Ukraine Orthodox Church granted independence from Russian Church

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The biggest rift in Christianity in centuries is expected to open up after a new Orthodox church in Ukraine gained formal independence from Moscow in a move set to heighten geopolitical tensions in the region. He argued Ukrainians "desired ecclesiastical independence" for centuries and never accepted that they were part of the Russian church.

The Russian Orthodox Church cut ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate in protest at the move, which dealt a huge blow to Moscow's spiritual authority in the Orthodox world.

In addition, according to the text of the document, the autocephalous PCU is limited to the borders of the Ukrainian state, it can not appoint bishops or create paraffies outside Ukraine, and it can not independently produce the Holy oil needed for worship, unlike the Ukrainian canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).

Poroshenko thanked Bartholomew I "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.

The church known as the Moscow Patriarchate, aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church, sees itself as the only legitimate church in Ukraine.

The document was handed over by Patriarch Bartholomew during an Epiphany service at St George's Cathedral in Istanbul, an AFP correspondent said, completing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople's recognition of the newly-independent Ukrainian church.

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In April 2018, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko wrote a personal letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople asking for autocephaly for the Ukrainian church.

Poroshenko said the split will create a "new era in Orthodox history".

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. "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.

Now Moscow fears losing many of its 12,000 parishes in Ukraine. The new church unites the two formerly schismatic bodies.

In December, Ukrainian Orthodox leaders agreed on the creation of a new national Orthodox church and elected the 39-year-old Epifaniy to head that church. Many Russians oppose the split, an opinion that hardened after fighting in 2014 when Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

Poroshenko announced the end of the measure last month, saying military rule had to be lifted on account of an upcoming presidential vote scheduled to be held on March 31.

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