All Roman Catholic priests and nuns who are still in Crimea working with local religious communities have been told they must leave the region by the end of 2014, states a report at Forum 18 News Service.
According to the report, the Russian government, which annexed Crimea in March, “has refused to extend residence permits for foreign citizens who have been working for local religious communities in Crimea for some years.”
New legislation signed by President Vladimir Putin requires even religious groups to align their internal statutes with Russian law in order to be registered.
As Forum 18 reports, Crimea’s Justice Ministry confirmed that “no religious communities have registration in Crimea and all the applications for registration under Russian law have been rejected so far.”
The Catholic Herald observed in April that Bishop Bohdan Dzyurakh of the Greek Catholic community and secretary-general of the Ukrainian Catholic Synod of Bishops, warned that, with the Russian annexation, the Church could lose its legal status.
“We hoped these restrictions wouldn’t be applied to our Church in Crimea, but we’ve been told all religious communities must now re-register there,” Dzyurakh said according to the Herald. “This means the local government usurps the power to reject those it sees as a threat. After the recent ethnic cleansing, this will amount to religious cleansing.”
Father Piotr Rosochacki, a Polish priest who, according to Forum 18, had worked in Crimea for five years, was forced to leave on October 24.
“Although other priests and nuns have Ukrainian residence permits for Crimea valid into next year , the Russian authorities have said they will regard them as valid only until the end of this year,” he said.
Rosochacki added that he had appealed his forced departure to a number of governmental agencies, but received either a verbal rejection or no response at all.