Russian Orthodox Church breaks ties with Orthodoxy’s leader

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<pThe Russian Orthodox Church decided Monday to sever ties with the leader of the worldwide Orthodox community after his decision to grant Ukrainian clerics independence from the Moscow Patriarchate.

<pMetropolitan Hilarion said the Russian church's Holy Synod resolved to "''break the Eucharistic communion" with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

<pUnder the leadership of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the patriarchate last week removed its condemnation of leaders of schismatic Orthodox churches in Ukraine<p"The Russian Orthodox Church doesn't recognize those decisions and won't fulfill them," he said. "The church that acknowledged the schismatics has excluded itself from the canonical field of the Orthodoxy."

<pUkrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is running for re-election in a March vote, has pushed Bartholomew to grant independence to the Ukrainian church.

<pUkrainian Orthodox Church Archbishop Yevstratiy denounced the Holy Synod's decision to sever ties with the Orthodox Church leader regarded as a "first among equals" as a move toward "self-isolation."

<pThe Russian church voiced concern that the Istanbul-based patriarchate's action would deepen the religious rift in Ukraine and could spur the schismatic branches to try to take over church buildings.

<pThe Russian Orthodox Church expects Poroshenko to make good on his pledge that the Ukrainian government would ensure respect for the choices of those who want to retain unity with the Russian church.

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<pYuras Karmanau in Minsk, Belarus contributed to this report.