Key Ukrainian church gathering slated for next week

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday that local Orthodox communities will gather for a summit next week that is expected to form a new, independent Ukrainian church.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Istanbul-based institution that serves as a center of the global Eastern Orthodox faith, has drafted a charter for an independent Ukrainian church. The move would separate the Ukrainian church from Russia after several centuries of unity.

Poroshenko, who has made an independent church one of the main slogans of his not-yet-announced re-election bid, said that Orthodox communities would gather on Dec. 15 to adopt the charter of the new Ukrainian church and choose its leader. The newly formed community would then be expected to receive independence from Constantinople.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian police searched Russian Orthodox churches and the homes of Russian Orthodox priests in several cities, stepping up pressure amid growing tensions between the two countries.

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The numerous searches in Ukraine’s capital and in the provinces were part of a criminal investigation into inciting hatred and violence, according to police.

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This story has been corrected to give the date of the meeting as Dec. 15, not Dec. 5.

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