Celebration of Baptism will Help Unity, Say Roman Catholic Bishops in Ukraine


Kyiv- The Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops of Ukraine have released an address for the Ukrainian people on the occasion of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. They call the baptism "one of the most important historical events." The address says that "the baptism in Kyiv of the royal family is not only an event of local significance." The document emphasizes that "this also meant the acceptance of the Slavic peoples who for ages lived on these terrains into the great Christian family of East and West, and, at the same time, the acceptance into the great European family." RISU's Ukrainian-language site posted the news on 22 July 2008.

"Thanks to the ministry of the church, a result of which was the Kyivan baptism, this heritage reached the Urals, going to many people of Asia and all the way to the shore of the Pacific Ocean and further," reads the address. The bishops state that "in 866, as a result of Byzantine missionary activity, the first baptism of Rus happened, and a metropolitanate was created, headed by the Bulgar Mykhailo, who convinced Prince Askold to accept Christianity." They emphasize that "regardless of the fact that during the time of Prince Volodymyr the Kyivan Metropolitanate was subordinated to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the church in Rus was a part of the universal church." The bishops emphasize that "Christianity strengthened the prince's power, changing Rus into a strong European nation. Kyiv supported friendly relations not only with Byzantine but also with Western Europe."

The address emphasizes the ecumenical perspective. The bishops state that "looking from the perspective of the centuries for mutual respect and brotherhood on these lands, we see that the desire of this ecumenism and feeling of unity continues up to today." Quoting Pope John Paul II, the bishops state that "the Baptism of Rus occurred in times when already two ‘versions' of Christianity had developed, Eastern, united with Byzantium, and Western, united with Rome, but the church continued, one and undivided."

The bishops call the Ukrainian people to joint prayer, in which, "on the one hand, we will be grateful for the gift of the holy baptism of the Slavic peoples of Europe, and, on the other hand, we will ask for the gift of unity for all peoples and Christians who live in Ukraine." "We deeply believe that this year's celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus will make us aware of this joint inheritance and will shine with a new light, able to disperse the darkness of the many years of the difficult past."

Bishop Vitalii Skomarovskyi, head of the Commission in Media Matters for the Roman Catholic Bishops in Ukraine, told RISU that the address will be read on 27 July in all the Roman Catholic churches of Ukraine. And in the capital he said that in the Cathedral Church of St. Alexander a festive service will occur with the participation of many bishops, lead by Bishop Markian Trofimjak, assistant head of the Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops of Ukraine.

"It is very significant," said Bishop Skomarovskyi, that this Liturgy will be served in a church that is located on one of the hills of Kyiv. For from these very hills once came forth the source of salvation that started to flow forth to all the Slavic peoples." During the service Roman Catholics will renew their baptismal vows.;23577/