Leaders of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine declared independence from the Russian Orthodox Church over its support of the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, according to a statement on the Ukrainian church’s Facebook page on Friday.
Why it matter: Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of Russia’s Orthodox Church, has repeatedly publicly supported the war, even though he is the spiritual leader of Orthodox churches in both countries, according to the New York Times.
- The Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church breaking away represents a major schism, though it is unclear how many Ukrainian bishops and parishes will follow the leaders of the church.
The big picture: Earlier this month, Pope Francis criticized Kirill for his support for the invasion, telling him to not “transform himself into Putin’s altar boy.”
- “Brother, we are not state clerics, we cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus. We are pastors of the same holy people of God. Because of this, we must seek avenues of peace, to put an end to the firing of weapons,” Francis said.
- Kirill was also heavily criticized by the World Council of Churches in April for not supporting an Easter ceasefire for the conflict.
Go deeper: The latest on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine