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article imageUkrainian Church in Crimea faces closure

By AFP     Feb 19, 2019 in World

The only major Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Russian-annexed Crimea is set to close, its head told AFP, following a historic religious split between Kiev and Moscow.

For more than 300 years the Ukrainian Church was linked to the Moscow Patriarchate, but Kiev now considers this unacceptable given Russia's actions in Crimea.

This year an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church was established, to the fury of Moscow.

Father Kliment, the head of the Cathedral of Saint Vladimir and Saint Olga in Crimea's capital Simferopol, said Crimean authorities had told him they would revoke his church's lease next month.

Father Kliment  the head of the Cathedral of Saint Vladimir and Saint Olga in Simferopol  leads a se...
Father Kliment, the head of the Cathedral of Saint Vladimir and Saint Olga in Simferopol, leads a service before the closure of the only major Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Russian-annexed Crimea
STR, AFP/File

This is because he has failed to register the parish in the Russian Federation, he said.

But, because Kiev considers Crimea "temporarily occupied Ukrainian territory," he cannot comply with the Russian law as a Ukrainian priest, Kliment said.

"Our cathedral does not just have a religious function. It is also a centre for the spiritual culture of Ukrainians in Crimea," he said.

Kliment said he does not know what will happen in the likely event the church is forced to close.

Father Kliment  the head of the Cathedral of Saint Vladimir and Saint Olga in Crimea's capital ...
Father Kliment, the head of the Cathedral of Saint Vladimir and Saint Olga in Crimea's capital Simferopol, said Crimean authorities had told him they would revoke his church's lease next month
STR, AFP/File

The lease agreement on the building, which previously belonged to an educational facility, was due to run to 2050.

Crimea's property ministry declined to comment on the matter, as did the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kiev.

The Ukrainian Church was previously split into three, with one Church overseen by the Patriarch of Moscow.

The Russian-controlled branch of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine has refused to participate in establishing a unified church.

Father Kliment  the head of the Cathedral of Saint Vladimir and Saint Olga in Simferopol  Kliment sa...
Father Kliment, the head of the Cathedral of Saint Vladimir and Saint Olga in Simferopol, Kliment said he does not know what will happen in the likely event the church is forced to close
STR, AFP/File

It has also broken off ties with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which granted autonomy to the Ukrainian Church.

The Constantinople Patriarch's decision to recognise the Ukrainian Church's independence from Russia was a huge blow to Moscow's spiritual authority in the Orthodox world.

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