Rival Ukrainian Orthodox groups at odds over government's battle with separatists
February 19, 2015
Two groups competing for leadership of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine are in open conflict over the government’s battle with separatists, the AsiaNews service reports.
Patriarch Filaret, who heads the Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Kiev Patriarchate, has called upon Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to “defend the homeland,” continuing to battle separatist forces. Patriarch Filaret said that defending Ukrainian territory is “the duty of every Christian.”
That statement drew a rebuke from the rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, which said that Church leaders should promote peace, not warfare. A spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate observed that Pope Francis has called for peace, as has Moscow’s Patriarch Kirill. “Filaret is the only one in favor of war,” he said.
Patriarch Filaret was the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church until the country regained its independence from the Soviet Union. He then broke off his relations with the Moscow patriarchate to form the separate Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate remains loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church, which has strongly supported Russian policy in Ukraine.
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