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Ukrainians Honor Dissident Greek Catholic Patriarch


KHARKIV, Ukraine -- A plaque honoring the Soviet-era dissident, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Patriarch Yosyp Slipyy, has been unveiled in the eastern city of Kharkiv, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

The plaque was placed on February 22 on the building housing the Kharkiv City Transport Inspection Police, site of a former Soviet-era transit jail in which Patriarch Yosyp spent several weeks in 1961 en route to a Siberian prison camp.

Kharkiv Oblast Governor Mikhaylo Dobkin, Kharkiv Mayor Hennadiy Kernes, Lviv Oblast Governor Mikhaylo Tsymbalyuk, and Lviv City Mayor Andriy Sadovyy took part in the ceremony.

Slipyy was harshly persecuted by the Soviet regime and spent many years in jails. He refused to convert to the Orthodox Church when the Soviets joined the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to the Russian Orthodox Church, and wrote a book on the Communist Party's policy on religion.

Responding to pressure from the Vatican and U.S. President John F. Kennedy, the Soviet leadership released Patriarch Yosyp and let him leave the USSR in 1963. Slipyy died in Rome in 1984 at the age of 92.

Slipyy was made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1965. He was also the major archbishop of Lviv as head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 1944-84.

The first plaque commemorating Patriarch Yosyp was officially unveiled in Kharkiv in 2005 but was damaged by pro-Russian groups in 2008. The local Catholic congregation and the organization of Ukrainian Youth arranged for its registration.

In 2010, Pro-Russian organizations in Kharkiv won a lawsuit to demand the restored plaque not be publicly displayed. Yury Apukhtin, leader of the Great Rus organization, and some of his supporters subsequently destroyed it.

About 8 percent of Ukrainian Christians belong to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

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