Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians celebrate the Baptism of Kievan Rus'.
Russia marks the liturgical memory of the holy prince Vladimir. Patriarch Kirill: The event determined our identity as a people. Ceremonies often held without respecting anti-Covid protocols. Reconciliation between Muscovites and autocephalous Ukrainians hampered by difficulties.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The liturgical memory of the holy prince Vladimir of Kiev has been celebrated in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In 988, the Slavic ruler had the entire population of ancient Rus' baptised in the river Dnepr, rendering the peoples one Christian nation according to Byzantine Orthodox tradition. For the past 11 years, this anniversary has been honoured with a national holiday in the three countries that share Kiev's heritage.
On 28 July, all the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate rang their bells at noon, playing the melody "Glory to Thee, O God!". The hymn was sung not only in Russia, but also in the patriarchal churches of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Due to Covid-19, this year the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian authorities suspended almost all traditional processions for the holiday.
Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) presided over the liturgy in seclusion in the chapel of his dacha in Peredelkino, on the outskirts of the capital. He said : "Today we are celebrating a great feast, which radically changed the lives of our distant ancestors: 1033 years ago in Kiev, the mother of all Russian cities, at the behest of the great prince Vladimir, everyone received Baptism, which still today determines our identity as a people and has changed our worldview, our personal and social morality, giving people divine help to always change for the better".
Kirill also sent a message of good wishes to Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, wishing "prosperity and firmness in the spiritual and corporal strength of the Belarusian people", recalling "the responsibility of contemporary society for the future of the historical countries of the Rus". A similar message was sent by the Patriarch to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj. In his letter Kirill called for "good cooperation" between the authorities in Kiev and the Orthodox faithful of the Moscow patriarchate "to foster social cohesion and the affirmation of authentic moral values".
The most solemn liturgy in Russia was celebrated in Moscow, in the new cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, inaugurated last year in the "Patriot" park at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. Several thousand people, mostly from the military, gathered in the church, without much regard for the social distancing health care measures.
The Ukrainian Autocephalous Church also celebrated the feast day, with a liturgy presided over by Metropolitan Epifanyj (Dumenko) on St. Vladimir's Hill in Kiev, where there is a church in memory of the place of Baptism. For health reasons, only a few hundred faithful were able to attend the service, far fewer than those who gathered the same day at the Caves Monastery in Kiev, run by Orthodox under Moscow jurisdiction.
Despite the limitations, over 350,000 Orthodox faithful of autocephalous or patriarchal observance made the traditional pilgrimage from the Hill to the Caves in recent days, carrying in procession the miraculous icons of the main Ukrainian monasteries of Počaevsk, Zimnensk, Kasperov and Ljubeč. The pilgrimage ended with the Vsenočnaja night liturgy on the square in front of the Dormition Cathedral in the Monastic Lavra. Metropolitan Antonij (Pakanič) of Borispolskij, who presided over the rite, recalled that the feast "is dedicated to fidelity to Orthodoxy".
Numerous delegations from the Orthodox Churches of other Slavic countries took part in the celebrations in Kiev. Serbian Bishop Stefan Remezjanskij noted that "the difficult schismatic condition of the Ukrainian Orthodox", divided between Muscovites and nationals, "affects the life of the entire Orthodox world". The Serbs are also concerned about the push for autocephaly in Macedonia and Montenegro, and see the possible reconciliation of the Ukrainians as a "hope for all the other Churches".