Ukraine Celebrates Its 1,020th Anniversary of Christianity

Ukraine is celebrating this week the 1,020th anniversary of its adoption of Christianity by holding church services and processions and welcoming foreign Orthodox Church leaders to the capital.

President Viktor Yushchenko will hold a reception for Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, at the 11th century St. Sophia Cathedral on Saturday, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

On Sunday, Patriarch Bartholomew I, Patriarch Alexy II of Russia, and other Orthodox leaders from other countries will hold a service near a statue of Prince Vladmir.

Prince Vladimir the Great was the figure who officially brought Christianity to modern-day Ukraine. In 988 A.D., Prince Vladimir was baptized and then instated Christianity as the state religion of what was then known as Kievan Rus.

Afterwards, Vladimir had his family and all the people of Kievan Rus baptized and destroyed the wooden statues of Slavic pagan gods.

Ukrainian President Yushchenko said Thursday ahead of the gatherings that he hopes Ukraine's celebrations of the adoption of Christianity will encourage unity among the country's Orthodox communities.

The country has three major Orthodox Churches, which often competes against one another: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Kiev Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the only one with a canonical standing in Eastern Orthodoxy and has full communion with other Eastern churches. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchy broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1989, while the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church obtained autonomy from Moscow.

Combined, the three orthodox communities make up 83.7 percent of the population. Catholic and Protestant populations are significantly smaller, with Roman Catholics and Protestants making up only 2.2 percent of the population each, according to the CIA World Factbook.