President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko called the Ukrainians to pray for autocephaly on Sunday, October 14. The head of state appealed to people on his Facebook page.
“I was approached by a group of respected community leaders, including Yuri Shcherbak, Dmytro Pavlychko, Mykhailo Slaboshpytsky. They offer Ukrainian society to pray together for Ukraine, its army and the united church that we are creating together on October 14. I urge all those who are not indifferent: to come out with a prayer for the autocephaly of our Church. I propose to gather at the historic Sofiivska square on October 14 at 9.30 a.m. God and Ukraine unites us! ", wrote the president.
We remind you that on October 11, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate supported the extension of the granting of autocephaly to Ukraine, and also officially approved that the mother church of Ukraine is Constantinople. The Synod also removed the anathema from the head of the UOC-KP Filaret and the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Macarius. The head of the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate, Filaret, said that in the near future a unifying Bishops' Council would be held to create a single Ukrainian local church.
Orthodox Christians in Ukraine are currently divided between a semi-autonomous branch loyal to Moscow and Kirill, the one lead by the Filaret, and third church which emerged in the 1920s as a response to Soviet repression. With Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the fighting in the east, the Ukrainian government and lawmakers joined the calls for ecclesial independence from Moscow.
Praising the Thursday ruling, President Petro Poroshenko said it "dispelled the imperial illusions and chauvinistic fantasies of Moscow."
"This is a victory of good over evil, light over darkness," he said in televised remarks.
The victory for Kyiv could boost Poroshenko's reelection bid ahead of March 2019 elections.
Russian church prepares 'decisive and harsh' response
While there is no equivalent of the Catholic pope among Orthodox Christians, the Constantinople patriarch is often regarded as "first among equals" and wields a measure of traditional authority among other patriarchs.
This position has often put the Istanbul-based religious leader at odds with the patriarch of Russia, who has direct control of the biggest patriarchate in the Orthodox world. Currently, Russia's Orthodox Church boasts some 150 million believers, or roughly one half of all Orthodox Christians.
During the independence row, representatives of Moscow Patriarchate warned the resulting conflict could be comparable with the Great Schism from 1054, which split the Christian church into Catholics in the West and Orthodox Christians in the East.
Speaking to Rossiya-24 TV channel, senior Moscow Patriarchate official Igor Yakmichuk said the Moscow-based church will decide on its countermeasures after a Synod meeting set for next Monday.
"The response will be very decisive and harsh, it will be adequate to the situation that had developed," he said.