Photo from UNIAN

Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Dimitri Bartholomew said on September 23 that he hoped for an independent Ukrainian Church soon "despite the current opposition."

"I hope that despite the current opposition, the Ukrainian Church gets its independence status, which is their right, soon," Bartholomew said in a speech he made following the Sunday church service held at the Saint Fokas Orthodox Church in Istanbul's Ortakoy neighborhood, Hürriyet Daily News wrote.

Bartholomew said that the Istanbul-based Patriarchate granted independence status initially to the Russian Church in the 16th century and then lastly to the Orthodox churches of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1998, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

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He said the Istanbul-based Patriarchate provides spiritual protection and love for these churches, adding they would not be "scared of threats."

The Ukrainian Church wants to have "ecclesiastic independence" from the Church of Moscow and all of Russia but needs the approval of Bartholomew, since he is recognized as ecumenical by all other Orthodox churches.

The Ukrainian Church is split between a branch whose clerics pledge loyalty to Moscow and one that is overseen by the unrecognized Kyiv-based Patriarch Filaret.

The fracture has deepened following a four-year conflict between Kyiv and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine and the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Earlier this month, Bartholomew sent two representatives to Ukraine, leading an incensed Russian Orthodox Church to cut ties with the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians at an emergency meeting on September 14.

"The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has intruded on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate by sending its exarchs to Kyiv," Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Russian Church's foreign relations department, said at Moscow's Danilov Monastery.

He spoke after the ruling body of the Russian Orthodox Church, known as the Holy Synod, decided to cut what Metropolitan Hilarion described as "diplomatic ties" with the Istanbul-based rival.

According to the Holy Synod's decision, the Russian Orthodox Church will no longer conduct joint services with the Istanbul-based Patriarchate and Patriarch Kirill of the Orthodox Church of Moscow will stop mentioning Bartholomew in his prayers.