KIEV, July 26 (Itar-Tass) -- Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia called for unity and accord among the brotherly Slavic peoples.
“I congratulate all Orthodox residents of Ukraine, all residents of Kiev on such a remarkable date as the 1,020th anniversary of baptism. We are here to keep accord and unity among us,” the patriarch said at Kiev’s airport on Saturday.
“Our thoughts involuntarily go to that event – the baptism of Kievans in the Dnepr 1,020 years ago. At the same time, we recall the millennium of the baptism of Rus celebrated 20 years ago. As we look back, we can see how church life has changed and how many people have acquired faith. We should appreciate the great blessing of unification. We should appreciate and value unity among our brotherly Slavic peoples,” the patriarch said.
He noted that many Orthodox believers in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus were remembering this date. “I am glad that we will hold a religious service [with representatives of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus] in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Cave Monastery) on St. Vladimir’s Day,” he said.
“We thank God for all of His mercy so that His blessing be with us and so that we kept Orthodox faith as a precious gift,” Alexy II said.
After the arrival the patriarch headed for the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. The road was decorated with the banners depicting Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and the Universe who has been in Ukraine for three days.
Monks and the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reporting to the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Vladimir, greeted Alexy II at the entrance to the monastery. Believers held posters calling for unity with the Moscow Patriarchate and Alexy II’s portraits.
The Kiev Pechersk Lavra, also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, is a historic Orthodox Christian monastery in Kiev, Ukraine. Since its foundation as the cave monastery in 1015 the Lavra has been a preeminent center of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe. It is also one of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites within Ukraine.
After Communist Party came to power in 1917 the hard times for the monastery had begun - it was closed and all its property had been nationalised, some time after in the part of monastery buildings museums were placed.
In 1941 during World War II the Holy Dormition Cathedral had been blown up. Up to now there are no exact facts who realized the blasting operations - Germans or Soviet underground.
In 1988 the territory of Far Caves with all overground buildings was returned to newly created monk community, and in 1990 the territory of Near Caves.
Currently, the jurisdiction over the site is divided between the state museum, National Kyiv-Pechersk Historic-Cultural Preserve, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the site of the chief monastery of that Church and the residence of its leader, Metropoltan Vladimir.
Lavra caves is the system of underground passages, divided into two parts - Far and Near Caves. First annalistic mentions of Lavra Caves are related to 1051. At first caves were occupied by the monks who lived their, later in caves started to bury dead settlers of the monastery. In particular there are remains of Chronicle Nestor the author of the “Story of bygone years”, Ilya Muromets - Russian epic hero and the relics of imperishable Lavra saints.
In some underground cells lived hermit monks, who devoted their lives to prayers - in the walls of cave passages had remained small holes through which they got water and food.
There are legends about the extent of Lavra caves, - it's said that underground passages stretches under the Dnieper and also connects Lavra with other monastery caves of Kiev and Chernigov.