Ukrainian church granted independence from Russian church

Ukrainian Orthodox Church breaks away from Russian influence


The biggest rift in Christianity in centuries is expected to open up after a new Orthodox church in Ukraine gained formal independence from Moscow in a move set to heighten geopolitical tensions in the region.

The recently established Orthodox Church of Ukraine has been granted independence, formalising an historic split from the Russian Church after more than 300 years of alignment.

Nevertheless, after the council, the Ukrainian president announced the establishment of this new church in the country.

Last month, Poroshenko and scores of bishops chose Metropolitan Epiphanus as the head of the new Ukrainian Orthodox church in a ceremony at St Sophia's Cathedral in Kiev.

The Russian Orthodox Church cut ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate in protest at the move, which dealt a huge blow to Moscow's spiritual authority in the Orthodox world. He has backed autocephaly as part of a pushback against Russian influence in Ukraine.

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Russia subsequently annexed Crimea and has supported Russian-speaking separatists in Ukraine's east, in a conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people.

Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko received the Tomos of Autocephaly (autonomy) of Ukraine's church from the hands of Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew at the Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul. If they decide at a general meeting that they want to voluntarily join the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine, they will be accepted into the structure of the single Orthodox Church of Ukraine. "It was signed in breach of canonicity and this is why it has no power", Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Synodal Department for Church-Society and Media Relations, posted in Telegram messenger.

Religious divisions deepened in Ukraine after 2014 and two Orthodox factions - the Kremlin-backed Moscow Patriarchate and the rival Kiev Patriarchate which formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 - vie for dominance. He added: "I'm certain that soon our sister church of Russian Federation will repent for this extreme decision".

Bartholomew said Ukrainians could now enjoy "the sacred gift of emancipation, independence, and self-governance, becoming free from every external reliance and intervention".

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