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Kiev proclaims its own Orthodox church, hails ‘unification’ after holding ‘schismatic’ council

Ukraine has created an Orthodox church of its own, proclaiming “independence from Moscow.” While the majority of its hierarchs represented schismatic “churches,” Kiev authorities have hailed a supposed “unity” they have achieved.

The so-called “unity council” took place on Saturday in Kiev, with the country’s president Petro Poroshenko and other top officials in attendance. The overwhelming majority of participants represented two non-canonical entities – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the self-styled ‘Kiev Patriarchy’ and the so-called Ukrainian autocephalous Orthodox Church. The two unrecognized entities have announced voluntary dissolution ahead of the event.

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Just two hierarchs from the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy participated in event, metropolitan bishops Simeon and Aleksandr. The Church as a whole refused to partake in the gathering, denouncing it as schismatic.

Metropolitan bishop Simeon even ran for the post of the head of the new entity, yet lost to ‘metropolitan’ Epiphany, who had been a hierarch within the unrecognized Kiev Patriarchate.

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The head of the schismatic entity –self-styled ‘patriarch’ Filaret– has received the lifetime title of ‘Honorary Patriarch’ within the new structure. The title appears to be not without clout, since it’s established in the charter of the new church, which was adopted at the gathering as well.

It was not immediately clear what exact wording the document contains, since it was reportedly being actively negotiated until the last minute. The draft variant, however, which was unveiled earlier this month, made the new church fully subordinate to the Constantinople Patriarchate, regardless of all the talk about “independence.”

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Constantinople has already expressed its support for the new religious entity, confirming it will recognize it officially in early January, which likely means the adopted charter suits Patriarch Bartholomew well.

The gathering, however, was swiftly denounced by the Russian Orthodox Church, which branded its decisions to be “void.”

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“The non-canonical gathering … under general the guidance of a layman and the country’s head, as well as a foreigner, who doesn’t know the local language, has picked a non-canonical ‘bishop’ to become an equally non-canonical ‘primate,’” deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate, Protoiereus Nikolay Balashov, said, adding that the whole event meant “nothing” to the Church.

A similar opinion was voiced by the Belarusian Orthodox Church – subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate – which ruled out any official contacts with the new Ukrainian entity, calling it “evidently schismatic.”

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“Actually, I’m not even sure that this church will be granted autocephaly even as it is,” Alexander Dvorkin, professor of church history at Russia’s St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University, told RT.

“It’s not going to be independent,” according to the statutes created for it by Constantinople. The newly created “Ukrainian Church” is at the very most “kind of semi-autonomous” because all major decisions still have to be approved by the Constantinople Patriarchate.

“Of course, Poroshenko might declare a big political victory, well, he has to, he has no choice. He has elections coming, he has to produce something,” Dvorkin pointed out. “But it is a fact, it’s an obvious failure, no matter how hard he might try to make it appear otherwise.”

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