08/20/2018, 10.05
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Pope Francis and the Ukrainian resistance. Appeals for Oleg Sentsov

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Yesterday greetings to young Ukrainians. On August 8th a meeting with other young Ukrainians and Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin. The ideal of peace and the search for support on the Crimea and on the fate of the director Oleg Sentsov, who has been on hunger strike for about 80 days. The solidarity of the Greek Catholics in Ukraine, USA and Canada.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Ukrainian communities around the world are pressing Pope Francis and the Vatican to support the fate of the nation and the Churches present there, in tension with Russia. Yesterday, after the Angelus prayer, Francis greeted the young Ukrainians present in Saint Peter's Square and encouraged them "to be workers of peace and reconciliation".

On August 8, the Pope received a group of young guests from Ukraine, led by Pavel Klimkin, Ukrainian foreign minister. In the name of all those present, Klimkin gave the Pope the "Book of Goodness".

It is a collection of stories and drawings of Ukrainian children and young people, on the theme of the good that defeats evil. "In this unique edition, prepared by hand on cotton paper and vegetable fibers from those regions of Ukraine from which stories of goodness come" - as illustrated by representatives of the ministry - "50 stories and 50 drawings were collected on the good taken from reality; they reflect the children’s view of humanity, the sincerity and the compassion in their daily reality". Klimkin said that the Pope had delivered the "Book of Goodness" to the Vatican Library.

The minister had already been in private audience with the Pope in May 2015, when he had invited the pontiff to make a pastoral visit to Ukraine. He discussed the "burning" issues that worry the Ukrainian government with the Secretary of State, Card. Pietro Parolin, such as the loss of Crimea due to "Russian aggression" and other events related to the conflict between Kiev and Moscow, as the much-discussed request for "autocephaly" of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

In the words of the minister, "even if we always say that politics is one thing, and faith is another, we must be honest: the Russian Church is exploited in Ukraine for political purposes. The role of the Vatican in this matter is very important, it can help or complicate many things. I would like it to help." His words seems to reveal some skepticism following the meeting with Parolin.

Another issue which the Ukrainian Foreign Minister addressed in the Vatican talks is the condition of the "prisoner of war" Oleg Sentsov. The young Ukrainian director and writer, originally from Crimea, was arrested in May 2014 because of his support for the besieged Ukrainian militias in the peninsula annexed by the Russians. Sentenced in Russia to 20 years of imprisonment for terrorism, he is now on his last legs after a hunger strike that has been going on for months. The obvious signs of torture on his body were explained away by reported to acts "masochism", but at his trial the main accuser withdrew the complaints against Sentsov, claiming to have been tortured to extort them.

A vast international campaign is underway, not just Ukrainian, under the slogan of #savesentsov. The director-symbol of the Ukrainian resistance was also remembered on August 7 in Baltimore, USA, at the banquet of the Catholic organization of the "Knights of Columbus", where the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, the major Archbishop Svjatoslav Shevchuk (see photo) had been invited. In his speech, the Archbishop noted that "Christopher Columbus is less known in Ukraine than the football player Andryj Shechenko or the boxer Vladimir Klichko. Yet the ideal of the knights is still alive and current for our people. The knight is the one who defends the highest values, and is ready to sacrifice his life for them. Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov has been fasting for almost 80 days, asking the Russian authorities for the release of all unjustly condemned political prisoners ".

Shevchuk recalled that the order of the "Knights of Columbus" has only been active in Ukraine since 2013, and already has more than a thousand members. Its brief history is ideally accompanied by the struggle for the independence of Ukraine from the Russian aggressor: "Remember that it is not just our war, it is a fight for the whole of humanity!" The head of the Ukrainian  Church urged.

In the great Ukrainian diaspora in the US and Canada, support for the autonomy of the national Church, among the Orthodox and the Greek-Catholics themselves, is also very strong. In the city of Winnipeg, for example, a section of the "Knights of Columbus" has been active since 1985, mostly made up of Greek Catholics, supported by the local Archbishop. In fact, Ukrainian disputes are not limited to the borders of the original state, but take on international significance.

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