THE row is over points of ecclesiastical history and procedure that most people, including ordinary folk who belong to the relevant churches, find utterly obscure. But the geopolitical stakes are enormous. That is one way to describe the escalating dispute over religious authority in Ukraine, a devout and divided country, where 70% of people identify as Orthodox Christians.
At the root of the argument is a fact that would surprise many people. Although Ukraine is in a state of barely frozen conflict with Russia, the most widely organised Christian church on Ukrainian territory (and the only one which enjoys real international legitimacy) owes allegiance to the Patriarchate of Moscow. Its adherents deny being pawns of Moscow, but they are obliged to offer public prayers for Kirill, Moscow’s powerful patriarch.
Many Ukrainians feel that as a country battling to preserve its political independence, Ukraine should have a fully independent national church. As of now, there are two Orthodox bodies which operate on Ukrainian soil, but (in…Continue reading