By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — An extraordinary meeting of the leadership of the Church of Greece decided on October 12 to recognize the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), making it the first of the Eastern Orthodox churches to take such a step.
The Orthodox Times said the Greeks’ formal recognition will take place on October 19 in Thessaloniki, with Archbishop Ieronymos and the OCU’s Metropolitan Epifaniy of Kyiv and All Ukraine present.
The Church of Greece’s so-called Hierarchy’s majority vote was reportedly opposed by seven metropolitans.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople, generally considered the spiritual headquarters for Orthodoxy, granted the Orthodox Church of Ukraine independence in January in a move that was adamantly resisted by Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church.
The new Orthodox Church of Ukraine installed its first metropolitan, Epifaniy, at a ceremony in Kyiv on February 3 in a process that further established the new church body’s independence.
But recognition has not followed from other Orthodox churches — until now.
Supporters hope the Greek move could give impetus to other Orthodox churches that have been balking at such a step.
For years there were three main rival Orthodox churches in Ukraine, the Moscow Patriarchate being the largest among them.
Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and the ongoing five-year war between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists exacerbated tensions over that rivalry, with Ukraine’s then-president, Petro Poroshenko, making independence for the Ukrainian national church a priority last year.
The Russian Orthodox Church has since cut off relations with the Constantinople Patriarchate since it delivered the so-called tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.