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Pope John Paul II's Pilgrimage To Ukraine

... transcripts from

1. Kyiv International Airport - Welcome Ceremony
2. Meeting with Representatives of Political Life, Culture, Science and Business


1. Kyiv International Airport

Arrival Ceremony


Saturday, 23 June 2001

Mr President,
Distinguished Civil Authorities and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Venerable Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I have long awaited this visit and have prayed fervently that it might take place. Finally, with deep joy, I have been able to kiss the beloved soil of Ukraine. I thank God for the gift which today he has given me.

History has recorded the names of two Roman Pontiffs who, in the distant past, came this far: Saint Clement I at the end of the first century and Saint Martin I in the mid-seventh. They were deported to the Crimea, where they died as martyrs. Their present successor, however, comes to you in an atmosphere of festive welcome. He is eager to make this pilgrimage to the renowned churches of Kyiv, the cradle of the Christian culture of the whole of Eastern Europe.

I come among you, dear citizens of Ukraine, as a friend of your noble Nation. I come as a brother in the faith to embrace all the Christians who, amid the severest of tribulations, have persevered in their fidelity to Christ.

I come in love, to express to all the sons and daughters of this Nation, to Ukrainians of every cultural and religious background, my esteem and my cordial friendship.

2. I greet you, Ukraine, brave and determined witness of adherence to the values of faith. How much you suffered in order to vindicate, in difficult times, the freedom to profess this faith!

I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Saint Andrew, who according to tradition said that he saw the glory of God shining brightly on the hills of Kyiv. And this is what happened, centuries later, with the Baptism of Prince Vladimir and his people.

But the Apostle’s vision does not concern only your past; its light shines also on the future of your country. With the eyes of my heart, in fact, I seem to see a new radiance spreading over this blessed land: the radiance that will spring from the renewed confirmation of the choice made in the distant year 988, when Christ was accepted by the Ukrainian Nation as "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14:6).

3. If today I have the joy of being here among you, I owe it to the invitation made to me by you, President Leonid Kuchma, and by all of you, my venerable Brother Bishops of the two traditions, Eastern and Western. I am most grateful to you for this kind gesture, which has enabled me to set foot for the first time as the Successor of the Apostle Peter on the soil of this land.

My gratitude goes first of all to you, Mr President, for your warm welcome and for the courteous words which you have just addressed to me also in the name of all your fellow citizens. Through you I wish to greet the whole Ukrainian people. I congratulate them on their re-won independence and give thanks to God for the fact that this took place without bloodshed. A wish for the future rises up in my heart: that the Ukrainian Nation may continue on this road of peace, thanks to the harmonious contribution of the different ethnic, cultural and religious groups! Without peace, no shared and lasting prosperity is possible.

4. My thanks go now to you, my venerable Brother Bishops of the Greek Catholic Church and of the Latin Catholic Church. I have kept in my heart your repeated invitations to visit Ukraine, and I am happy that I am now able finally to do so. I am filled with joy and anticipation at the thought of the various opportunities which we shall have in the coming days to be united in prayer to Christ, our Lord. To the faithful of your communities go my affectionate greetings.

What an immense burden of suffering you have had to endure in years past! But now you are responding enthusiastically and re-organizing yourselves, seeking light and comfort from your glorious past. Your intention is to continue courageously in your resolve to spread the Gospel, the light of truth and love for every human being. Do not lose heart! This is an undertaking that honours you, and the Lord will certainly not fail to grant you the grace to bring it to completion.

5. As a pilgrim of peace and brotherhood, I am sure that I shall be welcomed with friendship also by those who, although they are not Catholics, have hearts open to dialogue and cooperation. I wish to assure them that I have not come here with the intention of proselytizing, but to bear witness to Christ together with all Christians of every Church and Ecclesial Community, and to invite all the sons and daughters of this noble Land to turn their eyes to him who gave his life for the salvation of the world.

In this spirit I extend a cordial greeting to the dear Brother Bishops, the monks and priests, and all the faithful of the Orthodox Church, who form the majority of the citizens in this Country. I recall with pleasure that down the course of history relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Kyiv have known periods of light: as we remember these, we feel encouraged to hope for a future of ever greater understanding on the road to full communion.

Unfortunately, there have also been sad times, when the image of Christ’s love has been obscured: bowing before our one Lord, let us recognize our faults. As we ask forgiveness for the errors committed in both the distant and recent past, let us in turn offer forgiveness for the wrongs endured. The most fervent wish that rises from my heart is that the errors of times past will not be repeated in the future. May their memory not be a hindrance on the way to mutual knowledge, the source of brotherhood and cooperation.

