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Ukraine: Pope Beatifies Martyrs, Urges Forgiveness

Lviv, 27 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Several hundreds of thousands of people came to the Ukrainian city of Lviv today to see Pope John Paul on the final day of his five-day visit to Ukraine. The pope is due to celebrate Mass and beatify 28 Greek Catholic martyrs, 27 of whom died during persecution of the church in Soviet times and one nun who died in 1918 when western Ukraine was part of Poland.

Beatification is the penultimate step towards becoming a saint.

Our correspondent in Lviv says Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma made a surprise appearance at the open-air Mass in Lviv, the Catholic center of mainly Orthodox Ukraine.

Throughout his visit, the pope has pleaded for a spirit of reconciliation and unity, to allow Ukraine's two Catholic and three Orthodox denominations to live together in peace.

The pope urged a spirit of forgiveness across Eastern Europe, saying Christians need to recognize the misdeeds of what he called a "sorrowful past." Later, the pope told a youth rally that young people should not go from what he called the slavery of the communist regime to the slavery of consumerism.