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The History of Christianity in the lands of modern-day Ukraine dates back to the earliest centuries of the apostolic church. It has remained the dominant religion in the area since its acceptance in 988 by Vladimir the Great (Volodymyr the Great), who instated it as the state religion of Kievan Rus', a medieval East Slavic state.

Although separated into various denominations, most Ukrainian Christians share a common faith, a unique blend of Byzantine practices and Slavic mythology. These Eastern Christian traditions, in the form of both Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, have been at various historic times closely aligned with Ukrainian national self-identity.

Currently, three major Ukrainian Orthodox Churches coexist, and often compete, in the country: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Additionally, a significant body of Christians belong to the Eastern Rite Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and a smaller number in the Ruthenian Catholic Church. While Western Christian traditions such as Roman Catholicism and Protestantism have had a limited presence on the territory of Ukraine since at least the sixteenth century, worshipers of these traditions remain a relatively small minority in today's Ukraine.

Early History

Christianity was most likely first introduced into the lands of present-day Ukraine by the Goths, who established the Chernyakhov culture in the 2nd century. Although not a Christian people as a whole, the incoming Ostrogoths certainly had relations with Christian centres such as Rome and had come across missionaries in the lands they had previously inhabited; it is therefore believed that some of the Gothic inhabitants of Oium were Christian, as they had established churches in other lands occupied by the Goths. However, the Gothic control over the area proved to be short-lived, as the Hunnic Empire swept into the area in the 4th century, making any lasting impression by the Goths unlikely.

Metropolitan Ilarion (Ivan Ohienko) and other scholars have suggested that earlier Trypillian and Scythian religious practices, and hierarchical pantheism, influenced Christianity's later development in Ukraine.

saint andrew

Saint Andrew the apostle is believed to have traveled up the western shores of the Black Sea, to the area of present-day southern Ukraine, while preaching in the lands of Scythia. Legend has it that he traveled further still, up the Dnieper River, until he came to the location of present-day Kiev in 55 AD, where he erected a cross and prophesied the foundation of a great Christian city. Belief in the missionary visit of St. Andrew became widespread by the Middle Ages, and by 1621, a Kiev synod had declared him the "Rus'-apostle".[1] Saint Titus, a disciple of St. Andrew's, is also venerated in Ukrainian churches, as are three "Scythian" disciples, Saints Ina, Pina and Rima, who accompanied him to the Kiev.[2] Both the eighteenth century Church of St Andrew and an earlier structure from 1086 it replaced were purportedly built on the very location of the apostle's cross, planted on a hill overlooking the city of Kiev.

Although the Primary Chronicle refers to the apostle continuing his journey as far north as Novgorod, St. Andrew's visit to any of these lands has not been proven, and in fact may have been a later invention designed to boost the autocephalic aspirations in the territories where the upper clergy continued to be dominated by Greeks for several centuries.[3]

Crimean roots

According to a 9th-century tradition, Pope Clement I (ruled 88-98) was exiled to Chersonesos on the Crimean peninsula in 102, as was Pope Martin I in 655. Furthermore, it has been definitively recorded that a representative from the Black Sea area, the "head of the Scythian bishopric", was present at the First Council of Nicaea in 325, as well as the First Council of Constantinople in 381; it has been surmised that this representative would have to have been Bishop Cadmus of the Bosporan Kingdom. Ostrogoths, who remained on present-day Ukrainian lands after the invasion of the Huns, established a metropolinate under the Bishop of Constantinople at Dorus in northern Crimea around the year 400. A bishop's seat had also existed since 868 across the Strait of Kerch, in the ancient city of Tmutarakan. The Polans and the Antes cultures, located so close to the Crimea, surely became familiarized with Christianity by this time.

Saints Cyril and Methodius

The relics of Pope St. Martin were allegedly retrieved by the "Equal-to-apostles" brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius, who passed through present-day Ukraine on their way to preach to the Khazars. Sent from Constantinople at the request of the ruler of Great Moravia, these brothers would add to foundation of Christianity in Ukraine by creating the Glagolitic alphabet, a precursor to the eponymous "Cyrillic script", which enabled the local population to worship God in Old Church Slavonic, a language closer to the vernacular Old East Slavic language than the Greek used to worship in Constantinople, or Latin in the west.

In response to local disputes with clerics of the Latin Church, Cyril and Methodius appealed in person to the Bishop of Rome in 867, bringing with them the relics of Pope St. Martin from Chersonesos. Their labors and request were met with approval, and their continued efforts planted the Christian faith into Ukraine. By 906, they had founded a diocese in Peremyshl, now Przemyśl in present-day Poland, at the western edge of Ukraine. Their efforts, and those of their apostles, led to the translation of Christian Scriptures and service (liturgies) from Greek to Slavonic, and the eventual development of the modern Cyrillic alphabet