CONSTANTINOPLE (AP) – Dozens of Orthodox men dove into Constantinople’s cold waters to retrieve a cross to mark the baptism of Jesus Christ.
On Sunday, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I led worshippers in the Epiphany, throwing a blessed wooden cross into the Golden Horn inlet.
Michalis Voznakidis from Greece took the cross and the men kissed it before coming ashore. He said “we are here for everyone, for our religion.”
The ceremony took place after Bartholomew granted independence to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, in a historic move that has angered Russia.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Metropolitan Epiphanius I of the new church joined the Epiphany in Istanbul.
The Patriarchate in Istanbul is considered the heart of the Orthodox world and dates back to the Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when the Muslim Ottomans conquered the city in 1453.