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Roman Catholic Bishop Comments On Church’s Situation In Southern Ukraine

26.11.2002, 16:44
Bishop Bronislaw Bernadsky, ordinary of the Odesa and Simferopol diocese of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), commented on the state of Roman Catholic communities in southern Ukraine on 26 November 2002.

One of the bishop’s major activities currently is conducting retreats in Odesa for RCC priests who have parishes in southern Ukraine. Bishop Bernadsky stressed that spirituality suffered the most from the atheistic regime in the southern territories of Ukraine, in particular in Odesa. “In the former Tyraspol diocese of the RCC, 63 percent of the faithful were Germans and 30 percent Poles. There were also French and Italians. The Germans were brought to Kazakhstan and Siberia by force. The same was done to the Poles, many of whom were also killed. Practically all Catholic places of worship were destroyed in southern Ukraine,” stated the bishop. According to Bishop Bernadsky, the main cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church in Odesa was turned into a sports hall during Soviet times. The columns and altars of the church were destroyed and only the external walls remained intact. “During atheist times, only the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul was preserved,” said Bishop Bernadsky. “In the four other regions of the diocese, everything was devastated. Only now, when Ukraine has become independent, priests are returning and looking for people to restore spirituality. Many people are still intimidated and scared today, but we are taking small steps and renewing parishes. Among other obstacles, we are lacking priests and nuns.” The bishop also stated that the Odesa authorities do not hurry to help the Catholic community. He hopes that the special commission which studies archival materials will restore justice in the return of church property. Concerning Catholic monasteries in the Odesa region, Bishop Bernadsky said that before the revolution of 1917, there were four Franciscan women’s and one men’s monasteries, as well as Dominican monasteries. Today they still exist, but they are not as big as, for instance, in Poland, said the bishop. In addition, Bishop Bernadsky assured that the missionary work among sailors will continue. “There is a huge port in Odesa. Many Catholic sailors look for priests and it is our Catholic duty to serve these people,” said Bishop Bernadsky.