Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ющенко попросил благословения / Yushchenko asks for a blessing

The following is my translation of this Interfax.ru article:

The President of Ukraine asks the Ecumenical Patriarch for a blessing to establish a Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Moscow. 26 July. INTERFAX.RU – Several thousand Orthodox Christians gathered outside Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev to mark the 1020 year anniversary of the Christening of Russia. During the ceremony, Viktor Yushchenko, as expected, appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I for a blessing to establish a Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This is just one more step by the Ukrainian President towards his goal for the Ukrainian Church to achieve independence from the ROC.

“I humbly request from your Holiness a blessing, a blessing for the dream, for the truth, for the hope, for our nation, for Ukraine,” said the head of state. “I believe that any divisions currently among Ukrainian believers are short-lived. I believe that we will achieve the realization of our dreams. I believe that as God’s gift, as a historical truth, a national Church will appear in Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian leader expressed his certainty in that the 1020 year anniversary of the Christening of Russia was “a celebration for all the Ukrainian people” and for all Christian Churches. “Today, this celebration is returning home. Especially since the consecrated bell of Saint Sofia and the Doors (The Royal Doors of the iconostasis) have been returned. Especially since our frescoes, churches, and relics will all be returned,” said the President.

Yushchenko reminded listeners that, in accordance with his declaration, the 28th of July would henceforth be a holiday. In his speech he stated that the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I was “a spiritual revival of the journey of faith, patience, and wisdom, and that in time and space, the Sofia of Constantinople will be united with the Sofia of Kiev.”

Speaking later, Bartholomew called upon the Ukrainian elite to apply all their efforts for the unification of the Orthodox Church. “Concern for the defense and restoration of the unity of the Church is our common responsibility, one which outweighs any kind of political or ecclesiastical aims,” said the Ecumenical Patriarch.

He also emphasized that “social, political, ecclesiastical and all intellectual leading powers of the Ukrainian people have the common duty to use the gifts that God has given them as broadly as possible within certain limits,” including “for the restoration of the role of unity, which the Orthodox Church played in the creation of the Ukrainian state. If the confusion over aims and the spiritual character of the Church continues, the unifying strength of the Church will suffer and the dangerous divisions in the body of the Church will worsen.”

After the ceremony, the Ukrainian leaders and the Ecumenical Patriarch, as well as other participants in the ceremony, proceeded to Mikhailovskaya square where a memorial for the victims of the great famine stands.

Yushchenko, with his wife Katerina, Patriarch Bartholomew, and Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine’s Parliament] Arseny Yatsenyuk placed “candles of commemoration” on the memorial. A minute of silence was observed throughout Ukraine in memory of the victims of the great famine which took place between 1932-33. Afterwards, the Ecumenical Patriarch and representatives of the Orthodox Churches of the world held a memorial service for the dead.

In the next few hours, the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia, Alexei II, will arrive in the Ukrainian capital. There’s little doubt that the main concern of the Moscow Patriarch will be to challenge the Ukrainian intentions to put before Bartholomew and Aleksi the question of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In so far as the Moscow Patriarch is obviously not ready to discuss this topic, the celebrations could end in scandal.

--Columnist Lev Rubin

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