Ukrainian priests rile Moscow with moves to set up independent Orthodox Church
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced the creation of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, marking a historic split from Russia. He said national security depended on “spiritual independence” from Russia. He was speaking at a special council of orthodox priests in Kiev, where a new leader of the Church was selected. The Russian Orthodox Church cuts with the spiritual authority of the world’s Orthodoxy after it recognized the Ukrainian Church’s independence. Russia also fears that its churches in Ukraine could be captured. Despite Russia’s loyalty to the Church, loyal to Moscow from the event, two of its bishops were reported to be found in Kiev in Kiev.
What happened in Kiev?
The special council was held in the St. Sophia’s Cathedral – one of Kiev’s best known landmarks. Ukrainian clerics of different Orthodox denominations – including some bishops from the Moscow branch – elected Metropolitan Epifaniiy as the leader of the new church. “Pouroshenko, President of the Russian Federation, said,” This day will go into history as a sacred day … the day of the final independence from Russia, “said Poroshenko a crowd of thousands told the cathedral. Ahead of the meeting, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, called on religious and world leaders to protect and clerify in Ukraine from what he called the persecution.
What is the dispute all about?
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is under the patriarchate for centuries. But the tensions within the church mounted after Ukraine became independent in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today there are currently three Orthodox Church branches based in Kiev:
- The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate)
- The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)
- The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
The drive for Ukrainian Orthodox independence is intensified in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and Russia-backed separatists seized a large swathe area in Ukraine.
The Moscow branch of the Ukrainian Church has denied a tool of Kremlin, and says it has tried to bring peace in eastern Ukraine.