Ukraine – Urgent restoration work continues on the roof of Odessa Cathedral
The Cathedral of the Assumption in Odessa can look back on a chequered history. It was built in 1853 with the contributions of Polish and German Catholics. However, in 1935 it was closed down by the communists. First it was turned into an international club, and then into a homeland museum. During the Second World War the building was initially returned to the Church. However, this did not last long, for in 1949 the communists confiscated the entire property of the church, including not only the building itself but also the surrounding properties. The church itself was turned into a gymnasium and a false floor was built into the structure thereby totally disfiguring the interior. Finally the church was returned to the Catholic Church in an utterly abandoned state. However, even then, the surrounding buildings, which had also belonged to the Church, were not returned. For these properties have been sold on in the meantime to private owners and under the prevailing law the Church is required to purchase them back from the new owners, who in some cases are demanding exorbitant sums, since they suppose the Church to be rich. Until recently Bishop Bronislaw Bernatsky himself was still living in the cathedral tower, until with the help of ACN he was eventually able to purchase a house that had formerly belonged to the Church.
With a great deal of care and effort the cathedral was finally restored to a fitting condition. Today there is nothing in the interior to recall the tragic fate this church endured during the 20th century. The cathedral is open all day long and Holy Mass is celebrated there in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and English.
However, the roof of the cathedral, which was in a terrible condition, was only temporarily repaired for lack of funds. Meanwhile though, with help from ACN, a large part of the restoration work has now been completed. But unfortunately, in the course of the building work, it was discovered that the state of the roof was much worse than initially feared. The wooden beams are rotten and in the church tower itself, the former residence of the bishop, which is also now being used as accommodation for the seminarians, the ceiling has actually collapsed.
The bishop himself has a pension of just 50 euros, and this because as a young man he had to work on a collective farm. “It’s just enough for the petrol, if I travel to the edge of my diocese”, he says. “But I’ve never accepted even a cent from any of the parishes for my petrol. When I visit my priests, I even tried to bring them something instead.”
Now Bishop Bernacky has turned to us one more time for help to complete the remaining essential restoration work. We have promised him 40,000 Euros.