ANKARA (Rahnuma): Traveling to Istanbul, Turkey, Ukraine’s president on Sunday is set to receive a document cementing the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from its larger Russian counterpart.
Petro Poroshenko is set to receive the Tomos of Autocephaly (autonomy) of Ukraine’s church from the hands of Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul.
On Oct. 11, the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul greenlit the process for the Ukrainian church’s independence, over Russia’s objections, and with Ukrainian-Russian geopolitical tensions in the background.
The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was created following the results of the Dec. 15 All-Ukrainian Orthodox Unity Council, where Epiphanius, the metropolitan of Pereiaslav and Bila Tserkva, was elected primate of the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
“The project of autocephaly and the acquisition of the Tomos were not spontaneous,” Poroshenko was quoted as saying in a statement.
“It is an integral part of our meaningful and deliberate strategy for the final and irrevocable decolonization of Ukraine from the Russian Empire, a complete and unconditional exit from the post-Soviet state and the sphere of Russian influence.”
Strained ties with Istanbul patriarchate
However, the decision to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has strained ties between the Russian Orthodox Church and Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul.
In a letter to Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, Moscow Patriarch Kirill warned about the “legalization of the schism in Ukraine.”
Evstraty Zoria from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church told Anadolu Agency that Russia is spreading “dark propaganda” on the issue.
“Moscow follows a policy of aggression towards Ukraine via churches too. Russian propaganda is spread in books published by the churches. That is why we’re establishing our own church, to prevent this,” Zoria said.
Zoria also said the tension between the Russian Orthodox Church and Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul will end, adding: “The Moscow Patriarchate needs to eventually accept the decision of the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate regarding the Ukrainian church. Because this decision was taken in accordance with the law.”
Aleksandr Volkov, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, told Anadolu Agency that Poroshenko’s steps to establish an independent church were “illogical” and “insane.”
The independence decision comes in the wake of Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 — a move not recognized by either Turkey or the UN — as well as unrest on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia. An incident last November when Russia fired on Ukrainian vessels around the Kerch Straits exacerbated bilateral tensions.