VATICAN - Cross, rosary and prayer book of Ukrainian Redemptorists imprisoned in Russia donated to the Pope

Thursday, 7 September 2023 oriental churches   pope francis   wars   orders  

Vatican Media

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - A missionary cross, a prayer book and a rosary. These are the objects that Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk gave to Pope Francis at the end of the Pope's meeting with the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, which took place in the Vatican on the morning of Wednesday, September 6. The objects donated to the Pope belong to the two Redemptorist priests, Father Ivan Levytskyi and Father Bohdan Heleta, arrested last November 16 in Berdyansk by the Russian security services and still imprisoned in Russia. "Like a priceless treasure", Archbishop Shevchuk told the Pope "we hand them over to you in the hope that a just peace will soon settle in Ukraine". During the audience - reported the press office of the Secretariat of the Synod of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine, the Bishops "asked the Pope and the Holy See to continue their efforts to free the prisoners of war, and mentioned in particular the priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church". Sources from the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) told Agenzia Fides that there has been no definitive news since Christmas on the fate and condition of the two missionary priests. At the time of their arrest, Father Ivan and Father Bohdan were parish priests and vicars of the Greek Catholic Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in Berdyank, a port town in southeastern Ukraine, in the region of Zaporizhzhia, which ended up under Russian control. On November 23 and 24, the Russian television channel "Zviezda" had released an extract of the interrogation of Ivan Levytskyy. In the broadcast images, "visible signs of physical and mental fatigue" appear on the face of the priest. At the start of the war (February 24, 2022) and later when Berdyank came under the control of Russian forces, the priests decided to stay in the city in order to continue serving the population, while providing spiritual and humanitarian support to refugees and people in distress as a result of war. The charge against the two priests at the time of their arrest, reported by some Russian media, was that they had hidden explosives and weapons in the church premises and in the basement of their residence. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 7/9/2023)