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Ecumenical Patriarch signs decree granting Ukraine church independence

Ecumenical Patriarch signs decree granting Ukraine church independence

An independent Ukrainian Orthodox church was decreed at a ceremony at the Patriarchal Church of St George.

The ceremony took place after Bartholomew granted independence to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, in a historic move that has angered Russian Federation.

On Christmas Day, which Ukrainian Orthodox believers celebrated on Monday, Poroshenko attended services in the capital's Sophia Cathedral.

On Oct. 11, the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul greenlit the process for the Ukrainian church's independence, over Russia's objections, and with Ukrainian-Russian geopolitical tensions in the background.

"The sole objective of our efforts is for normality to return to the Ukrainian church", he said.

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Constantinople's decision was met with criticism not only from the Moscow Patriarchate but by some other Orthodox churches as well.

The patriarch, who is considered "first among equals" in Orthodox Christianity, said Ukrainians could now enjoy "the sacred gift of emancipation, independence and self-governance, becoming free from every external reliance and intervention".

The tomos was signed in the presence of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who traveled to Istanbul specifically for the occasion.

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople granted independence to the Orthodox church in Ukraine on Saturday, formally separating it from Moscow for the first time since the 17th century.

Bartholomew I will officially hand the decree to the new Ukrainian church at a mass in Istanbul on Sunday, Russia's state-owned TASS news agency reported.

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Ukraine last month chose 39-year-old Epifaniy to head the new church, in a move which Poroshenko compared to Ukraine's referendum for independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill made a last ditch appeal against the process last month. "It was signed in breach of canonicity and this is why it has no power", Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Synodal Department for Church-Society and Media Relations, posted in Telegram messenger.

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

The Ukrainian church has been under the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchate since 1686, and its independence is a heavy blow to Moscow.

Kiev has been pushing for a church free from Moscow's influence, which intensified after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and amid the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Istanbul remained the centre of the Orthodox Church after the Muslim Ottoman Turks occupied the city, then known as Constantinople, in the 15th Century.

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