KIEV (CWN) - Ukraine's Eastern-rite Catholic bishops applauded Pope John Paul's visit to Communist Cuba this week, but they added that they want him to visit their country as well.

      "We welcome the Pope's visit to Cuba because Cubans need spiritual support and a sign of hope from him," Bishop Yulian Hobur, the Eastern-rite Catholic Synod Secretary, said by telephone from church headquarters in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. "But the Pope, who has been even to Lebanon or Bosnia, does not come to Ukraine, a European country where Christianity has a thousand-year-old tradition." The Holy Father was dissuaded from visiting the former Soviet Republic by President Leonid Kuchma in 1995 who warned of exacerbating tensions between Ukrainian Catholics and Russian Orthodox.

      Catholicism was banned by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1946 and many church properties were confiscated and given to the Orthodox Church. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the ban on the Catholic Church was lifted, but disputes arose over ownership of those properties. A statement from the bishops also said they felt slighted when they were left out of talks between Vatican officials and the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate last week in Moscow.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:To subscribe to Catholic World News Service, available daily by e-mail, click here .

January 23-25, 1998 volume 9, no. 18          DAILY CATHOLIC