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Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy, says the tomos of autocephaly, granted to the OCU by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, implies that all parishes in the country belong to the new church, which is independent of Russian influence.

Therefore, he explained to RFE/RL's Ukrainian service, them being managed by the Moscow Patriarchate is canonically incorrect.

At the same time, the metropolitan said further transition of religious communities to the OCU control was recently suspended.

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"But here we need to understand deeper the essence of the issue. Perhaps we even speak incorrectly about transitions as such. Why? The thing is, according to the tomos, according to the explanations by Patriarch Bartholomew, all Orthodox parishes in Ukraine belong to the OCU," Epifaniy said.

A certain "canonical collapse" is being observed in Ukraine, the top cleric went on to say.

"... [I]n Ukraine there are those who don't recognize these realities. But gradually, I believe, they will join the recognition of the tomos. This is not transition, because they [the parishes] are actually in Ukraine. And, as per the decisions taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, they all belong to the OCU. Temporarily, though, they prefer to be part of the ROC, although this is canonically wrong," Epifaniy added.

Read alsoU.S. Embassy greets OCU on second anniversary of autocephalyAlso, the OCU leader noted that over past two years, about 700 new parishes have joined the OCU.

OCU: Background

The Unification Council of members of the Ukrainian Orthodox churches in Kyiv on December 15, 2018, elected Metropolitan of Pereyaslavsky and Bila Tserkva from the then Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate Epifaniy (also known as Epiphanius I) as head of the new local Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

On January 6, 2019, Epifaniy, as Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, received from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul the tomos of autocephaly (independence) of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Epifaniy was inaugurated as OCU Primate at Kyiv's Saint Sophia Cathedral on February 3.

In 2019, the OCU was recognized by the Greek Orthodox Church and the Alexandrian Patriarchate. In 2020, it was recognized by the Cypriot Orthodox Church.

On February 3, 2020, Metropolitan Epifaniy said the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was being recognized by more local Orthodox churches despite pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church.