27/7 Tass 4
KIEV, July 27 (Itar-Tass) — Events devoted to the Baptism of Rus (Christianisation of Kievan Rus) Day will be held in Kiev on Wednesday with the participation of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill. Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II for the first time has arrived for the festivities this year. The two primates and head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Vladimir in the morning will hold a prayer service in the open air at the monument to the Baptiser of Rus, overlooking the Dnieper River. And on July 28, on the commemoration day of Prince Vladimir, a joint festive liturgy will be held in the cathedral square of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Monastery of the Caves).
A meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church will also be held in Kiev on Wednesday. It is held alternately in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev. Patriarch Kirill will speak at the opening of an international form of Orthodox women and meet with rectors universities at Taras Shevchenko Kiev National University.
Baptism of Rus Day is declared at the state level a specially memorable date in Ukraine (since 2008) and in Russia (in 2010). For young people, according to tradition, a gala concert will be organised in Kiev, Moscow and Minsk on July 28. Popular bands – The Karamazov Brothers, Voskresenye, S.K.A.Y., famous actors Pyotr Mamonov, Ivan Okhlobystin, as well as guitarist Sergo Chanturia, representing Ukraine will perform. The first such concert, attended by more than 30 thousand spectators, was given in Kreshchatik Street in Kiev in 2008. Well-known journalist Andrei Kurayev and Metropolitan Kirill addressed the young audience from the stage, their eloquent and fiery speeches received an ovation.
The Christianisation of Kievan Rus took place in several stages. In early 867, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople announced to other Orthodox patriarchs that the Rus, baptised by his bishop, took to Christianity with particular enthusiasm. Photius’s attempts at Christianising the country seem to have entailed no lasting consequences, since the Primary Chronicle and other Slavonic sources describe the tenth-century Rus as firmly entrenched in paganism. The definitive Christianisation of Kiev dates from the late 980s, when Vladimir the Great was baptised at Chersonesos, proceeding to baptise his family and people in Kiev. The place of Vladimir’s baptism is marked by St. Vladimir’s Cathedral.
The previous meeting between Ilia II and Patriarch Kirill was held in Baku in November 2009 where they participated in the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade and the 30th anniversary of his activity as head of Muslims of the Caucasus. They discussed “issues of cooperation between the two churches, and ways of solving problems faced by the Georgian and Russian Orthodox churches.” They traditionally maintain close contacts. The leaders of the two churches have repeatedly stressed the need to maintain and develop friendly relations between the two nations.
The Primate of the Georgian Orthodox Church believes that “due to unresolved conflicts and existing problems a complicated situation has formed in the Caucasus.”
Ilia II is 78, he was elected Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia in 1977. He enjoys major authority both at home and abroad. In recent years he has favoured normalising relations between Georgia and Russia and is actively cooperating with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Ilia II is an Honorary Academician of: the Georgian Academy of Sciences (2003) and the International Academy for the Promotion of Scientific Research (2007). In February 2008, his grace was awarded the David Guramishvili Prize.
Ilia II is known as a proponent of a constitutional monarchy as a form of government for Georgia. On October 7, 2007, Ilia II he publicly called, in his sermon, to consider establishing a constitutional monarchy under the Bagrationi dynasty which had been dispossessed by the Russian Empire of the Georgian crown early in the 19th century. The statement coincided with the rising confrontation between the government of President Mikhail Saakashvili and the opposition many members of which welcomed the patriarch’s proposal.
During the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war, Ilia II appealed to the Russian political leadership and the church, expressing concerns that “the Orthodox Russians were bombing Orthodox Georgians,” and dismissing the Russian accusations of Georgia’s “genocide” in South Ossetia as “pure lie”. He also made a pastoral visit, bringing food and aid, to the Russian-occupied central Georgian city of Gori and the surrounding villages which were at the verge of humanitarian catastrophe. He also helped retrieve bodies of deceased Georgian soldiers and civilians. Ilia II also blessed the September 1, 2008 “Stop Russia” demonstrations in which tens of thousands organized human chains across Georgia.
In December 2008, Ilia II visited Moscow to pay a final farewell to Russia’s late Patriarch Alexy II. On December 9, 2008, he met Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, which was the first high-level official contact between the two countries since the August war. Later, Ilia II announced that he had some “positive agreements” with Medvedev which needed “careful and diplomatic” follow-up by the politicians.
Ilia II has spurred a baby boom in the nation by opting to personally baptise any third child born after his initiative started. The result was a national baby boom because being baptised by the Patriarch is a considerable honour among adherents of the Georgian Orthodox Church.