The head of the Russian Orthodox Church said Ukraine is changing for the better and noted the role of the Church in the country's life.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia arrived in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa on the Black Sea on Tuesday, RIA Novosti reports.

"Much has changed for the better in the life of Ukrainian society, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church played and is playing a great role in stabilizing the Ukrainian nation's life and preserving its unity," Kirill said Tuesday.

Prince Vladimir baptized medieval Kievan Rus, which comprised parts of modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, in the year 988. The canonical Orthodox Churches in Ukraine and Belarus are subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow Patriarchate.

After Odessa, the Russian patriarch, who also visited Ukraine last summer, is to visit the cities of Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk, which also invited him to pay a pastor's visit.

The Orthodox Church in Ukraine split in the 1990s following the breakup of the Soviet Union into followers of the Moscow Patriarchate and those seeking an independent national church. The Ukrainian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is recognized worldwide, while the other churches are not.

During his visit to Ukraine last summer, Kirill spoke a lot of healing the rift and restoring a united Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which was then less possible under then-president Western-leaning Viktor Yushchenko.

The Russian Church hopes that under President Viktor Yanukovych, who has a friendlier attitude to Russia and clearly supports the Moscow Patriarchate, the political reasons for the split in the Ukrainian Church will be forgotten and the split overcome.


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