The abduction occurred on Saturday March 15, between 10:00-11:00 AM, in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine. Pro-Russian armed forces abducted Fr. Mykola Kvych, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, directly from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish of the Dormition of the Mother of God, located on Silska Street 5 (near kilometer 5 of the Balaklava highway).
Fr. Kvych was seized by two men in uniform and four men in civilian clothing. The young chaplain for the Ukrainian Navy was taken to an undisclosed location where he is being held captive. A parishioner who called Fr. Kvych's cellular phone heard abusive language on the line directed at the priest before the call was cut short. Sources confirm that Fr. Kvych is alive.
Earlier this week at the direction of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic hierarchy Fr. Kvych and other Greek Catholic priests in Crimea evacuated their wives and children to mainland Ukraine. The priests themselves returned to their parishes to be with their faithful in a time of crisis and moral and physical danger.
The call of Pope Francis for "pastors to have the smell of their sheep" has guided Catholic clergy in Ukraine during the months of peaceful protest of millions of citizens that began November 21 after President Yanukovych refused to sign an agreement of Ukraine's association with Europe.
Through December and most of the January the demonstrations in the "Revolution of Dignity" remained peaceful despite provocations and attacks by riot police. In late January and February violence by government special forces directed at demonstrators led to confrontation which left more than 100 people death. In Ukraine the victims are called the Heavenly Hundred.
On February 20 the brutal killing of scores of unarmed protesters by government snipers using high-powered rifles at short range led police to refuse orders of President Yanukovych. On February 22 Yanukovych fled Kyiv and subsequently appeared in Russia from where he is encouraging the further infiltration of Russian military into Ukraine. The Russian military occupation in Crimea is into its third week and many Ukrainians fear that they face imminent war.
Yesterday, another Greek Catholic priest returned to his home in Crimea (location not revealed to preserve the priest's identity) to find on the destroyed door of his apartment a menacing sign: "Get out Vatican spies. Police were standing outside the building.
The Greek Catholic priests of the peninsula have been directed not to celebrate services in their churches this Sunday but to serve in Roman Catholic Churches where in the company of other clergy their safety can be more easily guaranteed.
The Yanukovych government threatened to delegalize the Greek Catholic Church at Christmas time due to the pastoral attention that priest gave to protesting faithful. From 1946 to 1989 the UGCC was the biggest illegal Church in the world and the most substantial body of social opposition to Soviet rule in Ukraine. Since it did not collaborate with Soviet authorities it has enjoyed particular moral authority in Ukrainian society in the post-Soviet period and during the current social and political crisis.
Bishop Borys Gudziak Head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Eparch of the Eparchy of St. Volodymyr in Paris for Ukrainian Greek Catholics in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg and Switzerland