The UGCC calls for prayer for the release of two clergymen from Russian captivity
At 18:00 in the St. Josaphat Martyr Church in Lviv, where Father Ivan served as the rector from 2015 to 2019, a Liturgy will take place, followed by a prayer to Hieromartyr Nicholas Charnetsky. At 20:00, an online prayer vigil for the release of our captives will begin on Zhyve-TV.
Earlier, the monks affiliated with the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, served in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the UGCC in Berdiansk, a sacred space they contributed to building five years ago.
On November 16, 2022, the illegal "administration" in the temporarily occupied territories arrested Fathers Ivan Levytskyi and Bohdan Heleta on charges of storing weapons and explosives and allegedly engaging in "subversive" and "partisan" activities.
As previously reported by RISU, Father Ivan actively participated in pro-Ukrainian rallies and regularly prayed at the "I Love Berdiansk" monument.
After their arrest, the press service of the Donetsk Exarchate of the UGCC issued an official statement emphasizing the "illegal abduction and imprisonment of two clergymen."
The statement reads:
"1) These priests were in the place of their priestly ministry on entirely legal grounds, conducting their statutory activities in the local parish for more than three years, preaching the Word of God, which is peace for every person.
From the beginning of the full-scale war by Russian forces on Ukrainian territory until the day of their arrest by representatives of Russian special services, there were no objections, and all their activities did not go beyond the scope of their pastoral duties and were subject to detailed reporting on their part to the church authorities.
3) At the time of the search in the church and the adjacent parish house and technical premises of the parish, both priests were already under arrest, meaning they could not control these premises and the actions of the Russian National Guard. They cannot be held responsible for the allegedly found weapons and ammunition. This is a blatant slander and false accusation.
The analysis of the library holdings of this parish presented in a journalistic report by the 'Zvezda' TV channel is simply astounding and surprising to anyone with even a superficial knowledge of European history of the last century. Such an analysis can only be perceived as either a failed journalistic joke or a cheap means of intentional discredit of UGCC clergy in the style of the most primitive slanders against our Church by the atheistic communist regime of the former USSR. Such methods were used by the then-state security authorities for the physical elimination of bishops, priests, and believers from the period of World War II until the fall of the Soviet Union; and such a method was again used by a journalist.
The very fact of such behavior by representatives of the local Russian authorities towards the clergy of the UGCC can only have one assessment – complete disregard for the fundamental principles of human rights."
The Exarchate of Donetsk draws attention to the fact that the appearance of deliberately fabricated false accusations of storing weapons and explosives in the Russian propaganda information space occurred "after the SBU conducted searches in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra." They note that prior to that, both priests were "not accused of anything."
"Considering the above, we demand the immediate release from custody and imprisonment of our priests, Hieromonk Ivan Levytskyi and Hieromonk Bohdan Heleta, as well as ensuring their unimpeded lawful service to the spiritual needs of the faithful of the UGCC residing in Berdiansk," emphasized the statement.
As later became known, Pope Francis also interceded for the priests, actively participating in the efforts to release Ukrainian captives.