Ukrainian Catholics Win Back Church

Building Re-Consecrated After Communist Expropriation

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DNIPROPETROVSK, Ukraine, SEPT. 10, 2009 ( A church building that was expropriated by the Communist authorities in the Ukraine 60 years ago was finally returned and re-consecrated.

Aid to the Church in Need reported today that St. Joseph’s Church in Dnipropetrovsk, in the eastern part of the country, was returned after a legal battle lasting over a decade.

The church was illegally expropriated and closed down by the Communist authorities in 1949, and then was sold by the state to a private company in 1998. After that, it changed hands several times, but the legality of the «sale» and the ownership was disputed.

The court recently ruled to return the building to the Catholic Church, and the re-consecration ceremony took place at the end of last month.

The local Catholics, several of whom were physically attacked by security forces when attempting to pray in the church two years ago, have been gathering daily since 2007 to pray on their knees before the locked doors for the return of their place of worship.

Even after the legal dispute was over, parishioners were threatened with violence. Thus, the faithful instituted a 24-hour watch on the church.

Capuchin Father Jerzy Zielinski, who serves at the parish, told the aid agency: «From early morning until late at night the parishioners have been working to clear away the rubble and make the church ready for the re-consecration ceremony.

«They have been camping in tents and watching over the church. Even to this day there are always a few people who stay behind in the church and keep watch.»

The dedication ceremony included a solemn procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the city streets. Father Zielinski affirmed that it was «symbolic» that «Our Lord Jesus Christ was being carried aloft through streets named after Marx, Lenin and so forth.»

The formal re-consecration took place during a Mass presided over by Bishop Marian Buczek of the Kharkiv-Zaporizhia Diocese.

This year, the Catholic community in Dnipropetrovsk is marking its 230th anniversary. The Franciscan Capuchin priests are celebrating the 10th anniversary since their return to work in the parish, and the 300th anniversary of their ministry in the Ukraine.

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