The head of the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the metropolitan Epiphanius, officiated at the Christmas Mass in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, a day after receiving from the hands of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the "tomos" (decree) that guarantees the independence of the Moscow institution.
The Christmas liturgy, broadcast live, was attended by the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, with his wife and children, members of his cabinet, the President of Parliament, Andrei Parubiy, and politicians such as former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former President Víktor Yushchenko,
On large screens outside, hundreds of Ukrainians followed the service in the Plaza Santa Sofia that overlooks the cathedral, in which is exposed the "tomos" that the patriarch of Constantinople signed last Saturday in Istanbul and delivered on Sunday and Epifanio .
The signing of the parchment and its subsequent delivery to the head of the new autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine implies the formalization of the independence of the Moscow religious institution after 300 years of subordination.
The process to achieve independence from the Moscow Patriarchate was intensified as of 2014 by Russian military actions in Ukraine and the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
The first milestone towards this goal was achieved in October, when the Universal Patriarchate of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) annulled the decree binding the Ukrainian Church to the Russian Church since 1686.
In December, a unification council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches was held, except for one that is loyal to Moscow, precisely in the Cathedral of Saint Sophia.
At that synod Epiphanius, 39, was appointed head of the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian faithful to Moscow refused categorically to recognize the council and the subsequent signing of the "tomes" on autocephaly by Bartolomé I.
The "tomos" states that the jurisdiction of the new independent Church is limited to the territory of Ukraine, can not appoint bishops or establish parishes abroad, and depends on Constantinople.