GENERAL ADMINISTRATIONFr. General is there!
On Monday, 17 March 2014, the Oblate Superior General, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, wrote about the atmosphere in Ukraine on the day after the referendum in Crimea. He is in Ukraine to preach a retreat to the Oblates there.
The situation is apparently calm although one sees masses of troops here and there; on the road we passed quite a line-up of Ukrainian tanks the other day near Kiev. The anxiety of the people is great given the history here in Ukraine of such great suffering and the present mood coming from Russia. I was to visit the square where the people were shot but due to heavy sleet and wind we did not go. People are going there to protest, lay flowers, pray, talk, console and strengthen each other.
The referendum regarding Crimea was a complete farce. Independent observers said perhaps 20% of the population in Crimea voted although Russian authorities claim that 85% and more voted. They are saying that 91% of the vote was favorable that Crimea be under Russia. This is a typically Russian manipulative approach to such situations and no one takes the referendum seriously. People here in Ukraine said that in light of world pressure at this moment, Russia might wait for things to calm down and then move in to take over Crimea entirely in several weeks. The fear is whether Russia will move into other parts of Ukraine to dominate it even outside of Crimea.
I am told that the Greek Catholic Church will be the first to suffer under Russia’s rule. The Greek Catholic Church has 3000 priests in Ukraine and they are mostly young priests with wives and little children. Already the families are preparing to move their wives and children to safer places should the Russians show greater force. A Greek Catholic priest in Crimea was abducted on Saturday and later released. I was told that it was miraculous he wasn’t killed or at least beat up. This is an intimidation tactic of Russia to send a strong message to the Greek Catholic Church. There is no doubt that it will be extinguished by Russia. In some conversations, there has been talk about safer places for the Greek Catholic priests and their families in other countries of Europe where they might be able to do ministry among the many Ukrainians spread throughout Europe or even serve the Latin Church.
Our two Oblates in Crimea will not come to the retreat since their visibility could be dangerous for them and they might not be permitted to return. They are a bit afraid and are sealed up in their apartment, having bought provisions when the trouble started. They are in contact with the Superior of the Delegation twice a day. They did celebrate the Eucharist for the Greek Catholic priest who was abducted since he prefers not to be seen any more. No wonder why not! Our two brothers in Crimea hope to follow the retreat by Skype so they will be connected to us. I am due to visit them after the retreat and I hope that it will be possible. Each day brings new events and we will see if I can go.
The tension is also seen at the Ukraine/Polish border where I have been told that containers of tents, cots, food and medical supplies have been stationed should there be a tragedy within Ukraine or should the supplies be needed for refugees seeking safety. People are preparing for the worst.
In a parish I was at on Saturday, I was asked what the people could do. I referred to the Gospel that day “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I also said we draw close to Mary, Our Lady of Peace, at this time and pray together for the protection of Ukraine and that peace and security might be established. The people are comforted to know that the world is concerned and that Oblates are praying everywhere for Ukraine.