Still no news of Redemptorists captured by Russians in Ukraine

Ivan Levytskyi CSsR and Bohdan Heleta CSsR

Captured by Russian troops almost eight months ago, Redemptorist religious priests Ivan Levytsky and Bohdan Heleta from the port city of Berdyansk in southeastern Ukraine show no sign of life. During a visit to the headquarters of the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Königstein im Taunus, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Greek Catholic Exarchate of Donetsk, Maksym Rjabucha declared: “Despite prayers, protests and efforts on the part of the Catholic Church, there is still no news of the two”.

In November 2022, priests Ivan Levytsky and Bohdan Heleta decided to stay with their faithful in the temporarily occupied territories. They were eventually arrested by the Russians, accused of planning a “terrorist act”. Since then, they have been held in an unknown location.

The Greek Catholic Church said it had information that these priests were being tortured. One of them has diabetes.

Large areas of the Greek Catholic diocese, the Donetsk Exarchate, have been occupied since the beginning of the war in February 2022, and the clergy have been expelled from there, Mgr Rjabucha said. However, there is regular contact with the residents of the occupied territories through social networks. Pastors pray and hold church services via video conference.

As many people have been left alone because their relatives are at war or have fled, “the Church has set up social centres for children, families and the elderly. Members of different denominations are welcome there,” the prelate stressed.

The auxiliary bishop said there is a significant solidarity and willingness to help, which is only possible thanks to the support of organisations such as Aid to the Church in Need: “It is a time when we pray together and are united in communal solidarity”.

( – 18/07/2023)