Kharkiv’s Greek Catholics Can Build Church

28.11.2001, 15:48
The city and regional administrations of Kharkiv have decided to give the local Greek Catholic community a plot of land on which they can build a church. After years of requesting permission, on 16 November 2001 Fr. Mykola Semenovych, the priest of the parish, received a letter from the regional authorities ordering the local government to give the Greek Catholics a long-disputed lot.

As reported a number of times in RISU (1 November, 22 August, 7 July) the Greek Catholics of eastern Ukrainian Kharkiv have been trying to get land on which to build a church since 1997. One major obstacle has been Metropolitan Nykodym (Rusnak) of Kharkiv, Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). He has consistently opposed the Greek Catholics’ attempts. He has been joined by the governing board of the Institute for the Protection of the Health of Children and Teenagers, a hospital whose territory borders the lot, and some left-wing political groups. Fr. Semenovych said that it is the regional authorities, interested in cooperating with the UOC-MP and Metropolitan Nykodym, who created the obstacles. Other lots were suggested, but they were either totally unsuitable for building a church or likely to cause further “conflict.” A number of national deputies in Ukraine’s Parliament, the Kharkiv eparchy of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, the intelligentsia and dozens of lay organizations and human-rights groups stepped in to support the Greek Catholics. Both the Ukrainian and the foreign mass media reported on the story. On 8 November Fr. Semenovych had a personal meeting with V. Kyiko, the assistant to Kharkiv’s mayor, in which all the relevant issues were discussed. Then on 13 November the parish community received a letter signed by Mr. Kiiko. The letter stated that the Kharkiv city administration constantly works to protect citizens’ rights to freedom of conscience and religious expression. To this end “the necessary conditions for conducting religious services will be created.” According to the letter, that the city authorities have never considered changing the decision they made in 1999 to give the Greek Catholic community a plot of land. The letter’s author wrote that, on the contrary, upholding citizens’ constitutional rights and creating equal possibilities for satisfying spiritual needs are of the highest importance. So no obstacles should arise in building the church. On 16 November Fr. Semenovych received a letter from the assistant to the head of the regional administration, V. Shumilkin. The letter stated that the regional authorities have ordered M. Pylypchuk, mayor of Kharkiv, to ensure that the city authorities’ decision of 1999 is carried out. The Greek Catholic community of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker seems to have received a present from St. Nick, whose feast is celebrated on 19 December according to the Julian calendar. Fr. Semenovych noted that some political groups continue to oppose the decision, but he said that these activities are explained by the upcoming parliamentary elections, which will be held early in 2002. “We’re sure that everything will be all right,” Fr. Semenovych asserted.