KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 6 July 2001.=20
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist=20
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

UKRAINE: STILL NO RETURN OF SEVASTOPOL CATHOLIC=20
CHURCH. Despite the visit to Ukraine by Pope John Paul II, the Sevastopol=20
city council has not shifted its stance on the return to the Roman Catholic=
=20
parish of its church, for which the parish has been battling for almost ten=
=20
years. An article in the American newspaper USA Today on 25 June about=20
the stalled church restitution failed to sway the chairman of the city
council,=20
who regards the issue of the Catholic church as `political'. The parish
priest=20
hopes that the Pope=92s recent visit will ultimately lead to the church's
return.=20
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is likely to rule=20
in the summer whether or not to accept the parish's case.

UKRAINE: STILL NO RETURN OF SEVASTOPOL CATHOLIC=20
CHURCH

by Anna Vassilyeva, Keston News Service

Despite the June visit to Ukraine by Pope John Paul II, the council in the=
=20
Crimean port city of Sevastopol has not shifted its stance on the return of
the=20
city's Catholic church to the Roman Catholic parish, which has been battling=
=20
to get it back for almost ten years. An article in the American newspaper=20
USA Today on 25 June about the stalled church restitution failed to sway the=
=20
chairman of the city council Vasili Parkhomenko, who regards the issue of=20
the Catholic church as `political'. The parish priest, Fr Leonid Tkachuk,=20
hopes that the Pope=92s recent visit, and his meeting with the country's
leaders,=20
will ultimately lead to the church's return. The European Court of Human=20
Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is likely to rule in the summer whether or not=
=20
to accept the parish's case.

In spite of the approval of the Sevastopol city administration and the
positive=20
attitude of officials at the Department of Religious Affairs, the return of
the=20
church has met strong opposition from Parkhomenko and the city council,=20
without whose approval its return is impossible.

`No decision can be taken now,' Parkhomenko told Keston by telephone on 4=20
July. `A decision was made, then they appealed to the court and lost the
case.=20
Since then, no-one has appealed to us.' He said the recent papal visit would=
=20
have no impact on the issue. He did not know about the article in USA=20
Today because, he said, he `did not read that newspaper', and maintained=20
that `the city council's decision to refuse the return of the church was=20
supported by the Orthodox and by the city community.'=20

However, Parkhomenko told Keston he would be happy to allocate the=20
Catholic parish a plot of land in the city if they would like to build a
small=20
church.

Built in 1911 with imperial approval and closed in 1936, the church was=20
damaged during the Second World War. It has recently been used by the=20
city's culture department as the Druzhba cinema, with public toilets built=
in=20
place of the altar. Registered in 1995, the Sevastopol Roman Catholic parish=
=20
of St Clement, which has no other building and meets in the priest's=20
apartment, has 300 members. It has been refused the right to conduct=20
Christmas and Easter services over the past few years (see KNS 12 April=20
2001).

The USA Today article by the journalist Ellen Hale was published on 25=20
June during Pope John Paul II's visit to Ukraine. Although Parkhomenko=20
refused to give the paper an interview, telling Keston that `he did not have=
=20
anything to say on this issue', on 29 June he set out his attitude to the
Roman=20
Catholic Church on local television.=20

In the broadcast, Parkhomenko openly spoke of his wariness of the Roman=20
Catholic Church and the Pope's visit. He said he `approaches with a certain=
=20
caution those political factors that follow in the wake of the Catholic
Church.=20
In his time, [former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew] Brzezinski,=20
whom you know of, expressed himself rather more directly - "we have=20
destroyed communism on Russian territory, and our next goal is=20
Orthodoxy".'

He declared of the papal visit that `as a person with ideological
convictions,=20
I approach this visit with extreme caution, while on the other hand, as a=20
person involved in high-level politics, I understand that all that serves=
the=20
welfare of one's state, all that facilitates the rapprochement of one's
people,=20
all that leads away from discord must be used in this state at this=
difficult=20
time. Any confrontation, any disorder in the sentiments, thoughts and=
actions=20
of one's fellow citizens must, in as far as is possible, be excluded from=20
today's politics.'

Speaking by telephone to Keston on 26 June, Fr Leonid Tkachuk, while=20
enthusiastic about the USA Today article, was doubtful about the reaction of=
=20
the city leadership, among whom, in his view, `the article would not be
read'.=20
In his interview with the paper, he said the city council has wielded
`greater=20
influence' locally than the president.

An official of the ECHR told Keston from Strasbourg on 5 July that the=20
parish's application has still not been registered and was therefore unable
to=20
give any details on the case as `it is not in the public domain'.

Earlier, an official of the department for religious affairs at the
Sevastopol=20
city administration, Anatoli Sigora, told Keston that `justice is on the
side of=20
the Catholics, and if the city council wanted, the cinema could be=
re-located=20
to any of the other 19 functioning cinemas in the city, particularly if you
take=20
into account the fact that there is a relatively low attendance at the
Druzhba=20
cinema.' He denied that there was an intolerant attitude in the city towards=
=20
Roman Catholics, saying that such sentiments were directed only at Greek=20
Catholics (see KNS 1 February 2001). However, a similar attitude has been=20
shown towards Protestant communities connected with the American Baptist=20
preachers who were expelled from Sevastopol in 2000 (see KNS 2=20
November 2000). (END)