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Vatican’s leading ecumenical official visits Ukraine

Catholic World News - June 05, 2013

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has begun a weeklong visit to Ukraine.

The nation of 45 million is 83% Orthodox, 10% Catholic, and 2% Protestant. Ukraine is home to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest Eastern Catholic church, and Eastern Catholics there outnumber Roman-rite Catholics by a four to one margin. Orthodox Christians are divided into the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (50% of the population), Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (26%), and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (7%).

None of the 15 autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches has granted canonical recognition to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate or the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

“It’s the first time I am able to go to Ukraine, and for me it’s very important to have meetings with all the churches, the Orthodox, the Greek Catholic and Latin Catholics,” said Cardinal Koch, who will meet with Metropolitan Volodymyr Sabodan, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate.

“I see it as very important to deepen relationships between Catholics and Orthodox, because we also have a difficult situation between the Orthodox churches, and it’s clear we can have official relations only with the Orthodox church united with the Patriarchate of Moscow,” he added. “I think it’s important that Pope Francis has had responsibility for all the Oriental Catholic Churches [in Argentina] and he knows this reality so the dialogue between Oriental Catholics and Orthodox churches is very important for him.”

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