Autocephalous Ukrainian Church: A history that has lasted for 100 years

Autocephalous Ukrainian Church: A history that has lasted for 100 years

At the same time, Metropolitan Antony Pakanich said after the extraordinary session of the UOC-MP Synod that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) will remain the only canonical church in the country despite Kiev's intention to create a unified autocephalous church.

MOSCOW - The Kremlin on Monday accused Ukraine's politicians of using the creation of a new Ukrainian Orthodox church independent of Moscow for political ends. Most of the Ukrainian Orthodox bishops signed the request, including the current metropolitan of Kiev Onufryj (Berezovsky), head of the jurisdiction tied to Moscow, which today has officially lost its title to the Ukrainian law.

Saturday's council at the 11th century St Sophia Cathedral in Kiev will decide the make-up of the new church and elect its leader.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the biggest Orthodox Christian Church in Ukraine and is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Last month, the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate gathered in Istanbul in a bid to approve an official tomos, granting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church autocephaly.

Ukraine's state security service raided Moscow Patriarchate church properties in the run-up to the council, but denied the raids were an attempt to silence opposition to independence.

The synod comes shortly after a fresh crisis that saw Russian Federation seize three Ukrainian navy ships and arrest 24 sailors in the waters around Crimea.

That leaves the meeting between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, the country's largest branch by number of believers, and the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Domes of the Dormition Cathedral of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery are seen in front of the Mother Homeland monument in Kiev
Ogirenko

"And Ukraine will no longer drink, in the words of Taras Shevchenko, 'Moscow's poison from Moscow's cup, '" he said, quoting the country's national poet.

But the branch loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church, which has more parishes than its Kiev-loyal counterpart, hangs in the balance.

The new Ukrainian church seeks to combine clergy from two previously separate breakaway churches and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which had previously answered to Moscow.

Saturday's religious rupture from the Russian Orthodox Church is a potent - possibly explosive - mix of politics, religious faith and national identity.

The state-run media continues a massive company to discredit the Ukrainian Church.

Ties between the ex-Soviet neighbours have broken down since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 following a pro-Western uprising in Kiev, and this year those tensions spilt into the religious arena.

"All its [UOC-MP's] children need to understand that they are supported by all the world Orthodoxy and by all the local churches that have not expressed a word in support of the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew [of Constantinople]", Alexander Volkov said on Saturday. The title appears to be not without clout, since it's established in the charter of the new church, which was adopted at the gathering as well. "Putin is an enemy of the Russian world".

"We can see that these processes, this schismatic activity in Ukraine is closely intertwined with politics, which of course could hardly be acceptable by church rules".

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