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Ukrainian Orthodox Church Enthrones Epifaniy As Leader


Ukraine's Orthodox Church Enthrones Metropolitan Epifaniy
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WATCH: Ukraine's Orthodox Church Enthrones Metropolitan Epifaniy

KYIV -- The new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) has installed its first metropolitan, Epifaniy, at a ceremony in Kyiv on February 3, in a process that further establishes the new church body's independence.

The enthronement ceremony for Epifaniy was held in a packed St. Sophia's Cathedral in the Ukrainian capital. It was attended by dozens of Ukrainian and foreign church officials. Also in attendance were hundreds of well-wishers and President Petro Poroshenko.

Poroshenko, who had promised the establishment of an independent church for Ukraine, described the ceremony as the "completion" of the process.

Ukraine in October secured approval from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople -- the spiritual head of Orthodoxy -- to set up an independent Orthodox church.

Ukraine's Orthodox Church Enthrones Metropolitan Epifaniy
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The move was fiercely opposed by Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church, under which many Orthodox parishes in Ukraine have pledged allegiance to for centuries.

Bartholomew handed over a document establishing the OCU's independence, known as a "tomos," to Epifaniy at a ceremony in Istanbul on January 6.

Epifaniy, 40, is now tasked with trying to unite the divergent Orthodox church bodies in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church says more than 100 parishes have already joined the newly established church.

"While up until now our task was to unite in a local church and receive a tomos on autocephaly, now we need to confirm the achieved unity, and continue to build and strengthen the church," Epifaniy said after the enthronement ceremony.

"We believe that when the appropriate time comes in the future, all these efforts will also be crowned with the confirmation of the status of patriarchate for our church," he added.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service published on February 2, Epifaniy said he hopes that the process of parishes converting to the OCU should be smooth and that the goal was for it to be "peaceful, calm, and voluntary."

He warned that Moscow "has certain visions to create a confrontation" in Ukraine when churches or property belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church come under the control of the OCU.

Epifaniy said the few cases of confrontation between the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches that have occurred in Ukraine were "provoked by the Moscow Patriarchate."

He added that the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine "is the last outpost of Putin."

Epifaniy said the OCU is hopeful of gaining recognition from several foreign Orthodox churches, naming the Greek and Cypriot Orthodox churches as ones he expected to be among the first to offer such recognition.

Efipaniy admitted to RFE/RL that he no longer has time -- as head of the new church -- to write posts for his Twitter and Facebook pages, but that it is now done by an assistant.

With reporting by AFP
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