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"Danger exists in all parts of the Donetsk Exarchate, but UGCC priests continue to serve in their communities," - Exarch Stepan Menyok

17 June, 09:00
Catholics
"Danger exists in all parts of the Donetsk Exarchate, but UGCC priests continue to serve in their communities," - Exarch Stepan Menyok - фото 1
Bishop Stepan Menyok, who heads the Donetsk Exarch of the UGCC, spoke about how the ministry takes place in this Exarchate, which suffers the most from the war. The Donetsk Exarchate of the UGCC covers the territory of Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. Some of these territories were occupied back in 2014, and the other part – after February 24 this year, when the Russian Federation launched a full-scale war against Ukraine. In some of these regions, there is a front line.

About his ministry in these circumstances, the Exarch of Donetsk, Vladyka Stepan Menyok, CHNI told in an interview for Vatican Radio.

The Exarch's house was occupied by militants, so he could not return but remained in Zaporiahia, where he still lives and from where he performs his ministry of managing the Exarchate.

"There are still four of our priests in Donetsk who continue to serve there," Bishop Stepan notes, " and there is also one in Luhansk. They have kept their parishes safe, and people are coming, although more than half have left the region. Until February 24, these priests could come to the unoccupied territory, but now they can no longer leave there and remain to serve there."

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the Exarchate of Donetsk has suffered again. The priest, who served in Mariupol, barely managed to escape. "Recently, we’ve lost three more parishes, the priests had to leave their parishes in Kreminna, which is already occupied by the Russian military, in Severodonetsk, where very fierce battles are being fought, and in Lysychansk," the hierarch says, adding that the tactics of war of the Russian army are very cruel: first they bomb and destroy cities or villages, which causes the death of civilians and the destruction of infrastructure, and then they attack. "Danger persists in all parts of the Exarchate, but priests, who are 53, continue to serve in their communities," he explains.

His Eminence noted that humanitarian aid comes to Zaporizhia from around the world. Local Caritas and St Basil's sisters distribute this aid day and night to those in need, especially refugees. Many of them began to come to the Greek Catholic parish. Mariupol Caritas, whose seat was hit in mid-March, also moved to Zaporizhia. Seven people were killed, including two Caritas employees. Now in Zaporizhzhia, Caritas of Mariupol deals with refugees from this city, which is under the occupation of the Russian army.

"I hope that the Lord will return me to Donetsk again," the hierarch says confidently. "We will serve the liturgy, and I will not say the first sermon, but just cry, and that's it." "What gives you such confidence?" when asked this question, the bishop emphasizes: "only the Lord. Truth must overcome lies and evil. It has always been this way."