Independence decree presented to Ukrainian Orthodox bishop

Mikhail Tereshchenko  TASS

Mikhail Tereshchenko TASS

"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 Ecumenical Patriarch, who is considered "first among equals" in the Orthodox world, said the Ukrainians "have awaited this blessed day for seven entire centuries".

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko were on hand to witness the ceremony.

Poroshenko thanked Bartholomew "for the courage to make this historic decision" and said that "among the 15 stars of the Orthodox churches of the world a Ukrainian star has appeared", referring to the updated number of churches that don't answer to an external authority. Orthodox churches in other countries are aligning with Moscow or Constantinople in the rift.

The Ukrainian church has been under the control of Russian Federation since 1686.

For years, the Orthodox church in Ukraine has been split into three main branches: the originally canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) and the non-canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Nikolai Balashov, another senior official for the Russian Orthodox Church, hit out at Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, saying he had "ended the global Orthodox fraternity and permanently lost the right to be called a spiritual leader".

"The most useful thing for peace in the [Orthodox] church, its unity... would be to stop and postpone this [unification] process until the Ukrainian problem is studied and a pan-Orthodox solution is found". In a Twitter post, Çavuşoğlu wrote he discussed bilateral relations and regional issues with Klimkin during the meeting.

The push for a full-fledged Ukrainian church was bolstered by fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed rebels.

Ukraine has accused Kremlin-backed churches of spreading pro-Russia propaganda, which Russian religious leaders have denied.

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. He argued Ukrainians "desired ecclesiastical independence" for centuries and never accepted that they were part of the Russian church.

"Tomos - is just a paper, the result of restless political and personal ambitions".

The autonomy move comes ahead of the Ukrainian presidential elections slated for March 31.

The Patriarchate of Moscow has more followers than the Patriarchate of Constantinople and has challenged it for authority in the past.

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