Independence Decree Presented to Ukrainian Orthodox Bishop

Minnie Murray
January 8, 2019

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 Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, signed the "Tomos" in Istanbul Saturday in front of clerics and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, formalizing a split that has angered Moscow amid a broader poliitical conflict between Ukraine and Russia, NPR reported.

Last month, Poroshenko and scores of bishops chose Metropolitan Epiphanus as the head of the new Ukrainian Orthodox church in a ceremony at St Sophia's Cathedral in Kiev.

The Constantinople Patriarchate, based in modern-day Istanbul and considered the first among equals in the Orthodox world, first agreed to recognise the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in October.

"The pious Ukrainian people have awaited this blessed day for seven entire centuries", Bartholomew said in his address.

The decree was signed at a landmark ceremony on Saturday, putting the formal stamp on a break with the Russian Orthodox church which has infuriated Moscow.

"The creation of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine is the pledge of our independence".

"What happened due to the help of Patriarch Bartholomew is a legitimized split that existed during the last 30 years", said Archbishop Kliment, spokesperson of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The decision may also lead to a lasting schism in the global Orthodox movement, says the BBC's Jonah Fisher in Kiev, Ukraine. He is expected to get a tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Istanbul on January 6. Many Russians oppose the split, an opinion that hardened after fighting in 2014 when Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. "It was signed in breach of canonicity and this is why it has no power", he said in a Telegram message, according to Reuters news agency.

What Kiev is doing is "very risky because if, let's just say, a number of autocephalous churches do not accept the Ukrainian new church, then we will have a schism, a break", Fr Mark Tyson, an American Orthodox priest and rector of a West Virginia-based church, explained to RT.

Yepifaniy, whose secular name is Sergiy Dumenko, has been a critic of Moscow's religious influence in Ukraine and has supported Kiev's army against pro-Russian rebels.

The move has dealt a huge blow to Moscow's spiritual authority in the Orthodox world, prompting it to cut all ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate in protest.

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