The Latest on the split between Orthodox Churches in Ukraine and Russia (all times local):

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)

6:25 p.m.

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)

Ukrainian Orthodox leaders say they have approved the creation of a unified church independent of the Moscow Patriarchate and elected a leader to head the new church.

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)
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)

The leader of the new autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be Metropolitan Epiphanius, a 39-year-old bishop from the Kiev Patriarchate. 

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)

The vote, which was held Saturday at a closed-door synod in Kiev’s St. Sophia Cathedral, is certain to anger authorities in Russia.

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)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, background center, speaks at a closed-door synod of three Ukrainian Orthodox churches to approve the charter for a unified church and to elect leadership in the St. (Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, background center, speaks at a closed-door synod of three Ukrainian Orthodox churches to approve the charter for a unified church and to elect leadership in the St. (Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has made the creation of a new church a key campaign issue, attended the synod as a non-voting observer. 

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. (Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)

Representatives of Ukraine’s three Orthodox Churches attended the synod, but only two from the branch loyal to Moscow showed up.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, 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. (Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, 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. (Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, backgrounder 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. (Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, backgrounder 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. (Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center left, and Metropolitan Emmanuel, center right, talk to each other as they 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. (Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center left, and Metropolitan Emmanuel, center right, talk to each other as they 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. (Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)

1 p.m.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center left, and Metropolitan Emmanuel, center right, 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. (Mykhailo Markiv, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, center left, and Metropolitan Emmanuel, center right, 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. (Mykhailo Markiv, 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, 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)

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.

People walk by the graffiti that shows Serbian, left, and Russian flags with maps of Kosovo and Crimea in northern, Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
People walk by the graffiti that shows Serbian, left, and Russian flags with maps of Kosovo and Crimea in northern, Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

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.”

A woman walks by graffiti showing the Serbian flag, left, and Russian flags with maps of Kosovo and Crimea in northern, Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A woman walks by graffiti showing the Serbian flag, left, and Russian flags with maps of Kosovo and Crimea in northern, Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A man walks by graffiti that shows Serbian, left, and Russian flags with maps of Kosovo and Crimea in northern, Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
A man walks by graffiti that shows Serbian, left, and Russian flags with maps of Kosovo and Crimea in northern, Serb-dominated part of ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

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, backgrounder 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. (Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, backgrounder 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. (Mikhail Palinchak, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)

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

Russian Orthodox Church activists stand in front of Ukraine hotel in a picket to protest the church meeting in Kiev, in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)
Russian Orthodox Church activists stand in front of Ukraine hotel in a picket to protest the church meeting in Kiev, in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Dec. (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

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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