Ukrainian Diocese Lacking Parish Churches

Bishop Milan Shashik Says the Faithful Can’t Afford New Buildings

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KONIGSTEIN, Germany, APRIL 11, 2003 ( Milan Shasnik has a diocese, but needs churches.

The new bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Diocese of Mukachevo noted during a visit to the headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need that many of the faithful under him are still forced to celebrate Mass in the open streets, because they have no parish church of their own.

Just one-quarter of the churches which originally belonged to the Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church have been returned to their rightful owners by the state. The remaining 75% are still in the hands of the Orthodox Church.

«Was it not enough that our Bishop Theodore Romzha was murdered and our priests and faithful forced to spend so many years in Siberia?» asked Bishop Shashik.

The people themselves are too poor to fund the building of new churches, he said. Most of them are unemployed and many families have been split, and in some cases broken up, as a result of parents seeking work abroad.

Bishop Shashik lives in the still-unfinished seminary of Uzhhorod, where the 41 seminarians live in cramped conditions. The former bishop’s residence was confiscated by the Communists and turned into a university library. There are no funds available for a replacement building.

The Diocese of Mukachevo covers 5,000 square miles and has a population of some 1.25 million. A century ago all the parishes in this region were of the Eastern rite. Today between 300,000 and 500,000 people have once again declared their allegiance to the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

There are now some 160 Ukrainian Catholic priests and 11 monastic priests. In 1989-90, when Communist rule ended, some 63 Ukrainian Catholic priests emerged from the underground. But most of them have died since then.

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