LUGANSK, September 14 (Itar-Tass) – Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill I has arrived on a two-day ministerial visit in Ukraine’s easternmost region of Lugansk, which is part of the vast Donetsk Coalfields /Donbass/ industrial area.
“This is the first time I’m visiting the land of Lugansk but far from the first time I’m visiting Donbass, and I came here for a reason that’s quite notable – I mean the 20th anniversary since the foundation of the Eastern Orthodox diocese of Lugansk,” His Holiness Kirill I said.
He called Lugansk and Donbass a very special place.
“This is a region where the country’s economic might is molded, where the really hardworking people live, and where material values meaning much for the nation, society and the state are produced,” the Patriarch said.
“Also, it’s a place where the hardworking and tolerant people maintains and safeguards the Orthodox Christian faith,” he said.
The Ukrainian national flag and the Patriarchic standard were hoisted at Lugansk airport where His Holiness Kirill I was greeted by the ruling hierarch of the diocese, Metropolitan Joannicius.
Right after the meet-and-greet ceremony, the Patriarch went to the St Vladimir’s Cathedral where more than a thousand believers had gathered to welcome him. The roadway leading to the cathedral was bestrewed with flowers and green grass.
At 09:30 local time Thursday, Kirill I will lead a divine liturgy on Teatralny Square, the city’s largest. Upon the end of it, he will address the believers.
The organizers of the prayer expect it will likely bring together 15,000 or so disciples of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
The other functions Kirill I is expected to participate in are a trip to the Pylon of Fame and the laying of flowers at the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb and a meeting with local veterans of World War II.
Also, he is expected to consecrate the first stone that will be laid in the foundation of a future church of the Virgin Mary’s Icon ‘Tenderheartedness’ and to take part in the blessing of newlywed couples.
No actions of protest on the part of Ukrainian nationalists were noticed when the Patriarchic motorcade moved along the city streets but activists of the Ukrainian Popular Party plan unfolding Ukraine’s national flag in a downtown area in front of the monument to the 19th century poet Taras Shevchenko.
The latter is located in a stone’s throw from the square where Kirill I will address the congregation with the preachment.
At the same time, the activists of the ultra-nationalistic Svoboda /Freedom/ party have promised to take crowds of their supporters to the streets despite the ban on actions.
“A week before Kirill I’s visit, the leader of a breakaway religious faction, Mikhail Denisenko, who is called by his adepts the Patriarch of Ukraine Filaret, came here,” a source at the Lugansk diocese told Itar-Tass.
“His adepts swiftly purchased six houses here, laid down three churches and called on the local residents to protest against Patriarch Kirill’s arrival,” he said.
The absolute majority of churchgoers in the eastern regions of Ukraine belong to the traditional canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church that reports to Moscow Patriarchate and is governed by Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev.
The latter Church is a highly autonomous unit within the structure of the Russian Orthodox Church.