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Pope honouring Jewish massacre victims in Ukraine

Pope John Paul was yesterday paying tribute to Ukrainian Jews who were killed in a 1941 massacre that was a chilling precursor to the horrors of the Holocaust.

The Pope was planning to stop to pray at the Babi Yar ravine on his way to an open-air mass on the third day of his trip to Ukraine.

More than 100,000 people, mostly Jews, were herded from the districts of Kiev from September 1941 onwards and shot at Babi Yar by Nazi forces. Their bodies were dumped in the ravine there which is shrouded by forests.

The Pope recalled the massacre in an address to religious leaders on Sunday night.

"May the memory of this episode of murderous frenzy be a salutary warning to all. What atrocities is man capable of when he fools himself into thinking that he can do without God," he said.

The site, now a public park just beyond the centre of the Ukrainian capital, has become a place of pilgrimage for Jews. The 60th anniversary of the killings falls later this year.

Having tried to mend fences with the Orthodox community in Kiev, the Pope planned to take his pilgrimage to the heartland of Ukrainian Catholicism on Monday evening in the western city of Lviv.

Crowds have been thin in the Ukrainian capital, where the theme of the Pope's first two days has been reconciliation with the Orthodox Church, which split from Rome 1000 years ago. A far greater turnout is expected in Lviv where the Pope will beatify 27 Soviet-era Catholic martyrs, putting them on the road to sainthood.