Ukraine’s Orthodox clerics are set to finalize the formation of a new, independent church at a meeting this weekend.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the Saturday meeting as authorities coerced priests into conforming to the change, which is mostly politically driven. Poroshenko said the church gathering will adopt a new charter and choose a leader.
The rift between the Ukrainian and Russian churches grew in October after the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople granted independence to the Ukrainian church over complaints that its Russian counterpart worked with the Kremlin and supported rebels in the country’s East. Russia in return, said it would split from the patriarchate.
Ukraine’s SBU intelligence agency searched the churches and homes of Russian Orthodox priests earlier this month. On Wednesday, the SBU said it questioned 12 priests in the Rivne and Sarny dioceses on charges of treason and inciting religious hatred. The priests included Metropolitan Pavel, the father superior of the Pechersk Lavra monastery. “There is a pressure on me personally, threats are being heard, all sorts of attacks not only on me, but also on other bishops and priests,” he said in a statement. —O.O.