MOSCOW, JULY 30, 2001 (ZENIT.org–Fides).- The Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine is beginning to reap the first fruits of John Paul II´s recent visit, with the establishment of two new exarchates, in Odessa and Donetsk.
The move, in fact, constitutes the reorganization of this Church in the south of the country.
The decision was taken by the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Lviv in early July, to meet the spiritual needs of the many Greek-Catholics living outside the traditional western Ukraine territories of Lviv, Ternopol and Ivano-Frankovsk.
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches. It includes 39 bishops (13 in Ukraine and the rest overseas), 3,300 parishes, 2,700 churches, 2,000 priests and 79 monasteries. Greek-Catholics number close to 5 million in Ukraine.
The Russian Orthodox Church and other hierarchies have reacted negatively to the reorganization, viewing it as an attempt by the Greek-Catholic synod to proselytize.
The Russian and Ukrainian people in general haven´t shared the Orthodox leaders´ hostility. Even the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, which met July 17, took no official position in regard to recent events in Ukraine. Instead, it limited itself to a complaint about the unilateral activity of the patriarch of Constantinople in Ukraine and Estonia.