Published: Sun, January 06, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Ukrainian Orthodox Church gets 'autocephaly' status

Ukrainian Orthodox Church gets 'autocephaly' status

Bartholomew I said the move would grant Ukrainians "the sacred gift of emancipation, independence and self-governance", adding they would be "free from every external reliance and intervention". The Russian church, which now has about 150 million Orthodox Christians under its authority, could lose a fifth of its members.

The spiritual head of Orthodox Christians worldwide formally granted independence to the Ukrainian church on Saturday, marking an historic split from Russian Federation which Ukrainian leaders see as vital to the country's security. It favours European integration and championed the independent church but the Moscow Patriarchate denounces it as schismatic.

Poroshenko said he regarded gaining autocephaly as an important step in "Ukraine's decolonization from Russian Federation".

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has campaigned for the creation of the new church, met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the ceremony. "(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".

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. The churches strongly deny this.

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Last month, Poroshenko and scores of bishops chose Metropolitan Epiphanus as the head of the new Ukrainian Orthodox church in a ceremony at St Sophia's Cathedral in Kiev.

Prior to the signing of the document on autocephaly, a prayer service was held attended by Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko, Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin, Speaker Andrei Parubiy, Metropolitan Epiphany, Constantinople clergy, as well as other Ukrainian politicians and hierarchs of the schismatic Ukrainian church organization.

More specifically, Patriarch Vartholomaios will on Sunday give the tomos - the formal decree of autocephaly - to Metropolitan Epiphanius in Istanbul.

Ukraine marked a historic split from Russian Federation in December when it chose the head of a new national Orthodox church. Kirill has also objected to Bartholomew's close relationship with the Roman Catholic church and Pope Francis, and has long seen Moscow as a rival power centre to Constantinople.

The patriarch first endorsed Ukraine's entreaties for an independent church in October. He added: "I'm certain that soon our sister church of Russian Federation will repent for this extreme decision".

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