The Latest: Ukraine Orthodox OKs break with Russian church

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

6:25 p.m.

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.

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

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

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

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1 p.m.

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.

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.”

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.

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

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

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