Ukraine pushes for church independence

July 26, 2008 at 1:51 PM
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KIEV, Ukraine, July 26 (UPI) -- Ukraine's president asked the patriarch of Constantinople Saturday to give his blessing to a national church independent of the Russian Orthodox church.

President Viktor Yushchenko made his request to Bartholomew I, who is in Kiev for celebrations marking the 1,020th anniversary of the adoption of Orthodox Christianity there, RIA Novosti reported.

"I believe that a national self-governing church will emerge in Ukraine, and I ask your holiness for your blessing for our dreams, for truth, for hope, for our country," Yushchenko told the Orthodox spiritual leader.

The patriarch did not speak directly about the issue, but spoke for "maintaining church unity."

A rival Ukrainian church was formed after the breakup of the Soviet Union. However, only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchy, is recognized in Eastern Orthodoxy.

For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Ukrainian ambassador Friday to object to the "lack of respect" being shown in Ukraine to the Russian Church by asking for autonomy, the news service reported.

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