Tensions are escalating in Ukraine as it prepares to establish a full-fledged Orthodox church of its own. The planned religious rupture from the Russian Orthodox Church is a potent — possibly explosive — mix of politics, religious faith and national identity.

The imminent creation of the new Ukrainian church raises deep concerns about what will happen to the approximately 12,000 churches in Ukraine that are now under the Moscow Patriarchate.

FILE – In this Sunday, July 27, 2008 file photo, The thousand-year-old Monastery of Caves, the holiest site of Eastern Orthodox Christians, against the background of the Dnipro River, in Kiev, Ukraine. Tensions over the imminent formation of a Ukrainian Orthodox church independent of Moscow are raising fears that nationalists may try to seize Russian church properties. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, FILE)

Since the late 1600s, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine had been a wing of the Russian Orthodox Church rather than ecclesiastically independent. Many Ukrainians chafed at that arrangement.

The Istanbul-based Orthodox patriarchate has now removed an anathema against Ukrainian church leaders, a major step toward granting full recognition to a Ukrainian church that does not answer to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Source: The Associated Press

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