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Serbian Church 'Doesn't Recognize' Ukrainian Churches' Leaders Seeking Moscow Split

Patriarch Filaret
Patriarch Filaret

The Serbian Orthodox Church says it will not recognize a decision by the leadership of Orthodox Christianity to rehabilitate the leaders of two Ukrainian Orthodox churches breaking away from Moscow.

The Serbian church’s Holy Assembly of Bishops “does not recognize” Patriarch Filaret and Metropolitan Makariy or “their followers,” a statement said on November 12.

Ukraine has three Orthodox churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate led by Patriarch Filaret; and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Metropolitan Makariy.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople last month agreed to recognize the autocephaly, or independence, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

It also lifted excommunications imposed on Filaret and Makariy, who have been instrumental in pushing for an independent Ukrainian church.

The Russian Orthodox Church labeled the moves schismatic and announced it was ending its relationship with Constantinople in protest.

In its statement, the Serbian Orthodox Church -- which has its own decades-old disputes with unrecognized breakaway churches in Macedonia and Montenegro -- said it “regrets” Constantinople’s “canonically unfounded decision” to rehabilitate Filaret and Makariy, and urged Orthodox leaders to “confirm and strengthen the unity of the Orthodox Church.”

However, it stopped stop short of saying it was breaking ties with the Istanbul-based patriarchate.

The religious dispute came amid high tensions between Moscow and Kyiv over Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its backing for separatists in a war in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people.

With reporting by UNIAN, The Washington Post, Interfax, Balkan Insight, and SPZH News

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