By Milena Faustova
On July 28th Orthodox believers in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus celebrate Baptism of Russia Day.
On this day which coincides with the Day of St.Prince Vladimir of Kiev Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia leads a solemn liturgy in Kiev where Vladimir the Great, the Grand Prince of Kiev, baptized Kievan Rus in 988. The Voice of Russia’s Milena Faustova reports.
The festivities in honor of Baptism of Russia Day started on the picturesque Vladimir Hill, where the statue of St.Vladimir the Great was put up at the end of the 19th century. Located on the high bank of the Dnieper, the statue testifies to the greatness of the feat performed by Vladimir, the Grand Prince of Kiev, Patriarch Kirill said.
Vladimir the Great spent years choosing a faith from a wide variety of religious choices which were available at that time. Eventually, he opted for Orthodoxy thereby guiding Russia to civilized development and leading the Russian people to assume the great spiritual and moral values through the Sacrament of Baptism. On Friday morning Patriarch Kirill led a liturgy in the Kiev Monastery of the Caves. Festivities in Kiev in commemoration of the Baptism of Kievan Rus were attended by members of the clergy from 13 Orthodox churches from countries all over the world.
Despite temperatures over 30 degrees above zero in the shade, the patriarch’s service is attended by crowds of believers. Patriarch Kirill is welcomed by storms of applause and the harmonious “Kirill is Our Patriarch”. The schism within the church is seen by many as no more than a dirty political game.
Ukraine has been observing Baptism of Russia Day since 2008. In June 2010, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev signed a law designating Baptism of Russia Day to be part of Russia’s memorable dates. In July 2011 Belarus put the occasion on its official special date list. All three countries hail the day with a solemn ringing of church bells. More than 100 cities across the post-Soviet space, including Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, have joined in the celebrations this year. The church peals start in each diocese at midday local time and ring through the entire canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church.