VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II will open the first meeting of Ukrainian bishops in more than four decades by receiving each bishop privately, the Vatican said Saturday.
The change from the Pope's usual opening with the entire group is a sign of special concern for the Ukrainian church, which was suppressed by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1946.
"The Pope wanted to begin with a human rapport," papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro said. "They can talk, greet each other, get to know each other."
The meetings with the 10 bishops are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Stalin forced the church to merge with the officially sanctioned Russian Orthodox Church, which took control of the property of the Ukrainian church. The church wants the return of, or compensation for, the confiscated churches.