The world is rapidly changing: what was unthinkable yesterday is within our reach today. Christ exhorts us all to renew in our hearts feelings of brotherly love. If we rely on love, it is possible — with God’s help — to transform the world.

6. Finally, my greetings extend to all the other citizens of Ukraine. Notwithstanding the diversity of your religious and cultural backgrounds, beloved people of Ukraine, there is one element that unites you: you share the same history, and the hopes and disappointments which it has brought.

Down the centuries, the Ukrainian people has known harsh and exhausting trials. How can we fail to recall, remaining in the context of the century just ended, the scourge of the two World Wars, the recurring famines, the disastrous natural calamities — extremely sad events that in their wake left millions dead? In particular, under the oppression of totalitarian regimes such as Communism and Nazism, the people risked losing its national, cultural and religious identity; it saw the destruction of the intellectual elite, the custodians of the Nation’s civil and religious heritage. Most recently, there was the radioactive accident at Chernobyl, with its tragic and pitiless consequences for the environment and the lives of so many human beings. But it was precisely at that moment that the definitive change for the better began. That apocalyptic event, which led your country to repudiate nuclear weapons, also brought your citizens to a vigorous re-awakening, inspiring them to set out on the road to a brave renewal.

It is difficult to explain as the result of merely human dynamics the epoch-making changes of the last two decades. But whatever the interpretation given, it is certain that from these experiences a new hope has been born . It is important not to disappoint the expectations which now fill the hearts of so many, especially among the young. With the contribution of everyone it is now urgently necessary to promote in the cities and villages of Ukraine the blossoming of a new, authentic humanism. This is the dream that your great poet Taras Shevchenko expressed in the famous verse: ". . . enemies will be no more, but there will be the child, there will be the mother, there will be people on the earth!".

7. 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.

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. May this land continue in its noble mission, with the pride expressed by the poet just quoted when he wrote: "Nowhere in the world is there another Ukraine, nowhere is there another Dnieper". You who live in this Land, do not forget this!

These are the thoughts that fill my heart as I take my first steps on this visit, eagerly awaited and today happily begun. God bless you, dear people of Ukraine, and may he always protect your beloved Homeland!



Meeting with Representatives of Political Life, Culture,
Science and Business


Saturday, 23 June 2001
Kyiv (Presidential Palace)

Mr President,
Honourable Representatives of the Government and Parliament,
Distinguished Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I offer respectful and cordial greetings to one and all. With great pleasure I accepted your invitation, Mr President, to visit this noble country, a cradle of Christian civilization and a homeland where people of different nationalities and religions live together in peace. I rejoice that I am now standing on Ukrainian soil. I consider it a great honour to meet at last the people of a nation which, in these difficult years of transition, has succeeded in ensuring conditions of peace and tranquillity for its inhabitants. I thank you most cordially for your kind reception and your courteous words of welcome.

With great esteem I greet the Deputies and the Members of the Government, the Authorities of every rank, the Representatives of the people, the Diplomatic Corps, the men and women of culture, of the sciences, and all the vital forces which contribute to the welfare of the Nation. I embrace in sincere friendship the Ukrainian people, the majority of whom are Christian, as is evident from your culture, your native traditions, the numerous churches dotting the landscape, as well as the countless works of art found everywhere in your country. I greet a land which has known suffering and oppression, while preserving a love of freedom which no one has ever managed to repress.

2. I have come among you as a pilgrim of peace, impelled solely by the desire to testify that Christ is "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14:6). I have come to pay homage to the shrines of your history and to join you in imploring God’s protection upon your future.

With joy I greet you, splendid city of Kyiv, lying midway along the river Dnieper, cradle of the ancient Slavs and of Ukrainian culture, so deeply imbued with Christian values. On the soil of your land, a crossroads between Western and Eastern Europe, the two great Christian traditions, Eastern and Latin, met and were given a favourable welcome. Over the centuries, there have been tensions between them, resulting in conflicts harmful to both sides. But today there is a growing openness to mutual forgiveness. There is a need to overcome barriers and mistrust, in order to join in building a country of harmony and peace, drawing, as in the past, from the wellsprings of your shared Christian faith.

3. Yes, dear Ukrainians! It is Christianity that has inspired the greatest figures of your culture and art, and richly nourished the moral, spiritual and social roots of your country. I gladly recall here the words of your fellow countryman, the philosopher Hrigorij Skovoroda: "Everything passes away, but love remains after all else is gone. Everything passes away, save God and love". Only someone profoundly imbued with the Christian spirit was capable of such an insight. In his words we hear an echo of the First Letter of John: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (4:16).

