Pope Meets With Ukrainian Bishops, Urges Reconcilation With Orthodox
VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope John Paul II met for the first time today with the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and hailed their emergence from more than four decades of Soviet repression.
But he also urged them to make peace with the Russian Orthodox, antagonists since the Ukrainian church was suppressed by dictator Josef Stalin in 1946, to strengthen the role of Christianity in a Europe emerging from Communist rule.
The Ukrainians, the pope said, must be ″a bridge and in no way an obstacle″ to better relations among Christians.
Other hurdles to improved Vatican-Kremlin ties have fallen under the leadership of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
The Ukrainian issue, however, has remained a stumbling block and differences between the Ukrainians and the Vatican have come to the surface.
In his speech to the bishops, the pope appeared to be balancing his concern for the suffering of the Ukrainian faithful ″on the cross of Christ″ with the goals of the entire church.
Stalin had forcibly merged the church with government-controlled Orthodox Church. Bishops and priests who resisted were shot or imprisoned and its churches were taken over by the Orthodox.
According to Western estimates, there are at least 4 million Catholics in the Ukraine. Until the Kremlin recently softened its stance on religion, they practiced their faith secretly.
Bishops were named in secret and held regular jobs, ranging from a worker on a collective farm to a university professor.