KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 2 February 2001

CRIMEA: NO PLACE FOR GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
SEVASTOPOL. Ahead of the visit to Ukraine in June by Pope John Paul II,
which he hopes will help promote dialogue with the Orthodox in the country, a
Greek Catholic community in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol is continuing to
experience opposition from the Orthodox Church, which has prevented it from
building a church to serve its 200-strong community.

CRIMEA: NO PLACE FOR GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
SEVASTOPOL

by Anna Vassilyeva, Keston News Service

Ahead of the visit to Ukraine in June by Pope John Paul II, which he hopes will
help promote dialogue with the Orthodox in the country, a Greek Catholic
community in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol is continuing to experience
opposition from the Orthodox Church, which has prevented it from building a
church to serve its 200-strong community. Despite having obtained registration
a decade ago, the Greek Catholics' persistent attempts to obtain a plot of land in
central Sevastopol to build their own church have got nowhere. The
development plan approved by the city council in 1995 includes up to 99
Orthodox churches, but leaves no space for a Greek Catholic church.

It is not clear if the refusal to grant the Greek Catholics land for a church will
be discussed when the papal nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic,
visits Sevastopol on 8 February, although he will be discussing with the city
council the refusal to hand back the confiscated Roman Catholic church (see
KNS 29 January 2001).

`Our community was registered back in 1991', priest of one of the two Greek
Catholic communities in Sevastopol, Fr Pyotr Kamensky, told Keston News
Service on 28 January, `and despite having applied for an appropriate plot many
times, we have failed to obtain one.' After applying for a plot in the
Kamyshovaya Bukhta district of the city, the Greek Catholics were refused by
the city council since it had already been allocated to the Orthodox. Fr Pyotr
admitted that the council did offer them two other sites, but `one was on the
slope of a mountain and the other not far from a dump' (see KNS 9 May 2000).
The latest refusal was issued last summer.

Fr Pyotr ascribes the refusal to Orthodox intolerance towards the Greek
Catholics. While denying any intolerance between Orthodox and Roman
Catholics, a senior official of the religious affairs department of Sevastopol city
administration Anatoli Sigora admitted to Keston by telephone on 23 January
that `there is certainly such intolerance between the Greek Catholics and the
Orthodox'.

Accompanying the city architectural plan approved in 1995 was a map with 70
or 99 (figures from different sources vary) would-be Orthodox churches
marked on it. The plan was presented to the city council by the Orthodox dean
of Sevastopol region, Fr Georgy Polyakov. `I cannot say about 99 but I know
for sure about 70 such planned buildings,' hieromonk Paisi (Dmokhovsky),
representative of Metropolitan Lazar (Shvets) in Sevastopol region, confirmed
to Keston on 24 January.

Viktor Yevlashkin, deputy head of the city council, declined to give any details
of the plan, telling Keston by telephone on 23 January that it was perhaps
`misinformed'. Although he confirmed that the plan `did exist', Sigora declared
it `has lost its legislative power'. `We offered the Greek Catholics two plots of
land, but they rejected them. They insisted on a plot in the city centre, which is
impossible.' Asked whether the architectural plan restricts the Greek Catholics
he replied that `the Orthodox do everything they can to prevent Greek
Catholics, whom they consider "uncanonical", from obtaining a plot, especially
near Orthodox churches. Historically, there has never been a single Greek
Catholic church in this area.'

`I thought they had already built a church,' Fr Paisi remarked about the Greek
Catholics. `I feel sorry for them.' But, speaking to Keston by telephone on 29
January, he declined to say whether the architectural plan restricts the Greek
Catholics. He reported that Orthodox church building is continuing in the city,
the most recent - St George's chapel on the site of the Second World War
museum on Sapun Mountain - built in 1997. Five more are under construction
and he thinks even those 70 plots will not be enough to provide an increasing
number of Orthodox parishes with churches. `At the moment we have at least
15 communities on the waiting list for registration.' There are currently 31
registered Orthodox parishes loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate in Sevastopol.

Orthodox obstruction has also prevented the Greek Catholics joining the Inter-
confessional Council of the Crimea, of which a Roman Catholic priest, Fr
Roman Derdzyak, is a permanent member. Fr Pyotr reports that the Crimean
Greek Catholics were twice refused admittance on the grounds that they were a
`non-traditional' denomination in the region. (END)