VATICAN CITY, Feb. 22 (AP) -- He got his ring but not his title.

Like the 43 other new cardinals, Lubomyr Husar knelt Thursday beforePope John Paul II and received his golden ring as a prince of thechurch.

But the leader of Ukrainian Greek Catholics, who number some 5 millionin Ukraine and another 1 million abroad, didn't get what he and hispredecessors have sought for years -- the title of patriarch.

What may seem to some as a minor squabble over church etiquette is amajor issue between the Vatican and the Eastern rite Catholics inUkraine:

Even as they emerge from decades of persecution under the Soviets, Ukrainian Greek Catholics have become a possible obstacle in the pope's drive to improve relations with Orthodox Christians, and to cap that with a visit to Moscow.

With the pope headed to Ukraine in June, Husar insists the trip not beseen as a stepping stone to Moscow but only as a visit to John Paul'sUkrainian flock.

"It should not be a dress rehearsal for Moscow," said the gray-beardedchurchman, a Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen.

The late Soviet dictator Josef Stalin forced the Ukrainian GreekCatholic church to join the state-sanctioned Russian Orthodox church in1946. Priests and the unwilling were jailed, deported or shot and itschurches given to the Orthodox.

No longer underground, the Greek Catholic church has demanded itschurches be returned, leading to violence in some cases. In turn, thechurch in Moscow is suspicious of Catholic intentions, claiming theVatican wants to seek converts in traditional Orthodox territory.

Not wanting to inflame passions further, a cautious Vatican has heldback on conferring the title of patriarch, which, Husar said, would puthim on an "equal footing" with Orthodox church leaders. It would alsogive his church more independence from Rome.

His title now is "major archbishop," which, he said, means little toeastern Europeans.

Husar said he is trying to persuade the Vatican to upgrade it, but noteven the late Cardinal Josef Slipyj, a charismatic Ukrainian whosurvived 18 years in Soviet prison camps, convinced the Vatican.

The pope's visit in June is already difficult, with planners trying toorganize a meeting with leaders of the three seperate Orthodox churches there -- one directly under Moscow.

Husar said he has been trying to stress that his flock is a genuineEastern church and not what he called a "Latinized version." Likeother Eastern rite churches they use an Orthodox-style liturgy butremain loyal to the pope.

Still, the Russian Orthodox have suggested the pope call off his trip,saying the time is not yet ripe. Planned meetings between the pope andthe Russian Orthodox patriarch have been called off with the same reasoncited.