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