Ukraine celebrates Orthodox Easter with prayers to those who are trapped

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KYIV, Ukraine — The sun came out as Ukrainians marked Orthodox Easter in the capital, Kyiv, on Sunday with prayers for those fighting on the front lines and others trapped beyond them in places like Mariupol.

St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kyiv was ringed by hundreds of worshippers with baskets to be blessed. A woman reached out to touch the arm of a soldier and smacked his elbow briefly. Others held handfuls of candles and prayed before crossing their arms. One older woman made her way slowly through the crowd, passing by stands of flickering candles. One young woman held daffodils.

A soldier, who only gave his first name, Mykhailo outside the cathedral, used his helmet for an Easter basket. He said he didn’t have another.

“I hope I’ll only have to use the helmet for this,” he said.

At a service in Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zilenskyy urged Ukrainians to not let their anger at war overtake them.

“All of us believe our sunrise will come soon,” he said.

The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians called for the opening of humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, saying a “human tragedy” was unfolding in the country.

Saturday night, Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch, spoke in Istanbul at midnight Mass. He is the Eastern Orthodox patriarch considered first among equals. This gives him prominence, but not the power and authority of a Catholic pope.

Some worshippers hoped that the holy day would inspire acts of peacemaking, as the Orthodox Church was split by tensions between Russia & Ukraine. “The church can help,” said one man who gave only his first name, Serhii, as he came to a church in Kyiv under the Moscow Patriarchate.

He and others brought baskets to be blessed by priests for Easter, with flicks of a brush sprinkling holy water over offerings of home-dyed eggs, lighted candles and even bottles of Jack Daniel’s.

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