Metropolitan Epiphanius I / Photo from UNIAN

The Cypriot Orthodox Church's top body this week backed their Archbishop's move to recognize the independence of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

With the move, the Church shifted away from an earlier position of neutrality on the issue, Crux reports.

Of the Holy Synod's 17 bishops, 10 voted not to contest the decision by Archbishop Chrysostomos II to extend blessings to the leader of the new OCU, Metropolitan Epiphanius I during a liturgical service.

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Read alsoUkraine Religious Freedom Support Act submitted to U.S. Senate – mediaThe Archbishop's reference to Epiphanius as head of the new Church in Ukraine during a service was seen as de facto recognition of its independence.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is considered first among equals in the Orthodox patriarchy, last year granted independence to Ukraine's OCU, severing its centuries-long dependence on the Russian Orthodox Church.

Bartholomew's move outraged the Russian Orthodox Church, which cut ties with the Patriarchate.

Holy Synod spokesman Bishop Georgios said the body's decisions are binding according to its constitution whether they're made unanimously or by majority.

He said the Synod also called on all Orthodox churches to work "in order to overcome the present crisis that threatens the Church of Christ with a schism."

Orthodox Church of Ukraine: 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. Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epifaniy was inaugurated as Primate of the newly created Orthodox Church of Ukraine at Kyiv's Saint Sophia Cathedral on February 3.
  • Metropolitan Epiphanius has said the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was being recognized by more local Orthodox churches despite pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).
  • One of the forms of Kremlin pressure on Ukraine is through promoting the idea of a "Russian Orthodox Church", Ukraine's intelligence chief Valeriy Kondratiuk said. To this end, Russia employs a wide range of tools "to hinder the process of formation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, manipulating the feelings of Ukrainian believers and trying in every possible way to preserve its influence on them."