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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Ukrainian Catholics fear new war after naval clashes

Catholics in Ukraine said people fear a full-scale war with Russia, after a naval confrontation prompted the imposition of martial law in Ukraine’s eastern regions.

Meanwhile, an official with Caritas Ukraine said local inhabitants had begun hoarding food, water and candles in preparation for a “sudden escalation” in events.

Fr Grzegorz Semenkov, chancellor of the Church’s eastern Kharkiv-Zaporizhia Diocese, said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had justified martial law as a necessary precaution against “new threats from Russia,” adding that its planned 30-day duration would not affect Ukraine’s elections. However, he said, some Ukrainians were asking why martial law had been declared now, “rather than earlier, during more than four years of war in eastern Ukraine.”

“Some of our parishioners in Mariupol and Berdyansk are in a state of panic, fearing Russia is massing its forces for an attack,” said Fr Semenkov. “Martial law has been declared in response to the new Russian aggression – and though the practical effects haven’t been felt yet, many Catholics have already left the country, and others will clearly respond in their own ways if conditions worsen.”

Hryhoriy Seleshchuk of Caritas Ukraine told Catholic News Service a winter blockade of Ukraine’s Azov Sea ports would have “really dramatic consequences.”

Picture: Three Ukrainian naval ships, recently seized by Russia’s security service, are seen anchored in a port in Kerch, Crimea. Catholics in Ukraine said they fear a full-scale war with Russia. (CNS photo/Alla Dmitrieva, Reuters).