Viktor Yushchenko spoke privately with the Pope today in the Vatican for about 25 minutes, reported the Vatican press office. After the meeting the Ukraine leader met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.

"During the cordial discussions attention focused on the international situation," a communiqué reported. "At the bilateral level, the good relations between Ukraine and the Holy See were noted with pleasure, as were the prospects for increased collaboration in the cultural and social fields.

"While expressing the desire to find equitable solutions to outstanding questions between State and Church, mention was also made of the Catholic Church's contribution to Ukrainian society for education in Christian values and their diffusion, and of the importance of dialogue among Christians in order to promote unity, while respecting everyone and with the aim of peaceful coexistence."

Ukraine has more than 46 million citizens, mostly Orthodox. Fewer than 10% of Ukraine's 48 million inhabitants are Catholic, mostly of the Eastern rite, which endured severe persecution under communist rule.