Ukraine’s Moscow-backed Orthodox church says cuts ties with Russia

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The Moscow branch of Kyiv’s Orthodox Church said Friday it was cutting ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, declaring “full independence” in a historic move against Russia’s spiritual authorities.

“We disagree with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow... on the war,” the church said in a statement after holding a council focused on Russia’s “aggression” where it declared the “full independence and autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church”.

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The Moscow branch of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church has, until now, formally pledged allegiance to Russia’s Patriarch Kirill, who has expressed clear support for President Vladimir Putin’s offensive in Ukraine.

“The Council condemns war as a violation of God’s commandment ‘You shall not kill!’ and expresses condolences to all those who suffered in the war,” it said.

It said its relations with the Moscow leadership had been “complicated or absent” since martial law was declared in Ukraine.

The move marks the second Orthodox schism in Ukraine in recent years, with part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church breaking away from Moscow in 2019 over the Kremlin’s role in Ukraine.

Putin’s invasion and Kirill’s support for it has placed the Moscow-backed church in Ukraine in an increasingly precarious position.

Hundreds of its priests signed an open letter in recent weeks calling for Kirill to face a religious tribunal over the war.

Ukraine is hugely significant for Russia’s Orthodox Church, with some of its most important monasteries located there.

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