07/31/2018, 09.59
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Moscow and Kiev celebrate the Baptism of Rus', but separately

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Patriarch Kirill says the baptism of Prince Vladimir in 988 is "the founding event of all Russian history". In the capital, the celebration took place on the Kremlin's Cathedral Square, in the presence of Vladimir Putin. In Kiev the celebrations were presided over by Metropolitan Onufrij. Tensions between Moscow and Kiev continue due to the conflict with Ukraine and the attempts by Ukrainian Orthodox to obtain autocephaly. Separate ceremonies for the Orthodox of Filaret and for the Greek Catholics of Svjatoslav Shevchuk.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - The solemn celebrations of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus', the historical homeland of Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians, took place on July 28th. 

The climax of solemnity was reached on Moscow's Cathedral Square in the heart of the Kremlin, presided by the patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev), who claims the birthright in the legacy of the ancient prince Vladimir.

The Russian Patriarch expressed his sadness at not being able to celebrate the anniversary at the Lavra of the Kiev Caves, as he had every year since his election in 2009 until 2014, when the conflict with Poroshenko's Ukraine barred the doors to the ancient capital of Rus'. 

In Kiev, the ceremonies with over 250 thousand people were presided over by Metropolitan Onufrij (Berezovsky), the head of the Orthodox Church linked to Moscow, but who could soon obtain autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In this regard, the Russians claim to have averted the concession of the Tomos of autonomy, after recent negotiations with the emissaries of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Archontonis). 

The Ukrainian sources insist on the contrary of having the assurance that Bartholomew is set to pronounce the canonical decision in favor of Kiev's independence from Moscow, and that most of the other Orthodox Churches would support it.

Moscow supplanted Kiev in the fifteenth century, after the long submission to the "Tartar yoke" that had razed the ancient capital to the ground; on the contrary, the principality of Moscow was born and prospered thanks to its business with the Mongols. 

With the rebirth of Kiev in the 1600s and the beginning of the Ukrainian uprisings against the Poles, the dualism between the two capitals of Eastern Slavonic Orthodoxy was re-established, returning today to the starting point.

To further strengthen his position, Kirill invited another of the historical patriarchs of Byzantine Orthodoxy, Theodore II of Alexandria (Horeftakis), whose title is little more than formal; in Egypt the Coptic Church led by another Theodore II - Tawadros (Soliman) dominates. 

The Greek Theodore is an old friend of Kirill, having studied in Russia and also representing the Russian Exarchate in Egypt. In this way the patriarchate of Moscow wanted to send a signal to Constantinople, claiming the link with the traditional patriarchs of the Orthodox Pentarch of the first centuries (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem), after having also secured the support of Pope Francis with the recent visits of various Russian delegations to Rome.

For the first time, the solemn liturgy was celebrated directly in the historic square in the center of the Kremlin, outside the Assumption Cathedral, to gather as many of the faithful as possible. Russian President Vladimir Putin and representatives of many other Orthodox Churches were also present. Patriarch Kirill called the baptism of 988 "the founding event of all Russian history".

Responding to the various neo-pagan influences increasingly common in today's Russia, Kirill recalled that "everything before Baptism sinks into darkness, and is known to us only in pieces and morsels. In the Dnepr river basin a new people was born, a new civilization, with such a creative impetus that the newborn Rus' has thus expanded, to reach a sixth of the world's lands ". 

The patriarch therefore suggests that the inheritance of Moscow was already inherent in the original vocation of Kievan Rus', known to the chronicles from a century before the Baptism as the land of the pagan Rhos who threatened the Byzantine empire.

The same date was also solemnized by the other Ukrainian Churches, such as the non-canonical patriarchy of Filaret (Denisenko), under the title "Baptism of Rus'-Ukraine" (even if the term "Ukraine" began to be used only at the end of 18th century). 

The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, led by the Archbishop Svjatoslav Shevchuk (whose faithful also refer to their spiritual leader as "patriarch"), in turn celebrated the Baptism in the same days, reaffirming the continuity of the "uniate" with the entire history of Eastern Slavic Christianity.

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