Displaced families in Crimea receive aid
Hundreds of poverty-stricken and displaced families in Crimea are to receive emergency help from Aid to the Church in Need.
The aid for 500 poor families in Crimea forms a key part of a €60,000 (£50,200) ACN package which will also benefit priests in the peninsula as well as medical help and food for people who suffered during the recent clashes in Kiev's Maidan Square.
In addition to providing poor families with a soup kitchen and other basic provisions, the ACN aid for Crimea will help Catholic priests from parishes across the peninsula.
Other priests receiving help as part of the aid package are military chaplains based with armed units across the peninsula.
The chaplains will receive Mass kits, prayer books and help with travel costs.
The ACN support for Crimea comes amid reports of increased economic and political tensions climaxing with news today (Friday, 21st March) that the peninsula has officially entered the Russian Federation.
Aid to the Church in Need (UK) National Director Neville Kyrke-Smith, who has travelled widely in Ukraine for more than 20 years, said: "Having been in southern Ukraine, I am deeply aware of the tensions and divisions between different communities.
"Aid to the Church in Need's support is vital. Such aid strengthens the Christian hope which so many people in Ukraine share.
"ACN has over many years stood with the people in this land of suffering and we ask our friends and benefactors to join in prayer and solidarity with those whom we are continuing to help."
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Mr Kyrke-Smith stressed ACN's close ties with both the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Latin-rite Catholics.
Both communities benefit from these ACN aid programmes, many of which are being channelled via Auxiliary Bishop Jacek Pyl of Odessa-Simferopol, a Latin-rite Church leader who is reaching out to Greek Catholics.
Earlier, Bishop Pyl made an urgent appeal for non-violence and respect for all sections of society in Crimea, adding that the peninsula is very diverse, both in terms of ethnicity and religious affiliation.
He stated: "I call on citizens and all those concerned about the development of... Crimea to avoid extremism."
Pointing out that Crimea is made up of people including Ukrainians, Russians, Germans, Armenians and Tatars, the bishop said: "Neither our social origin nor our religion separate us. We are all children of the same God, the one God, the Father of us all."
As well as providing emergency aid for Ukraine, ACN is continuing its pastoral support for the country, which the charity has for many years considered a priority country for aid.
ACN supports every Catholic seminarian in the country, funds Catholic formation (catechesis) for youth, sponsors the construction of churches, helps religious Sisters and provides Mass stipends for priests.