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Patriarch says Pope's diplomacy will weaken his impact

By trying not to offend the Russian Orthodox Church, Pope John Paul II will weaken the effectiveness of his visit to Ukraine, said Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarch Filaret of Kiev.

"Although interest in the pope's visit is high, the results may be low," the patriarch told Catholic News Service on Thursday.

Bare-headed and dressed simply in a burgundy cassock, Patriarch Filaret welcomed reporters into his home in the days leading up to the pope's visit. For months he has been saying how much he welcomed the pope's visit to Ukraine, unlike the leaders of Ukraine's larger Orthodox community, which is in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Filaret, who was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox when he established his independent church in Ukraine, said the only way for the pope to please the Russian Orthodox would be for the pope to stay at the Vatican.

In an effort to avoid offending the Russian Orthodox, Vatican officials have scheduled a meeting between the pope and the Pan-Ukrainian Council of Churches, but no private papal meetings with any of the Orthodox leaders the Russian Orthodox consider to be in schism.

"If the pope does not meet me privately as patriarch, it will not help the Moscow Patriarchate think better of him," Patriarch Filaret said. "The Moscow Patriarchate will still object to the visit."