|President Victor Yushchenko bestows Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with Ukraine's highest decoration, the First Class Order Cross of Prince Yaroslav the Wise.
President Victor Yushchenko awarded His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Ukraine's highest decoration: the First Class Order Cross of Prince Yaroslav the Wise. The occasion, on Saturday, July 26, 2008, coincided with celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Kiev-Russia to the Orthodox Christian faith. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew thanked President Yushchenko and offered the following words:
"Your Excellency Mr. President,
"For the Hierarchs of the Church, and even more so for the Patriarchs, the highest distinction and decoration cannot be anything more but their priesthood and the cross of their pastoral care. Nevertheless, and for the sake of the satisfaction of the piety of God's people, who wish always to express their filial gratitude for their guidance in Christ, for their spiritual protection and nourishment, for their sanctification and blessing, for their support and moral strengthening, all of which they receive from the Bishops and Patriarchs who, by definition, represent and symbolize Christ, we accept the honor, such as the one we receive today on behalf of Your Excellency and in the name of the pious Ukrainian nation.
"Accepting, thus, the highest medal of Ukraine, the First Class Order Cross of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, we thank most warmly Your Excellency for the bestowal. We consider this highest honor as honoring not so much the person of our Modesty but rather the very holy institution of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the martyred Throne of Constantinople, from which, a thousand twenty years ago, came to this country and to the great people of Ukraine the light of the Gospel, the Grace and the Truth. Constantinople was the spiritual Mother of Ukraine and its people, to whom she gave birth "by water and by the Spirit." Constantinople supported with care the Ukrainian people not only during their first steps in the Christian faith but during their over a millennium long journey in Christ, she nourished them with the life-giving bread of the Holy Sacraments, watered them with the waters of the Gospel's truth, defended them against a multiplicity of truth's and Orthodoxy's perfidious enemies and, in brief, grafted them fully and successfully in the body of the Risen Christ, securing thus for them potential and actual everlasting life and salvation.
"Displaying your highest distinction, we will be reminded of course of the great visionary prince Yaroslav the Wise, who, mutatis mutandis, could be considered as your own Justinian. An intelligent leader who promoted the letters, codified the law, secured the state institutions, freed West Galicia, faced successfully many enemies, cultivated relationships with countries of the West Europe, built significant fortresses and public buildings, more importantly some hundreds of churches with most significant among them the Byzantine church of St. Sophia in Kiev, a church that became the sanctuary of the Kievan Rus' piety and in which the believing heart of the Ukrainian people continues to beat today—finally, he supported with all his strength and in many ways Orthodoxy, whose faithful and dedicated son remained always. We will also be reminded of the entire history of Ukraine, its troubles, the hardships that its people faced at times, but also its successes and its progress, not only in faith but also in society, science, technology, the arts and in many other fields, of which you have the right to be proud. We will be reminded of Ukraine's Saints, Martyrs, Confessors and the many ascetics who were found pleasing to God and constitute Ukraine's eternal glory. We will be reminded of you, Your Excellency, and the esteemed government of your country, your love and respect for the martyred Mother Church of Constantinople and us personally. We will be reminded of the entire glorious Ukrainian nation and its Holy Church and we will have in front of us a constant reminder of our duty to fervently pray for you to God.
"Thanking, therefore, wholeheartedly and most gratefully Your Excellency, most dear and esteemed Mr. President, we bless you from the depths of our heart in the name of the Triune God and we wish you many years in good health and strength from above so that you continue to offer your precious services to your country and your people for many years to come."