A large section of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church has officially broken with the Russian church. The head of the global Orthodox Church has signed a document in Istanbul, Turkey, to that effect.

The recently established Orthodox Church of Ukraine has been granted independence, formalising an historic split from the Russian Church after more than 300 years of alignment.

Epiphany Dumenko was elected head of the new “autocephalous church” in Kiev on December 15, 2018 at the initiative of Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew a “unifying council” was held, in which mainly representatives of non-canonical church structures participated.

Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and Head of the global Orthodox Church Bartholomew I signed the “Tomos” independence decree in a ceremony in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Saturday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Metropolitan Epifaniy, head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, were present at the event.

Vladimir Legoida, a spokesman for the Moscow church, denounced the decree as “a document that is the result of irrepressible political and personal ambitions”, the AFP news agency reported.

Position of Ukranian gaverment says Moscow-backed churches on its soil are “a Kremlin tool to spread propaganda and support fighters in the eastern Donbass region in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people”. The churches strongly deny this.

Vladimir Legoida, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Synodal Department for Church-Society and Media Relations, posted in Telegram messenger: “Tomos – is just a paper, the result of restless political and personal ambitions. It was signed in breach of canonicity and this is why it has no power”

The “independence decree” will force Ukrainian clerics to pick sides between the Moscow-backed Ukrainian churches and the new church.

It came after Bartholomew I revoked a 1686 ruling that placed Ukraine under the patriarchate in Moscow in October.

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