The impetus for this discussion was Father Ambrose’s claim that the ROC-MP has patriarchal hegemony over the whole Ukraine. I responded by stating that (among other things) the UOC-MP is in the minority among Apostolic Christians. Fr. A informed us that the UOC-MP has more church infrastructure in the Ukraine than any other Apostolic Church. I replied that what counts is the number of adherents, not infrastructure. Fr. A (strangely) responded with even more info about church infrastructure. As discussion progressed, a claim was made that the Ukraine has historically been Orthodox. The following is a refutation of this Orthodox claim.
This presentation will be partitioned. Initially, I intended to try to cut down the essay to perhaps 4 initial postings (at least less than Fr A’s disallowed 7 posts), but I was informed by the moderator that absolutely only ONE initial post is permitted. God works in mysterious ways. Now I don’t have to cut out any information just to save space. After each section, I would appreciate input/criticisms/corrections/acknowledgements – whatever. After all issues have been dealt with concerning the data in the first post, I will post the next section, and so on, and so on. Be aware that since the essay was not originally designed to be partitioned, the sections may seem to end/start abruptly:
Christianity was brought to the Swedes by the Church of Rome through St. Ansgar in 829. With the consent of King Björn, he laboured for the conversion of souls a whole year, with only some success. In 852, he returned an archbishop and made great strides, a work continued by his successor Rimbert. At this time, according to the chronicles of Nestor, an indigenous Slavic tribe of the lands on the east coast of the Baltic Sea called the Ilmen, sent messengers to Sweden, inviting them to settle their lands. By the end of the ninth century, the Varangians (Swedish adventurers) had established themselves on the eastern bank of the Baltic Sea and penetrated as far east as present-day Minsk (what became the principality of Polotsk). From the north down the Dnieper River, the Swedes under Oleg moved south, establishing themselves at Novgorod in 862, and capturing the city of Kieff from the Khazars in 882. Some of these settlers/conquerors were Latin Catholics. Igor, son of Rurik, a kinsman of Oleg, succeeded him as ruler of Kievan-Rus. Igor’s wife was St. Olga, whose son was Sviatoslav, father of St. Vladimir.
SIDEBAR: The word “Rus” was a synonym for the Varangians, etymologically derived from the Finnish word for the Swedes “Routsi.”
St. Olga was baptized at Constantinople in 959. Upon return to Kiev and desiring to share her new faith, she petitioned King Otto I of Germany for a bishop and priests to evangelize her people. King Otto complied through Bishop Adaldag of Bremen, and after years of slow and oftentimes disheartening evangelization, the See of Polotsk (present-day Belarus) was finally created in 992. The first bishop consecrated for the post died before arriving there; he was succeeded by Bishop St. Adalbert.
COMMENT1: If the Swedes already knew of Christianity, why did St. Olga get baptized at Constantinople? Did she reject the Latin Christianity of the Swedes? This is a sheer impossibility due to the fact that she requested evangelization from a Latin Catholic monarch. In fact, Olga was not Swedish, but Slav (a simple country girl, as some describe her), so it is not likely she had any initial contact with Christianity. What most likely occurred was that she was a member of a diplomatic/commercial envoy to Constantinople, where she first encountered the undivided faith (Igor had previously tried to conquer Constantinople in 941, and, failing that, concluded a commercial treaty with them in 945 before his death; from 945 to the accession of her son Sviatoslav in 962, she was basically the ruler of Kievan-Rus). Though many Swedes were Latin Catholic, it seems the Christian faith did not reach the ruling classes of the Kievan Rus region until the mid-10th century with St. Olga and King Rahvolod (see below). It is possible that Olga requested missionaries from Germany though the counsel of Rahvolod, as Sweden itself was evangelized from Germany. Thus, the first Christians in Kievan Rus were indeed Catholics of the Latin Church.