Throughout Europe the word of the Gospel took deep root and in the course of the centuries brought forth wonderful fruits of civilization, learning and holiness. Tragically, the choices made by the peoples of the Continent have not always been consistent with the values of their respective Christian traditions, and history has thus been marked by painful episodes of oppression, destruction and sorrow.

The older among you remember the terrible years of the Soviet dictatorship and the dreadful famine of the beginning of the 1930s, when Ukraine, "the granary of Europe", was no longer able to feed its own children, who died by the millions. And how can we forget the host of your fellow citizens who perished during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 against the Nazi invasion? Unfortunately, liberation from Nazism marked the return of a regime which continued to trample on the most elementary human rights, deporting defenceless citizens, imprisoning dissidents, persecuting believers, and even attempting to erase the very idea of freedom and independence from the consciousness of the Ukrainian people. Happily, the great turning-point of 1989 finally permitted Ukraine to regain her freedom and full sovereignty.

4. Your people attained that greatly-desired goal peacefully and without bloodshed, and they are now firmly committed to a courageous programme of social and spiritual reconstruction. The international community cannot fail to admire the success which you have had in consolidating peace and in resolving regional tensions with due consideration for local differences.

I too encourage you to persevere in your efforts to overcome whatever difficulties remain and to guarantee full respect for the rights of national and religious minorities. A policy of wise tolerance will surely win respect and goodwill for the Ukrainian people and ensure you a particular place in the family of European peoples.

As Shepherd of the Catholic Church, I sincerely appreciate the fact that the Preamble to the Constitution of Ukraine reminds citizens of their "responsibility before God". Surely this was the viewpoint of your own Hrigorij Skovoroda, when he encouraged his contemporaries always to make every effort to "understand man", seeking paths which would enable humanity to emerge definitively from the dead end of intransigence and hatred.

The values of the Gospel, which are part of your national identity, will help you to build a modern, tolerant, open and fraternal society, in which individuals can make their own specific contribution to the common good, while at the same time finding the support they need to develop as fully as possible their own talents.

Here I appeal especially to the young people: as they follow in the steps of those who sacrificed their lives for lofty human, civic and religious ideals, may they preserve unchanged this heritage of civilization.

5. "Do not allow the powerful to destroy mankind", wrote Volodymyr Monomakh (+ 1125) in his book Instruction to My Children. These words remain as valid today as when they were first written.

In the twentieth century, the totalitarian regimes destroyed whole generations, by undermining three pillars of any authentically human civilization: recognition of God’s authority, from which come binding moral rules of life (cf. Ex 20:1-18); respect for the dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:26-27), and the duty to exercise power as a means of serving every member of society without exception, beginning with the weakest and the most vulnerable.

Denial of God did not make man any more free. Rather, it exposed him to various forms of slavery and debased the vocation of political power to the level of brutal and oppressive force.

6. Men and women of politics! Do not forget this earnest lesson of history! Your task is to serve the people and to ensure peace and equal rights for all. Resist the temptation to exploit power for personal or group interests. Always be concerned for the needs of the poor and work in all legitimate ways to ensure that every individual is guaranteed access to a just degree of prosperity.

Men and women of culture! You are heirs to a great history. I am thinking in particular of the Orthodox Archbishop of Kyiv, Metropolitan Peter Mohyla, who in the seventeenth century founded the Academy of Kyiv which is still remembered as a beacon of humanistic and Christian culture. It is your responsibility to apply a critical and creative intelligence in every sphere of knowledge, by linking the cultural heritage of the past to the challenges posed by modernity, in such a way as to contribute to authentic human progress under the banner of the civilization of love.

And in a special way for you, men and women engaged in scientific research, may the fearful social, economic and ecological catastrophe of Chernobyl serve as a permanent warning! The potential of technology must be wedded to unchanging ethical values, if the respect due to man and his inalienable dignity is to be guaranteed.

Men and women of business and finance in the new Ukraine! The future of your Nation depends also on you. Your courageous contribution, inspired always by the values of competence and honesty, will help to relaunch the national economy. This in turn will restore confidence to all those who are tempted to leave the country in order to seek employment elsewhere.

7. Distinguished Authorities, Ladies and Gentlemen! Humanity has entered the third millennium and new prospects are appearing on the horizon. A global process of development is taking place, marked by rapid and radical changes. Everyone is called to make their own contribution in a spirit of courage and confidence. The Catholic Church stands at the side of all people of good will and supports their efforts in the service of the common good.

