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  Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko asked the patriarch of Constantinople on Saturday
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko asked the patriarch of Constantinople on Saturday to give his blessing to the country's plans for a national church independent of Russian Orthodoxy.

The president's request to Bartholomew I, who is in Kiev for celebrations marking the 1,020th anniversary of the adoption of Orthodox Christianity in Kievan Rus, is likely to further anger Russia, which has resisted the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's plans to break away from the Moscow Patriarchy.

"I believe that a national self-governing church will emerge in Ukraine, and I ask your holiness for your blessing for our dreams, for truth, for hope, for our country," the president told the Orthodox spiritual leader at a service in the capital.

The patriarch did not directly comment on the issue, but spoke for "maintaining church unity."

A rival Ukrainian church was formed after the breakup of the Soviet Union. However, only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchy, is recognized in Eastern Orthodoxy.

Russia has been angered by attempts to sideline the Russian Church in the ongoing celebrations in Ukraine, and the removal of posters depicting Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II, who will be arriving in Kiev later on Saturday.

On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Ukrainian ambassador to protest against the "lack of respect" being shown in Ukraine to the Russian Church and its millions of believers.

Kiev Patriarchy officials have recently stepped up contacts with the Church of Constantinople, also known as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, seeking "to return Ukraine to the Mother Church." The drive has been actively backed by President Yushchenko and the country's other top officials against a backdrop of tensions in relations with Russia.

The Christianization of Kiev dates from late 988, when Prince Vladimir the Great was baptized at Chersonesos, in the Crimea. He then baptized his family and people in Kiev and destroyed wooden statues of Slavic pagan gods.


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