Members of the Greek and Roman Catholic communities in Lvov, Ukraine are campaigning for the return of a church. Last Tuesday, the Community of Saint Clement of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) in Lvov, began picketing the Ukrainian telephone company, Ukrtelecom, which has offices in the former church. The building's historical owner, the order of the Discalced Carmelite Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), has also made a claim on the building which was a Carmelite monastery until 1939. In 2002, the National Committee on Religious Matters registered the statutes of the Convent of the Discalced Carmelite Sisters. In that year, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, Cardinal Marian Jaworski, requested that the governing bodies return the church to them. However the UGCC Community of St Clement, registered in 1996, has been asking for the building for eight years. Throughout this time, on Sundays and holy days they have celebrated Liturgies in the operational hall of Ukrtelecom. On 12 July, the Community of St Clement and Ukrtelecom signed an agreement under which the phone company must vacate the premises, starting on 13 July and finishing on 20 August 2004. Built as a church around the turn of the last century, Pope St Clement Church has been used for religious purposes for only 50 years. The Gestapo took it over in 1939. After the war it was used by the Ministry of Internal Affairs until 1961 when the telephone company moved in. According to Roman Kurash, deputy head of the Lvov Regional Committee on Religious Matters, the first issue is that Ukrtelecom leaves the premises. The next step will be to hand over the church to a religious community. He said: "We will make our best effort so that the church is handed over to the community which is now using it. But the final decision will be made only after this issue is settled with the hierarchs of the RCC and UGCC. Only when the ideas of the two parties, both the historical owner and the UGCC community, are taken into consideration," Kurash said. According to him: "no forceful actions will be allowed to influence the decision, so it can be expected that this issue will be solved on a high ecclesial level." Over the last 14 years, the state has returned most of the former churches of Lvov to the faithful. The fate of around ten is still being decided. Source: RISU
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