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In the News: Ukraine
Updates about the Holy Father and news from Marians Worldwide

Pope urges healing in Ukraine

This summer, during his first pastoral visit to Ukraine, Pope John Paul II stressed healing and unity as he urged the country's Catholic and Orthodox believers to put aside religious and political differences.

"May pardon, given and received, spread like a healing balm in every heart," the Holy Father said June 26 in his homily at a Mass in the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv. Healing the 1,000-year division between Orthodox and Catholic Christians was a theme that echoed through the pope's June 23-28 visit.

"May the purification of historical memories lead everyone to work for the triumph of what unites over what divides, in order to build together a future of mutual respect, fraternal cooperation, and true solidarity," the Holy Father said.

Tension in Ukraine, with 10 million Orthodox believers and six million Catholics, has grown since the collapse of communism a decade ago. Alexy II, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, opposed the Holy Father's visit to Ukraine because he considers Ukraine part of his sphere of authority and suspects Catholics of seeking converts.

John Paul II's first stop in the former Soviet republic got off to a cool start in the mainly-Orthodox capital of Kiev on June 23. A quiet crowd of about 70,000 gathered for a Byzantine-rite Divine Liturgy, celebrated by the pope at an airfield outside the Ukrainian capital.

When he arrived in Lviv, the faithful were considerably more enthusiastic. The final papal gathering drew about 1.5 million at the Lviv Hippodrome where he beatified 28 Greek Catholics, including 27 martyrs, most of whom were brutally murdered by Soviet secret police.

In his homily, John Paul II paid tribute to the faith of the martyrs, while calling for unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. "Together with them, Christians of other confessions, too, were persecuted and killed on account of Christ. Their joint martyrdom is a pressing call for reconciliation and unity," he said.

"The only way to clear the path is to forget the past, ask forgiveness of one another, and forgive one another."

Pope encourages youth of Marian parish in Ukraine

Pope John Paul II's visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv this summer will live in the hearts of parishioners from Immaculate Heart of Mary parish for generations. That's the view of Very Rev. Paul Ostrowski, MIC, superior of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Ukraine.

More than 500 from his parish in Chmeilnicki, Ukraine, trekked over 150 miles to Lviv for the Holy Father's Mass and youth celebration on June 26.

"We received many blessings as a parish and as a country," says Fr. Paul, who concelebrated the Mass with the pope. About 14 Marian priests from across Ukraine participated in the Mass. "My brother priests and everyone from our parish were very excited to see the Holy Father on Ukrainian soil," says Fr. Paul. The youth celebration later in the day drew 300,000 young people from several countries. "It was such a joy-filled time," says Julia Shutyak, 19, a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary. "I learned from the pope that our lives will be full of difficulties, but we have to see Jesus in other people.

"At the beginning of the pilgrimage, I was in a bad mood because of so many delays, but I heard how hard the pope's life has been and how he overcame his difficulties through faith," Julia explains. "The Holy Father told us many things, and I learned to listen to God, pray more, and to allow others to see my love for God."

Parishioners began preparing for the event months in advance. They took out a loan and manufactured 10,000 bandanas with the yellow and blue colors of Ukraine together with the yellow and white colors of the Holy See. They helped subsidize their pilgrimage by selling the bandanas.

"Even today, people still come to Mass wearing them," Fr. Paul says.

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