Ukrainian Orthodox Church formally breaks from Russia [LaCroix]

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    Ukrainian Orthodox Church formally breaks from Russia

    Patriarch Bartholomew I hails 'sacred gift of emancipation, independence and self-governance'

    La Croix International staff
    January 7, 2019


    An Orthodox church in the Crimea. (Photo: Pixabay)

    The creation of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church has severed historic domination by Russia dating back to 1686.

    The move, which threatens to exacerbate already hostile relations between the governments of Ukraine and Russia under nationalistic President Vladimir Putin, was formally announced on Jan. 5, Associated Press (AP) reported.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was present when the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, signed off on the split in Istanbul, Turkey.

    Now Ukrainian clerics will be forced to take sides between Moscow-backed Ukrainian churches and the new body, titled the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

    This comes as a violent conflict continues in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Moscow-backed secessionist rebels.

    Bartholomew I, in his address at the independence ceremony in Istanbul, said that pious Ukrainian people had awaited "this blessed day" for centuries.

    The patriarch, considered what is termed "the first among equals" by many Orthodox Christians, said Ukrainians could now enjoy the "sacred gift of emancipation, independence and self-governance, becoming free from every external reliance and intervention."

    Poroshenko thanked Bartholomew I for what he said was a courageous decision to make the Ukrainian Church independent under the leadership of 39-year-old Metropolitan Epiphanius.

    Bartholomew I's announcement in October of the intention to proceed with breaking away from Russia infuriated Moscow and the Russian Church cut ties with Istanbul, which is the spiritual center of the Orthodox world.

    Vasily Anisimov, a spokesman for the Russian-affiliated Church in Ukraine, warned that the decision would "not bring anything to Ukraine except trouble, separation and sin."

    The split follows Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea in eastern Ukraine.

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