Independence Decree Presented to Ukrainian Orthodox Bishop

Independence Decree Presented to Ukrainian Orthodox Bishop

Independence Decree Presented to Ukrainian Orthodox Bishop

The Ecumenical Patriarchate first agreed to recognise the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in October.

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.

"This is not and won't be anymore", he said at the Christmas liturgy in St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv where the tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was shown to the public.

The Ukrainian Orthodox church has been beholden to Moscow for hundreds of years, and Ukraine's leaders see church independence as vital to tackling Russian meddling.

The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was created following the results of the December 15 All-Ukrainian Orthodox Unity Council, where Epiphanius, the metropolitan of Pereiaslav and Bila Tserkva, was elected primate of the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Ukraine is home to millions of believers who belong to the Orthodox Church, but their loyalties are divided between the Kiev and Moscow patriarchates.

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

The patriarch, 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".

Poroshenko met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the ceremony. Now, nurturing the Orthodox Church of Ukraine remains part of his electoral campaign.

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.

Vladimir Legoida, a spokesman for the Moscow church, denounced the decree as "a document that is the result of irrepressible political and personal ambitions", the AFP news agency reported.

The decision may also lead to a lasting schism in the global Orthodox movement, says the BBC's Jonah Fisher in Kiev, Ukraine.

It had been "signed in violation of the canons and therefore not possessing any canonical force", Legoida added in a statement.

The Patriarchate of Moscow has more followers than the Patriarchate of Constantinople and has challenged it for authority in the past.

He has been a long time critic of Moscow's religious influence in Ukraine.

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.

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