Published: Sun, January 06, 2019
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Ukrainian Orthodox Church Officially Gains Independence From Russian Church

Ukrainian Orthodox Church Officially Gains Independence From Russian Church

Ukraine's churches have for centuries been under the authority of the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow.

Upset at losing its Ukrainian parishes, the Russian Orthodox Church - which is the world's largest - has already cut ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual authority of the world's Orthodox church after it recognised the Ukrainian Church's independence.

Just one day before Orthodox Christmas, an official decree marking the independence of Ukraine's new church was granted by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to the head of the Kiev-established entity.

An independent Ukrainian Orthodox church was decreed at a ceremony at the Patriarchal Church of St George.

The independence decree will force Ukrainian clerics to pick sides between the Moscow-backed Ukrainian churches and the new church as fighting persists in eastern Ukraine between government forces and rebels backed by Russian Federation. "Meanwhile, the new church will not be completely independent as it is likely to be "[tightly] controlled by Constantinople".

Yepifaniy, whose secular name is Sergiy Dumenko, has been a critic of Moscow's religious influence in Ukraine and has supported Kiev's army against pro-Russian rebels.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, after signing the tomos of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine on Saturday, stated that the Ukrainian people had been "waiting for this blessed day for seven centuries", that's according to his address to Metropolitan Epifaniy, the leader of the newly-formed OCU.

Ukraine imposed martial law in November, citing the threat of a full-scale invasion after Russian Federation captured three of its vessels in the Kerch Strait.

Epifaniy was chosen by a council at the St Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, built by the son of Prince Volodymyr whose baptism in 988 led to the spread of Christianity in the region. Poroshenko, who had pushed for the new church, attended the presentation ceremony in Istanbul. Russian Federation bitterly opposes the split, comparing it to the 1054 Great Schism that divided western and eastern Christianity. "(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". "I want to thank the generations of Ukrainians who dreamed.and finally God sent us the Orthodox Church of Ukraine".

The Moscow branch of the Ukrainian Church has denied accusations that it acts as a tool of the Kremlin, and says it has tried to bring about peace in eastern Ukraine.

The row over independence for the Ukrainian church is seen as a proxy for political tensions between Moscow and Kiev.

Like this: