According to Bishop Jacek Pyl, the Vatican does not officially recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and still considers his diocese as part of the Catholic Church in Ukraine.
“Our diocese was partitioned, but canonically nothing has changed,” he said. Pyl was born in Poland, and now serves as the auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Odessa-Simferopol, charged with the pastoral care of Latin-rite Catholics in Crimea.
The bishop said that “the Catholic Church continues to function in this region. The Vatican does not officially recognize the annexation of Crimea,” he said.
Pyl explained that his ordinary bishop, Bronislaw Bernadsky, “has a residence in Odessa.” He further said that as auxiliary bishop, “I live in Crimea from the beginning, and on December 22, 2014, the Holy See appointed me Pastoral Delegate to the District of Crimea and Sevastopol, which, according to the agreement with the Russian government, was established exclusively for administrative purposes.”
“Some believers left Crimea and some new believers came,” he added. “The annexation of Crimea divided some families and brought confusion. The Church tries to overcome these divisions and unite people around Christ.”
The bishop said he also plans to invite a contemplative Catholic order to found a monastery in the diocese “so that they will bless this land.”
According to the bishop, a contemplative order dedicated to prayer would bring “many blessings for the people who live here.” The first blessing, he said, would be to “destroy the walls of prejudice and various atheistic customs rooted in human hearts after many years of communism.”
“This monastery in Crimea would be a sign of God’s presence and support for the Catholic population, which is a minority here,” he said.
When asked what the diocese needs in these times, the bishop said: “We need prayers and spiritual support to continued evangelization in this region so that people can find peace in themselves under new circumstances and convert.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.