Struggle for the Soul of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church | WBEZ
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Struggle for the Soul of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Last month in Ukraine was the 1020th anniversary of Christianity coming to the Eastern Slavic peoples. In the 10th century, Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev, who examined several different religions, chose the Eastern Orthodox faith and was baptized by Orthodox clergy in the year 988.

Since that day, there is much dispute over the ethnic and religious origins of these peoples derived from the land Russians, Belarusians and Russians call Rus' and the religious and political have melded ever since.

In celebration of the anniversary the spiritual head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, visited Kiev for festivities and religious services.

Two church bodies in Ukraine, The Ukrainian Autocephalous Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate want a single independent national church that they feel would represent Ukraine's status as a free and independent nation from Russia. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, under the authority of the Russian Patriarch, His Holiness Alexy II, feels the Ukraine question is an internal matter within the prevue of the Russian Church. There is also a group that is identical in its liturgy and rites to the Orthodox Church but is aligned with the Roman Catholic Church.

The head of the Kiev Patriarchate, His Holiness Patriarch Filaret is highly favored by Ukraine's President Victor Yushchenko and its influential Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. It was President Yushchenko's wish that during Patriarch Bartholomew's visit to Kiev he would give his blessing for the establishment of an independent Church for Ukraine that would exist under his protection.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke very carefully concerning the request, leaving both Russia and Ukraine declaring victory.

Chrystia Freeland is U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times.

With the news last week that victor Yushchenko wanted to break with the Russian Orthodox Church,  I asked Chrystia if these religious events are tied to Ukrainian nationalism and the Orange Revolution…

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