This marks an escalation of a dispute which in recent weeks has been presented in Moscow, by officials of church and state alike, as portending one of the biggest splits in Christendom for centuries. ” However, he stressed that Ukraine would remain a land of religious freedom, implying that people would still be free to worship in churches aligned with the Patriarchate of Moscow, as are at present the majority of the country’s Orthodox parishes. In its boldest move, the Istanbul-based synod formally rehabilitated two Ukrainian prelates who had been excommunicated by the Patriarchate of Moscow and are seen as key figures in the establishment of a legitimate national church in Kiev. In another challenge to Moscow, the Istanbul-based Patriarchate of Constantinople formally withdrew the 1686 decision which gave Moscow some authority over the metropolitan see of Kiev. His counter-measures could include a complete severance of relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and a call on other national Orthodox churches to follow suit.
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