Ukraine Debates Mobilization of Priests

Source: FSSPX News

During Easter week, the Ukrainian head of state received a delegation of bishops from the Latin Catholic Church of Ukraine. On the agenda was the delicate question of the calling up priests and religious for military service in a context where the general mobilization is struggling to be broadened and the Russian army has the advantage on the front line.

The meeting, which took place on April 2, 2024, between Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian prelates of the Latin rite was a first. Vitaliy Skomarovskyiet, bishop of Lutsk and president of the Conference of Latin Catholic Bishops of Ukraine (RKC), was accompanied by the ordinaries from Kyiv, Odessa, Kharkov, Simferopol, Kamianets, and Mukachevo.

Officially, the presidential audience took place in a cordial atmosphere. The Ukrainian head of state presented his Easter greetings to the Latin prelates, wishing Ukraine “victory in its war against the Russian occupier which will not fail to come true thanks to our soldiers, our people, and your faithful prayers.” Volodymyr Zelensky also expressed to the RKC bishops his “gratitude for the service of military chaplains, thanks to whom our women and men fighting on the front line receive real support.”

On the side of the episcopate, there was a sense that reservations were in order. The press release from the Conference of Latin Rite Catholic Bishops of Ukraine notes for its part that “very particular attention” was paid to the question of a possible mobilization of the clergy to serve as soldiers: “The mobilization of priests could pose big problems,” warned RKC members.

Another question raised was that of the recently promulgated law which obliges dioceses and Catholic religious communities to pay rent to use religious buildings which belong to the state. This is a first in the country, which breaks with custom, and which makes the RKC cringe.

It must be said that for several months, the Ukrainian executive has been in dire straits. The exhausted and seriously depleted Ukrainian army needs fresh troops at least as much as ammunition, if only to maintain its positions. Since the failure of the counter-offensive launched in the summer, there is no longer any question of reconquest.

The scale of military losses, which Volodymyr Zelensky estimated at 31,000 at the end of February 2024, has been expanded upon by the New York Times in August. The paper put forward the figures of 70,000 killed and 120,000 wounded.

Also, on April 2, the Ukrainian president signed a decree lowering the age of mobilization from 27 to 25 years, while the martial law in force prohibits men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country. These measures are largely unpopular within a Ukrainian society, which is becoming more and more tense, especially since, in the eyes of many.