MINSK (Reuters) - The Russian Orthodox Church said on Monday it had decided to break off all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in protest over its endorsement of Ukraine's request for an "autocephalous" (independent) church.
Speaking in Belarus after a meeting of the Russian Church's ruling body, Metropolitan Ilarion, a cleric, said the Holy Synod had been left with no choice but to sever ties with the Patriarchate in Istanbul, seat of the global spiritual leader of roughly 300 million Orthodox Christians.
Ukraine last week secured approval from Constantinople to establish an independent church in what Kiev said was a vital step against Russian meddling in its affairs. The Russian Orthodox Church called it the biggest split in Christianity for a thousand years.
(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Christian Lowe in Moscow; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Kevin Liffey)