A spokesman for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine has charged that the establishment of a "local" Orthodox Church serves the interests of Catholics seeking to gain hegemony in the country.
"The true intent of a joint local Orthodox Church in Ukraine is the promotion of Catholicism further to the East," charged Yury Boldyrev, the president of a Ukrainian group called Way of the Orthodox, told Profil magazine, the Interfax news service reports.
He claimed that Catholics have worked for "at least 1,000 years" to undermine the unity of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. That effort, Boldyrev said, is part of a larger Catholic drive to expand Roman influence into Russia.
The Ukrainian Orthodox community is currently divided into three competing groups.
Patriarch Filaret of Kiev, who was once recognized by Moscow as the leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, established his own independent Patriarchate of Kiev in 1992 after being rejected and finally excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox because he demanded greater autonomy from Moscow.
The Patriarchate of Kiev is now steadily attracting more followers away from the "official" Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which enjoys Moscow's backing.
A third group, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, has joined with Patriarch Filaret in a bid to form a single, unified Ukrainian Church.
The conflict among Orthodox leaders is complicated by the vigor of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the largest of the Byzantine churches in full communion with Rome.
Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the Major Archbishop of the Eastern-rite Ukrainian Church, has given his support to the effort to unite Ukrainians under a single patriarch. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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