VATICAN CITY, JUNE 23, 2005 ( Benedict XVI appealed for help for the Eastern-rite Catholics of Ukraine, in order to promote reconciliation with the country's Christians, most of whom are Orthodox.

The Pope made his appeal today when receiving the participants in the general assembly of the Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches (ROACO).

ROACO comprises the U.S.-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, as well as agencies that collect aid in Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria.

"During these days you have examined in particular the situation of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine," the Holy Father said when addressing the participants, among whom was Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, archbishop major of Lviv.

The Pope acknowledged that the "continuous development, after the sad winter of the Communist regime," of the Greek-Catholic Church is a "reason for hope, as the ancient and noble spiritual heritage, which the Greek-Catholic community guards, constitutes an authentic treasure for the progress of the whole Ukrainian people."

"Therefore, I say to you: Support its ecclesial journey and favor everything that contributes to reconciliation and fraternity between Christians of beloved Ukraine," Benedict XVI exhorted.

Love that liberates

He added: "From the beginning of the Christian proclamation, needy and poor Christian communities have been supported by the more fortunate.

"At this time, often characterized by drives towards individualism, it is still more necessary that Christians offer the testimony of a solidarity that overcomes all borders, to build a world within which all feel accepted and respected."

In this way, Christians will become "disseminators of authentic love, love that liberates and takes everywhere that joy that 'no one can take away,' as it comes from the Lord," the Pope said.

He thanked ROACO for its support for the formation of priests, religious and seminarians of the Eastern Catholic Churches studying in Rome (some 500) and in their native countries.