Ukrainian synod seeks to set up church independent of Russian Federation

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A council of Orthodox bishops has created a new Ukrainian church, marking an historic split from the Russian Federation patriarchate which its leaders said is vital to the country's security and independence, fueling a split in Christian Orthodoxy.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that 39-year-old Metropolitan Epifaniy of the Kiev Patriarchate church is the head of the new church.

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In the paper, he accused the Kremlin of using Ukraine's Orthodox church - loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate - to "stifle" his country's independence.

The raid was one of several on churches with ties to Moscow in the run-up to a council in Kiev on Saturday at which Ukrainian priests will establish a new national church, breaking hundreds of years of relations with the Russian clergy.

Ukrainian border guards prevent Russian men aged 16-60 from entering Ukraine. Sign says'Do not stop between the striped columns
Ukrainian border guards prevent Russian men aged 16-60 from entering Ukraine. Sign says ‘Do not stop between the striped columns

In October, a synod in Istanbul, Turkey, presided over by Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, made a decision to grant autonomy to the Orthodox church in Ukraine.

On the other hand, Ukraine's Security Service, the SBU, is claiming that Russians in east Ukraine are organizing church marches in numerous cities across Ukraine on Sunday to disrupt a meeting of the unification council of Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

A fresh crisis, last month, that saw Russian Federation seize three Ukrainian navy ships and arrest 24 sailors in the waters around Crimea sent relations to new lows.

The Russian Orthodox Church has held sway over Ukrainian Orthodox Church since 1686.

Ukraine's SBU security service warned this week that Russian Federation was planning to stage "provocations" in the country as the clerics were meeting.

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Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday castigated Poroshenko's church announcement, calling it a "show" and accusing him of preparing new "provocations" close to Crimea.

Since the revolution, Russian Federation led by President Vladimir Putin has annexed Crimea from Ukraine and fomented a conflict near the two nations' border.

"The representatives of the UOC Kyiv Patriarchate, the UAOC and a group of bishops of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate have just established a united church".

"We do not know what further steps the Ukrainians will take, or which further infringements of essential human and civil rights they may decide to commit", said the Patriarch, whose letter was also sent to the Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, and leaders of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches.

'We congratulate all orthodox Ukrainians with this truly historic moment.

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Among the main hierarchy of the Russian Church there were some very "aligned" metropolitans, who had accepted active collaboration with the politics of the regime, in order to save the ecclesial structure as much as possible.

The move Saturday raises deep concerns about what will happen to the approximately 12,000 churches in Ukraine that were under the Moscow Patriarchate.

The initiative that led to the establishment of the new autocephalous Ukrainian Church dates back to the first attempt to establish an independent state after the 1917 revolution. "Putin is an enemy of the Russian nation".

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