Ukrainian religious leaders have announced the creation of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, separate from the Russian Orthodox Church. They also tapped a leader for their new church, which operates as part of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
But before we get into that, let's talk about some background. Eastern Orthodoxy comprises of several autonomous religious bodies, including the Greek Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Russian Orthodox Church used to function under Constantinople, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church operated under the Russian Orthodox Church.
Earlier this year, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople — which is seen as the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodoxy — recognized the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as separate from the Russian Orthodox Church. Russia didn't like that, so the Russian Orthodox Church split from Constantinople and became its own independent branch of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
It was seen as one of the biggest schisms in the Orthodox Church in about 1,000 years.
On Sunday, Ukrainian Orthodox leaders voted on the head of their autonomous church. Their newly-elected leader said in a speech, "God heard our appeals and gave us this anticipated unity."
Ukraine's president attended the gathering. He said the separation was another step away from Russia and that it could be "likened to political independence."