Why Catholics Should Pay Attention to the Crisis in Ukraine
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, a branch of the Catholic Church in Ukraine, has warned that a new cold war could develop as Russia seeks to assert control over Ukraine.Ukrainians are naturally suspicious of Russian hegemony. Under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, more than 400,000 Ukrainians were deported to Siberian concentration camps. There was no rescue for these people, no hope, no day of release.
Most persecuted under Stalin and his successors were Ukrainian Catholics, who stood against Soviet domination with steadfast courage, often accepting persecution, even martyrdom, instead of succumbing to the worship of the Soviet state.
With this backdrop, many Ukrainians were naturally upset when their own president, Viktor Yanukovych abandoned a trade deal with the European Union in exchange for a $15 billion deal with Russia that included reduced gas prices from Russia, one of the world's largest producers of natural gas and oil.
Since that decision in November, many Ukrainians took to the streets in protest. Those protests have become violent at times, with protesters and police meeting in bloody clashes in the streets and squares of Kiev.
The Church remains behind the Ukrainian people, that is the protesters.
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk warned Vice President Joe Biden last week at the National Prayer Breakfast that a new cold war could loom if Russia is able to increase its hegemony in Ukraine, according to a report in The Blaze.
Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became, by default, the world's third-largest nuclear power since Soviet forces abandoned stockpiles of nuclear weapons across the region. It was widely feared that those weapons could be proliferated through sale to other countries, since Ukraine, as a new nation, might be tempted to sell the weapons for cash.
It was also feared that the stockpiles could be pilfered by unscrupulous generals and arms dealers and weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists. For these reasons, and to prevent the addition of a new major nuclear player, the international community exerted pressure on the new government to return the weapons to Russia. Promises to protect the country from a return of Russian dominance were made by the European Union and the United States.
Now, Russia appears to have an eye on Ukraine again. It's logical since Ukraine has plenty of natural resources, farmland, and warm-water ports in the Black Sea. Despite popular fear the Russians could be making powerful inroads into the nation, the government has forged ahead with solidifying close economic ties with Russia, leaving the people furious and worried.
The world should be concerned about a resurgent Russia, if it re-surges in a way which embraces some of the mistakes of the former Soviet Union. Although the United States has never been in a hot war with Russia, and relations today seem to be more cordial, there is a powerful undercurrent from some former KGB and Communist officials in the Russian government.
Vladimir Putin was once a KGB agent and, as a result, some question his motivation. Others point to his profession of Christian Orthodoxy as a sign of change. However, there is an old guard, although quiet, which remains powerful and envious of the past.
It is the Church, especially Catholics who could pay the price of this political ambition. The United States could also find itself called to honor its obligations to Ukraine, a promise the USA and EU seem unlikely to keep.
The current government of Russia is not all that friendly to the United States and has a mixed history with the Catholic Church. The people of Ukraine have reason to be concerned and we have reason to pray for them and to be prepared to stand with them -if the day should come.