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Russian Patriarch will not attend annual celebration in Ukraine

Catholic World News - July 16, 2014

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill will not travel to Ukraine for the annual celebration of the anniversary of the Baptism of the Rus, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow patriarchate has announced.

Patriarch Kirill has visited Kiev each year since his election as head of the Russian Orthodox Church, to join in the July 28 celebration of the Baptism of the Rus, which is regarded as the foundation of the Orthodox faith in the Slavic world. But this year, tensions between Ukraine and Russia have raised questions about the wisdom of a visit by the prelate from Moscow. In June, a Ukrainian government minister stated flatly that Patriarch Kirill would be unwelcome.

Leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow patriarchate—which, unlike a rival Orthodox group, has preserved its ties to the Russian Orthodox Church—have done their best to distance themselves from the pro-Russian statements of the Moscow patriarchate, and to emphasize their support for Ukrainian autonomy. The Ukrainian Orthodox bishops have denied rumors that Patriarch Kirill will exercise a heavy influence on their choice when they gather in August to elect a successor to their primate, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, who died on July 5.

"No visits of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to Kiev or any other diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, including Crimea, are planned for the period of celebration of the Day of Baptism of Kievan Russia and for the dates of the assembly of bishops," the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow patriarchate announced on July 15. "Solely ruling and vicar bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will participate in the assembly of bishops on August 13."

Patriarch Kirill will preside at a separate celebration of the July 28 anniversary, at the cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

Last year, when he visited Ukraine to commemorate the Baptism of the Rus, Patriarch Kirill was accompanied by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, while he was in Kiev, urged Ukrainian government leaders to be firm in their opposition to calls for integration into the European community.

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