DAILY CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY February 10, 1999 vol. 10, no. 28
NEWS & VIEWS
POPE MAY VISIT UKRAINE THIS YEAR, BUT NO DECISION YET ON PAPAL TRIP TO ROMANIA
KIEV, Ukraine (CWNews.com) - The chairman of Ukraine's religious affairs committee said on Monday that he expects Pope John Paul II to visit the country in late 1999. Depending on the timing of a proposed visit to Romania, the trip could be the Holy Father's first visit to a predominantly Orthodox country.
Viktor Bondarenko, chairman of the State Committee for Religious Affairs, told reporters that the Holy Father is expected to visit the country in either November or December, after presidential elections. He said the visit would probably not take place any later because the Holy Father will remain in the Vatican for celebrations of the Jubilee Year in 2000.
Ukraine is home to millions of Eastern-rite Catholics, although the Orthodox churches hold a majority in the country. As in Romania, Catholics and Orthodox in the former Communist country have suffered conflicts over the status of properties confiscated by the former Communist regime from the outlawed Catholic Church and given to the Orthodox Church.
In a related story, the Vatican press office cautioned against premature speculation about a possible trip by Pope John Paul II to Romania later this year.
"We have not yet received any written invitation from the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate," the Vatican statement read.
For the moment, then, no definite plans for a papal visit have been made, and no dates have been set-- although more and more factors suggest that such a historic trip is likely to occur, probably before June 1999.
Pope John Paul II has indicated his desire that any papal visit should serve to improve relations between Catholics--especially those of the Byzantine-rite Romanian Catholic Church--and the Orthodox who constitute the majority of Romania's people. Thus the Vatican has given unusually high importance to the views of the Orthodox leadership, and awaits a formal invitation from the Patriarchate.
Pending an announcement about Romania, the only papal voyage for
which plans have now been confirmed is a visit to Poland. Although
the dates for that trip have not been confirmed, it is generally
believed that John Paul will visit his homeland in June. The Polish
episcopal conference has suggested the dates June 5-17, and Vatican
sources expect that to work on that schedule. The Vatican usually
releases the schedule for a papal trip just two months before it
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NEWS & VIEWS