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Russia's move into Crimea endangers Moscow patriarchate's influence in Ukraine

Catholic World News - March 21, 2014

When Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Duma to announce his plans for the annexation of Crimea, several religious leaders were in attendance, but Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill was conspicuously absent, observes Vladimir Rozanskij in an analysis for the AsiaNews service.

By seizing Crimea from Ukraine, Rozanskij writes, Putin is causing complications for the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Kirill has taken pains to cultivate close ties with the Ukrainian Orthodox community, and now the conflict between Russia and Ukraine threatens those ties.

The Ukrainian Orthodox account for nearly half of the parishes under Moscow’s jurisdiction, and more than half of the priests. Moreover, Kiev is the historic seat of the Russian Orthodox Church. So losing the allegiance of the Ukrainian Orthodox would be a serious blow to Moscow—even curtailing the influence that the Russian Church now enjoys as the largest of the world’s Orthodox communions.

The problem of Patriarch Kirill is made more acute by the fact that the Ukrainian Orthodox community is already divided, with those who are now loyal to the Moscow patriarchate representing only one of three rival hierarchies. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev patriarchate, led by Patriarch Filaret, broke with Moscow after Ukraine became independent, and could grow in influence as Ukrainians become more hostile toward Moscow.

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