Baptism Celebration will Help Unite Orthodoxy, Ukraine President Tells Churches


24.07.2008, [10:40] // Church-state relations //

Kyiv - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko expects that the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus will give an impulse to unification processes in Ukrainian Orthodoxy. He spoke about this on 23 July 2008 at a meeting with representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations held at the Secretariat of the President of Ukraine.

"I have no doubt that the unity of Orthodoxy can become a reliable basis for the unity of the Ukrainian nation and harmony in the mutual relations of all the religious communities of our country. I am convinced that with strong efforts we can overcome disagreement and disputes; we will strengthen agreement in our deeds and faith in our hearts," said Yushchenko. He added that he thought the days of joint celebration will be used in the search for interchurch understanding, "achieving more tolerance in those questions where we still do not observe such tolerance."

The president emphasized that for all the successes and achievements of civilization and today's national and European identity we can be thankful for the fateful choice which in 988 was made through the Baptism of Kyivan Rus. "This is a joint holiday of all Christian denominations, each of which in Ukraine is an heir of the Baptism of 988," he said. "This holiday joins us all. This is a holiday of all the citizens of our country, regardless of their religious views. For we are all a single and united Ukrainian people. Together we will build our common Ukraine, democratic, developed, rich materially and spiritually."

Yushchenko considers that it is a worthy thing to mark the jubilee of the baptism, a matter of honor for all Ukraine, and again he expressed his expectation that it will be conducted in an atmosphere of unity, solidarity, and mutual understanding.

The head of state is convinced that marking the anniversary of the baptism has colossal significance for the national, spiritual, and cultural rebirth of Ukraine. This will be a beautiful opportunity "to think over the 1000-year course that we have taken, our role in the history of Europe and the world." "We are proceeding from the fact that the spiritual baptism, at the start by the Apostle Andrew, and then by the princes of Kyivan Rus led to the spiritual rebirth of the Rus, forming a religion of one God, forming Christian ideals on the territory of our state," said Yushchenko. He added that, thanks to this, Kyivan Rus entered the equal circle of countries of the European civilization as a participant with equal rights and co-creator; it began the boisterous attitude not only of our spirituality but statehood, the development of culture, art, education, and scholarship. "Celebrating this jubilee, we revive our historical memory, we return to the holy sources of our Christian spirituality, near the streams of which stood Andrew the First-called, Princess Olha and St. Volodymyr. We again open up for ourselves the mighty spiritual legacy of saints Antonii and Feodosii of the Caves, Nestor the Chronicler, Metropolitan Petro Mohyla, the philosopher Hryhorii Skovoroda, and thousands of other mighty figures of Christ's church and the Orthodox faith," said Yushchenko.

"We are proudly aware that from this very capital of Kyiv the light of Orthodoxy spread to limitless territories inhabited by the Eastern Slavs, leading them onto the historical stage and determining their further fate for hundreds of years ahead," he stated.

He also considers that the celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus has important international significance, for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is coming to Kyiv, and the highest hierarchs of Orthodox churches from many countries of the world. In his words, for the first time Ukraine will on such a high level acknowledge the Baptism of Rus-Ukraine. He said that such worthy representatives witness to the importance of the Baptism of Rus for the history of Christian and European civilization, "and obviously this confirms that Ukraine and its clergy enjoy high respect in today's world."

Yushchenko is also convinced that the ceremonies that will happen in Ukraine on the occasion of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan-Rus will strengthen the international authority of our state.

Addressing the religious leaders and representatives present at the meeting, Yushchenko emphasized that he greatly appreciates "the highness of thoughts and aspirations natural to them, wisdom, humanism and tolerance, self-sacrificial daily work, the purpose of which is to spread in our society spiritual and moral values." "I am sincerely grateful for your contribution to the rebirth of the Ukrainian nation, strengthening understanding and cooperation among various denominations and religions," he said.

The president called them further to make every effort to strength interdenominational and interethnic peace in Ukraine and improve cooperation among religious congregations for our common future. "We are proceeding from the fact that the culture and traditions of each community compose our priceless wealth, in which we rightfully take pride," said the president.

The head of state also emphasized that the Ukrainian authorities will never interfere in church matters. In his words, the task of the government is to create appropriate conditions for the free and undisturbed development of religions and denominations, the functioning of all religious communities of our country. "Together with this, the government is ready to be your dependable partner in those spheres where the goals of the authorities and religion come together, where they can harmoniously complement one another and fruitfully cooperate. This is peace and accord in society, the spiritual healing and enrichment of our people, its union in the rebuilding of a stable and prospering country, this is strengthening moral values and ideals, lifting up culture, art, and education, help for the poor, sick, and orphans," said Yushchenko. He added that he was particularly pleased to find in the circle of those present understanding regarding these goals. "I very much value our dialogue and am ready to continue and develop it," said the president.

For significant personal contributions to the development of spirituality in Ukraine, many years of fruitful church activities, and on the occasion of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus, the head of state presented state honors to the church representatives.;23609/