Rebel cleric says Patriarch Kirill plots to merge Ukraine, Russia

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    Rebel cleric says Patriarch Kirill plots to merge Ukraine, Russia


    KIEV, July 27 (RIA Novosti) - The leader of the schismatic Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate has accused the Russian patriarch of pursuing a "political project" to deprive Ukraine of its sovereignty, the UNIAN news agency reported.

    Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, arrived in Ukraine's capital on Monday for what he called a "pilgrimage" to the birthplace of Russian Orthodoxy.

    "He arrived to promote a political project of integrating Ukraine into Russia, to promote unity under the Kremlin leadership, from which Ukraine, by God's blessing and on people's will, got rid in 1991," said self-proclaimed Patriarch Filaret, who was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church in mid 1990s.

    "This political project could have various tags: 'The Holy Russia - Russia, Ukraine and Belarus,' 'historical Russia,' 'eastern Slavic civilization' or 'the unity of Orthodox peoples' but in essence it is aimed at depriving Ukraine of its sovereignty," he said.

    Patriarch Kirill told thousands of believers after leading a prayer by the statue of Vladimir I of Kiev, who converted to Christianity in 988 and baptized the medieval state of Rus, that he came "as a touch the 1,000-year old history of our Church."

    He added that Kiev was like Jerusalem to Russia and Ukraine.

    Ukrainian Orthodoxy has split in three with Ukraine's Moscow Patriarchate becoming a self-governing but subservient part of the Russian Orthodox Church, which remains the largest church in Ukraine with 10,000 parishes. The rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate, formed after the breakup of the Soviet Union, is not recognized in Eastern Orthodoxy. The third church, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, originally formed in 1920s, and operates almost exclusively in the western part of the country.

    Filaret blamed Patriarch Kirill for the ongoing split and for the fact that "structures of Ukraine's Moscow Patriarchate are used as instruments of Russia's state policy."

    Kiev Patriarchate officials have recently stepped up contacts with the Church of Constantinople, also known as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in order "to return Ukraine to the Mother Church." The drive has been actively backed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and other top officials against a backdrop of tensions in relations with Russia.

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, who visited Ukraine last summer to attend celebrations on the 1020th anniversary of the Christianization of Kievan Rus, made no statements on whether the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate should be recognized, but said the country had the right to have a national church.

    The Russian church leader and Yushchenko met on Monday in the president's official residence. The president said he planned to discuss his plans for a national church independent of Russian Orthodoxy with the Russian patriarch.

    Rebel cleric says Patriarch Kirill plots to merge Ukraine, Russia | Top Russian news and analysis online | 'RIA Novosti' newswire

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