Photo from UNIAN

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says that the tomos, a decree of autocephaly (independence), which has been granted to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, is as important as the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine.

"It will be the last stage of the establishment of the independence of the Ukrainian state. It will enhance religious freedom, inter-Orthodox peace, give more rights and freedoms to citizens, especially those who were excluded from the Ecumenical relations and who were unfairly called uncanonical," Poroshenko said after an official ceremony in Istanbul where Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I handed the tomos over to leader of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy (Epiphanius) of Kyiv and All Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president congratulated the Ukrainians on this important event in Ukraine's history.

Видео дня

"Dear Ukrainians! We've just witnessed a great historic event in which the Lord was with us and we, Ukrainians, were with the Lord! The autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine has received the tomos from the Ecumenical Patriarch, from the Mother Church," Poroshenko said.

"The Lord saw the Ukrainian people fighting for independence. The Lord heard us praying. He rewarded us according to our deeds," he said. "It was with the Lord's plans that All Holiness Bartholomew I and the Synod of the Mother Church of Constantinople said the long awaited 'Yes!' to an independent church in Ukraine."

According to him, today's event will remain on par with the Christianization of Kyivan Rus in 988 AD and the proclamation of independence of Ukraine in 1991, and "the Orthodox world will remember the day when the Church of Ukraine enjoying all the rights joined the family of the sister churches."

"It was a long way for our country to see this day, and it was not for nothing that his All-Holiness [Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I] also mentioned our first Christian Princess Olha and Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Volodymyr the Great [who Christianized the Kyivan Rus] in his speech," Poroshenko said.

Read alsoEcumenical Patriarch hands tomos of autocephaly over to leader of Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Video, photos)

According to him, the Kyivan Christian tradition had been observed for more than a thousand years.

"Today, our Orthodox Church is ready for independent existence. Ukrainian people thanks the Lord. What has happened is a real miracle due to God's will," he said. "We are pleased that the Ecumenical Patriarch as the spiritual guide of hundreds of millions of Orthodox people, as a figure of global scale, heard our voice and our requests. The tireless work of His Holiness in the spiritual field will forever remain in the history of the church and in the history of nations, especially Orthodox ones."

Poroshenko noted that Bartholomew I especially emphasized the importance of resuming the communion of millions of Ukrainian believers with the world Orthodoxy.

As UNIAN reported, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on January 5, 2019, signed the tomos in his residence in Istanbul, which proclaims the autocephaly of the newly formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

The tomos says that the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognizes a canonical, autocephalous, self-governing Orthodox Church within the limits of the politically formed territory of Ukraine.

The document also sets out the basic principles for the functioning of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

On January 7, the tomos will be exhibited for the public at St. Sophia's Cathedral in Kyiv.