Beliefnet News

by Michelle Rindels
Ukrainian Catholics are fighting to stop a U.S.-owned company from turning a 19th-century church into a casino, according to international reports.
Protesters inside St. Joseph’s church in Dnipropetrovsk were forcefully evicted before the roof and ceiling were removed Friday (July 20), according to Ecumenical News International.
“The authorities are laughing at us, thinking we can do nothing as they take the church to pieces under our eyes,” said the Rev. Jan Sobilo, vicar-general of the Roman Catholic Kharkiv-Zaporizhia diocese.
Sobilo said Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yushchenko, has requested an explanation from local government officials, who have defended the firm’s right to use the building as private property.
But Sobilo believes that the U.S. firm working on the renovation, which ENI named as California Dagsbury Inc., was not properly informed that the structure is a church.
“The only other places of worship we have here are a house belonging to the Capuchin order, and a small chapel with room for just 60,” Sobilo said. “This explains why we’re so desperate to keep the church.”
Catholics have long struggled to reclaim church property that was confiscated during Soviet rule. Though ENI says there are 870 Catholic parishes in Ukraine, St. Joseph’s was the only church in Dnipropetrovsk, a city of over a million.
The Catholic News Agency estimates that there are 4 million Catholics in the country of over 46 million.

Copyright 2007 Religion News Service

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