1 Million Attend Beatification Mass in Ukraine

Pope Honors 27 Martyrs and a Congregation´s Founder

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LVIV, Ukraine, JUNE 27, 2001 (Zenit.org).- At a Mass attended by a million pilgrims today, John Paul II beatified 27 Eastern Catholics killed by Nazis or Communists.

It marked the first time that Eastern-rite faithful were beatified within a Divine Liturgy, the Byzantine-rite Mass. It also marked the culmination of the Pope´s five-day trip.

Twenty-seven of the blessed were martyred during persecutions between 1941 and 1973. A 28th person, a nun who founded a religious congregation, was also beatified.

At the ceremony, the Lviv Hippodrome was turned into a sea of Ukrainian and papal flags. Many relatives and friends of the new blessed were on hand.

«In my youth I, myself, witnessed this kind of apocalypse,» John Paul II said, referring to Communist and Nazi persecutions. «Even at its beginning, my priesthood was in some way marked by the great sacrifice of countless men and women of my generation.»

«Their memory must not be lost, for it is a blessing,» he said. «We admire them and are grateful to them. Like an icon of the Gospel of the beatitudes, which they lived even to the shedding of blood, they are a sign of hope for our times and for the times to come. They have shown that love is stronger than death.»

The Pope recalled that Orthodox and other Christians died during the persecutions.

«Together with them, Christians of other confessions were also persecuted and killed on account of Christ,» he noted. «Their joint martyrdom is a pressing call for reconciliation and unity. This is the ecumenism of the martyrs and witnesses to faith, which indicates the path of unity to the Christians of the 21st century.»

«May their sacrifice be a practical lesson of life for all,» the Pontiff continued. «This is certainly not an easy task. Over the last centuries, too many stereotyped ways of thinking, too much mutual resentment, and too much intolerance have accumulated.

«The only way to clear the path is to forget the past, ask forgiveness of one another, and forgive one another for the wounds inflicted and received, and unreservedly trust the renewing action of the Holy Spirit.»

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, major archbishop of Lviv for Eastern-rite Catholics, presided over the Divine Liturgy. He said that members of the Greek-Catholic communities were also stained in the 20th century by grave faults. He asked forgiveness for acts of violence of which they were culpable, and offered forgiveness for the persecutions endured.

At all stages of his visit to Ukraine, John Paul II urged a spirit of reconciliation and unity among Catholics and Orthodox.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who attended virtually all the Pontiff´s public events, was at this morning´s Mass. John Paul II ended his visit to Ukraine this afternoon, bidding the country farewell at Lviv´s international airport, before departing for Rome.

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