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MOSCOW, August 18, /ITAR-TASS/. Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine, who was enthroned in the world-famous Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, or Monastery of the Caves, in the Ukrainian capital on Sunday, should find a way to pacify the souls and “heal spiritual wounds” of the Ukrainian nation, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said this in his message to the Primate of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. He noted that the new Metropolitan of Kiev is starting his ministry “at a most difficult time in Ukraine’s history, amid great sorrows.”
“The nation is divided and embraced by bloody feud” and many are unable to “hear words of peace,” the Russian Church leader said. “People die every day, and the lamentations of those wounded and of mothers fill the Ukrainian land.”
“The spiritual wounds of the Ukrainian people are open and bleeding,” he said. Patriarch Kirill stressed that Metropolitan Onufry “is called upon by God himself to heal those wounds with love and wisdom” and to protect the unity of the Church and people.
The previous head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine, died in Kiev at the age of 78 on July 5.
Kievan Rus, a medieval state that comprised some parts of modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, was baptized by Prince Vladimir in the year 988. The canonical Ukrainian and Belarusian Orthodox Churches are subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The once united Ukrainian Orthodox Church split in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, into supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate and people who sought an independent national church.
The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is recognized around the world, whereas the other churches, including the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, are not.
Ukraine has been in deep crisis since the end of last year, when then-President Viktor Yanukovich suspended the signing of an association agreement with the European Union to study the deal more thoroughly. The move triggered mass riots that eventually ended with a coup in February 2014.
The Crimean Peninsula did not accept the new authorities in Kiev. It seceded from Ukraine and reunified with Russia in mid-March 2014 after a referendum. Crimea’s example apparently inspired residents of Ukraine’s southeast who did not recognize the coup-imposed authorities either, formed militias and started fighting for their rights.
Kiev’s military operation designed to regain control over the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which on May 11 proclaimed their independence at local referendums, kicked off in mid-April and has involved armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation. It has claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians, brought destruction to many buildings and forced tens of thousands of people to flee Ukraine’s embattled southeast.