For my part, I will continue to accompany you with my prayers, asking God to watch over you and your families, your undertakings and the aspirations of the whole Ukrainian people. Upon all of you I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




Sunday, 24 June 2001
Kyiv (Chayka Airport)

1. "The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name" (Is 49:1).

Today we celebrate the birth of Saint John the Baptist. The words of the Prophet Isaiah are well-suited to describe this great biblical figure who stands between the Old and the New Testaments. In the long line of Israel’s prophets and just men and women, John "the Baptizer" was placed by God’s providence immediately before the Messiah, in order to prepare the way before him by his preaching and by the witness of his life.

Of all the Saints, John is the only one whose birth is celebrated by the Liturgy. We heard in the first Reading that the Lord called his Servant "from his mother’s womb". This statement refers in its fullest sense to Christ, but in a derivative way it can also be applied to his Precursor. Both are born as the result of a special intervention by God: the first is born of the Virgin, the second of an elderly and barren woman. Even from his mother’s womb John indicates the One who will reveal to the world the loving plan of God.

2. "From my mother’s womb you called me" (Responsorial Psalm)

Today we can make our own these words of the Psalmist. God knew and loved us even before our eyes could contemplate the marvels of creation. At birth all men and women receive a human name. But even before that, each one has a divine name: the name by which God the Father knows and loves them from eternity and for eternity. This is true for everyone, with the exception of none. No one is nameless in God’s sight! All have equal value in his eyes: all are different, yet all are equal, and all are called to be sons and daughters in the Son.

"His name is John" (Lk 1:63). Before his astonished kinsmen, Zechariah confirms that this is the name of his son, writing it on a tablet. God himself, through his angel, had given that name, which in Hebrew means "God is benevolent". God is benevolent to human beings: he wants them to live; he wants them to be saved. God is benevolent to his people: he wants to make of them a blessing for all the nations of the earth. God is benevolent to humanity: he guides its pilgrim way towards the land where peace and justice reign. All this is contained in that name: John!

Dear brothers and sisters! John the Baptist was the messenger, the forerunner: he was sent to prepare the way for Christ. How does the figure of Saint John the Baptist speak to us here, in Kyiv, at the beginning of this pilgrimage in your country? Is it not in some way providential that this figure speaks to us precisely here in Kyiv?

3. This is the place of the Baptism of Rus’. From Kyiv there began that flowering of Christian life which the Gospel first brought forth in the land of the ancient Rus’, then in the lands of Eastern Europe and, later, beyond the Urals, in the lands of Asia. In a certain sense, then, Kyiv itself played the role of a "precursor of the Lord" among the many peoples who would receive the proclamation of the Gospel from here.

Saint Volodymyr and the inhabitants of Rus’ were baptized by missionaries sent from Constantinople, the greatest centre of Christianity in the East. Thus the new-born Church entered the sphere of the exceedingly rich patrimony of faith and culture of the Byzantine Church. This was at the end of the first millennium. While living according to two different traditions, the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Rome were still in full communion. As I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Euntes in Mundum: "We ought to thank the Lord together for this fact, which today represents a good omen and a hope. God willed that Mother Church, visibly united, should welcome into her bosom, already rich with nations and peoples, and at a moment of missionary expansion both in the West and in the East, this her new daughter on the banks of the Dnieper" (No. 4).

If, as we celebrate the Eucharist today according to the Roman tradition, we recall that moment so profoundly linked to the Byzantine tradition, we do so with gratitude. And we do so with the desire that the memory of the one baptism which we share will help to restore that situation of communion in which diversity of traditions posed no obstacle to unity in faith and ecclesial life.

4. The Baptism which took place here, in Kyiv, inaugurated the thousand-year history of Christianity in the lands of today’s Ukraine and in the whole region. Today, having the grace of coming to this historic place, my thoughts go back through the more than ten centuries in which the gift of that first Baptism has continued to be poured out upon successive generations of the sons and daughters of this Nation. What a flowering of spiritual, liturgical and ecclesial life developed from the meeting of different cultures and religious traditions! This splendid inheritance is now entrusted to you, dear brothers and sisters. During these days of my pilgrimage to your country, I join you in praying that your own generation, at the beginning of a new millenium, will prove worthy of the great traditions of its past.

From this City, the cradle of the Christian faith for Ukraine and for the whole area, I greet and embrace with heartfelt affection all the men and women living in these lands. In a special way I greet Cardinals Marian Jaworski and Lubomyr Husar, together with the beloved Bishop of Kyiv-Zhytomyr, Jan Purwi½ski, my venerable Brothers from the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference and the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. I greet the clergy, the men and women religious and the lay faithful of your glorious and sorely-tried Churches; with great courage they were able to keep alight the lamp of faith even in the dark times of persecution.

