St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv, Ukraine circa 1890-1900. The monastery was originally built by Sviatopolk II Iziaslavych, the king of the Kievan Rus for 20 years, who ruled the kingdom from 1093 to 1113. (Photo: Detroit Publishing Company via the Library of Congress)
On the day of the enthronement of the metropolitan of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), President Petro Poroshenko said that in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine, the church is and will remain independent of the state.
But the Ukrainian government has done everything it could to promote the achievement of autocephaly and believes that the church and the state will now be able to enter onto “a path toward genuine partnership of the church and state for joint work for the good of the country and the people.”
At the same time, Ivanna Klimpush-Tsintsadze, the deputy prime minister for issues of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, said that Ukraine is deeply offended by the presumptuousness of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has stated that he will defend the rights of Orthodox believers in Ukraine.
Such statements are a threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty, she continued; and “we will not allow the Russian Federation to use believers in the political goals of the Kremlin.”
Metropolitan Epiphany, the newly installed head of the OCU, was even more blunt: he said that “the Russian Orthodox Church is the last advance post of Vladimir Putin in Ukraine” and that the appearance of the OCU undercuts the imperial goals of the Kremlin leader.
When Ukrainian Orthodox join together in the OCU, Epiphany said, that will lead to the end of the war in the Donbas and the return of Crimea to Ukraine. “Putin is losing here in Ukraine the support which he had before because if he had not had this support, there would not have been a war in the Donbas.”
“And therefore,” the Ukrainian church leader continued, “we will consistently maintain ourselves as a single church recognized and canonical in Ukraine. And gradually Russia will lose this influence through the souls of Orthodox Ukrainians here.”
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