Ukraine Can Be Model for Christian Unity, Pope Says

70,000 Join Him at Eastern-Rite Mass

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KIEV, Ukraine, JUNE 25, 2001 ( Ukraine can become a model for future union among Christians, because faithful of the Eastern and Western tradition live together in these lands, John Paul II said today.

«Your living side by side in charity should become a model of a unity that exists within a legitimate pluralism and has its guarantee in the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter,» the Pope said during his homily at a Byzantine-rite Divine Liturgy, as Eastern Catholics refer to the Mass, celebrated at the Chayka airfield outside Kiev.

A day earlier he celebrated a Latin-rite Mass at the airfield. This morning, his third and last day in Kiev, the Holy Father called for unity among Christians.

The Divine Liturgy attracted 70,000 pilgrims, Vatican Radio said. A third of those were Orthodox Christians who disregarded Moscow Patriarch Alexy II´s call for a boycott of the papal visit.

«That they may all be one!» the Pontiff exclaimed to the Christians of different rites and confessions present at the Mass. The line recalled Jesus´ words at the Last Supper.

Dozens of Greek-Catholic parishes participated in the liturgy. Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, archbishop major of Lviv for Eastern-rite Catholics, presided over the Mass. Cardinal Marian Jaworski, archbishop of Lviv for Latin-rite Catholics, also participated in the Mass.

In his homily, John Paul II said: «From this land, sanctified by the blood of whole hosts of martyrs, I raise with you my prayer to the Lord that all Christians may once again be ´one,´ according to the desire of Jesus in the Upper Room.»

John Paul II said one of his greatest concerns was that all «Christians of the third millennium present themselves before the world with one heart and one soul.»

The Holy Father referred to Ukraine´s transition after the fall of Communism.

«These 10 years have shown that, despite the temptations linked to crime and corruption, its spiritual roots are strong,» he said. «My heartfelt hope is that Ukraine will continue to draw strength from the ideals of personal, social and ecclesial morality, of service of the common good, of honesty and sacrifice, not forgetting the gift of the Ten Commandments.»

During the ceremony, John Paul II blessed the first stones of the new Catholic cathedral of Kiev, as well as those of other buildings that Greek-Catholics will build in the Ukrainian capital, having lost all their churches during the Soviet period. They have only recovered a small number of these churches.

Following the Divine Liturgy, John Paul II visited the Babi Yar ravine, which saw the wartime massacres of some 200,000 people, 120,000 of whom were Jews, killed by the Nazis.

Immediately after, John Paul II visited the Basilian monastery, where he prayed for about 10 minutes, and then greeted some of the monks and was in turn greeted by thousands of faithful gathered out front.

On Monday afternoon, John Paul II bid farewell to the Kiev authorities at Boryspil international airport before traveling by plane to Lviv in western Ukraine, a bastion of Greek-Catholic martyrdom during the Soviet period.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the Pope will beatify martyrs and other great figures of Ukrainian Catholicism.

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