The head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II has said he believes the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ukraine is ill-timed. He also said that the leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate recently sent a letter to the pope saying his visit was not timely. "We share this opinion," he is quoted by Interfax as saying. Before going to Ukraine the pope should promote the settlement of the existing problems between Orthodox and Greek Catholic Christians in that country, the patriarch believes. He said that at the beginning of the 1990s Greek Catholics stamped out three Orthodox dioceses in West Ukraine: in Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk. Thousands of people were allegedly beaten up and injured then. The patriarch said Orthodox Ukrainians in Lviv still do not have a church where they can pray and "as often as we have raised the question with the Vatican, it remains unresolved." The pope is scheduled to come to Ukraine in June this year. According to Echo Moskvy radio, the Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma says he welcomes the pope’s visit, despite criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church.
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