Meeting with all-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (extract)

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Pope John Paul II

Lituania       24/06/2001

5. I now greet you, the Representatives of the other Religions and Religious Organizations, who work in close cooperation with Christians in Ukraine. This is a typical quality of your land which, on account of its particular position and make-up, is a natural bridge not only between East and West, but also between the peoples who have been here together for several centuries. These are people who differ as regards historical origin, cultural tradition and religious belief. I wish to recall the significant presence of the Jews, who form a community which is solidly rooted in Ukrainian society and culture. They too suffered injustices and persecutions for having remained faithful to the religion of their ancestors. Who can ever forget the immense tribute of blood which they paid to the fanaticism of an ideology propounding the superiority of one race over others? Here, in Kyiv, at Babyn Yar, during the Nazi occupation countless people, including over 100,000 Jews, were killed within a few days. This is one of the most atrocious of the many crimes which the history of the last century unhappily has had to record.

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! The desire to set himself up in opposition to God and to combat every form of religion showed itself in an overbearing way also in atheistic and Communist totalitarianism. In this city, this memory lives on in the monuments to the victims of Holodomar, to those killed at Bykivnia, to those who died in the Afghanistan war, to mention but a few. May the memory of such painful experiences help humanity today, especially the younger generation, to reject every form of violence and to grow in respect for human dignity, by safeguarding the fundamental rights rooted in it, not least the right to religious freedom.

6. To the memory of the massacre of the Jews, I wish to add that of the crimes committed by the political power against the Muslim community in Ukraine. I am thinking in particular of the Tartars deported from the Crimea to the Asiatic Republics of the Soviet Union, who now wish to return to their land of origin. In this regard, allow me to express the hope that through open, patient and persevering dialogue suitable solutions will be found, always in a climate of sincere tolerance and practical cooperation for the common good.

In this patient work of protecting man and the true good of society, believers have a particular role to play. Together they can give clear witness to the priority of the spirit with respect to material things, however necessary. Together they can bear witness that a vision of the world founded on God is the guarantee also of the inalienable value of the human person. If God is removed from the world, nothing truly human remains. By not looking to heaven, the creature loses sight of the goal of his journey on earth. At the root of every authentic humanism there is always the humble and trusting acknowledgement of the primacy of God.

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