The spiritual head of Orthodox Christians worldwide formally granted independence to the Ukrainian church, marking an historic split from Russia.
An independent Ukrainian Orthodox church was created at a signing ceremony in Turkey on Saturday, formalising a split with the Russian church which it has been tied to since 1686.
The Istanbul-based Patriarch, Bartholomew I, signed the "Tomos" in Istanbul in front of clerics and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, forming the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The move is forcing Ukrainian clerics to pick sides between the Moscow-backed Ukrainian churches and the new church as fighting persists in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed rebels.
"The pious Ukrainian people have awaited this blessed day for seven entire centuries," Bartholomew I said in his address.
TRT World's Christine Pirovolakis has more.
The patriarch, who is considered "first among equals" in Orthodox Christianity, said Ukrainians could now enjoy "the sacred gift of emancipation, independence and self-governance, becoming free from every external reliance and intervention."
Last month, Ukrainian Orthodox leaders approved the creation of a new, unified church split from the Moscow Patriarchate and elected 39-year-old Metropolitan Epiphanius I to lead it.
Bartholomew I's October decision to grant the Ukrainian church "autocephaly," or independence, infuriated Moscow and the Russian church severed ties with Istanbul, the centre of the Orthodox world.
TRT World speaks with Peter Zalmayev, the Director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative.
Kiev has been pushing for a church free from Moscow's influence, which intensified after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Poroshenko, president since 2014, has been a prominent driver for the creation of the new church as he campaigns for the upcoming March 31 elections. Though the church is not formally part of the state, it is closely tied. Recent opinion polls suggest he is in the second or third place in the race.
Poroshenko met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the ceremony.