Ukraine has taken an important step towards the establishment of its own orthodox church. The Ukrainians were given the green light for a three-day meeting in Istanbul, the seat of the spiritual leader of the approximately 300 million orthodox Christians in the world.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been under the Moscow patriarchate for 332 years. That is a thorn in the eye of the government in Kiev. The relationship between neighbouring countries has deteriorated dramatically due to the Russian annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support to rebel separatists in eastern Ukraine.
At the synod in Istanbul, several decisions have been taken that bring the separation of the Ukrainian church closer. For example, a Ukrainian patriarch excommunicated by Moscow has been restored. The Russian Orthodox Church reacted furiously and, according to news agency Sputnik, broke the ties with the Patriarchate of Constantinople (Istanbul).
The conflict threatens a schism within the church that has no leader, such as the pope at the head of the Roman Catholic Church. However, patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople is the first among equals. The Russian Orthodox Church, however, is the largest community within the Church with 150 million believers.