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Patriarch grants Ukrainian Church independence at Istanbul mass

The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox faithful recognized a new national church of Ukraine, marking a historic split with Moscow amid a broader geopolitical dispute.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I gives presents to Greek Orthodox faithful after they swam into the Golden Horn during the Epiphany day celebrations in Istanbul, Turkey January 6, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1371622270

ISTANBUL — The chime of church bells mixed with the Islamic call to prayer as the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians granted the Ukrainian Church independence from Moscow, marking the biggest rupture in Christianity in centuries and risking the ire of both the Russian Church and government.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew gave the tomos of autocephaly, or decree of independence, to Metropolitan Epifaniy, the newly elected 39-year-old bishop of Ukraine. The move formally ends Moscow’s jurisdiction over the Ukrainian Church after more than 330 years and returns it to the fold of Constantinople, the former name for Istanbul, today a city of some 15 million Muslims.

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