Published: Sat, December 15, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Russian Orthodox church calls on United Nations for help in Ukraine

Russian Orthodox church calls on United Nations for help in Ukraine

Ukrainian Orthodox leaders on Saturday approved the creation of a unified church independent of the Moscow Patriarchate and elected a leader to head the new church, officials said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed the decision following a historic synod at Kyiv's Saint Sophia Cathedral when the country's Orthodox Council voted to establish the independent church.

Some voiced fears that authorities will seize churches from the communities under the Moscow patriarchate and give them to the new church. He stressed that the new church's doors would be open to all, and encouraged Ukrainians to rally behind it.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has made the creation of a new church a key campaign issue, attended the synod as a non-voting observer.

The "independent" status of the church, desired by senior Ukrainian officials, has turned out to be much less impressive than initially advertised.

"The question of autocephaly is a question of Ukrainian national security", Poroshenko had told the council earlier.

"The state has no right to interfere with church affairs".

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The newly formed community is now expected to receive independence from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Istanbul-based institution considered the so-called "first among equals" of leaders of the world's Orthodox Churches. "We are breaking the chains that tie us to the (Russian) empire".

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was present at the historic synod as it created a new Ukrainian Orthodox church independent from Russian Federation. Russian Federation complains that priests loyal to its branch of the church are being harassed by the SBU.

The meeting was dominated by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, the country's largest branch by number of believers. The head of the Church, Kiev Metropolitan Bishop Onufriy, returned his "invitation" (effectively an ultimatum) back to the sender.

In a statement issued on December 14, the Russian Orthodox Church said Patriarch Kirill has sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Thomas Greminger, the secretary-general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Pope Francis, and other spiritual leaders, urging them to help protect believers and their faith in Ukraine. The agency also has summoned dozens of priests in for questioning.

Ukraine's SBU security service warned this week that Russian Federation was planning to stage "provocations" in the country as the clerics were meeting.

Moscow has also been widely accused of backing pro-Russian separatists battling the Ukrainian military in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has killed 10,000 people, according to United Nations estimates.

While Ukraine boasts two other self-styled Orthodox "churches", one of which even has its own self-proclaimed "patriarch", any sort of unification council with the majority of schismatics in attendance would effectively be void, experts have repeatedly warned.

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