The Pope spoke of the unique identity and mission of Ukraine this morning, on receiving the the credentials of the Ukraine’s new ambassador, Grygorii Fokovych Khoruzhyi.
Speaking of the country’s desire to establish a more intense relationship with the rest of Europe, John Paul II said, "Ukraine will be able to better develop its mission as a bridge between different peoples and cultures, while maintaining intact its own unique identity. Working actively in spiritual, social, political and economic matters, it will be able to become a significant laboratory of dialogue, development and cooperation for all."
The Holy Father noted that Ukraine’s institutions and values have been shaped by the Gospel and that it has the “great responsibility of understanding, defending and promoting” it’s Christian heritage and identity, which persisted even throughout the communist regime.
On the subject of the governments interest in religious freedom, the Pope spoke of his desire to see a "a legal definition of churches be decided upon soon, based on effective equality for all, and that, at the same time, agreements can be reached on the teaching of religion and recognition by the State of theology as a university discipline. In addition, I hope that the stipulated agreements are satisfying on the delicate topic of the restitution of confiscated Church goods during the communist dictatorship."
Progress has been made on the restitution of confiscated goods: on May 5, Ukraine’s government returned the former residence of the Cathoilic bishop of Lviv of the Latins which had been confiscated by the communist regime.
The Holy Father mentioned the sadness experienced by the Ukrainian community for the unfortunate division that still persists between the Churches and expressed hope in that ecumenical dialogue contributes to the search for unity.
The Church in Ukraine "from its independence till today, has known a promising springtime of hope, and in each one of its components, is driven by the desire to reach full unity with all Christians," concluded John Paul II.