Ukrainian Orthodox Church breaks away from Russian influence

Patriarch Filaret head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

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According to the Ecumenical Patriarch, this is the official recognition of the Church of Ukraine, which brings it up to the level of fourteen sister churches that make up the "fullness" of the Holy Orthodox Church.

The spiritual head of Orthodox Christians worldwide formally granted independence to the Ukrainian church, marking an historic split from Russian Federation.

The unification council on the creation of a single local Orthodox church in Ukraine was held at Sofiyska Square in Kyiv on December 15.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church officially gained independence on Saturday, with the signing of a decree that marked its separation from the Russian church it has been tied to for centuries.

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The patriarchate, the seat of the spiritual leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, endorsed Ukraine's request for the new church in October.

"The pious Ukrainian people have awaited this blessed day for seven entire centuries", Patriarch Bartholomew said.

Criticism continued Saturday when a spokesman for the Russia-affiliated church in Ukraine, Vasily Anisimov, said, "We consider these actions to be anti-canonical". Orthodox churches in other countries are aligning with Moscow or Constantinople in the rift. Many Russians oppose the split, an opinion that hardened after fighting in 2014 when Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. The churches strongly deny this.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko were on hand to witness the ceremony.

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More specifically, Patriarch Vartholomaios will on Sunday give the tomos - the formal decree of autocephaly - to Metropolitan Epiphanius in Istanbul. "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. He added: "I'm certain that soon our sister church of Russian Federation will repent for this extreme decision".

In recent weeks, the Ukrainian security service, the SBU, has searched church property, including the home of the father superior of Kiev's biggest and oldest monastery, which is part of the Russian Orthodox church.

The SBU has denounced the Moscow patriarchate as a tool of the Kremlin and has questioned priests loyal to Moscow.

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