VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2004 ( John Paul II shares the hopes of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church to be established as a patriarchate, but he asks for patience while the proposal is studied.

The Pope is also taking into account the "evaluations" of the Orthodox Churches.

He expressed this today when receiving in audience Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, archbishop major of Lviv of the Ukrainians, with the members of the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.

"I share your aspiration, well-founded in the canonical and conciliar discipline, to have full juridical and ecclesiastical configuration," the Holy Father told his guests.

"I share this aspiration in prayer and also in suffering, waiting for the day established by God in which I will be able to confirm the mature fruit of your ecclesial development as successor of the apostle Peter," he said.

"Meanwhile, as you well know, your request is being seriously studied, also in the light of the evaluations of other Christian Churches," the Pope added.

The Holy Father urged that this hope not be an obstacle "to your apostolic courage or a reason to turn off or dampen the joy of the Holy Spirit which drives and spurs on Cardinal Husar, together with his brother bishops and priests, religious and the lay faithful to greater abandonment to proclaiming the Gospel and in the consolidation of your ecclesial tradition."

John Paul II expressed his "deepest admiration for the vitality of this Church and for the faithfulness which has characterized it throughout the centuries."

"Rich with heroic witnesses, even in the recent past, your Church is involved in pastoral programs that enjoy generous collaboration and approval by the clergy and lay people for the effective work of evangelization, promoted by a climate of freedom that today is felt also in your country," he concluded.

In a letter dated last Nov. 29, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople asked John Paul II not to institute a Greek-Catholic patriarchate in Kiev, saying that there was a risk of breaking ecumenical relations.

Such a measure "would cause strong reactions on the part of all the Orthodox sister Churches and harm the attempts to continue the theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches," the letter said.

In the July 2002 plenary assembly held in Kiev, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Synod requested the Pope to sanction this process by conferring on it a patriarchal title.

According to the conciliar decree "Orientalium Ecclesiarum" on the Catholic Eastern Churches, the Pope has the faculty to recognize on his own initiative the patriarchal rank of a Church without having to submit this recognition to the consensus of other ecclesial bodies.

The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches "sui juris" (of its own right) with more than 5.5 million faithful. It maintains the Byzantine rite and is in full communion with the Bishop of Rome.