Ukrainian religious leaders lay groundwork for independent orthodox church in break with Russia

Ukrainian religious leaders lay groundwork for independent orthodox church in break with Russia

More than 50 bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy will gather in Kiev today for a “Council of Unification”—one of the

Domes of the Dormition Cathedral of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery are seen in front of the Mother Homeland monument in Kiev

Photo: Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

More than 50 bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy will gather in Kiev today for a “Council of Unification”—one of the final steps to the creation of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Ukrainian Orthodoxy has been overseen by the Russian Orthodox Church for over 300 years, although there have been two splinter groups since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The creation of an independent Orthodoxy in Ukraine seeks to unite the two splinter entities.

Today’s gathering will see the adoption of a charter and election of a leader—probably someone unaffiliated with either group to symbolise a “new beginning”. On January 6, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople—the spiritual leader of Christian Orthodoxy—will officially grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

The creation of an independent Ukrainian Orthodoxy is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it will solidify Ukraine’s cultural independence from Russia, restricting another avenue through which Moscow can appeal to common Ukrainians. On the other, it will provide yet another source of division among Ukrainians—39% of the country’s Orthodox population favours an independent church, 29% oppose and the rest are undecided. Indeed, today’s “unification” may end up being anything but.

Delve deeper: Holy disorder: Moscow’s last influence of Kiev under threat

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