HomeEuropeRussian forces release two Ukrainian Catholic priests captured in 2022

Russian forces release two Ukrainian Catholic priests captured in 2022

Sviatoslav Shevchuk is Major Archbishop of Kyiv–Galicia and Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. / Credit: Screenshot/EWTN News Nightly

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 1, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) announced the release of two Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests who had been captured in November 2022 by the Russian National Guard.

The freed priests are Ivan Levitsky and Bohdan Geleta, members of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), who had been accused of having committed “subversive” and “guerrilla” activities.

The priests, who served the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, were accused of allegedly possessing weapons, ammunition, and books on the history of Ukraine in a parish building.

The information about the release, announced June 28 by María Lozano, press officer for ACN International, has been confirmed by the information department of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The priests had been arrested on Nov. 16, 2022, in Berdyansk, a city on the north shore of the Sea of Azov, an area occupied by the Russians. Despite the danger, both had decided to stay to serve the “communities of Roman Catholics and Greek Catholics, to give them hope in the face of the occupation.”

The ACN news brief also noted that Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic major archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč, expressed his “deep gratitude to the Holy See,” in particular to Pope Francis, to Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin; to the Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who has carried out various peace missions to try to end the conflict; and to Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, for his efforts to obtain the release of the two priests.

“Despite the joy of this news, ACN recalls that many innocent civilians remain in custody and invites its friends and benefactors to continue to pray for their release, and for peace in Ukraine,” the news brief concludes.

On multiple occasions, Pope Francis has encouraged prayer for “martyred” Ukraine and has urged dialogue to end the conflict.

On June 23, in his last public intervention on the matter, he asked the Holy Spirit to “enlighten the minds of the rulers,” stressing that “negotiation is needed” to end not only the war in Ukraine and the Holy Land but also in other places in the world.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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