Pope´s Address at Wednesday General Audience

«The Fidelity of the Ukrainian Church»

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 4, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address today at the midweek general audience, in St. Peter´s Square.

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1. Today I would like to review with you the stages of the apostolic trip that I was able to undertake a few days ago in Ukraine. I thank God for making this pilgrimage possible, which meant so much to me. It was meant to be a homage to those people, to their long and glorious history of faith, witness and martyrdom.

I remember with intense affection my brother bishops of Ukraine, Eastern and Latin, whom I had the joy of embracing in their land. Because of the occasion, numerous cardinals and bishops of other countries were present, who came to express their spiritual closeness to those sorely tried people. Together with all these brothers in the episcopate, I thanked the Lord for the fidelity of the Ukrainian Church, which I encouraged to grow in communion and collaboration, without which there can be no authentic and effective evangelization.

From here, near the tomb of the Apostle Peter, I now wish to send respectful and fraternal greetings to the Orthodox Church, which embraces a great number of faithful in Ukraine, and which in the course of the centuries has enriched the universal Church with the witness of fidelity to Christ of so many of its sons.

I renew my expression of sincere gratitude to the president of the Republic, Mr. Leonid Kuchma, and to other state authorities, who welcomed me with great cordiality and planned everything for the total success of this trip. I was also able to express these sentiments in the course of the meeting with representatives of the political, cultural, scientific and economic realms, held in the Presidential Palace the very evening of my arrival in Kiev. Moreover, at that moment, I pointed out the road of liberty and hope that Ukraine has undertaken which, after a century of harsh trials, is now called to consolidate better her national and European identity, while remaining anchored in her own Christian roots.

2. Kiev is the cradle of Christianity in Eastern Europe. Ukraine, from which more than 1,000 years ago Christian faith and civilization irradiated in Eastern Europe, is a significant «laboratory,» where the Eastern and Latin Christian traditions coexist.

It was an unforgettable experience for me in Kiev and Lviv, to preside over solemn eucharistic celebrations in the Latin rite and Byzantine-Ukrainian rite. It was as though living the liturgy «with two lungs.» It was like this at the end of the first millennium, after the baptism of Rus and before the unhappy division between East and West. We prayed together so that the differences of the traditions will not impede communion in faith and in ecclesial life. «Ut unum sint»: The words of Christ´s sorrowful prayer resounded eloquently in that «frontier land,» whose history records in blood the call to be the «bridge» between divided brothers.

I was aware of this singular ecumenical vocation of Ukraine, when meeting with the Pan-Ukrainian Council of the Churches and Religious Organizations. It is made up of representatives of Christian Churches, of the Muslim and Jewish communities, and of other religious confessions. It is an institution that promotes spiritual values, fostering a climate of understanding between the diverse religious communities. And this is all the more important in a country that has experienced very heavily the coercion of religious liberty. How can we not forget that, along with many Christians, a considerable number of Jews were victims of Nazi fanaticism, and many Muslims were harshly persecuted by the Soviet regime? Rejecting every form of violence, all believers in God are called to nourish the absolutely necessary religious roots of every authentic humanism.

3. My pilgrimage was a homage to the holiness of that land soaked in the blood of martyrs. In Leopoli, cultural and spiritual capital of the Western region of the country and see of two archbishops, Cardinals Lubomyr Husar, for the Greek-Catholics, and Marion Jaworski, for the Latins, I had the joy to proclaim blessed 30 sons and daughters of Ukraine, both Latins and Greek-Catholics.

They are: Bishop Mykola Carneckyj and 24 companions, martyrs, among whom are seven additional bishops, 13 priests, three [religious] sisters, and one layman, heroic witnesses of the faith during the Communist regime; Omeljan Kovc, priest and martyr under the Nazi occupation; Bishop Teodor Romza, zealous pastor, who paid with his life for his unwavering fidelity to the See of Peter; Jozef Bilczewski, esteemed professor of theology and exemplary archbishop of Leopoli of the Latins; Zygmunt Gorazdowski, priest, tireless apostle of charity and mercy; Josaphata Hordashevska, religious, founder of the Sisters Handmaids of Mary Immaculate.

May Ukraine receive renewed apostolic enthusiasm from the legacy of holiness left by these exemplary disciples of Christ and of so many others that they represent in some way. Their legacy, especially that of the martyrs, must be firmly safeguarded and communicated to the new generations.

Such is the duty, in the first place, of priests, and men and women religious, actively committed to the apostolate. It is my hope that there will be a rich flowering of vocations to ensure the necessary return to an effective pastoral service of the People of God.

4. From this point of view, it is significant that the anticipated meeting with youth took place, between the two beatification ceremonies at Leopoli. To [youth], who are the hope of the Church and civil society, I pointed out Christ: He alone has «words of eternal life» (John 6:68) and leads to real liberty. I symbolically entrusted to «young» Ukraine the divine law of the Decalogue, as the indispensable compass for their way, alerting them to the idols of a false well-being and the temptations to evade their own responsibilities.

While the images of this trip and its various stages are vivid in my mind and heart, I pray to the Lord to bless the efforts of those in that beloved nation who are dedicated to the service of the Gospel and the search for the true good of man, of every person. I am now thinking of the many situations of suffering and difficulty, among which is that of prisoners, to whom I send my affectionate greetings, assuring them of my special remembrance in prayer.

I entrust the good resolutions of each one to the intercession of most holy Mary, venerated with tender devotion in numerous shrines of the country.

I renew my good wishes of prosperity and peace for the Ukrainian people, gathering all in a great embrace of warmth and affection. May God heal every wound of that great people and guide them toward a new future of hope!

[Translation by ZENIT]

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