Poroshenko: only Patriarch Bartholomew can help unite the Ukrainian Church
by Nina Achmatova

On the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus, Ukraine’s president reiterates the Ukrainian parliament’s call for autocephaly for the Ukrainian Church. Christian communities reflect political divisions.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko expects Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople to help establish a Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent of the Moscow Patriarchate.

"He is the only one who can help Orthodox Ukrainians unite and settle the Ukrainian Church's canonical status in the global Orthodoxy's structure," Poroshenko said on Thursday during celebrations marking the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus, the medieval birthplace of modern Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

Poroshenko said that the Holy Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate is setting up a special commission to consider the issue following the Ukrainian parliament’s request for autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Meanwhile, tensions in the Ukrainian capital marked the anniversary of the Christianisation of Kievan Rus with Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov banning people from entering the Kyiv on foot for "security reasons".

Defying the authorities, thousands of Orthodox loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate planned to enter the city in procession. Eventually, an agreement was reached so that they were bussed to the city centre to celebrate the anniversary.

According to Avakov, knives and gas canisters were found on the marchers’ path. Ukrainian nationalists see Pro-Moscow Patriarchate Orthodox as “Moscow’s agents”.

Ukraine is one of the most Christian countries in Europe. Its tradition is Byzantine-Orthodox, but divided between Moscow (Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate), Kyiv (the canonically unrecognised Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate) and Constantinople (Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church).

There is also a Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church that is loyal to Rome.

Religious differences are also reflected in politics.