US backs Ecumenical Patriarchate in church row


The US State Department has backed a decision by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to endorse Ukraine’s request for an “autocephalous,” or independent, church, while praising Patriarch Vartholomaios as “the voice of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue.”

Asked to comment on the announcement by the Russian Orthodox Church that it will break off relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the decision, a State Department official said that the US administration supports the assertion of the right of religious freedom in Ukraine as well as the country’s territorial integrity.

The split is seen as a show of force by Moscow after a Ukrainian church was granted independence.