Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Ukraine has drawn to a close. Yesterday, the patriarch of Moscow met with Russian President Medvedev, stressing the profound unity between the two countries.
The visit, which began July 27 last, had a deeply religious motive: the celebrations for the 1020 anniversary of the baptism of Prince Vladimir in the waters of the Dnieper River, which initiated the conversion of the Rus, considered the starting point of Russian Orthodoxy.
During all his meetings Kirill repeatedly emphasized the spiritual bond and unity between Orthodox Russians and Ukrainians. But various nationalist groups questioned his intentions, accusing him of using the spiritual element to bring the Ukrainian nation to the obedience of Moscow.
Yesterday, in a press conference Archbishop Hilarion declared the patriarch’s visit a success and claimed that in Ukraine "there is no real opposition to the Russian Orthodox Church." Since the 1990’s three different Orthodox Churches have existed in Ukraine: the Ukraine-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), Ukraine-Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and Ukrainian Autocephalous Church (UAOC).
The Patriarch’s trip tended to emphasize that the Church of Moscow is the Church of Rus and therefore the search for unity makes sense while legal independence from the patriarchate does not. Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Moscow Patriarchate for external relations, said that Kirill’s pilgrimage underscored that the church extended far beyond geopolitical borders or terminology. “We are not the church only of the Russian Federation , nor only, as sometimes said, of the Russian people”.
Added to the tensions within the Orthodox world are external political ones. Since 2004 and the "Orange Revolution" that brought to Viktor Yushenco power, relations between Russia and Ukraine have been strained because of Kiev’s desire for unification with Europe, a desire opposed by Moscow.
Yesterday, Patriarch Kirill met with Russian President Dimitri Medvedev and related to him the impressions of his trip to Ukraine, stressing that political differences between the two countries were "resolvable" thanks to the deep spiritual unity between the two countries.
"Based on this unity, respecting the sovereignty and accepting the realities of existing policies - said Kirill - we should make every effort so that people feel more united and closer, remaining sons and daughters of the Russian Orthodox Church, regardless of the fact they reside in different states”.
Medvedev said that he will take Patriarch impression’s in progress in relations between Russia and Ukraine.