The sources said that during a recent meeting of the standing council of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Vladimir, representing the Russian Patriarchate at Kiev, was appointed to write an official letter to dissuade the Pope from making the visit, planned for June 2001.
Some Orthodox leaders fear that a visit by the Bishop of Rome would trigger an explosion of the inter-confessional conflicts which have tormented Ukraine for more than a decade, and which now form a knot of interests difficult to unravel.
Since the fall of Communism a decade ago, Catholics in Ukraine have been fighting to regain churches confiscated by the Soviets in the 40s and given to Orthodox parishes. Predictably, the Orthodox have been reluctant to part with the buildings they have owned for five decades. In addition, Orthodox leaders claim that Ukrainian Catholics, who celebrate an Eastern rite, should rightly be part of the Orthodox Church, and not the Catholic Church.