08/02/2019, 11.16
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Three Orthodox Churches mark incident free Feast of Baptism of Rus

by Vladimir Rozanskij

In the same territory the Church linked to Moscow, the autocephalous Church of  Epifanyj  and that of the non-canonical patriarchate of Filaret oppose each other. Ostentatious the celebrations of the pro-Russians attract about 300 thousand faithful. Exhibition of miraculous icons and relics. Epifanyj  wishes to offer a "Romanian vicariate" in Bucovina. The recognition of the autocephalous Church by Greeks and Romanians is awaited. The patriarchate of Filaret is outlawed.

Kiev (AsiaNews) - The memorial of the baptism of Rus ’, which falls on July 28, is celebrated for a whole week in the Ukrainian capital with various events. Despite the concerns and an exchange of threats among the Churches, the celebrations ended without incident.

This year, in fact, three different jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church opposed each other: that of Moscow by Metropolitan Onufryj (Berezovskij), that of the new autocephalous Church of Metropolitan Epifanyj  (Dumenko) and that of the non-canonical patriarchate of Kiev, led by the 92-year-old schismatic Filaret ( Denisenko).

The pro-Russians paraded around Kiev hill above the Dnieper river on July 27, the followers of Epifanyj  gathered the following day, while the "patriarchal" group limited themselves to a procession around the Cathedral of St. Sophia. Despite the large crowds, especially in the first procession, and the great confusion due to the total absence of an order of services, everything took place in a surprisingly tranquil tone. Over the past few years, the tension has been rather high, especially in 2018, the year of the Constantinopolitan Tomos which caused the great schism between Moscow, Kiev and Constantinople.

This year, however, following the will of metropolitan Onufryj, the faithful linked to the Moscow patriarchate have avoided victimizing tones, trusting in the new climate created after the elections of President Volodymyr Zelensky and the new Rada, the state parliament, which have considerably attenuated the anti-Russian bellicose tones of the previous presidency of Petro Poroshenko. The pro-Russians instead stepped up the pomposity of their celebrations, to render an image of their numerical and traditional "superiority" with respect to the autocephalous church.

As with previous years, the results of the celebrations are measured by the "sporting" count of the number of participants: the patriarchate of Moscow declared 250-300 thousand faithful, compared to the 20 thousand calculated by the Kiev police: in any case a considerable sum, given the sultry heat and the height of the agricultural season.

However, the Russians had to show that they had increased their influence after the Tomos, so last year's number was doubled, and guests of honor were invited from all over the world to underline the universality of the Moscow patriarchate. The procession boasted the reliquaries of Saint Andrew Protoclyte, Saint Vladimir and 18 other "local" saints, as well as five miraculous icons.

The autocephalic church of Epifanyj  despite numbering several thousand, could not boast of so many sacred riches. Instead their celebrations were very festive, also because it was the first time after the creation of the new Church and the concession of the Tomos. In addition to their procession, some representatives of the Orthodox Church were present, marking a "de facto recognition" of autocephaly, the first after the decree of Bartholomew (although Athens continues to deny this). However, Greek approval is expected by September.

Another favorable signal was the decision, taken in recent days by the bishops of the autocephalous Church, to create a "Romanian vicariate" in Ukraine for the much disputed parishes of Bucovina, a borderland with Romania. The Russians had always refused to meet this request of the Romanians, reiterated before Constantinople's request to approve the Tomos of Kiev: soon Bucharest could therefore also proceed with official recognition.

The decision to meet the Romanians has also provoked the anger of the irascible patriarch "emeritus" Filaret, who spoke of "selling off his canonical territory". In response, the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture declared the legal liquidation of his patriarchate, whose churches are switching to the autocephalous Church. Filaret has appealed against the decision, but again it would seem that victory would belong to Epifanyj.

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The Greek Orthodox Church stops short on Ukrainian autocephaly. Filaret promises battle
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