MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian Orthodox Church has cut ties with the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Africa following his decision to recognize Ukraine's new independent Orthodox Church.
The Russian church's Holy Synod ruled late Thursday to rupture all links with Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa.
It noted, however, that it will remain in communion with those clerics of his church who didn’t support the decision.
The Holy Synod also decided that its parishes in Africa will be removed from the Patriarchate of Alexandria's jurisdiction and made directly subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church’s head, Patriarch Kirill.
The move follows January's decision by Constantinople Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is considered first among equals in Orthodox patriarchy, to grant independence to the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine, severing its centuries-long ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.
The move angered the Russian Orthodox Church, which cut ties with the Istanbul-based Patriarchate. The decision to grant independence to Ukraine's church has split the Orthodox world, with some churches supporting it and others criticizing the move.
Many Ukrainians had resented the status of the Moscow-affiliated church. The push for a full-fledged Ukrainian church intensified amid a tug-of-war between the two ex-Soviet neighbors that followed Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and its support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.