New Ukrainian Orthodox leader gives 1st liturgy, urges unity


MINSK, Belarus (AP) – In his first liturgy as head of the newly christened Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphanius called for Ukrainians to unite under the new church and pray for peace in Ukraine.

Ukrainian bishops met Saturday and voted to approve a charter for the new church and elect a leader. Moscow has vigorously protested Ukraine’s bid for spiritual independence, because since the late 1600s, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine had been a wing of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Epiphanius on Sunday says “we must complete the unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy … pray for an end to the war (in eastern Ukraine), and for a just peace in Ukraine.”

The creation of a new church is an attempt to unite Ukrainian Orthodox believers under one roof. But questions remain over the future of the branch in Ukraine loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Ukrainian new head of Ukrainian Orthodox church Metropolitan Epiphanius speaks during a closed-door synod of three Ukrainian Orthodox churches to approve the charter for a unified church and to elect leadership in the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Ukrainian Orthodox leaders on Saturday approved the creation of a unified church independent of the Moscow Patriarchate and elected a leader to head the new church, officials said. The leader of the new autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be Metropolitan Epiphanius, a 39-year-old bishop from the Kiev Patriarchate. (Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)