.- In wake of increasing violence due to ongoing political protests, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk is petitioning his countrymen to pray for peace and unity as political unrest continues.
“With great dismay and sadness we witness the events taking place at the moment in Kyiv,” the archbishop lamented in a Jan. 21 statement released on Vatican Radio.
“In view of these exceptional circumstances,” he continued, “I would like to appeal to all the faithful of the church, the Ukrainian people, and to all people of good will. In the name of God, stop the bloodshed!”
“Violence was never the way to build a free and independent state! Bloodshed will never reconcile hearts or bring a positive outcome.”
Major Archbishop Shevchuk is the head of the Ukrainian-Greek Catholic Church, and his plea for peace has come as a response to rising violence that is marring the ongoing anti-government protests taking place in Kyiv, the country’s capital.
For the past two nights, both police and protestors have clashed as government forces sought to stop the current protests and dismantle barricades which lead to the government offices.
According to BBC News, young men threw fireworks and petrol bombs at the police guarding the road which leads to the Ukrainian parliament, and some protestors were violently beaten by police.
The protests originally began after the government's Nov. 21 announcement that it would not sign a major economic partnership agreement with the European Union. Since then protesters have occupied government buildings, at times filling the square with more than 100,000 people.
Anti-protest laws which would increase fines and impose jail terms for unauthorized protests are set to be put into effect on Wednesday of this week, the BBC reports.
However, according to Vatican Radio some observers have expressed concern that this anti-opposition legislation would resemble that which has been in neighboring Russia, and critics are claiming that Yanukovych is following in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s footsteps and building a police state.
In his appeal for peace, Archbishop Shevchuk urged government officials to “listen to your people, hear them, do not use violence against them or repressive mechanisms.”
To the Ukrainian citizens, “especially the protestors who are standing on the Maidan,” the archbishop stated that “I beg of you, go back to the peaceful nature of the protests. Do not let emotions get the better of you.”
“Neither fear nor aggression nor anger was ever helpful in determining our future.”
Sending a reminder to the bishops and priests who have continued ministering and offering the sacraments to protestors despite the government’s threats to rescind the legal status of the Ukrainian Catholic Church due to their involvement in the demonstrations, Archbishop Shevchuk encouraged them to “speak words of peace to hearts and minds,” and to continue preaching the Gospel of peace.
“I call everyone,” he continued, “to prayer for peace in our country. May the Lord of peace, the Lord who has given us his peace be with you all.”