Putin Vows to Defend Believers in Ukraine Church Dispute

Moscow expresses disgust as Ukrainian Church gets independence

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L) meets with Patriarch Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, in Kiev, Ukraine October 11, 2018.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been agreed to be independent of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow on Thursday.

The Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine will equally coexist with all other churches and religious organizations as guaranteed by the Constitution and law.

The Russian church, the world's largest Orthodox grouping, was furious.

Ukraine's Orthodox church split from Moscow in the 1990s, with the charismatic Filaret a foremost proponent of a new independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

"With its actions, Constantinople is crossing a red line and catastrophically undermines the unity of global Orthodoxy", said Alexander Volkov, a spokesman for Russian church leader Patriarch Kirill.

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"In the event that the events which are developing take the course of illegal activities, then of course, just as Russia defends the interests of Russians and Russian speakers - and Putin has spoken about this many times - Russia will defend the interests of the Orthodox", he told reporters. "And they will have the right to exist, along with equal rights with the Ukrainian church".

Ukraine now has three Orthodox communities - those that stay under Moscow's control and two schismatic churches.

It also chose to "accept and review the petitions of appeal of Filaret Denisenko, Makariy Maletych and their followers, who found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons, in accordance with the canonical prerogatives of the Patriarch of Constantinople to receive such petitions by hierarchs and other clergy from all of the Autocephalous Churches".

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows a monument to Grand Prince Vladimir, who brought Christianity to the precursor of the Russian state, near the Kremlin walls in central Moscow, Russia, November 4, 2016.

The Kyiv Patriarchate urged the episcopate, clergy and members of the UAOC, as well as those of the Moscow Patriarchate, to support the unification process of the Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

The move could benefit Poroshenko in next year's elections.

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