East Ukraine is a mess, and now it is taking a toll on religions. Catholic Bishop Marian Buczek said Catholics are too scared to attend Mass in Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Local Catholics are living in conditions of great danger — the terrorists are doing what they like and shooting at people indiscriminately,” he said. “People can do nothing but stay at home and await better times, like everyone else. In places where there’s shooting, the Catholic and Orthodox churches have simply stopped functioning.”
Bishop Buczek’s diocese includes Donetsk and Luhansk, which are two regions that declared independence from Ukraine on May 11. Polish priest Father Witek was in Donetsk’s Constitution Square when he was kidnapped by pro-Russians. He was released, but the abduction is still weighing heavily on the Catholics in the east.
“Many parishes are functioning normally — with the exceptions of Kramatorsk, where our chapel was machine-gunned by separatists last week, and Sloviansk, where the whole town is blocked,” said Buczek.
None of this will stop the Catholics from their charitable work. Buczek insists the church will continue to help the homeless and feed the hungry. The local church offers services in Ukrainian and Russian along with English, French, and Vietnamese.
The Jewish community in Donetsk lives in the same fear. Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski told The Jerusalem Post crowds at the local synagogue and community center are smaller every night due to fears of violence and fewer means of public transportation at night. One of the schools reopened on May 29, but only 30 students out of 150 attended class.