Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, capped a weeklong visit to the United States by asking all people of goodwill to join Ukrainian Catholics in prayer to resolve the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine.
Each night from 9pm to 2pm Ukrainians pray one Our Father and one
Hail Mary for the intention for a peaceful and nonviolent resolution to
the crisis in Ukraine.
While in Washington, Archbishop Shevchuk met with Vice President Joe
Biden, members of the House and Senate, and representatives of the State
Department to give firsthand details about the crisis in his homeland.
Independence Square in Kiev has been the site of protests for nearly three months.
Archbishop Shevchuk told the US leaders that human and religious
rights have been violated in Ukraine. In the past few months ordinary
people have been kidnapped and have vanished without a trace. Many more
have been tortured, he said.
Still others have been wounded and fearfully forgo medical attention
in public hospitals as the authorities are waiting, according to
Archbishop Shevchuk. Being injured or wounded is considered evidence and
proof of criminal activity and thus results in arrest, prosecution and
About 1,000 people have been imprisoned and have been denied
visitations by chaplains in order, he said, to ensure that there are no
witnesses to torture or other violations of human dignity being
inflicted upon Ukrainians who assembled to voice their distrust in the
The level of distrust in the Ukrainian authorities is such that no
one knows what will happen after being arrested: further torture,
vanishing without a trace or even death, according to the archbishop.
He shared the story of a young man who lost an eye when government
forces attacked protesters. The young man sought treatment at a
hospital. While at the hospital, the police arrived to arrest him. In
order to avoid arrest, the man jumped out of a second-floor window.
During his visit, Archbishop Shevchuk described the growing economic
crisis in Ukraine.
The greatest impact is on the elderly who for months
have not received pension checks, he said. Now, however, teachers,
doctors, nurses and others employed by the government are not getting
paid regularly, either. He related how this problem then results in
middle-class businesses not being able to sell any goods or services,
thus compounding the economic hardships experienced by citizens and
leading Ukraine to the brink of economic collapse.
Archbishop Shevchuk also cited the government’s attempt to limit the
people’s relationship with God by threatening the Ukrainian Catholic
Church for ministering to the faithful and all who are in need.
In November, Ukraine seemed poised to join the European Union, but
President Viktor Yanukovich instead signed a similar deal with a
Russian-led common market of former Soviet states. Violent clashes
erupted on January 19 after new laws criminalised “slandering” of
government officials and the wearing of masks or helmets at
At least two protesters were killed in clashes with riot police in
subsequent protests, and peace talks got underway shortly after news of
the killings grew widespread.
The Associated Press (AP) reported that protesters and police “have
been maintaining a shaky truce at giant barricades near a government
district in Kiev for several weeks” but activists “were ready to ready
to resume confrontations with police” if Yanukovich doesn’t meet their
Protesters are pushing for early elections and constitutional reforms
that would reduce presidential powers. AP said about 30,000 people
turned out for a rally at Independence Square on Febraury 9.
While in Washington Archbishop Shevchuk also attended the National
Prayer Breakfast, which drew about 3,500 people from around the world.