KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 6 July 2001.=20
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist=20
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

UKRAINE: KHARKIV'S GREEK CATHOLICS TO WAIT LONGER FOR=20
CHURCH. Greek Catholics in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, who=20
have been trying to build a church for the past four years, faced a setback=
=20
during Pope John Paul II's visit to Ukraine in late June, when city
authorities=20
rescinded a building permit they had issued. The move came after a=20
neighbouring state-run health institute protested against the construction.=
=20
City officials maintain the timing of the decision to halt construction
during=20
the pope's visit was coincidental.

UKRAINE: KHARKIV'S GREEK CATHOLICS TO WAIT LONGER FOR=20
CHURCH

by Evgenia Mussuri, Keston News Service

Greek Catholics in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, who have been=20
trying to build a church for the past four years, faced a setback during=
Pope=20
John Paul II's visit to Ukraine in late June, when city authorities
rescinded a=20
building permit they had issued. The move came after a neighbouring state-
run health institute protested against the construction. The Greek Catholic=
=20
parish priest told Keston News Service he believed the local Orthodox=20
bishop must have influenced the decision, but the institute's deputy=
director=20
denied to Keston her institution had any connection with the Orthodox=20
Church and claimed the site was on land belonging to the institute. City=20
officials maintain the timing of the decision to halt construction during=
the=20
pope's visit was coincidental.

After years of negotiating with city authorities, Greek Catholic leaders=20
finally received permission in 1999 to begin building their church on land=
=20
next to the State Institute for Mother and Child Health Protection. After=20
various departments approved the site, the church proceeded to draw up=20
plans. `All the geodesic and geological tests were conducted on this land,'=
=20
Father Mykola, the Greek Catholic parish priest, told Keston from Kharkiv=20
on 4 July. However, as soon as the plot was consecrated and a cross erected=
=20
on the site of the future church, the Institute's managing board began=20
protesting against the construction. `The water supply and sewerage systems=
=20
were being worked on when the city made us stop.'

Kharkiv's Greek Catholic parish, which was registered in 1993, has been=20
trying to get land to construct a church since 1997. Without a church of its=
=20
own, the 300-strong parish uses the city's Roman Catholic Church three=20
times a week. The parish proposed two potential sites, but city authorities=
=20
concluded that the first location should accommodate holiday youth events,=
=20
while the second is located in a park where an amusement ground is planned.=
=20

Objections to the current site by the Institute's directors are the Church's=
=20
main obstacle. The Institute does not want the church as its neighbour and=
=20
has asked the city administration to reclaim the site. The Institute, which=
=20
operates a hospital, claims that having the church so close might cause=20
`social damage' to patients.=20

`The Institute not only appealed to the city, but to the Metropolitan of the=
=20
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate as well,' Father=20
Mykola claims. Metropolitan Nikodim `is a very powerful figure in Kharkiv,=
=20
leaving city authorities little choice but to support the call.'

The institute denies any connection with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the=
=20
dominant faith in Kharkiv. `We are against any church on this territory,'=20
Elena Lehova, the Institute's deputy director, told Keston from Kharkiv on 5=
=20
July. `We are simply very cautions about the health of our patients.'

Father Mykola regards the latest moves as a `provocation'. `The whole=20
situation is rather obscure,' he told Keston. `The city authorities said=
they=20
would hold various youth events at the first site they suggested, but I have=
=20
been in the city for seven years and have never seen any event take place=20
there. Secondly, no amusement park has been built. And now they want to=20
stop this construction.'

The Institute seems unlikely to back down. `First of all the plot is
located on=20
our land,' Lehova said. `Unfortunately, the documents certifying that have=
=20
been mislaid.' She claims the Institute was fenced in 26 years ago and the=
=20
plot given to the Greek Catholics is within this territory. Lehova also
points=20
out that the site is only some 50-60 metres away from hospital buildings=20
where patients are treated. `We have all kinds of seriously ill people here,=
=20
including cardiac and mental cases. A church means constant crowds of=20
people, burial and wedding services, bells etc. This will do no good for the=
=20
sick.'=20

Lehova hopes the Greek Catholics will change their mind and abandon the=20
site. `The Church should adhere to ethical and highly moral principles,' she=
=20
said. `Personally, both our director and I are atheists, and it is does not=
=20
matter to us what kind of church is built. We are against any religious or
cult=20
building that close to us, period.'

While construction is suspended, the city authorities are trying to=
determine=20
who is entitled to the land, hoping this will resolve the conflict. `The=
work=20
was suspended on an oral decision, there was nothing in writing,' Aleksandr=
=20
Serostanov, spokesman for Kharkiv city administration, told Keston on 5=20
July. `The question over the land existed before. It is a coincidence the=20
decision coincided with the pontiff's visit to Ukraine.'

Serostanov described city policy as `wise', saying it allows different=20
religions to construct churches. However, Father Mykola asserts that were=20
the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to build anything on the site it would face no=
=20
obstacles at all. (END)