Ukraine Orthodox church gains independence from Russian Federation

Arturo Kim
January 8, 2019

Poroshenko and the leader of the new Ukrainian church, Metropolitan Epifaniy, were also in attendance at Saturday's ceremony.

The newly elected head of the Ukrainian Orthodox church travelled to Istanbul to receive the "tomos", or decree of autocephaly (independence), from the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, in an elaborate ceremony in St George's Cathedral on the eve of the Orthodox Christmas.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East John X said it is "unreasonable to mend the schism [in Ukraine] at the cost of the unity of the Orthodox world".

Before the signing of the document, the head of the OCU, Metropolitan Epiphanius, Metropolitan Oleksandr (Drabynko) and Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky) transferred to the OCU from the UOC of Moscow Patriarchate, and Metropolitan of Lutsk and Volynsky Mykhailo (Zinkevych) from the UOC of Kyiv Patriarchate took part in the collective prayer.

"The pious Ukrainian people have awaited this blessed day for seven entire centuries", Bartholomew said in his address on Saturday.

The patriarch, who is considered "first among equals" in Orthodox Christianity, said Ukrainians could now enjoy "the sacred gift of emancipation, independence and self-governance, becoming free from every external reliance and intervention".

Bartholomew I will officially hand the decree to the new Ukrainian church at a mass in Istanbul on Sunday, Russia's state-owned TASS news agency reported.

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A fully-independent Ukrainian Orthodox Christian church has been decreed after a split with the Russian Orthodox church.

"The creation of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine is the pledge of our independence".

It had been "signed in violation of the canons and therefore not possessing any canonical force", Legoida said in a statement. "(It) will make Moscow's hope of some future pull of Ukraine back into its "orbit" nigh on impossible without the use of overwhelming (catastrophic) military force".

It came after Bartholomew I revoked a 1686 ruling that placed Ukraine under the patriarchate in Moscow in October.

Ukraine and Russian Federation have been at loggerheads since 2014, when Kiev street protests calling for Ukraine's integration with Europe led to the fall of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia devolved into hostilities in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and violent conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government.

"We will have to see which Ukrainian bishops will join the new church and which other Orthodox churches will recognise it", she added.

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