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Millions of Orthodox believers worldwide to celebrate Baptism of Rus Day

This year, festivities involving Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill will be centered in the city of Orel in central European Russia

MOSCOW, July 28. /TASS/. Russia and other countries where the majority of the population espouses Eastern Orthodox Christianity are marking the Baptism of Rus Day on Thursday.

The exact date when Kievan Rus adopted Christianity in 988 is unknown and the holiday has been officially marked in Russia on July 28 as a memory day of Grand Prince Vladimir, the medieval rule who brought Orthodox Christianity of Kievan Rus and baptized its people, since 2010.

This year, festivities involving Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill will be centered in the city of Orel in central European Russia. The program of the patriarch’s one-day trip to that city includes a visit to the construction site of a seven domed church in the village of Vytasky Posad near Orel. "It will be a big Orthodox center with a school of theology. By now, domes have already been mounted on the church building," Orel region governor Vadim Potomsky told a news conference at TASS.

Apart from that, Patriarch Kirill will conduct a festive service at Orel’s Epiphany Cathedral and consecrate the monument to St. Seraphin of Sarov in the square in front of the cathedral. After that, the patriarch will visit a mother and child health center, consecrate the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God and will visit the Alexander Nevsky Church in the settlement of Bolshoye Sotnikovo near Orel.

Last year, when the Orthodox world marked the millennium since the passing away of Grand Prince Vladimir, Moscow hosted representatives of all the fifeen 'local' (national) Orthodox Churches Constantinople, Alexandrian, Antioch, Jerusalem, Georgian, Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Cyprian, Hellenic, Albanian, the Church of the Czech and Slovak lands, the Orthodox Church in America, and the Autonomous Orthodox Church in Japan.

Much has changed since then: the Crete Council, which had been prepared as an All-Orthodox one for the past 55 year, failed to bring together representatives from all national churches, with four of them (Bulgarian, Antioch (Syria), Georgian and Russian churches) being absent from it over disagreement of the procedure and the text of documents that were meant to be adopted at the Council.

Welcoming the guests last year, Patriarch Kirill said, "These festivities give us an opportunity once again to feel deep in our hearts the unity of the Orthodox Church in spite of numerous political upheavals and conflicts."

However politics has got involved in the life of the Church since then. The Crete Council was used by patriarch as a platform to demonstrate force and influence. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople who convened the Council had turned a deaf ear to numerous requests from other participants to change the procedure of the meetings which fact caused big disputes and controversy. Most of the clergy arrived at a conclusion that Patriarch Bartholomew is seeking to establish a kind of "Eastern papacy" with one patriarch dominating over the rest.

On Thursday, bells will toll from far eastern Kamchatka, their peals rolling west across Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and onward into Europe on Tuesday to mark the day in 988 when Kievan Rus adopted Christianity. Since 2012, churches have been sending out a wave of sound at noon local time along the celebration route in Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and other countries.

A traditional mass prayer on the eve of the Baptism of Rus Day was held in Kiev. It culminated a Cross-bearing procession of peace, love and prayer for Ukraine that involved more than 80,000 people. Attempts to discredit the procession or to provoke its participants ultimately failed.

The first ever Cross-bearing procession on the occasion of the Baptism of Rus Day is on its way from mainland Russia to Crimea. The procession with the arc with relics of St. Prince Vladimir started on July 18 in the Black Sea report city of Sochi and has already visited Crimea’s cities of Kerch, Feodosia, Yalta and Sevastopol. On Thursday, the procession will reach Kherson, which is believed to be the cradle of Christianity in Russia. Organizers say this Cross-bearing procession will be held annually.