In his first liturgy as head of the newly christened Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphanius called for Ukrainians to unite under the new church and pray for peace in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, background third 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. (Mykola Lazarenko, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, background third 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. (Mykola Lazarenko, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, and new elected head of independent Ukrainian church Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, and new elected head of independent Ukrainian church Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Ukrainian bishops met Saturday and voted to approve a charter for the new church and elect a leader. Moscow has vigorously protested Ukraine’s bid for spiritual independence, because since the late 1600s, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine had been a wing of the Russian Orthodox Church.

A new head of independent Ukrainian church Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A new head of independent Ukrainian church Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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. (Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
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. (Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hugs newly elected head of independent Ukrainian church, Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hugs newly elected head of independent Ukrainian church, Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Epiphanius on Sunday says “we must complete the unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy … pray for an end to the war (in eastern Ukraine), and for a just peace in Ukraine.”

A new head of independent Ukrainian church Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A new head of independent Ukrainian church Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, the new head of Ukrainian Orthodox church Metropolitan Epiphanius, center, and Metropolitan Emmanuel attend a closed-door synod of three Ukrainian Orthodox churches to approve the charter for a unified church and to elect leadership in the St. (Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, the new head of Ukrainian Orthodox church Metropolitan Epiphanius, center, and Metropolitan Emmanuel attend a closed-door synod of three Ukrainian Orthodox churches to approve the charter for a unified church and to elect leadership in the St. (Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, speaks to people as a new elected head of independent Ukrainian church Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius looks on near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, speaks to people as a new elected head of independent Ukrainian church Metropolitan of Kiev Epiphanius looks on near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The creation of a new church is an attempt to unite Ukrainian Orthodox believers under one roof. But questions remain over the future of the branch in Ukraine loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Source: The Associated Press

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