No Ukraine Religious Heads Signed up - Yet - to Meet With Pope

KIEV, Ukraine - A Ukrainian multi-denominational council of church heads set to meet with Pope John Paul II in five days has yet to sign up a single member, the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday.

The pope's, scheduled to visit Ukraine from June 23 - 27, is planning to meet with gathered representatives of most of Ukraine's churches shortly after his arrival.

But with less than a week left to go before the visit, not a single leader of a Ukrainian religious community has declared his willingness to participate in the meeting, bishop Stanislav Shirokoradiuk said.

Shirokoradiuk said he "still hoped" leaders of Ukraine's various religious communities would agree to meet with the pope.

Ukraine is a predominantly Orthodox Christian country. A significant minority of Ukrainians are Greek Catholics, following Orthodox rites but professing the pope as the leader of their church.

Aleksei II, the Moscow-based head of the Orthodox Christian church, has called the planned papal visit to Ukraine clear encroachment in Orthodox lands by the Vatican.

The pope has said he is visiting Ukraine to reach out to the Ukraine's eastern rite Catholics, but also to increase understanding between the Orthodox and Catholic faiths.