Ukrainian President Kuchma Visits Pope

Thanks Holy Father for Pastoral Trip of June 2001

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 29, 2002 ( During a private papal audience, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma thanked John Paul II for his pastoral visit to Ukraine in June 2001.

President Kuchma was accompanied by his wife, Ludmilla, and his entourage, including Foreign Affairs Minister Anatoly Zlenko, when he visited the Pope on Thursday.

The meeting was described as «very warm» by the Vatican. The Ukrainian president then had a conversation with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states.

John Paul II gave the president three medals of his pontificate, and received, in turn, a silver vase representing the cupolas of churches of Kiev and Lviv.

Kuchma was greeted on his arrival in Italy on Tuesday by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. On Wednesday, he met with Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian head of government. Their conversations centered on Ukraine’s progressive rapprochement to the Atlantic Alliance.
<br> John Paul II’s visit to Ukraine last year represented an important moment in the ecumenical dialogue and of communion between the Church of Rome and the former Soviet republic.

In the course of that historic visit, the Pope beatified 28 servants of God in Lviv. Many of them were martyrs of the Greek-Catholic Church, who died in the Communist persecution in the course of World War II.

Ukraine, with a total of some 50 million inhabitants, is still very marked by atheism (50%) and religious ignorance. Catholics number more than 4.6 million, spread over 3,600 parishes.

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