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Odessa bishop with 6 parishes under occupation: “I can only worry”

Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy, right, accompanied by Fr. Mykola Slobodyan.

Aleteia

Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy, right, accompanied by Fr. Mykola Slobodyan.

Cécile Séveirac - published on 05/21/23

Bishop Bubniy of the Odessa-Crimea exarchate in Ukraine describes for Aleteia the current situation in his war-torn country.

Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy, a member of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, is head of the exarchate of Odessa-Crimea. The territory includes the oblasts of Kherson, Kirovohrad, Mykolaïv and Odessa. During a visit to Paris on May 9 at the offices of L’Oeuvre d’Orient, he spoke to Aleteia about the situation in his country, devastated by war. He also spoke more particularly about his exarchate and the faithful and the few priests who have remained.

What is the situation in your exarchate at this time of war? Are the priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the faithful still there and can they practice their faith? 

Bishop Bubniy: The situation is very complicated there. In my exarchate, I have six parishes that are currently under occupation, most of which are in Crimea, where I have not been able to visit since 2019. Only three priests have remained and are serving these parishes, because they didn’t have time to leave and are now unable to leave.

It’s the same for a small number of faithful. Most have fled the fighting, but the few who remain are under constant stress because of the strong Russian presence. Many have left for the west of Ukraine, to Lviv for example, where they have family and friends. When the Russians arrive, they don’t necessarily destroy, they occupy. For example, we have a priest’s house which was invaded and to which he can no longer go. On the other hand, they destroy the infrastructure when they flee after successful counter-attacks by the Ukrainian army.

A bishop is the ecclesiastical and spiritual father of the faithful entrusted to him. I can only worry, as a father would worry about his children.

How is humanitarian aid being distributed?

Bishop Bubniy: Since the first day of the invasion, February 24, 2022, the parishes have become distribution centers for aid. In my exarchate, the priests are in charge of transporting the aid from the west. Each parish keeps a precise register. This serves to study the needs, the shortages, and the number of displaced persons, and to avoid “duplication,” i.e. to ensure that everyone receives the right amount. We cooperate with the state structures in charge of humanitarian aid. Before each distribution, we celebrate Mass.

The needs are generally the same: food kits, medicines, clothes, electric generators, financial aid for families. For my part, as a bishop, from Odessa where my office is located I try to continue to work with our foreign partners to unblock the support needed by my priests and my faithful.

What I wish is for the international community not to get used to this war, because it’s the business of all of Europe.

How do you feel about being away from some of your dioceses? 

Bishop Bubniy: A bishop is the ecclesiastical and spiritual father of the faithful entrusted to him. I can only worry, as a father would worry about his children.

In addition to the concrete actions that I carry out on a daily basis to help the parishes, I pray a great deal that everything will stop and that we will find peace again. Ukrainians, including myself, are sure that Ukraine will win this war.

What I wish is for the international community not to get used to this war, because it’s the business of all of Europe. While the Europeans feel it through inflation, the Ukrainians pay for it with their blood.

Tags:
BishopsUkraine
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