ISTANBUL (AP) — Ukraine’s president has met the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, as some Ukrainian clerics prepare to break ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.
President Petro Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew I spoke in Istanbul on Saturday, weeks after the patriarchate’s Oct. 11 decision to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Russia in turn broke off ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate.
Poroshenko thanked the patriarch, who is the “first among equals” in the Orthodox world, for supporting the Ukrainian church’s independence.
The Ukrainian church had been under the Russian Orthodox Church since 1686. Ukrainian clerics are now being forced to pick sides, to join the independent Ukraine Orthodox church or remain within Russian influence, as the fighting persists in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed rebels.