In what Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared “the day of the final independence from Russia,” a group of Orthodox bishops have announced the establishment of a new Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with a patriarch based out of Kiev.
The Russian Orthodox Church has held sway over Ukrainian Orthodox Church since 1686. Though there has historically been autonomy within the Ukrainian church, its patriarchate has been based in Moscow during that time.
Poroshenko has made splitting the churches a top priority, saying it is a “matter of national security” that Ukraine’s new separatist church will be independent of Russia. Poroshenko will be taking his newly appointed Kiev patriarch to Constantinople in January to try to get formal approval from the global Orthodoxy.
The Constantinople leadership has revoked Moscow’s jurisdiction over Ukraine back in October, but rejected the claims of Kiev’s previous patriarch. Poroshenko appears to believe this new candidate will be more palatable to them.
In the meantime, the Poroshenko government has been raiding churches that remain loyal to Moscow, and seizing documents. So far, there have been no arrests, but the raids are raising religious tensions.