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Kirill Calls for Church to Rejoin Fold

ReutersClergy from UkraineТs unrecognized independent Orthodox church taking part in a procession in Kiev on Tuesday.
KIEV — Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, on Tuesday urged a breakaway group in Ukraine to reunite with the powerful Moscow Patriarchate, reaffirming his rejection of allowing an independent church in Kiev.

After leading prayers marking the 1,021st anniversary of the eastern Slavs’ conversion to Christianity, Kirill exhorted adherents of the breakaway church to “return to the father’s house and unite with us.”

“Not all of our brothers of the same faith share this holiday today,” Kirill said.

“Some find themselves outside the church’s saving fence, outside its precious unity.”

Ukraine’s pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko is leading a campaign to win recognition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate, which broke away from the Moscow Patriarchate in the 1990s, as a legitimate church that would not answer to Moscow.

He has sought backing from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the word’s 250 million Orthodox, but has not gotten a clear response.

Patriarch Filaret, leader of the breakaway church, dismissed Kirill’s statement, saying Ukraine deserves its own church, the Unian news agency reported. “We in Ukraine need to have our own self-governing Orthodox Church,” he was quoted as saying.

“Everything that is built on nontruth will sooner or later be destroyed, because God only has so much patience.”

Yushchenko’s rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was more cautious.

Tymoshenko, who met Kirill late last night, said in a statement Tuesday that she would pray that God sends “organizational unity” to all of the Orthodox churches in Ukraine.

As Kirill took part in prayers Tuesday, nationalist activists who protested his visit and Kirill’s supporters held competing rallies in various parts Kiev.

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