Pope preaches to Ukraine faithful
LVIV, Ukraine (CNN) - Pope John Paul II is due to preach to the faithful in western Ukraine's Catholic heartland on Tuesday.
Contrasting with a restrained reception in the largely Orthodox capital Kiev, the Pope arrived in Lviv late Monday to find the city bedecked in blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and crowds jostling in the cobbled streets to welcome him.
Until World War II, the area was part of the Pontiff's native Poland.
"We are very pleased about the visit," Ivan Yurchenko, an artist in his 30s, told Reuters. "This should be good for Ukraine."
After three days in Kiev, where the Pope on Monday paid silent tribute to thousands of Ukrainian Jews killed by the Nazis at Babi Yar in 1941, the Pontiff is to use the last days of his tour of Ukraine to hold two open air masses in Lviv.
Forty miles from the Polish border, Lviv is the spiritual centre for Ukraine's six million Catholics and seat of its largest Catholic church, the Greek Catholic Church.
Josef Stalin turned the church's property over to the Orthodox Church in 1946, forcing priests and worshippers underground and leading to the persecution, imprisonment and even killing of those who continued to practise openly.
The Greek Catholics, who follow Orthodox-style rites but are loyal to the Vatican, re-established their church in 1991.
Since Ukraine's independence, their relations with the mainstream Orthodox Church have been marred by clashes over church property.
"The Pope's arrival in Lviv feels very exciting," said Father Ken Nowakowski, a spokesman for Ukraine's Catholic Churches. "There's a bit of rain, but it hasn't dampened anyone's spirits."
After disappointing turnouts for two masses in Kiev, the Lviv ceremonies are expected to be better attended, with many pilgrims flocking across the border from Poland for a glimpse of the 81-year-old pontiff.
At Tuesday's ceremony, he will beatify two members of the clergy who died in the 1920s. The ceremony is the penultimate step towards becoming a saint.
Observers say the visit will be a chance for the pope to put behind him the first difficult leg of his trip in Kiev, where the leader of the largest of three rival Orthodox Churches snubbed him by boycotting a meeting of all Ukraine's religious groups.
He started his trip Saturday with an apology for past Catholic wrongs and an assurance that he was not seeking converts.
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