Ukraine creates new Orthodox church, independent from Russian Federation

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At the same time, Metropolitan Antony Pakanich said after the extraordinary session of the UOC-MP Synod that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) will remain the only canonical church in the country despite Kiev's intention to create a unified autocephalous church.

The new church head is close to the patriarch of Kiev, Filaret, who was excommunicated by Moscow for starting a dissident church in Ukraine in 1992 after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Most of the Ukrainian Orthodox bishops signed the request, including the current metropolitan of Kiev Onufryj (Berezovsky), head of the jurisdiction tied to Moscow, which today has officially lost its title to the Ukrainian law.

The meeting will take place in Kiev's Saint Sophia's cathedral and aims to unite various branches of the Orthodox church in Ukraine into a single independent body.

Poroshenko, who has made the creation of a new church a key campaign issue ahead of elections next year, told the bishops that the state "did everything it could" towards the creation of the church.

The Ukrainian Orthodox church has been beholden to Moscow for hundreds of years, and Ukraine's leaders see church independence as vital to tackling Russian meddling.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday night announced the creation of an independent Orthodox church that he said marks a "spiritual independence" from Russian Federation.

The new head of the church was presented by President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko after the Unification Assembly in Kyiv.

Patriarch Kirill of the Moscow Patriarchate sent letters to religious leaders, senior statesmen and heads of worldwide organizations accusing the Ukrainian authorities of exerting pressure on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

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The ruling in October sparked fury in Moscow, which has overseen the Ukrainian branch of the church for 332 years, and led the Russian branch to cut all ties with the Istanbul patriarchate.

On November 25, Russian Federation conducted an act of war by firing on Ukrainian navy ships in the Black Sea, boarding and seizing the ships, and blockading Ukraine's ports at the Kerch Strait.

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios on Thursday criticized as "unacceptable" a decision by the Russian Orthodox Church to sever eucharistic communication with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Earlier this month, Ukrainian security services raided several Orthodox churches aligned with Russian Federation.

The gathering, however, was swiftly denounced by the Russian Orthodox Church, which branded its decisions to be "void".

Earlier this month, Ukrainian authorities raided several Orthodox churches aligned with Russian Federation as religious tensions grew between the two countries.

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

Patriarch Kirill did not directly address the creation of the new Ukrainian church during the service. Russian President Vladimir Putin rode the wave of nationalist enthusiasm to the victory cry "Crimea is ours!", in which historical-cultural and even religious motivations were reflected, Crimea being a "sacred land", where the first prince of Kiev, Vladimir the Great, was baptized.