The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on Sunday presented a decree of independence to the Metropolitan bishop of the nascent Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
In Istanbul, Patriarch Bartholomew I presented the Tomos, a scroll containing the decree, in a symbolic ceremony sanctifying the Ukrainian church’s independence from the Russian Orthodox Church. He signed the decree a day earlier.
Ukraine’s decision to split from the Moscow Patriarchate after more than three centuries of ties has deeply angered Russia. The move comes as fighting continues in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed rebels and it forces clergy and believers in Ukraine to choose between belonging to Moscow-backed churches or the new Ukrainian Orthodox one.
Bartholomew I, considered first among equals in Orthodox patriarchy, announced the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has become the 15th independent Orthodox church. He argued Ukrainians “desired ecclesiastical independence” for centuries and never accepted that they were part of the Russian church.
The patriarch also entreated that the new church “strive for unity and peace” with clergy who remain under Moscow’s orbit and help reconciliation to “help them understand that Ukraine deserves a united church body.”
Following Bartholomew I’s October decision for independence, the Russian church severed ties with Istanbul, the center of the Orthodox world.
Metropolitan Epiphanius I, who was elected last month by Ukrainian Orthodox leaders to head the new church, will take the decree to Kiev.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has campaigned for the new church, attended the two-day ceremony in Istanbul.