A branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has severed ties with Russian Patriarch Cyril over the Russian spiritual leader’s support of the war in Ukraine, deepening the rift between the Moscow church and other Orthodox believers.
Leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which was officially subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, held a council on Friday in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a statement, the council said it “condemns war as a violation of God’s command ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ “” and urged the Ukrainian and Russian governments to continue the path of negotiations.
But the council also criticized Patriarch Kirill – who backed the invasion of Ukraine and put his church firmly behind Russian President Vladimir Putin – and said he had opted for “independence and full autonomy” of Ukraine. church.
A large part of the Orthodox community in Ukraine has already decided to establish its independence from Moscow. This movement gained momentum in 2018, after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople – a Greek cleric considered the spiritual leader of Orthodox believers around the world – endorsed the establishment of an independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The Russian Orthodox Church and the Patriarchate of Moscow, closely linked to the Russian state under Putin’s rule, reacted by cutting ties with Bartholomew.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has allegiance to Bartholomew, is separate from the UOC, which made its announcement on Friday. But the emergence of an independent Moscow church has also infuriated Putin, who has made restoring the so-called “Russian world” a centerpiece of his foreign policy and dismissed Ukraine’s national identity as illegitimate.
The UOC board’s statement on Friday said the war had been devastating to church members.
“During the three months of the war, more than 6 million Ukrainian citizens were forced to leave the country. These were mainly Ukrainians from the southern, eastern and central regions of Ukraine. vast majority of them are faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the statement read. “It is necessary to further develop foreign mission among Orthodox Ukrainians to preserve their Orthodox faith, culture, language and identity.”