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28 Jul, 2010 10:00

Russian Patriarch commemorates baptism of Russia in Ukraine

Despite the pouring rain, thousands of Orthodox believers have gathered in the Ukrainian capital to celebrate the historic “Baptism of old Russia”.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has led a religious service in Kiev, where more than a thousand years ago scores of Russians turned to Orthodox Christianity.

Modern Kiev is the place where the Christianity started in this part of the world. Back in 988, when this land was called Kievan Rus, Prince Vladimir took the first bunch of pagans into the Dnepr River in Ukraine and baptized them to become the Orthodox Christians. The whole Christianization process took several centuries, but Kiev is still considered to be the cradle of Orthodox Christianity in this part of Europe.

“Prince Vladimir sent his ambassadors to search for a religion that would unite the peoples of Rus. When they came back, they reported that they did not know if they were in Heaven or on Earth. The liturgical glory of Orthodoxy convinced them that this religion would be most suitable for peoples of Rus, knowing their character and their temperament,” archimandrite Zacchaeus, representative of the Orthodox Church in America, told RT.

Now it is the capital of sovereign Ukraine and this day is being marked as an official religious day in both Ukraine and Russia. In June, President Dmitry Medvedev announced that this day would become an official Russian holiday, although not a public holiday, so today, millions of worshippers on both sides of the Russian-Ukrainian border jointly celebrate the spiritual anniversary.

In Moscow, celebrations have been taking place at Red Square and Pushkin Square.

“This holiday is a good example of successful cooperation between the state and the church,” deputy Moscow Mayor Sergey Baidakov said. “Christianity was the spiritual base of the ancient Russian state. Russia's conversion helped our nation get involved in European processes. We are expecting this to become a tradition that will strengthen high ideals in modern Russian society.”