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Pope Francis Commemorates 1025th Anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus
Expresses Hope that Anniversary will Provide a New Impetus for the Evangelization of Ukraine
By Lyubomyr Ferens
ROME, August 22, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Pope Francis underlined the conversion of Kievan Rus, a federation of Slavic tribes that lived between the 9th-13th century. Their conversion to Christianity took place "within the context of an undivided Church in which there continued to develop various church traditions, but in union with one another. This fact, in his opinion, serves as a reference point for an ecumenical dialogue among Christian communities who today rely on the spiritual heritage of Saint Volodymyr.
"The celebration of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus demonstrates that the road to full unity among all the followers of Christ -- is not a luxury, but a deep need, crucial for the consistent and active proclamation of the testimony of Christ, as well as for a real testimony of that union for which Christ begged the Father, in approaching the highest act of his sacrificial love," he explained.
Pope Franics wrote of his conviction that the commemoration of the act of Baptism of Rus-Ukraine becomes for the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) a new impetus in evangelization and pastoral activities. The Holy Father went on to name the steadfast orientations of the Church in this sphere: the Word of God, Holy Sacraments, Divine Liturgy, formation of the faithful and the clergy, development of charitable acts.
Concluding his statement, the Supreme Pontiff expressed his hope that the celebration of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus becomes a time of grace for the whole Ukrainian nation and for all people:
"May this commemoration become a call to the real feeling of responsibility from the side of state institutions and each person in particular, to follow the example of Saint Volodymyr to work for the common material and spiritual good of the nation; a call to ecumenical responsibility, to ask God for the gift of unity among all Christians and to oneself become the builder of this unity; a call to activate the issue of evangelization and pastoral activities in all of their dimensions. I send His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the UGCC Bishops, and all Holy God's people in Ukraine, my blessing.
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