A senior Russian Orthodox Church official said on Tuesday that authorities in Ukraine should stop encouraging a church split in their country, according to RIA Novosti.

"If the split does not have political support, it will end on its own," Metropolitan Kirill, who oversees foreign church relations at the Moscow Patriarchy, said.

Speaking at a news conference devoted to Patriarch Alexy II`s visit to Kyiv on July 26-28 for celebrations of the 1,020th anniversary of the embrace of Christianity in Kyivan Rus, where modern Ukraine and Russia originated, Kirill warned against politicizing church issues.

"The church today is unfortunately too politicized. The schism took place under political forces` influence, and it has remained a weapon, a beating-stick in the hands of political groups," Kirill said.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko asked Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople on Saturday to give his blessing to the country`s plans for a national church independent of Russian Orthodoxy.

RIA Novosti