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Pope's Ukraine trip will be about moral issues

Pope John Paul II will draw attention to moral issues and the need for Christian unity during his upcoming visit to Ukraine, the country's Greek Catholic leader said on Friday.

"I think great stress will be placed on the moral foundations of human life at all levels, including personal, family, social and political ones," Archbishop Lubomyr Husar said at a news conference.

Husar met with the pope on Thursday to discuss organisational issues and said John Paul was preparing thoroughly for this weekend's trip. Husar added that he felt a "special atmosphere of expectation" both in the Vatican and in Ukraine.

"His Holiness is creating great publicity for us," Husar said. "This visit puts us very significantly on the map of Europe and the whole world."

Husar is the leader of Ukraine's estimated five million Greek Catholics, who follow Orthodox Christian ritual but profess allegiance to the pope. There are about 1 million Roman Catholics in Ukraine, too.

John Paul's visit to this predominantly Orthodox former Soviet republic has sparked much controversy.

The visit is strongly opposed by the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church, which has jurisdiction over the majority of Ukraine's Orthodox parishes and is feuding with a splinter, Kyiv-based Orthodox church as well as with Greek Catholics over property and believers.

Hundreds of the Moscow-based church's followers have been staging protests and marches against the visit in the capital Kyiv.

Husar said the Orthodox protests only served to publicise the pope's visit even more, drawing the attention of Kyiv residents to the event.

"As you know, publicity is half of a sale's success. By publicising the event in Ukraine and outside, they draw attention to Ukraine's reality," Husar said.

The Ukraine Papal Visit has its own website