07/20/2019, 11.09
UKRAINE - RUSSIA
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Orthodox celebrations for the baptism of Kievan Rus are at risk

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The feast of Baptism is likely to be a test of strength, hopefully only symbolic, among the various Orthodox jurisdictions, with the Greek-Catholics at the window, also eager to present themselves as an authentic Church of the Ukrainian people.  Clashes (verbal) over the relics of Saint Andrew Protoclyte.

 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Patriarchate of Moscow has expresed mounting concerns ahead of the upcoming celebrations of the Baptism of Kievan Rus', to be held on July 28 in the Ukrainian capital.  The patriarchate of Constantinople will send a delegation, which according to the Russians "risks being very disappointed" by what could happen.

Protoierej Nikolaj Balashov, deputy director of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, stated during a press conference that "a very delicate situation could arise, due to the contrast between different groups of pilgrims in the various processional processions".  He refers to the processions that will begin on the eve of July 27, and will see on the one hand the faithful of the Church loyal to Moscow (which gathered over 250 thousand people last year) and those of the new autocephalous Church (which instead were a few thousand).

The two processions should follow the itinerary that starts from the Cathedral of St. Vladimir to reach the "Vladimir hill", the place where, according to historical sources, the prince-baptizer made the population of ancient Rus' soak in the Dnepr for  to receive Baptism, and from where pagan idols were thrown into the river.

The problem, underlines Balashov, is that the cathedral of St. Vladimir is still entrusted to the elderly patriarch Epifanyj (Denisenko), considered "emeritus" by the autocephalous Church, but which today claims an autonomous role of government, and has itself in turn contrasted  to Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), as well as to the pro-Russian metropolitan Onufryj (Berezovskij), to restore his "patriarchate of Kiev".  It is not clear who will receive the delegation from Constantinople, and who will preside over the liturgical celebrations.

Moreover, the legates of Constantinople have announced their intention to bring to Kiev a fragment of the relics of Saint Andrew Protoclyte, patron of the Byzantine Church, as a sign of further recognition of the independent Ukrainian Church.  Father Balashov pointed out that "perhaps in Constantinople they do not know that we already keep the relics of the Apostle Andrew, in the Kiev Caves Monastery [still in the hands of the Russians] and in a church in Odessa".

The feast of Baptism is likely to be a test of strength, hopefully only symbolic, among the various Orthodox jurisdictions, with the Greek-Catholics at the window, also eager to present themselves as an authentic Church of the Ukrainian people.

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