Pope Awaits Ukraine Trip With "Great Hope"

Promotion of Ecumenism Is Part of Goal

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 20, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II said he looks forward with «great hope» to his first visit to Ukraine, to confirm the country´s Catholics in the faith and promote the ecumenical commitment with the Orthodox Church.

The five-day pilgrimage, which the Pope will begin this Saturday, has sparked opposition on the part of Moscow´s Orthodox Patriarchate, opposed to the rebirth of Eastern-rite Catholic communities in Ukraine, which Stalin forced without success to join the Orthodox Church.

The Holy Father said the 94th international trip of his pontificate is «a wish that I have carried in my heart for a long time.»

At the end of today´s general audience, the Pope said in St. Peter´s Square: «I thank the Lord for the opportunity he gives me to go in the footsteps of the missionaries who, sent by the Eastern and Western Churches at the end of the first millennium of the Christian era, proclaimed the Gospel in that part of Europe. Since then, the history of those peoples cannot be totally understood without reference to Christianity.»

«I am preparing to go to Ukraine with great hope,» he added. «My objective is to confirm the faith of our brothers and sisters of the Catholic community, and also to promote the ecumenical commitment, in obedience to the word of Christ: ´May they all be one!´»

Lastly, the Pontiff invited all those present in the audience to accompany him in prayer on this pastoral visit, which he entrusted to the Blessed Virgin, «highly venerated in Ukraine.»

«May she guide my steps, and obtain for the Ukrainian people a new spring of faith and civil progress,» the Holy Father concluded.

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