.- Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Tetiana Izhevska, the new ambassador of the Ukraine to the Holy See. He opened his French-language speech to the diplomat by thanking her for the invitation of Victor Iouchtchenko, President of Ukraine, to visit his country.
"Ukraine, which because of its geographical position has always had the vocation of being a gateway between East and West," said the Holy Father, "has over these years begun and developed a policy of openness and collaboration with other countries on the continent." He expressed his appreciation for this state of affairs which, he said, is contributing "to restoring Europe to its true dimension, ensuring conditions of fruitful exchange between ... the two cultural lungs that forged its history."
“I am sure that the Ukrainian nation - its life, culture and institutions profoundly impregnated with the Gospel - will concern itself with carrying the dynamism of its identity to other nations, while preserving its original characteristics. Indeed it is vital, in a world ever more strongly marked by globalization, to favor a serious and profound dialogue between cultures and religions, not in order to reduce them all to some impoverished syncretism but to help them develop mutual respect and cooperate ... for the common good. This will enable a reduction of the ever-present sources of tension and conflict between groups and nations, and guarantee everyone the conditions for lasting peace and development."
The Pope recalled "the good relations that exist between the government authorities and the Churches and ecclesial communities in Ukraine," where "believers enjoy religious liberty, an essential aspect of human freedom." In keeping with "a just distinction between the responsibilities of the religious and civil spheres, the State recognizes different forms of worship ... ensuring them equal rights before the law and thus allowing each ... to play its specific role for the common good of the nation."
The Holy Father also considered the question of the Catholic Church's involvement in the education of young Ukrainians, praising the efforts "of the Pan-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations to draw up a program concerning the teaching of Christian ethics in State schools."
Finally, the Pope mentioned the Catholics who live in Ukraine, both those of the Latin rite and those of the Byzantine rite, highlighting their "concern for the permanent dialogue between the Eastern and Western traditions." The Holy Father thanked President Iouchtchenko for the concern he has shown for the bishops of the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference of the Latin rite, and gave assurances of "the commitment of all Ukrainian Catholics to the wellbeing of the country."
"I know that their desire is to bear daily witness to the Gospel through acts of solidarity, ... through a will to build peace and a desire to consolidate the values of the family founded upon marriage," Pope Benedict concluded. "I am also aware of their wish to progress along the path of unity with their Orthodox brethren and with their brothers and sisters in other Christian communities. I encourage them, then, always to be willing to consolidate ecumenical dialogue, which is such a vital way to overcome difficulties."