Ukraine's leader orders Orthodox Church to change its name

Ukraine's leader orders Orthodox Church to change its name
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center left, attends 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. Poroshenko has told the crowd "the creation of our Church is another declaration of Ukraine's independence and you are the main participants of this historic event." (Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president has signed a bill that orders the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to change its name to reflect its ties to Moscow.

The Ukrainian church has been part of the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries, but some Ukrainian orthodox clerics, with government support, have moved to set up a separate independent Orthodox church in Ukraine. The move comes amid Ukraine’s disputes with Moscow after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday signed the bill ordering the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to explicitly indicate its link to the Moscow Patriarchate in its name. He says that would make it easier for Orthodox believers to choose between the new independent church or an Orthodox church still tied to Moscow.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has strongly protested the bill, calling it unconstitutional.