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Press Release

Welcoming speech of the President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma at the Meeting Ceremony of the Head of State of Vatican His Holiness Pope John Paul II

Kyiv, Boryspil Airport, June 23, 2001

Your Holiness, Dear Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Ukrainian people and myself I heartily welcome the Head of State of Vatican His Holiness John Paul II in the Ukrainian land.

This day will certainly become a milestone of our national history.

We welcome His Holiness not only as the Head of Church uniting more than a billion people worldwide.

We welcome, first of all, a prominent figure of the present, a person who was in the epicenter of great events that changed the character of our world.

Today Ukraine welcomes unbending champion of human rights and dignity, compromiseless enemy of totalitarism, intolerance, discrimination and fratricidal conflicts.

Just and moving words of John Paul II aimed at protection of unfortunate, offended and oppressed have always and everywhere passed through any borders and ideological curtains.

Time and again he reminds reach and well-being societies that the foundations of world order should be much higher than technical progress and excessive, egoistic focusing on material comfort, in the times of globalization as well.

Adherence to traditions and strive for permanent renewal, permanent basing on eternal values and deep penetration into the internal world of modern human being, height of intellect and simplicity of conversation - all this is harmonically united in the person of today's high guest of Ukraine.

Today we also welcome him as a spiritual leader who calls on us not to settle a score with the past, but together look into the future, jointly develop the dialogue of cultures and civilizations, deepen communication between peoples.

Your Holiness,

Independent Ukraine has passed a long way to meet you. It took quite a time for consolidation of society, strengthening of its civil and democratic foundations to lead us to today's event.

During five days you will be able to see with your own eyes and to learn with your heart the country that now hospitably welcomes you.

It is the same country, which was enlightened with Gospel's truth by Christ's Apostle Andrew. A legend tells us that, having erected a cross upon the Dnipro's hills, he made a prophecy of future blossoming of belief in the lands now called Ukraine.

It is the same country, where St. Clement, first Roman hierarch, propagated Christ in Khersones' quarries and suffered for Him. St. Cyrill and St. Methody, Slavic teachers brought his imperishable remains to Rome from the shores of Crimea.

Back in the times of unity of Christians of East and West, the beginning of baptizing of Rus by St. Prince Volodymir, which you called "key event in gospelization of the world" in one of your encyclicals, started from those lands.

Belief in Christ has always been and remains a light sign and reliable guidance in the crucial moments of life of Ukrainian nation.

The 20th century was no exception, when our land was soaked in blood of martyrs from different Christian confessions.

At that time Ukraine probably passed through the most suffers. In several decades our people lived through artificial hunger, restless persecutions and repression, fratricidal wars, prohibition of free belief in God.

It was Ukraine, where fifteen years ago "fell from the sky … a great star … named Wormwood" , foreseen by Bible, poisoning land and water. The tragedy of Chornobyl became a sound warning for humankind, demonstrating the catastrophic consequences, to which superficial, indifferent or criminally careless attitude towards the nature may lead.

Historical memory and bitter experience of the recent past of our people deepened its feeling of responsibility for the destiny of all planet.

Being guided by this feeling, back in the beginning of our independence we voluntarily abandoned one of the most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world. And later on, despite considerable economic losses, we finally shut down Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

Now no threat to global security - neither armed, nor so-called "peaceful nuclear" one - originates from the Ukrainian land.

Your Holiness, this new Ukraine shall open itself for you today.

Independent state, which people, overcoming hard heritage of forced atheism, strive to create a society based on Christian spirituality, where tolerance, religious freedom, humanism and respect to human dignity would reign.

Naturally, we are standing at the beginning of a long and complicated way. It is clear that establishment of democratic institutions and ensuring freedom at legislative level is not enough. First of all, it is necessary to establish it in the public consciousness, so that tolerance, respect of others' views and beliefs, sympathy and compassion would become internal values for each of us.

I am confident that than we will learn to love our neighbors with such love, which, as Apostle Paul said, "is patient, kind, does not envy, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" .

Because Christ's teaching tells "If anyone says 'I love God', yet hates his brother, he is a liar" .

Your Holiness,

Today, after decades of artificial isolation, independent Ukraine persistently strives to take its rightful place in the community of European nations. Realizing its European choice, it at the same time builds strong partnership and cooperation relations with all neighboring states.

Last month you, together with the Lord of Orthodox Hellenic Church, stressed the need "to strengthen the efforts to complete the unification of Europe" and at the same time expressed your determination to do everything possible so that "the Christian roots and Christian soul of Europe would remain inviolable" .

I share this great goal with all my nature.

I am deeply convinced that the construction of united Europe will be incomplete until it unites all nations, which made the European choice their future guideline.

We will be glad if your stay at the Ukrainian land will become another brick in the building of such Europe.

I once again heartily welcome you at the beginning of your State Visit to Ukraine. I am confident that you will have warm impressions from our country, hospitality and generosity of soul of its people.

And, as we are always saying before the start of any good deed - with God!

For additional information, please contact:
Taras Malyshevskyi, Press Secretary of the Embassy of Ukraine,
310 Somerset Street West, Ottawa, ON K2P 0J9
Telephone:(613) 230-2961, Fax: (613) 230-2400),