Bishop says Ukrainian church rights won't be affected by election


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WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop from Ukraine said his country faces new uncertainty after its Jan. 17 election, but added he was confident that church rights would be unaffected.

"Both presidential contenders represent industrial eastern Ukraine -- this will pose problems for people in (Ukraine's) West, where mentalities are different," said Bishop Marian Buczek of Kharkov-Zaporizhzhya, secretary-general of the Ukrainian bishops' conference.

Ukraine will have a presidential runoff Feb. 7, but the bishop said whoever is elected would treat churches equally.

"Although ordinary people are still sometimes negative toward us, those in government know it's important to keep up with the worldwide observance of religious rights. No one wants to go back to the Soviet era of fighting the faith," he said.

Ukraine's current president, Viktor Yushchenko, was eliminated in the poll, which international monitors said had met democratic standards.

Opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych will face Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the runoff.

In a Jan. 21 telephone interview with Catholic News Service, Bishop Buczek said the vote could be viewed as a rejection of Ukraine's December 2004 Orange Revolution, which swept Yushchenko to power.

"People had great hopes of improvement then, but the Orange Revolution victors unfortunately fell out and didn't keep their word," added the bishop.