The Vatican has announced that Pope John Paul will visit the Ukraine next June. The journey will be a delicate one as relations between Rome and the Russian Orthodox hierarchy are very shaky at present. For years the Pope has expressed a desire visit Moscow, but this has been ruled out by the Russian Metropolitan Alexei. He accuses the Roman Catholic Church of actively seeking converts in lands that traditionally adhere to the Orthodox faith. In the Ukraine however, there has been a community of Eastern Rite Catholics, or Uniates, in communion with Rome for more than 400 years. They were almost wiped out under Stalin but, during the past 10 years, have re-established themselves in an area that used to belong to Poland. The Uniates have recently been accused of illegally occupying some derelict churches belonging to the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Although he has been promised a warm welcome by the Uniate church, the Pope will have to tread warily in the Ukraine to avoid giving offence to local Orthodox Christians.
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