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Ukrainian Catholics in U.S. to remember Communist-inflicted famine

.- The Most Rev. Stefan Soroka, the highest-ranking leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States, will hold a service at Pennsylvania State University on Sunday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine inflicted by Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin to wipe out Catholic Ukrainians.

Archbishop Soroka, metropolitan archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, will celebrate a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy -- the Ukrainian rite Mass -- at 1:30 p.m. at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center.

The event will commemorate the "Holodomor," the famine in which several million Ukrainians died due to Soviet confiscation of their crops. The surviving Catholics were then forced to join the Orthodox Church, with the Ukrainian Catholic rite being forced underground until the fall of the Soviet Union.

The liturgy on Sunday will be in the Ukrainian language and the responses will be sung by a 30- member male choir from Philadelphia-area Ukrainian Catholic churches. An academic program on the famine will follow the service.

Ukrainian Catholics are one of 21 Eastern Rites united with the universal Catholic Church. There are some 300,000 Ukrainian Catholics in the U.S., divided among 400 parishes. Archbishop Soroka oversees Ukrainian dioceses in Philadelphia, Chicago, Stamford (Conn.) and Parma (Ohio).

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has become an independent nation where Ukrainian Catholics have regained legal protection. Nevertheless, their relationship with the Orthodox majority remains tense, especially because Catholics have demanded the return of churches and properties confiscated by the Soviet government and given to the Orthodox. While the government has been responsive to the Vatican's request to return at least the minimum amount of properties to allow the Ukrainian Catholics to worship and to nurture the growing number of vocations, the two branches of the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine fiercely oppose any agreement.

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