Thousands of people have gathered outside a Kiev cathedral to witness the birth of a new Ukrainian Orthodox Church as tensions between Ukraine and Russia continue to drive the two farther apart.

Orthodox priests speak to people gathered to support an independent Ukrainian church near the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Orthodox priests speak to people gathered to support an independent Ukrainian church near the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

President Petro Poroshenko has told the crowd “the creation of our Church is another declaration of Ukraine’s independence and you are the main participants of this historic event.”

Orthodox priests bless people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Orthodox priests bless people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Representatives of three Ukrainian Orthodox churches are holding a closed-door synod Saturday to approve the charter for a unified church and to elect leadership.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center, greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center, greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Poroshenko, who will attend the synod as a non-voting observer, has made the creation of a new independent church a key campaign issue.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Istanbul, the center of the Orthodox world, has signed off on Ukraine’s bid to create an independent church, despite fierce protests from Moscow.

Source: The Associated Press

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