Ukraine's newly created independent Orthodox Church held its first service in Kiev yesterday after the historic break off from the Russian Orthodox Church that has enraged Moscow.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attended the service in Kiev's most ancient church, the 11th-century St. Sophia's Cathedral, as Ukrainian Orthodox believers celebrated Christmas Day according to the Julian Calendar.
The service came a day after Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I based in Istanbul handed over a formal decree that finalized the recognition of Ukraine's new Church. "We broke the last bonds that tied us to Moscow with its fantasies about Ukraine as the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church," Poroshenko said after the service.
Clerics showed worshippers in the cathedral the decree that formally sealed a break with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Patriarch Bartholomew, based in modern-day Istanbul and considered the "first among equals" in the Orthodox world, first agreed to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in October. Then in December, a historic council of Orthodox bishops in Kiev created the independent body. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill yesterday morning held a Christmas service at Moscow's Church of Christ the Saviour while President Vladimir Putin attended a church in his hometown of Saint Petersburg. In an interview with Russian channel Rossiya 1, Patriarch Kirill slammed the new Ukrainian church as "a union of two schismatic groups" and accused the Kiev authorities of destroying the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
"This is turning into a theater of the absurd," he said.