit of truth and the common good.

People with a purely “scientific mentality” have trouble understanding how such growth works, he said. “In order to progress toward the future we need the past; we need profound roots.”

Without those roots, the pope said, people think only of themselves and their rights and needs, feeling free to “throw away” anything or anyone they do not find useful.

“We have a surfeit of unnecessary things, but we no longer have the capacity to build authentic human relationships marked by truth and mutual respect,” the pope said. The lack of solid relationships has wounded Europe, sapping it of the vitality it once had and tempting it to close in on itself instead of helping others.

European institutions and the continent’s citizens must stop speaking only to those they already agree with completely, he said. Dialogue with others actually strengthens one’s identity while also making one more sensitive to the gifts and needs of others.

As he did earlier in the morning, the pope called special attention to the needs of migrants who arrive on Europe’s shores needing material aid, “but more importantly a recognition of their dignity as persons.”


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Russia’s occupation of Crimea ‘is only the beginning,’ says Ukrainian bishop


Catholic News Service

A Ukrainian Catholic priest in Crimea said church members are alarmed and frightened by the Russian military occupation and fear their communities might be outlawed again if Russian rule becomes permanent.

Father Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a pastor in Kerch, Ukraine, described the atmosphere as tense because many residents of the town located in the eastern part of Crimea were unsure of their future.

Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk in formation near a Ukrainian military base in Crimea March 7. A Ukrainian Catholic priest in Ukraine’s Crimea region said church members are “alarmed and frightened” by the Russian military occupation and fear their communities could be outlawed again if Russian rule becomes permanent. (CNS photo/Vasily Fedosenko, Reuters)

“No one knows what will happen. Many people are trying to sell their homes and move to other parts of Ukraine,” Father Milchakovskyi told Catholic News Service March 12.

“Our church has no legal status in the Russian Federation, so it’s uncertain which laws will be applied if Crimea is annexed. We fear our churches will be confiscated and our clergy arrested,” the priest said amid tensions over a planned March 16 referendum on whether the autonomous territory should join Russia or remain in Ukraine.

Father Milchakovskyi said the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s leader, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, had pledged prayers and support if fellow-Catholics found themselves in danger.

However, he added that his church feared Russian rule would inflict a “new oppression” on Ukrainian Catholics, whose five communities traditionally make up about 10 percent of Crimean peninsula’s 2 million inhabitants.

“Many have already stopped coming to church, after being branded nationalists and fascists by local provocateurs,” Father Milchakovskyi said.

“The Orthodox have always insisted they’re dominant here and done everything to make life unpleasant for us. If they’re now given a free hand, we don’t know whether they’ll behave like Christians or follow the same unfriendly policy,” he said.

Under Soviet rule, from 1946 to 1989, the Eastern-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church was outlawed. The strongest members lived their faith clandestinely, while others attended an Orthodox church or no church at all. The government confiscated all church property, giving some buildings to the Orthodox and putting other buildings to secular uses.

In January, Archbishop Shevchuk said Ukraine’s now-ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, had threatened to ban the Ukrainian Catholic Church because of its support for pro-Western opposition protests. However, Leonid Novokhatko, Ukraine’s former culture minister, denied that Yanukovych planned to ban the church.

Father Milchakovskyi said he had been allowed, as a military chaplain, to visit Catholics serving with the Ukrainian naval infantry in Kerch, after their base in the eastern port was blockaded by Russian-backed forces.

He reported that Russian troops were “controlling who and what gets through,” and said young recruits now lacked food and medicines.

“Everyone says the results of the referendum are already known, although many would vote to remain in Ukraine, or to retain Crimea’s autonomous status,” the priest said.

“The referendum will have no legal status, and we don’t even know who’ll conduct it and count the votes. But we’re deeply anxious it will be used as a pretext to act against us,” he added.

Two days earlier, in a separate CNS interview, Father Milchakovskyi said Catholics would likely not vote in the referendum.

“They say that It’s not legal. They will not take part in it and that it is just illegal,” he said using his wife, Alexandra, as an interpreter. Eastern clergy may be married prior to priestly ordination.

Ethnic Russians make up 58 percent of the Crimean population, with Ukrainians 24 percent and mostly Muslim Tartars about 12 percent.

In a March 12 statement on his diocesan website, Bishop Bronislaw Bernacki of Odessa-Simferopol criticized the international community for not taking action against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The world talks, criticizes Russia and does exactly what Putin expects, nothing,” said Bishop Bernacki.

He predicted the Crimea referendum, which has been rejected as illegal by most foreign governments, would “prove 80 percent support” for the region’s annexation by Russia and reflected a “wider policy by Putin,” as revealed in a 2008 military campaign against Georgia.

“Cutting off Crimea is only the beginning, it will then be time for Ukraine’s eastern and southern counties, and then perhaps the whole country,” the bishop said.

The president of Ukraine’s Latin-rite bishops’ conference, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv, told Poland’s Catholic information agency, KAI, March 12 the bishops would hold their March 19-21 plenary in the eastern city of Kharkhov, “to be closer to those in greatest danger.”

News reports March 12 said unarmed groups of volunteers, with support from local authorities, were attempting to protect churches, mosques and cemeteries from looting and vandalism.

A day earlier, a bishop with Crimea’s Orthodox Church associated with the Kiev Patriarchate, which backs the new Ukrainian government, said several prominent pro-Western activists had disappeared. The statement said there was a “real danger to the lives of Ukrainians” in the territory.

Meanwhile, prices for fuel and food were rising fast, Father Milchakovskyi said.

“Our parishioners aren’t wealthy, and our clergy live in the same conditions, but we can’t request money or material help because we’ve no way of receiving them,” the priest said.

“We’re counting on the prayers of Christians abroad and also their moral support in protesting and making our problems known as widely as possible.”

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