Ukraine Visit Ends on a Note of Unity

Pope Calls for Political and Religious Cooperation

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LVIV, Ukraine, JUNE 27, 2001 (Zenit.org).- At his farewell address to Ukraine, John Paul II appealed for European unity from the Atlantic to the Urals, and among Christians of various confessions.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, on hand at the Lviv international airport, said the Pope´s five-day visit was a decisive step for Ukraine to continue in its efforts for integration in the European Union.

As the sun was setting, the Holy Father slowly ascended the steps of the International Ukraine Airlines plane, which would take him to Rome. So ended his 94th international trip, one of the most difficult of his pontificate because of the opposition of Moscow´s Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.

“My hope is that Ukraine will be able fully to become part of the Europe, which will take in the entire continent from the Atlantic to the Urals,” the Pope said.

He added: “As I said at the end of that year 1989, which was of such great importance in the recent history of the continent, there cannot be a peaceful Europe capable of spreading civilization without the interaction and sharing of the different though complementary values, which are characteristic of the peoples of East and West.”

To achieve this objective, he said, all Christians must cooperate, as they did during the time of Communism, when many died for the faith.

“Unity and harmony! This is the secret of peace and the condition for true and stable social progress,” the Holy Father said. “It is thanks to this combination of intentions and actions that Ukraine, homeland of faith and dialogue, will see dignity recognized in the community of nations.”

The words “reconciliation” and “forgiveness,” directed especially at the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, were the most reiterated in the Pope´s addresses and homilies in Ukraine.

Popular participation rose during John Paul II´s visit, beginning with a rather circumspect welcome in Kiev, and ending with big, joyful events in Lviv, bastion of Greek-Catholic martyrdom.

Arriving in Kiev last Saturday, the Pontiff said he had set himself two objectives: to confirm Ukrainian Catholics in the faith; and to promote the ecumenical dialogue, especially with the Orthodox.

John Paul II may have been successful in his first objective, judging by the closing beatification ceremony. His second objective, however, may hinge on Alexy II´s accepting the forgiveness requested and offered by the Pontiff.

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