On 16 October 2020, the President of Ukraine, Mr. Volodymyr Zelensky, visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate where he was received with great honor. He was accompanied by his wife Mrs. Olena Zelenska and a large group of officials from the Presidency and the Government of Ukraine, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Ankara Mr. Andrii Sybiha and the Consul General of the country in Istanbul, Mr. Oleksandr Gaman.
Upon their arrival, they visited the Patriarchal Cathedral, where His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France presided over a prayer service for the Ukrainian people. Then President Zelensky was received in the Patriarchal Office by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. During their cordial special meeting, President Zelensky invited His All-Holiness to pay an official visit to Ukraine in 2021, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the independence of Ukraine.
“We feel that you bring us the feelings of love, respect and devotion of the entire Ukrainian people to the Mother Church of Constantinople, from which you received the light of Christianity and which always surrounds you with motherly affection and constant prayer,” said the Ecumenical Patriarch who added: “The manifestation of these feelings of the Mother Church was the granting of autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine, which we see progressing, flourishing, and of which we are proud. We follow the course and works of our brother His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphany of Kyiv and we thank God because the best election took place and he is a worthy leader of your Church”.
Shortly afterwards, in the Reception Hall of the ancient Patriarchal Palace, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew welcomed and blessed the members of the escort of the President of Ukraine. His All-Holiness once again expressed his joy and satisfaction for the continuous progress, stability, peace and prosperity that exists in Ukraine and referred to the thirtieth anniversary of the country’s independence, which will be completed in 2021, and noted that during those years, Ukraine went through many difficulties that were a consequence of the previous regime and the previous years. “I wish you to celebrate this thirtieth anniversary in 2021 with enthusiasm, with joy, with great happiness,” added the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Ecumenical Patriarch recalled with emotion his previous visit to Ukraine, in 2008, during which he received the hospitable feelings of the Ukrainian people and was blessed to concelebrate at the historic Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv as well as on the St. Vladimir’s Hill with their Beatitudes the late Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia, the Archbishops Jerome of Athens and all of Greece and the Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and all of Albania. The Ecumenical Patriarch expressed his wish to have more frequent meetings with the President at the Phanar and in Ukraine. President Zelensky agreed, noting that the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch will be a particularly important moment for Ukraine.
Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian president briefed the Ecumenical Patriarch on the situation in Donbas, and wished progress or even a resolution of the conflict before the patriarchal visit, with a special focus on the issue of the return of prisoners. “We wish it with all our hearts. We understand the pain of these families who were deprived of their children or their spouses,” replied the Ecumenical Patriarch. His All-Holiness then offered small souvenirs as a blessing to the members of the presidential entourage and then said goodbye to the President of Ukraine, at the main entrance of the Patriarchate, at his departure from the Phanar.