The Orthodox Church in Ukraine seals its independence

Under the decree of autocephaly, the new church’s jurisdiction will be restricted to Ukraine. The Russian Orthodox Church reacts: “It is the result of political and personal ambitions”.

Evangelical Focus

ISTANBUL · 08 JANUARY 2019 · 12:00 CET

The decree of autocephaly was signed in Istanbul. / Euronews,
The decree of autocephaly was signed in Istanbul. / Euronews

The new Orthodox Church in Ukraine has confirmed its independence and autocephaly after a decree was signed on January 5, which was presented during a ceremony in Istanbul on January 6.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople signed the historic decree, also known as ‘tomos’, which grants the Orthodox Church in Ukraine independence or autocephaly, and ends more than 330 years of Russian religious control.

Under the ‘tomos’, the new church's jurisdiction will be restricted to Ukraine and it will not be authorized to appoint bishops and establish its parishes abroad.



At the signing ceremony, Bartholomew said that Ukrainians could now enjoy “the sacred gift of emancipation, independence, and self-governance, becoming free from every external reliance and intervention”.

The Patriarch urged the new church in Ukraine to “strive for unity and peace with believers who remain under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate” and to "help them understand that Ukraine deserves a united church body”.

Bartholomew handed the document to Ukrainian Metropolitan Epifaniy Dumenko at St George's Cathedral in Istanbul on January 6, after a mass to mark the feast of Epiphany.

Unity has been restored. Now we are united. We ask you, mother church and all churches to pray for peace in Ukraine”, Metropolitan Epifaniy said during the ceremony.

He added that “Ukrainian people had been suffering for five years from a war brought from outside”.

Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, attended the two-day events. “The 'tomos' is one more act declaring the independence of Ukraine”, he said during the ceremony in Istanbul's St. George's Cathedral.


Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine. / Euronews



Bartholomew announced the decision to recognize Ukraine's request for an autocephalous church in October. It came amid deepening tension over efforts by Ukrainian Orthodox churches to formally break away from Russia.

It also prompted the Russian Orthodox Church to announce days later that it was ending its relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Its spokesman, Metropolitan Hilarion, compared Ukraine’s moves for independence to the Great Schism of 1054 that split western and eastern Christianity, and warned they could lead to an irreversible rupture in the global Orthodox community.

In December, Ukrainian Orthodox leaders agreed on the creation of a new national Orthodox church and elected the 39-year-old Epifaniy to head thre new relgious institution.



Vladimir Legoida, a Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, denounced the tomos as “a document that is the result of irrepressible political and personal ambitions”.

“It had been signed in violation of the canons and therefore not possessing any canonical force”, Legoida said in a statement.



The newly independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church held a service in Kyiv on January 7, at the St. Sofia Cathedral, marking Orthodox Christmas and celebrating their break with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and other top officials attended the ceremony. Metropolitan Epifaniy took the document, and it has been displayed in the Sophia Cathedral complex.

Watch Kiev-based translator and Protestant Christian Zhenya Shevchenko speaking about the reactions of the Ukranian population:

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