Poroshenko: Ukraine finally severs ties with Russian Federation

Geneva Stokes
January 8, 2019

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.

An independent Ukrainian Orthodox church was created at a signing ceremony in Turkey on January 5, formalizing a split with the Russian church it had been tied to since 1686.

The move is forcing 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 Russia-backed rebels.

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 announced the decision to recognize Ukraine's request for an autocephalous church in October.

The move incensed Moscow, and prompted President Vladimir Putin to warn of possible bloodshed in his annual news conference. In the latest standoff in November, Ukraine imposed martial law after Russian Federation captured three Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait near Crimea.

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, a narrow sea passage close to the Crimean peninsula that separates the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

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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. The churches strongly deny this.

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

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

The new church may boost pro-Western leader Poroshenko, who lobbied hard for its creation and faces a tight election race in March. Poroshenko said as he thanked the Orthodox patriarch. On Dec 20, Ukrainian MPs passed a law that could force the church to add "Russian" to its name.

But tensions within the Church mounted after Ukraine became independent in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Ukrainian church has been under the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchate since 1686, and its independence is a heavy blow to Moscow.

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