Ukrainian Envoy to Vatican Hails Papal Visit

Trip Had a Big Impact on Nation, She Says

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 10, 2001 ( John Paul II´s knowledge of Ukraine and his attention to all parties had a big impact on the people there, the country´s ambassador to the Vatican says.

Nina Kovalska commented on the importance and decisiveness of the papal trip to her country, in an interview with L´Osservatore Romano.

«Just the presence of the Holy Father, even if he had not said anything, is a sign of hope,» the ambassador told the semiofficial Vatican newspaper. «His attention to every person, without distinction, encourages all to find what unites us, to see the good in others.»<br>
«The Pope´s visit was a unique, historical event for Ukraine,» she said. «John Paul II demonstrated a profound knowledge of Ukraine, of our history. Never before did a guest of ours participate so much or have such knowledge. It is clear that in Ukraine the Holy Father is regarded as the most important spiritual leader of our time, as a tireless defender of human rights, of the dignity of man and of the neediest peoples, throughout the world.»

Referring to the division of Orthodox Churches, the ambassador said: «During the meeting with the Pope, all those present, belonging to different religions, expressed a strong desire to live in peace, within our borders, together with one another. The Pope´s words have given great support to this common process.»

«It was a very positive step that opens great possibilities for religious life in general,» she continued. «What is needed is the unity of Orthodox Churches, and the state is also interested in this unity. The union of Churches also means being able to give Christians a more important role in society.»

She added: «Following the atheist regime, the dictatorship, the state cannot construct a new society on its own and by its own will; it must cooperate closely with the Church in the social realm. More than that, the Church should have a primary role in this area.»

Commenting on the beatifications the Pope presided over, Kovalska said: «I do not belong either to the Greek-Catholic or the Latin Church, but I would like to stress, in any event, that this consolation that the Pope offered Catholics has touched the heart of the people.»

«Considering the suffering we have endured in the past, I believe I can say that, for Ukrainians the Holy Father´s words have been those of a genuine Christian leader, a real witness,» she said. «The Pope has spoken very moving words. I saw many people cry.»

The ambassador continued: «All the Pope´s words have left a profound mark in the people´s spirit. They will not forget. His goodness and wisdom have moved our people. In particular, we were all impressed by the fact that he addressed us in the Ukrainian language. It is the first time that a personality visits our country and speaks our language. And I must say that the Pope has a good accent.»

She concluded: «With his witness, he invites us to speak a common language. His presence makes people better. For independent Ukraine, to have welcome the Pope was an extraordinary, unique event of great value.»

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