John Paul II, who led the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005, became the first pope in modern times to visit Ukraine in 2001.
Speaking at Kyiv International Airport on June 23, 2001, he said: “I embrace you all, beloved Ukrainians, from Donetsk to Lviv, from Kharkiv to Odessa and to Simferopol! In the very name Ukraine there is a reminder of the greatness of your Country which, with its history, bears witness to its unique vocation as the frontier and gate between East and West.”
“Down the centuries this country has been the privileged crossroads of different cultures, the meeting place of the spiritual treasures of East and West.”
He added: “Ukraine has a clearly European vocation, emphasized also by the Christian roots of your culture. My hope is that these roots will strengthen your national unity, bringing the life-blood of authentic and shared values to the reforms now under way.”
The Polish pope died on April 2, 2005. He was beatified on May 1, 2011, and canonized on April 27, 2014. His tomb is located beneath the Altar of St. Sebastian in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Photographs courtesy of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.