EUROPE/UKRAINE - Redemptorists: still "no contact" with the two priests arrested in Berdyansk

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Berdyansk (Agenzia Fides) - The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) continues to have no contact with priests Fr Ivan Levytskyy and Fr Bohdan Heleta, parish priest and vicar at the Greek-Catholic church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, detained last November 16 in Berdyansk by the Russian security services, and reports that it does not even have any information on the place where the two Redemptorist priests are being held.
A statement released by Redemptorists in Ukraine, and relaunched by site, provides useful news and considerations on the worrying affair.
Father Ivan and Father Bohdan are the parish priest and vicar of the Greek-Catholic church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Berdyank, a port city in south-eastern Ukraine, in the Zaporizhzhja region, under Russian control.
On 23 and 24 November - reads the press release - the Russian TV channel “Zviezda” released a snippet of the interrogation of Ivan Levytskyy. There were "visible signs of physical and mental exhaustion" on the face of the priest.
At the beginning of the full-scale war (February 24, 2022) and later, from the moment the city came under the control of the Russian forces, the priests decided to stay in the city in order "to continue serving the people". They also provided them spiritual and humanitarian support and helped refugees and people in need due to war.
The accusation against the two priests, reported in some Russian media, is that of storing weapons and explosives on the premises of the church and in the basement of the house where the priests lived, which were allegedly found during a search of a unit of the Russian National Guard. But the results of such investigations, which were done in the priests’ absence, are "falsified and untrue", underlines the statement of the Redemptorists in Ukraine, which presents this version as a sort of retaliation implemented after the searches conducted by the Ukrainian security services in Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra on November 22nd.
Since the beginning of the war - underlines the Redemptorists' statement - the two priests dedicated themselves only to the pastoral care of Catholics in the city of Berdiansk. They were assigned to do so by their superiors and church authorities, and until the moment of their detention, there had been no dissatisfaction with their presence.
The statement concludes with an appeal addressed to "anyone who has the means to intervene on their behalf" to facilitate the release of Father Ivan and Father Bohdan "from this meaningless captivity", and with an invocation to "Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Perpetual Help", protect the captives and help them return home. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 30/11/2022)