Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Kremlin opposes Ukraine church's bid for independence: spokesman

Ukrainian church wins independence battle against Moscow Patriarchate Kremlin opposes Ukraine church's bid for independence: spokesman
Jeannette Daniel | 12 October, 2018, 05:41

MOSCOW-The foremost leader in Orthodox Christianity said he would grant Ukraine a self-governing church independent of Russian Federation, handing the former Soviet republic a significant victory in its efforts to reduce the Kremlin's influence there.

Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, conducts a service at the Volodymysky Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

In another key move, the synod also agreed to reinstate the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Patriarch Filaret and Kiev Metropolitan Makariy to their canonical ranks following their excommunication in the dispute with Moscow.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the decision, announced Thursday after a three-day meeting of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and his top advisers, as a turning point in efforts to tear free of the grasp of its former master.

Since the late 1600s, the church in Ukraine has been formally under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"For us, our own church is a guarantee of our spiritual freedom", Poroshenko said.

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Responding the decision, a spokesman for Kirill said that Bartholomew's Constantinople Patriarchate "crossed a red line" and made "catastrophic decisions for the entire Orthodox world".

While there is no equivalent of the Catholic pope among Orthodox Christians, the Constantinople patriarch is often regarded as "first among equals" and wields a measure of traditional authority among other patriarchs.

Ukraine now has three Orthodox communities - those that stay under Moscow's control and two schismatic churches.

Ukraine and Russian Federation have been at loggerheads since 2014 when Kiev street protests urging Ukrainian integration with Europe prompted the ousting of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych.

During the independence row, representatives of Moscow Patriarchate warned the resulting conflict could be comparable with the Great Schism from 1054, which split the Christian church into Catholics in the West and Orthodox Christians in the East. It strikes at the belief of many Russians that Moscow is the "Third Rome", the heir to Rome as Christianity's center.

The move could benefit Poroshenko in next year's elections.

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