Orthodox Church to move forward with Ukrainian independence

Lester Mason
October 12, 2018

Russian Federation opposes any steps that lead to a split in Orthodox Christianity, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday, when asked about Ukraine's bid to establish an independent church outside Moscow's control.

The Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine will equally coexist with all other churches and religious organizations as guaranteed by the Constitution and law.

Ukraine's Orthodox church split from Moscow in the 1990s, with the charismatic Filaret a foremost proponent of a new independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Synod decreed to "renew the decision already made that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceed to the granting of Autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine".

But the Russian Orthodox Church said that the Patriarchate had taken "catastrophic" decisions both for itself and global Orthodoxy.

The Istanbul-based patriarchate, whose head Bartholomew I is considered the "first among equals" of Orthodox church leaders, said it was removing its condemnation of leaders of schismatic Orthodox churches in Ukraine, a step toward establishing an ecclesiastically independent - or autocephalous - church in Ukraine.


The Ukrainian Church is now split into three bodies, one technically overseen by the Patriarch of Moscow, a fact the Kiev government considers unacceptable given its ongoing war with Russia-backed rebels in the east.

Ukraine now has three Orthodox communities - those that stay under Moscow's control and two schismatic churches.

"The task of this council is to approve the decision on church unity, elect the Primate of the united local autocephalous UOC, who will get on its behalf the Patriarchal and Synodal tomos on the autocephaly of the UOC", according to a statement of the UOC-KP. Moscow-loyal church representatives can attend if they desire, he said.

The Kremlin's comments could inflame tensions between Kiev and Moscow, whose relations collapsed following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of a Moscow-backed separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine and Russian Federation have been at loggerheads since 2014 when Kiev street protests urging Ukrainian integration with Europe prompted the ousting of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych. It strikes at the belief of many Russians that Moscow is the "Third Rome", the heir to Rome as Christianity's center.

"The creation of a local Ukrainian church has been one of Poroshenko's main slogans going into the 2019 presidential election", said Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst at Ukraine's Penta think-tank.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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