Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called on the world’s orthodox churches to recognize their “Ukrainian sister”.
On January 7, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) conducted its first service in the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv after receiving its tomos of autocephaly (independence). The service began with the Orthodox Christmas liturgy.
According to the president’s official website, the tomos of Autocephaly was solemnly set in place before the royal brothers of the cathedral.
His Beatitude Metropolitan Epifaniy, Primate of the UOC, said that the history of the Ukrainian church and state will remember 15 December 2018, “when the Unifying Assembly of the UOC was held within the ancient walls of the Kyiv Sophia [Cathedral], and 5 and 6 January 2019, when the tomos of Autocephaly, of our church and spiritual independence, was declared, signed and presented”.
During his Orthodox Christmas address, Poroshenko remarked on the emergence of the new local church and urged “all the worlds’ orthodox churches to recognize it as a sister and to call it the ‘Holy Church of Ukraine’, which has the historical city of Kyiv as its cathedra”.
“Our ancient church, whose history goes back to the times of Prince Vladimir, equal-to-the-apostles, we have finally liberated from Moscow’s bondage. And it, an equal among equals, our church, has joined a family which now consists of 15 independent orthodox churches,” the Ukrainian President said.
Poroshenko stressed that “the creation of the autocephalous UOC is also a guarantee of our independence”.
“It is the foundation of our spiritual freedom. We have severed the last fetters which bound us to Moscow, with its fantasies about Ukraine as the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is no more, and will not be again,” Poroshenko remarked.
The head of state also said that nothing is impossible for Ukrainians when they stand in solidarity, “when we all act together as a united Ukrainian political nation”.
“This concerns not only the tomos, but also the Association Agreement with the EU. It also concerns the visa-free regime, and energy and gas independence from Russia. Along with the other complicated challenges that we have dealt with over the last five years in the context of our Ukrainian, European and Euro-Atlantic government strategy,” the President observed.
After receiving the tomos, a number of Ukrainian experts believe that the church unification process in the country will continue.
On January 5, Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew signed a tomos on the autocephaly (independence) of the UOC. The ceremony took place in Istanbul, where the Ecumenical Patriarchate has its residence. Before the ceremony, a service was held in the St. George Cathedral.
Patriarch Bartholomew officially handed over the tomos to Metropolitan Epifaniy on Sunday, January 6.
The ceremony in Istanbul was attended by President Poroshenko, who also met with Turkish President Recep Erdogan while in the country.