About one million believers, waving papal and Ukrainian flags, greeted John Paul II yesterday at a mass in Lviv where he beatified 27 martyrs belonging to the Greek Catholic Church at the end of his five-day visit to Ukraine.
The Pope renewed his call for an end to the schism which has divided the church for a thousand years, though his time in Ukraine appears to have exacerbated tensions between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox hierarchy.
The crowd booed when President Leonid Kuchma, the Ukrainian leader, made a surprise appearance at the Lviv hippodrome.
Beset by scandal and allegations that he had conspired to murder a journalist, Mr Kuchma has been a major beneficiary of the Pope's visit, which has raised his international profile and increased his legitimacy.
A sign of the determination of the authorities that Mr Kuchma's image should benefit from the Pope's presence came as the President was walking away from the platform. A young woman rushed out of the crowd and tried to hand him a letter. She was apparently homeless and asking for a house. But Ukrainian television cut away just as a startled Mr Kuchma was seen jumping backwards.
In a final homily the Pope said that, along with Greek Catholics martyred in Soviet times, "Christians of other confessions were also persecuted and killed on account of Christ. Their joint martyrdom is a pressing call for reconciliation and unity".
Cardinal Lubomyr Husar made a surprise apology during the service.
"Certain sons and daughters of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church consciously and voluntarily did evil things to their neighbours," he said, without specifically referring to the role of some Greek Catholic clergy during the German occupation.
As Cardinal Husar led a procession to the altar, the crowd chanted "patriarch, patriarch", referring to a demand by Greek Catholics that they should have their own patriarch – something that Rome is unlikely to demand because it would further annoy the Orthodox Church.Reuse content