Ukraine Restores Bishop's Residence to Catholic Church

Pope Delighted by Restitution of Property Seized During Stalin Era

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LVIV, Ukraine, MAY 6, 2004 ( John Paul II expressed delight over Ukraine’s restitution of what was once the residence of the Catholic bishop in Lviv, a property seized by order of Stalin in the 1940s.

The government turned over the property on Wednesday to Cardinal Marian Jaworski, archbishop of Lviv of the Latins, at a ceremony attended by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for general affairs of the Vatican Secretariat of State, and Dmitri Tabatchnik, Ukrainian deputy prime minister.

In a message sent for the occasion, the Pope said he was «pleased that this house is being returned to its legitimate owner after so many years.»

The Holy Father said he was sure that the building «will serve the Church of Lviv not only as the archbishop’s headquarters and place of work of his aides, but also as a center for Caritas and other useful institutions for the good of the beloved people of God of Lviv.»

John Paul II added that he hoped «that the good relations between the Catholic Church of the two rites and the state and territorial authorities will promote the cultural and spiritual enrichment of all the citizens of Ukraine.»

The representative of the Kiev government stressed that Ukraine, independent since 1991, is continuing with the process of restitution of properties confiscated from religious communities during the Soviet era.

Cardinal Jaworski said that with the restitution of the residence, the state authorities are repairing an injustice committed by the Soviet Communist regime not only against the Catholic Church but also against the whole society.

Archbishop Sandri told Vatican Radio: «I am very happy to have witnessed a historic event, because after so many persecutions, after so many injustices to the Church, at last such important gestures are carried out as the restitution of the bishop’s residence.»

«Who would have thought this 20 years ago!» he added. «But thanks to the presence of God, thanks to his strength, his grace, events that seemed the most difficult to change, have changed.»

Describing the government’s gesture as «very appreciable,» Archbishop Sandri expressed the hope that it will be followed by other gestures «not only in Lviv, but also in other places of Ukraine where there are churches and buildings that belonged to the Church and that were confiscated.»

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