Catholic World News News Feature
Ukrainian Orthodox spokesman opposes papal visit June 13, 2006
A leading Ukrainian Orthodox spokesman has said that a visit to Ukraine by Pope Benedict XVI would be "untimely," according to the country's RISU news service.
“If Pope Benedict is a moral and a spiritual person and wants only good for Ukraine and its people, he will never take such an unreasonable step," said Valentyn Lukianyk, the head of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods of Ukraine. He was responding to the news that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has invited the Pope to visit the country.
Tensions between the Orthodox and Catholic churches have been particularly severe in Ukraine during the past decade. The Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church, brutally suppressed during the Communist era, emerged vigorously from the underground with the collapse of the Soviet empire. There have been numerous clashes between Orthodox and Catholic believers over the ownership of parish properties that were confiscated by the Communists and handed over to Orthodox clerics. At the same time, Orthodox leaders have complained that Catholics are engaged in "proselytism," seeking converts among Orthodox believers.
In his statement opposing a papal visit, Lukianyk said that relations between Catholics and Orthodox in Ukraine are now "warming." A visit by Pope Benedict, he said, would place an undue burden on those sensitive ties.
The Vatican has given no consideration that a papal visit to Ukraine is under consideration.