A unification council of Ukrainian priests here on Saturday established a united Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is independent from the Russian Orthodox Church.
However, the Council was dismissed as "non-canonical" and "meaning absolutely nothing" by Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, a MoscowPatriarchate official, who told the Interfax news agency two rebel metropolitans from Ukraine's Moscow-linked Orthodox church who defied a ban by attending had been excommunicated.
Ukraine's new independent Orthodox primate has promised the doors of his church will be "open to all".
Ukrainian priests will hold a historic synod on Saturday to work toward founding an independent church, in what the authorities in Kiev hope will be a further step out of Russia's orbit.
The move Saturday raises deep concerns about what will happen to the approximately 12,000 churches in Ukraine that were under the Moscow Patriarchate.
In Kiev, negotiations are continuing discreetly in an effort to convince bishops of the Russian Church to participate in the council.
Metropolitan Emmanuel Adamakis, who presides over the assembly of Orthodox bishops in France, is one of the names proposed as head of the new church.
"The Tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarch should be handed over to [Ukrainian church leader] on January 6 [Christmas Eve]", Archbishop Yevstratiy, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate said, as reported by Kiev Post. Only on the foundation of unification, in Ukraine and throughout the world, will Ukrainians become ever stronger in defending their faith, the interests of their nation, their free, independent and democratic state, stated UWC President Paul Grod.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate announced their intention to nominate Patriarch Filaret for this post.
That leaves the meeting between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, the country's largest branch by number of believers, and the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The remarkably young 39-year-old is considered to be the right-hand man of the head of the Kiev-backed Patriarchate, Patriarch Filaret. Even before the collapse of the regime, on June 10, 1990, a fracture took place in the election of the new patriarch of Moscow, after the death of the patriarch Pimen (Izvekov) who had been in office since 1971, during the long Brezhnevian "stagnation".
As evidence for his claims, Kirill points to the searches and arrests of representatives of the Church loyal to Moscow carried out by the Security Service of Ukraine (Sluzhba Bezpeky Ukrayiny, SBU) and the summoning of priests for "talks".
"We can see that these processes, this schismatic activity in Ukraine is closely intertwined with politics, which of course could hardly be acceptable by church rules".
The smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church also took part.
But Kiev has said each parish will be able to choose for itself whether to join the new unified Church, adding that it is doing everything possible to avoid religious conflict in the country. And it comes amid fresh tensions following Russia's seizure of three Ukrainian navy ships last month and Ukraine's government's decision to impose martial law in some regions, citing fear of invasion.
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