Ukrainian Orthodox Church Formally Split from Russia in Istanbul

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

On Saturday, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has formally received its independence as Patriarch Bartholomew I signed the “Tomos” in Istanbul, which is a decree of independence.

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has now completed the actions needed for the Ukrainian church to be formally recognized as independent from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

The two churches have been one and the same since 1686, however, in light of tensions between Russia and Ukraine, last month the Ukrainian Orthodox leaders agreed upon a new, unified church.

The move to separate the churches was fueled by unrest in the region as fighting continues in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed rebels, and fueled by Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, a top supporter of creating the new, unified church. He met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the ceremony.

As the church has spilt from the Moscow Patriarchate and has recently elected Metropolitan Epiphanius to lead it, Ukrainian clerics are in a precarious position, having to choose sides while there is no end in sight for the conflict in eastern Ukraine.