Every UGCC parishioner in Crimea must submit their passport data and be on the parish list
Fr Oleksiy Gorobets-Dolmatov, member of the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat, told the Ukrainian service of the Polish Radio told about the situation of the UGCC in Crimea.
“There are five Greek Catholic parishes operating in Crimea, which were re-registered according to Russian legislation. The Synod of our Church has separated the Crimean Exarchate from the then Odesa-Crimean Exarchate of the UGCC. The bishop was to be appointed, but just then, these events occurred in 2014 (the annexation by the Crimea of Russia - ed.), and the five parishes found themselves in the territory of the Russian Federation. The problem is the lack of priests. Today there are two priests working there, "he said.
“During the so-called ‘Russian Spring’ many UGCC parishioners left the Crimea. In Sevastopol, in the parish in which I worked, there were 79 parishioners. They are all on the list. According to Russian legislation, there are lists of parishioners, each parishioner must provide his or her passport details. Last year, the so-called “Yarovaya package” came into force, a package of anti-terror laws, as it is called. According to these laws, every parishioner must be registered. There are also people who stopped going to church for obvious reasons.”
"Religious Tolerance" in the Crimea
“There is no particular persecution on the part of the local population or the official government. Suffice it to say that it is the Russian legislation (that is rigid, ed.) towards the non-traditional religious beliefs, to which we unfortunately have for some reason belong- because the Greek Catholic Church is traditional for the Russian Federation, if not Ukrainian, at least as the Russian Greek Catholic Church. During the ‘Russian spring’ Aksyonov (self-proclaimed prime minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea - ed.) –as the parishioners told me - stated that there would be no Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Crimea. But later, after the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Pope of Rome Francis, the situation changed completely. We were offered re-registration. In 2016, we received re-registration, but were forced to change the name - now we are called the Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite. The Exarchate, which is already registered, is directly accountable to the Vatican. I have already mentioned that Russian legislation is not as liberal as in Ukraine, and therefore there are certain limitations in activity. For example, according to the "Yarovaya Package", we have no right to lift common prayers outside the church, but only in the temple or somewhere in the cemetery. The prohibition of the propaganda of one's religion, faith is also in effect. In this context, we have a problem – if I submit on our page a schedule of worship for Easter or for a weekly week, then will this not be considered a violation of this provision? Another requirement - during the church worship, only those who are on the list of parishioners can attend. If, for example, one of the vacationers who come to the Crimea finds out that there is a church and wants to come to worship, and if the FSB or the Ministry of Internal Affairs found that we have a person walking to the church but not put on the list of parishioners, then there could be problems.”
“Russian authorities refused to register Ukrainian public organizations, and our Church is the only cell for people where they can feel themselves Ukrainian. Various Ukrainian holidays are marked in the churches - Mother's Day, St. Nicholas, Independence Day of Ukraine, Embroidery Day, Flag Day. We celebrate all these holidays in the walls of our temples or chapels.”
History of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the Crimea
“Our Church began its operation during the years of Ukraine's independence. The first parish, registered in 1991 in Crimea, was a parish in Sevastopol. This was facilitated by various civic organizations, in particular the Union of Women-Ukrainians. Subsequently, parishes were founded in Yalta, Simferopol, Kerch, and the youngest parish was in Eupatoria. For us the Crimea is a holy land. After all, even before Kyivan Rus, the Crimean land was blessed with the martyrdom of St. Pope Clement.”
“Now one should have a nerve in the Crimea, because even if there are no direct threats or open prosecutions, the very situation in which we are, demands from us stability, endurance and courage. In order to be able to withstand in the environment which is hostile towards everything Ukrainian.”