07/30/2020, 16.33
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The real revolution took place with the Baptism of Rus', says Kirill

by Vladimir Rozanskij

For the first time in months, the Patriarch of Moscow celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The Bolshevik revolution sought to erase the Christian “revolution”. “We remember the dreams of revolutionaries with a compassionate smile, since they achieved nothing,” he said. Erdogan is asked to respect Hagia Sophia. Many new churches are under construction for soldiers and policemen. Nationalists have proposed that ‘Russia Day’ be observed on 28 July rather than 12 June as it is now.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Russia celebrated the Baptism of Kievan (Kyivan) Rus' by Prince Vladimir (Volodymyr) the Great on Tuesday. The celebrations were very muted due to the coronavirus pandemics; however, Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) led the Divine Liturgy in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which opened for the first time since Easter.

The Patriarch offered his best wishes to all Orthodox in Russia and Ukraine, in particular to President Vladimir Putin, who bears the same name as the baptising prince. The feast day of the baptism falls on the day dedicated to the memory of Vladimir of Kiev (Kyiv), who died on 28 July 1015 AD, whilst the baptism of the people in the Dnieper River took place on 1 August 988 AD.

The patriarch’s words greatly affected all public opinion, even if he used typical Soviet-style rhetoric. “Speaking in today’s language,” said Kirill, “the Baptism of Rus' was undoubtedly a revolutionary event. For its consequences, it cannot be compared to any of the subsequent revolutions, since the Baptism radically changed the life of the people, their culture and system of values.”

Comparing the event to the Bolshevik revolution, he added: “we know how the most threatening of the revolutions in our country, at the beginning of the 20th century, tried to change this system of values and destroy the Orthodox faith. But in the 21st century, in this rebuilt cathedral, we remember the dreams of revolutionaries with a compassionate smile, since they achieved nothing.”

The Patriarch urged Russians to stay committed to the prince's ancient choice in the name of the last century’s blood of Orthodox martyrs as well, and love “our homeland, our people, our rulers and our army,” faithful to the gift of the faith received.

According to Kirill, the Prince knew how to deeply repented his past cruelties as a pagan monarch, “unlike the Nazi leaders in Nuremberg, who did not repent at all,” and today is the occasion for a new collective repentance for the whole Soviet past, for a “new beginning” in the life of the Russian people to be handed over to future generations.

Recently, the Patriarch and other representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church called on Turkish President Recep Erdoğan to respect the Christian devotion to the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul). Around 950 AD, the grandmother of Prince Vladimir, Saint Olga, was baptised in the cathedral, Kievan Rus’ first direct contact with the Byzantine empire.

Before the conversion of 988, as narrated by the ancient Chronicle of the monk Nestor, Vladimir's messengers had arrived in Constantinople, after visiting Jews, Muslims and Catholics, and they were enraptured by the solemnity of the patriarchal liturgy of Hagia Sophia.

“W]e did not know where we were, on heaven or on earth [. . .] We cannot forget that beauty since each person, if he eats something sweet, will not take something bitter afterwards; so we cannot remain any” without it, wrote the chronicler a few years after the Baptism.

The Orthodox nationalist “40 times 40” movement proposed that 28 July be celebrated as ‘Russia Day’ in lieu of 12 June, which marks the date when President Boris Yeltsin approved the new constitution of the Russian Federation in 1991. The Patriarchate favours of the proposal.

On this occasion, another “military church” dedicated to prince Vladimir, was also inaugurated, the Church of the National Guard of the Russian Federation (Rosgvardiya), the main gendarmerie and police support, under the Ministry of the Interior.

Russia’s Special Operations Forces (Spetsnaz) and Special Purpose Mobile Unit (Omon), which have been particularly active because of protests in solidarity with the people of Khabarovsk, also come under the Ministry.

Final work is underway in the church, which is located in Balashikha just outside Moscow, with the last ornaments, icons and mosaics being fitted. Announcing that other places of worship will be dedicated to military and government bodies, the man in charge of the Rosgvardiya church, Duma (lower house) Member Vladimir Resin, whom the Patriarch tasked with building  200 new churches in Moscow, stressed the importance of renewing with the “tradition of dedicating churches to regiments like under the Tsar”.

The church for the City Police is almost finished, whilst that for the River Police was inaugurated last year. According to Resin, the soldiers who defend the homeland and maintain order “need places of prayer and inner peace to carry out their task under God’s protection.”

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