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BRAMA, August 25, 2000, 1:00pm EDT

Protesters petition to reclaim Ukrainian Orthodox Church properties
- ©Morgan Williams, 8/24/00
Supporters of the Kyiv Patriarchate signing the petition. Peaceful demonstrations were held in Kyiv to protest the blessing of Uspenskiy Sobor by the Moscow Patriarchate.

- ©AK 1995
Fragment of Uspenskiy Sobor which was destroyed in 1941.

This illustrated map of the Kyievan Pecherska Lavra grounds shows the extent of the property and the many structures found in the complex. The monastery was founded in 1051 on the right bank of the Dnipro River. The Uspenskiy Sobor ruin is outlined in blue on the map.

KYIV (August 24) - Demonstrators objecting to the blessing of the newly reconstructed Uspenskiy Sobor (Dormition Cathedral) by priests affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate circulated a petition to keep Ukrainian Church properties within the jurisdiction of the Kyiv Patriarchate. Thousands of protesters took to the streets when a congratulatory statement by President Kuchma about the blessing of the Cathedral on Independence Day was interpreted as tacit support for the Moscow Patriarchate.

Uspenskiy Sobor is located in the Kyievan Pecherska Lavra (Cave Monastery) complex. The Cathedral was almost completely destroyed during WWII by Nazi forces, and in 1991 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine passed a resolution to reconstruct the sacred property for "all Orthodox Slavs."

The issue of Church jurisdiction has become a rallying point for Ukrainians especially since Independence from the Soviet Union was declared in 1991. Proponents of jurisdiction by the Kyievan Patriarchate look to Ukraine's ancient history for its roots and legitimacy.

Tracing the history of this part of the world as far back as the 10th century AD when Russia did not yet exist, Kyievan Rus' (today's Ukraine) dominated the region with its capital in Kyiv. Kyievan Rus' was Christianized in 988 AD, and the city Kyiv remained both the religious center and political stronghold of the region for more than 300 years. The rise of Muscovy (not called Russia at that time) took place in the 14th century, and it was in 1326 that the Metropolitan (Church leadership) was transferred to Moscow. It was in this century also that the Muscovy princes began using the title "Prince of All Rus'." The Russian Empire which was declared in the 18th century survived less than 200 years, until the Bolshevyk (communist) revolution in 1918.

Arguments for Moscow-based control rely on the shift of the religious center from Kyiv to Moscow in 1326 and to a large extent on the basis of funding which was provided by the Russian-based Patriarchate.

Protagonists of the Kyiv Patriarchate refute the latter saying that the money is largely generated by tourist dollars collected in Ukraine. Additionally, they argue that the Kyievan Cave Monastery was founded by monks in 1051, during the period of Kievan Rus' which is now Ukraine. It is the historical connection coupled with territorial rights that support the claims of Ukrainians who wish to establish unequivocally that the church properties belong not to Moscow, but to Kyiv and to the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine.

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