Patriarch Kirill urges Ukrainian priests to accept everyone

12:43, 06 August 2009
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The head of the...

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, on a 10-day visit to Ukraine, has called on Orthodox priests to accept everyone with love, according to RIA Novosti.

"Be good pastors, accept even those who don`t accept you, because our word is the word of peace and charity," Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said in Lutsk, western Ukraine.

"Keep the Orthodox faith! Keeping the faith means not only attending church but building good relations with people," he said. Priests and believers who met him in Lutsk, where the patriarch arrived after visiting another western Ukrainian city, Rovno, were tearful and responded: "God save you."

Ukraine is a predominantly Orthodox country, but the Orthodox Church in the ex-Soviet state split into two with the predominant branch of Ukrainian Orthodoxy that follows Moscow, becoming a self-governing part of the Russian Orthodox Church overseeing 10,000 parishes in the country.

The rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church - the Kiev Patriarchate, is not recognized outside of the country. The situation is further complicated by a third church, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, originally formed in 1920s, that operates almost exclusively in the western part of the country.

Kirill visited a temporary church where the Moscow Patriarchate holds services, because the Lutsk Cathedral has been occupied by the Kiev Patriarchate since the early 1990s.

The Kiev Patriarchate has widespread support in western Ukraine, including the backing of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko who is in favor of a national church independent from Moscow.

During the patriarch`s visit, supporters of church unity in western Ukraine hailed the patriarch shouting "Our patriarch is Kirill," while nationalists shouted "Away with Moscow`s priest."

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