Latin-rite priests, of the Odesa-Simferopol diocese, remain in Crimea for now, though its “unclear for how long,” according to Aid to the Church in Need, which said that the Russian government administering Crimea will require visas of Ukrainians not from the territory.
Many of the religious serving in the Odesa-Simferopol diocese are of Polish nationality, and have long-term work permits, issued by the Kyiv government, rather than visas.
Bishop Pyl also lamented the halt of negotiations for the restitution of Catholic property seized during the Soviet era.
“Sevastopol’s church, which was transformed into a theater under communism, seemed close to returning to the Church, yet now, past efforts are of no value … we started from zero many times, and are ready to do it again.”
The Crimean crisis has brought Christians of different Churches closer together.
Bishop Pyl urged Latin Catholics “not to allow the brotherhood among the peoples of the peninsula break.”
According to Aid to the Church in Need, “many Orthodox priests of the Kyiv patriarchate have left Crimea for fear that Moscow intends to encompass their Church or even to prohibit their presence on the peninsula.”
The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is largely divided between two bodies: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Aid to the Church in Need reported that “deprived of some of their own clerics, Christians of the Ukrainian Church have preferred to turn to the Catholic Church rather than that of Russia.”
Bishop Pyl said that “their faithful have expressed the desire to pray with us and I consented immediately. We are all sons of one God.”
He concluded that the Church will survive in Crimea only with prayer and the theological virtues.
“Faith allows us to regard what has happened through the prism of the providence of God; with hope we turn our gaze to the future, because we know that God is close to us in this difficult time; and charity, which turns us to God and to our brethren, helps us to not cultivate hatred in our hearts.”