In 2018 we mark the 1030 year of Ukraine accepting Christianity.
In 988 Prince Volodymyr, the medieval ruler of Kyiv Rus (the state which grew to encompass modern day Ukraine, Byelorussia and north-western portions of Russia) Volodymyr decreed that paganism be abolished and all citizens be baptised and introduced to the Byzantine-Slavic form of Christianity to his land. It is not surprising that Christianity grew very quickly within the territory of Kyiv Rus.
Within the space of 100 years the Kyiv Rus state created some of the most beautiful artistic and architectural monuments of medieval Christianity in Europe, such as the St. Sophia Cathedral or the magnificence of the church-monastery complex of the Kyiv Caves Monastery. Although Kyiv was ravaged many times through the ages by the Tatars, the Muscovites and the Germans during World War II, many monuments have survived to this day.
One thousand and thirty years ago Prince Volodymyr directed his people to be baptised by immersion in the River Dnieper and accepted the Christian faith. This dramatic conversion reaffirms the faith and religious beliefs to this day. Following the conversion, the early Ukrainians developed into strong believers and proponents of their faith. The rich legacy of Ukraine’s Christianity is evident in the culture and customs of the Ukrainian people as well as in the faith of believers, in Ukraine and in the Diaspora. This is evident in the Byzantine rite, the church traditions, in the Slavonic liturgical language, the church music and in various other forms of devotion, which have taken such deep root in the life of the Ukrainian people.
The seeds planted in 988 bore great fruit over the centuries. The Ukrainian Church became a spiritual haven for its people during the times of national strife and enslavement; guiding them to great aesthetic achievements in times of freedom and statehood. Prince Volodymyr’s single act brought Christianity to Ukraine and Christianity has made a tremendous impact on the historical evolution in Ukraine and abroad.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, however, the issue of an independent Ukrainian church became front and centre. Some Ukrainian religious leaders broke away from the Moscow Patriarchate and created their own independent body, which they called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate.
Currently, three major Ukrainian Orthodox Churches coexist, and often compete, in the country: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
In April this year Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Ukrainian has petitioned Orthodox Christian leaders to allow them to create a national church independent from Russia — in a bid to end more than 300 years of Moscow’s influence over religious affairs in their country.
“This is a matter of national security and our defences in a hybrid war,” said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. “Because the Kremlin regards the Russian church as one of the key instruments of influence on Ukraine.” He met with Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew in April and announced that Ukraine would present yet another application for autocephaly. The idea would be to create a separate national church, which the two breakaway churches, and possibly parts of the Moscow Patriarchate, would join. Without control over Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate wouldn’t be the biggest Orthodox church. And the Russian Church would lose the basis of its vision to be the center of world Orthodoxy.