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Ukraine celebrates the 1020 anniversary of its baptism
In July 2008, the 1020th anniversary of Christianity in Ukraine was celebrated in this country. A number of the heads of the Christian Orthodox Churches attended the celebrations as well as other state and religious dignitaries of several countries. The celebrations were held under the auspices of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (born in 1940; enthroned in 1991) is the Archbishop of Constantinople — New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, and thus “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox Communion. He is thus the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.
On July 25 President Victor Yushchenko welcomed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on his arrival in Ukraine.
President Victor Yushchenko awarded the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I the Order of Yaroslav the Wise. The ceremony took place at the Presidential Secretariat during the meeting of President Yushchenko and Patriarch Bartholomew I with heads of foreign Orthodox Churches.
President Victor Yushchenko attended the festive evening liturgy, celebrating 1020th anniversary of the baptism of Kyivan Rus Christianization at the eleventh-century Cathedral of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia). The liturgy was conducted by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
On July 26 2008, both President Yushchenko and Patriarch addressed a gathering of the church and state dignitaries and the faithful at the square in front of Hagia Sophia of Kyiv.
In his speech Victor Yushchenko also showed hope for the unification of Ukrainian Orthodox Churches. He said that he believed that “with wisdom and perseverance we will move towards our goal of the unification of the Christian Churches of Ukraine and that this dream of ours will come true… I believe that a national Ukrainian Church will rise in Ukraine as a gift from God.”
“The seeds sown by Saints Cyril and Methodius, by the prayers of the faithful, by the God-given talent of Ukraine’s icon artists, have brought a rich spiritual harvest…These holy treasures of Christianity, Orthodoxy and Ukraine became the fundamental basis of our entire culture… This is the source of the great work all of our Ukrainian ancestors, leaders of the faith and those who awakened our national spirit…— Vasyl-Kostiantyn Ostrozky, Petro Sahaydachny, Ivan Mazepa, Danylo Apostol, Pavlo Polubotok, Petro Kalnyshevsky and many others…
“I hope that our aspirations will find the support of the Ecumenical Orthodoxy.
“May we remember in our prayers all the Ukrainian shrines that were plundered and destroyed… May we remember the millions of innocent Ukrainian souls — victims of Holodomor, of wars and repression…
“The Ukrainian state does not interfere in, and remains outside any interconfessional debates, respecting each church equally, each religion, and each believer. But we shall always support the unification of all the Ukrainian Christian Churches.”
In his speech, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I supported the idea of the Ukrainian authorities to celebrate 1020th anniversary of Christianity in Ukraine.
“The initiative of the civic, political, religious and spiritual leaders of the great people of Ukraine to organize the official festivities of the one thousand and twenty year anniversary since the Grand Duke’s Volodymyr resolute decision to accept the Christian faith from the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the official religion for the people of the Duchy of Kyiv and, by extension, for all autonomous Russian Duchies, is not only an obligation to the pious people of Ukraine, but also significant for its future promises in an age of rapid and crucial changes worldwide…
“The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s service in the Orthodox Church, at the cost of its own rights, is better exemplified by the development of its relations with the eminent among the daughter Churches, namely the Church of Ukraine, which was under the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s canonical jurisdiction for seven centuries, that is, from the baptism of the Grand Duchy of Kyiv in 988 until her annexation under Peter the Great to the Russian state… Thus, after Ukraine’s annexation to Russia and under the pressure of Peter the Great, the Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysios IV judged as necessary for the circumstances of that time the ecclesiastical subordination of the Church of Ukraine to the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1687, lest the troubles of the pious Ukrainian people worsen under the Orthodox political leadership-even though the Ukrainian Hierarchy opposed strongly and unanimously that decision, a decision that amounted to an obvious damage of the canonical rights of the Mother Church…
“Therefore, it is a common duty of the civic, political, ecclesiastical and in general intellectual leadership of the Ukrainian people to utilize by every appropriate means the God-given gift of the Baptism not only for the immediate cure of various confusions and traumatic events of the historic past, but also for the restoration of the cohesive role that the Orthodox Church played in the consciousness of the Christ-loving Ukrainian nation. If this confusion is prolonged in order to serve ethnophyletic or political ends and purposes foreign to the Church’s spiritual character would abolish the cohesive power of the Baptism and would worsen the already dangerous division of the ecclesial body, a division that wounds not only spiritual unity but also the communal coherence of the Ukrainian people with obvious troublesome consequences for the future of Ukraine…
“The various political and ecclesiastical difficulties that are the outcome of the existing confusion are obvious and known from the long historic past, but it is also known to all that the care for the protection and restoration of the Church’s unity is our common obligation that exceeds whatever political or ecclesiastical purposes…‘so that may all be oneÕ (John 17:21).”
Later that day, President Yushchenko and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and other officials by laid wreaths at the monument to the victims of Holodomor (Great Famine) of 1932–1933. Patriarch Bartholomew conducted a requiem service for the souls of those who died in the tragic events of 1932-1933. Patriarch Bartholomew I pointed to the fact that many saints and martyrs, important figures of Christianity descended from the Ukrainian nation.
At the farewell meeting before the Patriarch’s departure, President Yushchenko again thanked Patriarch Bartholomew for his visit to Ukraine and participation in the celebrations. “The historic visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to Ukraine is … the beginning and important momentum for the unification of the Ukrainian Churches and their faithful. I am glad that the Patriarch supports the wish of our nation to have a national Church of its own”, said Victor Yushchenko.
Patriarch Bartholomew I assured that the patriarchate of Constantinople would support the unification tendencies in Ukrainian Orthodoxy.
Photos by Mykola LAZARENKO
New bells for the bell tower of the Holy Sophia
Cathedral in Kyiv being blessed. July 25 2008.
Religious service held at the Monument to
St Volodymyr in Kyiv. July 27 2008.