The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I signed Ukraine’s tomos, a document that grants independence to Ukraine’s Orthodox Church, in Istanbul in front of clerics and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday Jan. 5.

Ukraine will receive the tomos on the following day, on Orthodox Christmas Eve.

The Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is the highest body of the Eastern Orthodox world.

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This historic signing will lead to Ukraine’s split from the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which Ukraine had been subordinate to for over three hundred years.

This formalization will lead to the official formation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Instead of three Orthodox churches in Ukraine, of which only the one subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate was a recognized canonic body, Ukrainians will now have one national church headed by Metropolitan Epiphanius, who was elected its head at the unification council in Kyiv on Dec. 15.

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“The pious Ukrainian people have awaited this blessed day for seven entire centuries,” Bartholomew I said in his address. Ukrainians could now enjoy “the sacred gift of emancipation, independence and self-governance, becoming free from every external reliance and intervention,” he added in the ceremony that took place at St. George’s Cathedral, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.

In addition to Poroshenko, the historic event was attended by Andriy Parubiy, Ukraine’s speaker of parliament, and several ministers.

In his address, Poroshenko thanked Bartholomew I “for the courage to make this historic decision” and said that “among the 15 stars of the Orthodox churches of the world a Ukrainian star has appeared,” referring to the most recent number of churches that don’t answer to an external authority.

A divine liturgy will take place in St. George’s Cathedral on Jan. 6. During the ceremony, the tomos will be passed to Metropolitan Epifaniy.

Last month, Ukrainian Orthodox leaders approved the creation of a new, unified church split from the Moscow Patriarchate, electing 39-year-old Metropolitan Epiphanius I as its leader.

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