Published: Tue, January 08, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Ukraine Orthodox Church granted independence from Russian Church

Ukraine Orthodox Church granted independence from Russian Church

If they decide at a general meeting that they want to voluntarily join the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine, they will be accepted into the structure of the single Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

The Istanbul-based Orthodox patriarch on Sunday handed over a formal decree confirming the creation of an independent Ukrainian church to its leader, Metropolitan Yepifaniy.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has signed the Tomos of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) at St. George's Cathedral in Istanbul.

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.

Before the signing of the document, the head of the OCU, Metropolitan Epiphanius, Metropolitan Oleksandr (Drabynko) and Metropolitan Simeon (Shostatsky) transferred to the OCU from the UOC of Moscow Patriarchate, and Metropolitan of Lutsk and Volynsky Mykhailo (Zinkevych) from the UOC of Kyiv Patriarchate took part in the collective prayer.

Bartholomew I, considered first among equals in Orthodox patriarchy, announced the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has become the 15th independent Orthodox church.

In November, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Bartholomew signed a cooperation agreement. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill made a last ditch appeal against the process last month.

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The tomos come one day before the celebration of Orthodox Christmas.

The patriarch first endorsed Ukraine's entreaties for an independent church in October. "(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".

The recently formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine has officially grained independence, severing its relationship to the Russian Church that it had been tied to for more than 330 years. "It was signed in breach of canonicity and this is why it has no power", Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Synodal Department for Church-Society and Media Relations, posted in Telegram messenger.

Many Ukrainians had resented the status of the Moscow-affiliated church.

"I want to thank the generations of Ukrainians who dreamed...and finally God sent us the Orthodox Church of Ukraine", he told the congregation in the crowded church.

Russian Federation long opposed such efforts by the Ukrainians for an independent church, which intensified after Russian Federation seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and began supporting separatists shortly thereafter in parts of Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

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