The US State Department has backed Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew over his dispute with the Russian Orthodox Church following his decision to grant independence to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
The State Department called Bartholomew "a voice of religious freedom and inter religious dialogue" and referencing the Russian church's decision to cut ties with the patriarchate in Constantinople, said the US Government supports the safeguarding of the right to religious freedom in Ukraine, as well as the territorial integrity of the country.
In its statement the State Department noted that "the US strongly supports religious freedom, including the freedom of all members of the groups to run their religion according to their beliefs and to exercise their faith freely without State interference. The US respects the ability of orthodox religious leaders of Ukraine and believers to pursue an autocephalous existence according to their beliefs. We respect the ecumenical Patriarch as a voice of religious tolerance and interreligious dialogue. The United States continues to provide strong support to Ukraine and its territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and the Russian occupation of Crimea. We also support Ukraine as it carves its own path and takes its own decisions and partnerships, without any external interference."