The Russian Orthodox Church has announced it is cutting off all ties with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is viewed as the leading authority of the world’s 300 million Orthodox worshippers.
The split is a show of force by Russia after the Ukrainian church was granted independence.
In statements to the press reported by Sputnik, representative of the Moscow Patriarchate’s External Relations Department Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk announced, “Our Holy Synod was unable to make a different decision because the entire logic of the Constantinople Patriarchate’s recent actions was leading to this.”
The Constantinople-based body recently recognised the independence of the Ukrainian Church from Moscow.
Many Ukrainian Christians accuse the Russian Church of favouring Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow rejects the independence of the Ukrainian Church and a leading bishop – Metropolitan Hilarion – said the decision to recognise it went “against historical truth”.
Constantinople had previously rejected the Ukrainian Church’s independence moves, however, changed its decision last week.
Ukraine became independent of Russia in 1991, but Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the fighting in eastern Ukraine have poisoned relations.
Moscow says it hopes Constantinople will change its mind on recognising the independence of the Ukrainian Church so that a schism can be avoided.
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