Competing estimates of support for Ukrainian churches


Religiia v Ukraine, 29 July 2019


On 27 and 28 July, the PTsU and UPTsMP marked the 1031st anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus-Ukraine festively. In the events of the PTsU, hierarchs of the Constantinople and Greek churches participated, and in the events of the UPTsMP, of the Serbian and Czech-Slovak churches. Representatives of the churches have traditionally overestimated the number of participants in the processions of the cross in Kiev, while the UPTsMP this year exaggerated the number of their pilgrims by ten times, Religiia v Ukraine reports, citing the websites of the PTsU, the UPTsMP, and the police of Kiev.


On 27 July, after the conclusion of a prayer service on Vladimir Hill, the head of the UPTsMP, Metropolitan Onufry, led a procession of the cross with miracle-working sacred items to the Holy Dormition Kiev caves lavra. At the memorial cross on Grushevsky Street, the head of the UPTsMP, along with all clergy and laity, prayed for the repose of the souls of the victims of the tragic events of February 2014 during the Euro-Maidan.


The chancellor of the UPTsMP, Metropolitan of Borispol and Brovary Antony, cited the results of the procession of the cross. He stated that this year 300,000 Orthodox believers participated in it. The chancellor also noted that among the marchers there were not only Ukrainians but also pilgrims from neighboring states. In addition to hierarchs of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia and the Serbian Orthodox Church, he said ordinary believers of the Romanian Orthodox Church also participated. From official information from the police of Kiev it follows that Metropolitan Antony exaggerated the number of participants of the procession of the cross by ten times.


"In addition to maintaining public order during the procession of the cross, the capital police provided believers drinking water. Up to 30,000 persons participated in the religious event and about 4,000 law enforcers provided security for them," the Kiev police reported on their Facebook page on 27 July.


The next day, 28 July, on the day of the holiday, the head of the PTsU, Metropolitan Epifany, led a liturgy in the yard of the Kiev cathedral of Holy Wisdom. He was joined in celebrating by bishops of the PTsU, Metropolitan of Gaul Emmanuel with a delegation from the church of Constantinople, and also Metropolitan Ioannis and concelebrants from the Greek Orthodox Church.


Delivering a sermon, the primate of the PTsU characterized the tasks and challenges that face the PTsU: "Now before us stand new tasks, which in essence recall the work that was accomplished by Holy Equal-to-Apostles Grand Prince Vladimir. In the first place, as he strengthened the unity of the Kievan state, we also must maintain our church unity and facilitate unification around the Kiev see of all Orthodox children of Ukraine and nurture social peace and harmony. As Prince Vladimir was concerned to spread the Christian faith, we also must continue the spiritual renewal of the Ukrainian people and must open the saving truth of the Orthodox Christian faith for its new generation. As the faith of the equal-to-apostles prince was manifested in deeds of charity for neighbors, we also together must be concerned for charity and help those who are in need with our attention and support."


At the end of the divine liturgy there was held the PTsU's first procession of the cross from Kievan Sophia to the monument to Holy Equal-to-Apostles Prince Vladimir and also a prayer service and prayer for Ukraine. Participants in the holiday events of the PTsU included former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the former advisor of the president, Rostislav Pavlenko, and other political and public figures.


At a briefing, Metropolitan Epifany answered questions of journalists, noting particularly that the PTsU has already been recognized by the Greek Church. "Today at the divine liturgy representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church participated. Also our bishops concelebrated with representatives of the Greek Church in Thessalonica, establishing that de facto the Greek Church recognizes the autocephaly of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church," he said.


In the estimation of Metropolitan Epifany, about 20,000 persons joined the PTsU 2019 procession of the cross. However the Kiev police published different information. "In today's events about 15,000 believers participated. All subdivisions of the capital police fulfilled their task 'excellently,' and the safety of citizens was guaranteed," Andrei Krishchenkok, the chief of Kiev police, summed up, who was quoted on the Facebook page of the capital police.


Commenting on the ceremonial events held by the PTsU and UPTsMP, the director of the Department for Affairs of Religions and Nationalities of the Ministry of Culture, Andrei Yurash, noted on his Facebook page: "One of the approaches to the Ukrainian religious environment is to measure what and who is more: how many people took part in the procession of the cross, who had more relics, etc. One of the traditional measures was the report of how many foreign delegations participated in certain events. Yesterday the UPTsMP insistently reported that delegations of the Serbian Church (politically and financially fully dependent on the Moscow patriarchate) and of the church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia (one of the smallest churches in number of believers and thus also very sensitive to the generosity of the 'Moscow brothers') participated in its events. . . . And you see today this achievement was not simply defeated but also qualitatively surpassed by the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church (the PTsU): in its events there participated not only a representative delegation of the ecumenical patriarchate—the first church in honor in the Orthodox world—led by Metropolitan of Gaul Emmanuel, but also clergymen of the Greek Church, which is most numerous and second in influence in the 'Greek world,' led by Metropolitan of Langadas Ioannis." (tr. by PDS, posted 29 July 2019)

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