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Pope to visit Ukraine in 2012; Moscow patriarchate cool toward plan

May 26, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit Ukraine in 2012.

Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzyck of Lviv has announced that the Pope accepted an invitation to visit Ukraine, "and a concrete date is now being set." The papal visit would come as Ukrainian Catholics celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Lviv archdiocese.

A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, while declining to make any formal comment until the papal visit is officially announced, said that the Catholic anniversary celebration "is not the best occasion for the Pontiff's visit." The Moscow patriarchate has frequently complained about Catholic activity in Ukraine, which Moscow regards as "the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church." Serious tensions persist between the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine and the Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church, which was brutally persecuted by the Soviet government but vigorously revived after the fall of the Communist regime.

The announcement of the papal visit to Ukraine comes at a time when, as George Weigel notes for First Things, the Russian nation and the Russian Orthodox Church is moving to reassert traditional influence in Ukraine. Weigel notes that at the recent inauguration of President Viktor Yanukovych, it was Patriarch Kirill of Moscow-- not a Ukrainian prelate, much less an ecumenical delegation-- that led an official prayer service.


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