A full 332 years after it became a part of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) is set to separate from the Russian clergy to form a new national church of its own.
A historic council meeting of Ukrainian Orthodox priests will be held in Kiev on Saturday amidst condemnation from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) which said that the move draws a schism.
The formation of the new church is the latest development in the increasing tensions between Ukraine and Russia following the Crimea conflict.
Though tensions between the two churches have always been there ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, they never came to a point of separation.
But as political tensions escalated, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodoxy, recognised the independence of the Ukrainian Church from Moscow in a judgement overruling its 1686 decision transferring its jurisdiction over Kievan Orthodox churches (known as the Kievan Metropolis) to Moscow.
In protest, the ROC cut ties with Constantinople.
The ROC also fears that its 12,059 parishes in Ukraine could be seized. There are 85 bishops, 11,312 priests, and 2,727 nuns under the UOC.
According to the BBC, the council will be held in the ancient St Sophia’s Cathedral – one of Kiev’s best known landmarks.
Ukrainian clerics of different Orthodox denominations – including some bishops from the Moscow branch – will be electing a leader of a new church.
President Petro Poroshenko is expected to be an honorary guest at the council.
There are three Orthodox Church branches based in Kiev – Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate), Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is one of the 14 autocephalous churches (or “jurisdictions”) that together compose the Eastern Orthodox Church. It holds sway over 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.