Ukrainian leaders celebrated the election of a new bishop separate from the Russian Orthodox Church on Saturday, though the latter has warned of “all-out persecution.”
Metropolitan Epiphanius was celebrated at St. Sophia’s Cathedral in downtown Kiev by hundreds of other bishops, priests, and church figures, The New York Times reported.
The newly independent Ukraine Orthodox Church is expected to officially be granted autonomy in January, despite the wishes and protests of the larger Russian Orthodox Church.
Ukrainian President Petro O. Poroshenko, quoting national poet Taras Shevchenko, declared that “Ukraine will no longer drink Moscow poison from the Moscow cup.” He added that citizens should remember the day as “the final acquisition of independence from Russia.”
Poroshenko added that he will travel with Metropolitan Epiphanius in January to Istanbul, the church’s historical foundations, to collect the autonomy order, known as the Tomos of Autocephaly.
“What kind of church is this?” the president prompted.
“This is a church without Putin. What kind of church is this? It is a church without Kirill,” he added, referring to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“What kind of church is this? It is a church without prayers for the Russian government and Russian military.”
The rift between the Russian and Ukrainian church, one of the biggest in the Christian world in centuries, formed in the wake of the continuing war in Ukraine against Russian separatists.
The violence in the country escalated in 2014, following the annexation of Crimea by Putin, which has been strongly condemned by Western world leaders.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Stoyan Zaimov