5. People of God, you who believe, hope and love in the land of Ukraine, joyfully savour once more the gift of the Gospel which you received over a thouand years ago! Look today to John the Baptist, an enduring model of fidelity to God and his Law. John prepared the way for Christ by the testimony of his word and his life. Imitate him with docile and trusting generosity.

Saint John the Baptist is above all a model of faith. Following the example of the great Prophet Elijah, in order to listen more attentively to the word of the one Lord of his life, he leaves everything and withdraws to the desert, from which he would issue the resounding call to prepare the way of the Lord (cf. Mt 3:3 and parallels).

He is a model of humility, because to those who saw in him not only a Prophet, but the Messiah himself, he replied: "Who do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie" (Acts 13:25).

He is a model of uprightness and courage in defending the truth, for which he was prepared to pay in his person, even to the point of imprisonment and death.

Land of Ukraine, drenched with the blood of martyrs, thank you for the example of fidelity to the Gospel which you have given to Christians the world over! So many of your sons and daughters walked in complete fidelity to Christ; many of them remained constant even to the supreme sacrifice. May their witness serve as an example and a stimulus for the Christians of the third millenium.

6. In the school of Christ, in the footsteps of Saint John the Baptist and of the saints and martyrs of this land, may you too, dear brothers and sisters, be brave enough always to give priority to the values of the spirit.

Dear Bishops, priests, men and women religious, who have faithfully accompanied this people at the price of personal sacrifices of every kind, sustaining them in the dark times of the Communist terror, I thank you and I offer you this encouragement: continue to be zealous witnesses to Christ and good shepherds of his flock in this beloved country of Ukraine.

You, dear young people, be brave and free! Do not let yourselves be taken in by the deceptive mirages of an easy happiness. Follow the way of Christ: he is demanding, certainly, but he alone can help you to savour the full meaning of life and enjoy peace of heart.

You, dear parents, prepare the way of the Lord before your children. Bring them up with love, and set a good example by living the principles you teach. And you, teachers and leaders of society, deepen your commitment to promoting the complete development of the human person, fostering in the young a deep sense of justice and of solidarity with the less fortunate.

May you be, one and all, "a light to the nations" (Is 49:6)!

7. City of Kyiv, may you be a "light to Ukraine". From you there set out the evangelizers who down the centuries have been "John the Baptists" for the peoples dwelling in these lands. How many of them, like John, suffered in order to bear witness to the truth, and by their blood became the seed of new Christians. May future generations never lack men and women of the mettle of these, your glorious ancestors.

Most Holy Virgin, Protectress of Ukraine, you have always guided the Christian people on their pilgrim way. Continue to watch over your children. Help them never to forget the "name", the spiritual identity which they received in Baptism. Help them to rejoice always in the priceless grace of being followers of Christ (cf. Jn 3:29). May you be the guide of each one. You, Mother of God and our Mother, Mary!




Sunday, 24 June 2001
Kyiv (Chayka Airport)

Before concluding this solemn Eucharistic celebration, let us turn in the prayer of the Angelus to Mary Most Holy, to whom the Ukrainian people are deeply devoted.

Mary, the first and the most perfect disciple of her Son, is a figure and a model of the Church which welcomes the word of the Lord in faith. Her protection has accompanied every step of the Christian community in Ukraine ever since the Baptism of Rus’ in 988.

Bathed by the great river of faith, Ukraine thus became a Christian land and, at the same time, a Marian country. This can be seen in the numerous shrines which express the deep love of the faithful for their heavenly Mother. For the faithful of the Latin Rite I am thinking, in particular, of the Shrines of Berdichiv and of Letichiv. Among the faithful of the Byzantine Rite the Shrines of Zarvanytsia and of Hoshiv are greatly venerated. In mind and heart I wish to visit these places of worship and prostrate myself devoutly at the feet of the Virgin to invoke upon everyone her maternal protection.

To Mary’s heavenly intercession I entrust this my pastoral visit and all those whom I shall meet during these days. In a special way I ask her, Mother of the Church, to hasten the steps of all Christians towards full communion. In Ukraine and throughout the world, may believers in Christ be able as soon as possible to fulfil the heartfelt prayer of the one Lord: "Ut omnes unum sint!" (Jn 17:2). May this take place per Mariam, through Mary, Mother of all believers, Mother of unity!


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