ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians worldwide on Sunday presented the head of the Ukrainian church with a decree granting it independence from Moscow, a historic split strongly opposed by Russia.
Ukraine sees the break as vital to its security and independence, but it is bound to aggravate the wider conflict between the two countries.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who signed the autocephaly decree on Saturday, handed the document to Ukrainian Metropolitan Epifaniy at St George’s Cathedral in Istanbul after a mass to mark the feast of Epiphany.
“Unity has been restored. Now we are united,” Epifaniy told the congregation, standing with Bartholomew at the front of the crowded church, both wearing ceremonial robes and holding staffs.