Ukrainian Orthodox Church celebrates first Christmas without Russian “shackles” | Voice of America
KYIV – The Ukrainian Orthodox Christian Church celebrated its first Christmas outside of Russian control on Monday, and President Petro Poroshenko said the document enshrining its newly gained independence had broken “the last shackles binding us to Moscow.”
Hundreds of Ukrainians lined up in the snow after the lavish two-hour liturgy at St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kiev to view the document, known as “Tomos,” which was not handed over until Sunday. head of the new Church, Metropolitan Epifaniy.
Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, not December 25, because they follow a different calendar.
Accompanied by Poroshenko, Epifaniy entered the cathedral on Monday with the decree, a rolled up white parchment. The white-robed clergy then unfurled it and placed it in front of the iconostasis, a richly decorated screen that separates the sanctuary from the nave in Orthodox churches.
“For the first time, we are celebrating Christmas with an independent autocephalous church,” Poroshenko said after the service. “It is the basis of our spiritual freedom, we have broken the last shackles that tied us to Moscow,” said the president, who has to face a tough battle for his re-election this year.
Russia fiercely opposes the decision to grant the Ukrainian Church autocephalous status, or autonomy, comparing it to the Great Schism of 1054 that divided Western and Eastern Christianity.
The Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow has called Ukrainian Church leaders charlatans and schismatics, and President Vladimir Putin has warned of possible bloodshed.
People line up to see the Tomos, a decree by which Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew granted independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, at Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Jan.7, 2019.
“Day of joy”
Despite the snowy weather, hundreds of people watched Monday’s service on the big screen outside as there was not enough space in the crowded cathedral to accommodate them.
“It is the happiest day in the life of every Ukrainian.
And I understand that every soul desires to be here, ”university professor Oksana Pasenok told Reuters.
People have formed a long line after the service to view the decree, which will remain on display for the public.
“Today the words of those holy fathers who died for Ukraine, for our freedom, for our freedom, are coming true,” said Oleksandr Sydoruk, an engineer, standing in line to view the document.
“Today, with this ‘Tomos’, our Ukrainian Church and Ukraine come to life. And it is a day of joy for all Ukrainian Orthodox believers.”
Saint Sophia Cathedral was built by the son of Prince Volodymyr, whose baptism in 988 led to the spread of Christianity in what is now Ukraine and Russia.
The Russians trace the origins of their own nation to the state of Kiev at that time.
The breakdown in inter-church relations reflects the collapse of political relations between Moscow and Kiev after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.