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Celebrations in honor of the 180th anniversary of the Polotsk Council that reunited Belarusian and Lithuanian Uniates with the Orthodox Church in 1839 were held on Sunday in the ancient town of Polotsk. The festive celebrations began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in St. Sophia’s Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in Belarus. The Divine service was headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Zaslav, the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, with the concelebration of several other hierarchs and a number of clergy, reports sobor.by. St. Sophia’s Cathedral, rebuilt after a devastating war in the 18th century on the foundations of an 11th-century Byzantine cathedral, witnessed the fateful decision of the Uniate hierarchs and clergy to return to the bosom of the Orthodox Church, the main initiator of which was the Uniate bishop (later Orthodox Metropolitan of Lithuania and Vilna) Joseph (Semashko). The Belarusian Church has discussed the possibility of canonizing this great reunifier, and 2018 was declared the year of Met. Joseph in the Belarusian Exarchate. As Met. Pavel noted during the service, 180 years ago, Met. Joseph gathered bishop and priests and, with God’s help, abolished the 1596 Union of Brest that saw a number of Orthodox bishops departing from the Church and placing themselves under the authority of the Pope, thus creating the Unia. Two years before the council, Met. Joseph initiated the collecting of signatures from Uniate clergy who desired to return to Orthodoxy. Only 2% of the Belarusian and Lithuanian Uniate clergy opposed, and the council in the Cathedral of St. Sophia opened on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1839. As a result of the council, more than 1,600 parishes, with more than 1.6 million parishioners were reunited to holy Orthodoxy, who are the ancestors of modern Central and Western Belarus. The Polotsk Council put an end to difficult times of hostility and hatred, Met. Pavel said. His Eminence Archbishop Theodosy of Polotsk and Glubokoe highlighted that through Met. Joseph’s efforts, the ancient Orthodox Diocese of Polotsk was able to return to its ancient and unique spiritual, ecclesiastical, social, political, scientific, and educational sources and fruits. “We continue to live in the traditions that were originally laid in our Church, that were at the origins of our state and nation. And now we enjoy their fruits by the labors of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk, and Joseph (Semashko), who was able to renew and revive all of it,” Abp. Theodosius said. During the celebrations, it was announced that an international forum decided to the 180th anniversary of the council will be held in October. In September 2016, Polish Orthodox believers also celebrated the 90th anniversary of the return of the people of Lemkos to the Orthodox Church from Uniatism. http://orthochristian.com/119602.html?fbclid=IwAR3tW60dHcYUHZFRKCsLz5lXfTUi7VRURM_Vl0W1i7VHaQijRHJnCo0NLGU
According to an order from Ukrainian Minister of Culture Evgeny Nischuk, the Uniates will be allowed to serve the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, one of the most ancient Orthodox churches in the city, on the feast of the Annunciation on March 25/April 7. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics Svyatoslav Shevchuk announced the upcoming service during a service on February 17. As has been stated before, the common goal of the schismatic church and the Uniates is to create a single Kiev Patriarchate that will be recognized by both Rome and Constantinople. And on January 17, Shevchuk stressed his belief that no one church can lay claim to St. Sophia’s, but that it is “a meeting place for all descendants of the St. Sophia Church of Kiev.” The church currently belongs to the Ukrainian government. However, not everyone is happy with these plans. Philaret Denisenko, the “Patriarch” of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) and “Honorary Patriarch” of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” the ideological leader of the Ukrainian schismatic-nationalist movement, is concerned about how Ukrainian Orthodox will react, and, resorting to his typical Russophobia, about the possibility of provocations from the Kremlin. In an address to Shevchuk published on the KP website, Denisenko asked him not to serve in St. Sophia’s because “it’s like if one of the Orthodox primates celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Holy Apostle Peter in Rome.” The Ministry of Culture seems to have waivered in its decision following the statement by the ideological schismatic leader. In his message, Philaret calls the Uniate plans to celebrate Annunciation in the Orthodox cathedral “unusual,” because, he says, the Ukrainian Uniates have never served there, and he recalled that the enthronement of “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, the primate of the schismatic church, was recently held there. Uniates contend, however, that St. Sophia’s was transferred to them for a time beginning in 1596. According to Orthodox ecclesiology and canons, it is forbidden for non-Orthodox to serve at an Orthodox altar, though Denisenko focuses only the possibility of negative reactions. He stresses that if the Uniates serve there, “it will cause resistance from Orthodox Ukrainians… At a time when there is a war for the independence and integrity of Ukraine in the eastern part of our country, we are called to testify and maintain peace and unity in society.” Moreover, the “Patriarch” fears, as he often does, how the Kremlin will respond: “There is a danger that this situation can be used by Russia to carry out provocations to harm the Ukrainian people.” Thus, Philaret urges Shevchuk to give up the idea of serving in St. Sophia’s and expresses hope that the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” and the Uniates will continue to develop good relations. Interestingly, following the publication of Denisenko’s letter, the Ministry of Culture posted a message on Saturday that the Uniates were not allowed to serve in St. Sophia’s, as that would harm the great UNESCO monument, though the message was soon removed, reports the Ukrainian site Strana, with a screenshot of the removed message. Many Ukrainian leaders, including the Minister of Culture himself, and the Parliament Speaker Andrei Paruby, are Uniates. Yesterday, the Information Department of the Uniate church reported that they respect the opinions of their “Orthodox brothers,” and thus a meeting between Shevchuk and Dumenko will be held to resolve the issue. http://orthochristian.com/119564.html?fbclid=IwAR0FaVLey2T8b86_8yocmgt2NkSMgcwQxl-GkyM6fwgsKA7olXZyTeyESow