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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kirill Willing to Spend Half of Year in Ukraine

APPatriarch Kirill conducting a service on Wednesday in Pochayiv, Ukraine.

Patriarch Kirill said he could become a Ukrainian citizen and spend more time there as part of an effort to maintain religious influence in the country, his office said Wednesday.

“I would be ready to accept Ukrainian citizenship, sure. I have no problems with that,” Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, said in remarks released by his office.

The statement comes as Kirill concludes a 10-day visit to Ukraine, seen as aimed at hampering efforts to win recognition of a local Orthodox Church.

Kirill vowed to decorate his throne hall in Moscow with a Ukrainian flag and said he favored the idea of spending half of his year in Ukraine.

“This is a very good idea,” Kirill said. “The patriarch just needs a bit more health and energy.”

Although last week Kirill rejected calls to recognize the independent Ukrainian church, he struck a more conciliatory tone Wednesday. He said the Moscow Patriarchate failed to accommodate the needs of an independent Ukrainian nation after 1991.

“Understandably, not everyone was happy to hear me, and not everyone agreed. But the patriarch has to speak the truth. With humility and love, I tried to speak it to the Ukrainian people, the Orthodox Church and all who wanted to listen,” he said, Interfax reported.

He was speaking after a service at the Pochayiv Lavra, about 450 kilometers west of Kiev. Kirill also thanked the authorities for their help, saying everything was “well organized and the visit went very smoothly and calmly.”

He had to skip a planned trip to the western Rivne region because of nationalist protests.

(AP, MT)