Benedict XVI Receives Ukraine's Prime Minister

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2009 ( Benedict XVI spoke about the contribution the Church has made to Ukrainian society in an audience today with the country’s prime minister, Yulia Vladimirovna Timoshenko.

A communiqué from the Vatican press office reported that during the meeting between the two leaders, they turned their attention «to the contribution made by the Catholic Church, of both rites, to Ukrainian society, especially in the field of education and in spreading human and Christian values.»

The prime minister also met with the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

According to the Vatican note, the prime minister and Benedict XVI also discussed during their 30-minute meeting «questions associated with the promotion of peace and of international co-operation, especially in Europe,» and «the relationship between the civil and religious authorities.»

«The hope was expressed,» the note added, «that the recent positive developments may help to solve the unresolved questions.»

Interfax reported that before her audience with the Pope, Tymoshenko told representatives of the Ukrainian community in Rome that she intended to discuss with the Pope «relations between the Church and the state, to exchange opinions about measures taken in the world to strengthen moral values.»

Tymoshenko is a candidate in the presidential elections in 2010. The campaign begins Monday.

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.

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