Final approval granted for fully-independent Ukrainian Orthodox Christian church


Poroshenko meets Erdoğan in Istanbul ahead of Ukrainian church independence ceremony

Kiev says Moscow-backed churches on its soil are a Kremlin tool to spread propaganda and support fighters in the eastern Donbass region in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has handed over a "tomos" of autocephaly to Metropolitan Epifaniy of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

The patriarch, who is 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". Joining Poroshenko was 39-year-old Metropolitan Epiphanius, who was elected last month as head of the new Ukranian Orthodox Church.

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on Sunday presented a decree of independence to the head of the nascent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, formally severing it from the Russian Orthodox Church.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Ukrainian couterpart Petro Poroshenko met early Saturday for a breakfast in Istanbul, where the Ukrainian leader is visiting to receive a decree granting autonomy to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Poroshenko thanked Bartholomew "for the courage to make this historic decision" and said that "among the 15 stars of the Orthodox churches of the world a Ukrainian star has appeared", referring to the updated number of churches that don't answer to an external authority. He argued Ukrainians "desired ecclesiastical independence" for centuries and never accepted that they were part of the Russian church.

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

The Ukrainian church's new leader is Metropolitan Yepifaniy.

A fully-independent Ukrainian Orthodox Christian church has been decreed after a split with the Russian Orthodox church. Many Russians oppose the split, an opinion that hardened after fighting in 2014 when Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

Criticism continued Saturday when a spokesman for the Russia-affiliated church in Ukraine, Vasily Anisimov, said, "We consider these actions to be anti-canonical". In the latest standoff in November, Ukraine imposed martial law after Russian Federation captured three Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait near Crimea.

Poroshenko announced the end of the measure last month, saying military rule had to be lifted on account of an upcoming presidential vote scheduled to be held on March 31. 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.

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