Catholic bishop expresses disappointment over infringement of Catholics' religious rights in southern Ukraine
On Sunday, June 26, Catholics of Odesa for the first time in many years were not able to walk in the traditional procession on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ around their cathedral. The Catholics were decided permission from the Distrcit Administrative Court, on the basis of statements from the Odesa City Council.
The formal reason for imposing a ban on the procession was to prevent a clash on the streets of the city.
A few days before the Odesa Catholics applied for permission for the procession, the Odesa City Council received a letter of request from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to obtain permission for Orthodox believers to walk in a procession along a similar route and at the same time with the purpose of "glorifying Orthodox faith in Odesa."
Bishop Bronislav Bernatski, who is currently abroad, has already commented upon this situation to the foreign press. In particular, he said: “I am indignant at the actions of the Odesa City Council and the Odesa City Executive Committee that led to banning the traditional procession on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ around the cathedral for Odesa Catholics. Annually for 7 years on the celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ we walked around the block of our cathedral in a solemn procession. We have never disturbed the public order.”
The curia of the Odesa – Simferopol diocese considers that the events around the banning of the procession for Catholics give evidence for the dangerous tendency of reducing religious rights and freedoms of minority religious communities in southern Ukraine. The curia reminds that Odssa is a multicultural city. It also has a lot of religions. Once the city council can keep the balance and maintain the rights of all, prosperity will prevail in the city. If the city council cannot maintain the balance, the city will fall into devastation and disaster.
“I urge the city authorities not to betray the interests of the city community which delegated their votes to you at the local elections. Religion was always the basis for developing culture and education and improvement of the society. I request the city council to reconsider their attitude toward Catholics and prevent the infringement of religious rights and interests in the future. These rights were given to us by the Ukrainian Constitution, and we are celebrating today the Constitution`s fifteenth anniversary with all citizens of Ukraine who are all equal,” said Bishop Bronislav Bernatski.
"I make a request to the world public to pay attention to the infringement of fundamental rights of religious minorities in Ukraine at the present moment, especially toward Catholics in the south of Ukraine," said the bishop.
This request is supported by other churches. Furthermore, the German bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church expressed his concern that the religious law in Ukraine, which should guarantee to all registered churches and religious communities the right of religious freedom, is being undermined by favoring only particular denominations.