Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says it is up to Ukrainians to elect the head of their local church, and the head of the new independent Orthodox Church with autocephaly will be elected in Ukraine.
"There is a clear agreement with the Ecumenical Patriarch that the Patriarch of the Ukrainian Church will be elected in Ukraine," Poroshenko told a Svoboda Slova [Freedom of Speech] talk show on Ukraine's ICTV channel, according to the president's press service.
"The state will not determine who will be the Patriarch of the new church, because this is not the government's business. There will be no action by government fiat to support or not to support this or that [candidate]," he said.
He also noted that "the function and role of the Mother Church will be performed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople" and stressed that it was important in terms of historical justice. "We are just returning to historical justice," Poroshenko said and reminded that the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus would be celebrated in the near future.
"I'd like to emphasize – there was no Russian Orthodox Church at that time. If the Constantinople Church is the Mother Church for Ukraine, then the Ukrainian Church is the Mother Church for Russia. Because it originated here, not vice versa. And the mother cannot ask for independence from the daughter," the president stressed.
"In terms of historical, spiritual and state justice, Ukraine deserved the right to have an independent Ukrainian church," Poroshenko added.
As UNIAN reported earlier, Poroshenko announced on April 17 that the heads of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church had decided to officially appeal to Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I for autocephaly. Autocephaly is the status of a hierarchical Christian Church whose head bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop (used especially in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Independent Catholic churches). Autocephaly opens the way for the creation of a United Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which will not be subordinate to Moscow. The split between the Moscow and Kyiv branches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church happened during the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine's Primate Filaret broke with the Russian Orthodox Church. He argued that an independent Ukraine deserved a national church truly independent of Moscow. The Moscow Patriarchate whose parishes prevail in Ukraine has never recognized the Ukrainian Patriarchate.