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Ukrainian Orthodox Church independence is a mistake

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11.01.2019

The leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew I, has granted adherents to the Orthodox faith in Ukraine autocephaly, or, in other words, independence from Russia.

Bartholomew did this on his own authority, against the advice of other bishops, thereby violating canon law and contradicting his own decisions on Ukraine that he himself made just a few years ago.

The reactions could hardly have been worse: Other patriarchs refuse to follow suit. Even members of the Greek-Orthodox Holy Synod have voiced their disapproval.

Orthodox church leaders in Poland or the Czech Republic also oppose the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The 2,000 monks (Abbots and starets) of the semi-autonomous monastic state Mount Athos have been left shaking their heads in disbelief.

But not everyone is up in arms. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Vice President Joe Biden, and a former CIA chief applauded the move. Washington supports the division of churches in Eastern Europe. It is another means to weaken Moscow's influence over Ukraine — even if it is just the ecclesiastical.

From the US perspective, such fragmentation is legitimate. Concerns over canonical law are an alien concept to many Americans. Why should people today abide by decrees dating back to the 4th century? The US views itself as a bastion of freedom, especially freedom of religion.

Read more: What is the Orthodox Church?

It is a country to which persecuted peoples from other lands have fled for centuries. It is also a country in which new religious communities are constantly emerging: Scientologists; Mormons; Jehovah's Witnesses; countless evangelical revival churches. Backed by enormous wealth, they use the US as a springboard to spread their missionary message........

© Deutsche Welle