KIEV, Ukraine, JAN. 16, 2001 (ZENIT.org).-
Vatican envoy Father Roberto Tucci and a delegation returned to Rome last Saturday, following a trip to Ukraine, to prepare John Paul IIís forthcoming visit to the country, scheduled for June 23-27.
Father Tucci met with representatives of the Latin and Eastern Ukrainian Catholic hierarchies, as well as with the prime minister and representatives of the State Commission for Religious Affairs.
The commissionís vice president confirmed that the Holy Father will visit Kiev, the countryís capital, and Lvov, the capital of Galitzia in western Ukraine, center of the Catholic Church of the Byzantine-Slavonic rite (known as Greek-Catholic), which embraces 4 million faithful.
John Paul II will celebrate two Masses in Kiev, one in the Latin rite, and the other in the Byzantine-Slavonic rite. No decision has been made on the exact locations of the Masses.
The Catholic bishops of both rites have written a pastoral letter to the faithful, on behalf of the "Catholic Episcopate of Eastern and Western tradition," on the occasion of the closing of the Jubilee.
The text states that "from the beginning of his apostolic service, the Slav Pope has hoped to visit the land of St. Vladimir and its capital, the city of Kiev, and to go on pilgrimage to the Cathedral of St. Sophia."
In particular, the Ukrainian bishops express their hope for ecumenical fruits from this visit: "We are convinced that, not only Catholics, but all in general, anticipate with respect and care the Holy Fatherís visit, so that the messenger of the love and peace of Christ will bring Godís blessing. All are aware of the Popeís concern for humanity, its rights, and the rights of all peoples."
The Ukrainian bishops pointed out that they would have the opportunity to "express to the Holy Father our fidelity, our gratitude for his presence, and for the attention he has given the Slav people. We live in the hope that the Pope of Slav origin will be able to come as guarantor of the unity in Christ of all the faithful of different traditions."
One of the fundamental objectives of the Popeís visit to Ukraine is the promotion of good relations with the Orthodox Church, especially with the Moscow Patriarchate, which over the last few years has shown itself opposed to the presence of Catholics of Eastern rite in Orthodox lands, and against the return of properties expropriated under Stalin.
According to analysts in Rome and Moscow, a future visit of the Pope to the Russian capital depends on the results of this objective.
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