00:38 GMT24 November 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Epiphanius Dumenko, the head of autocephalous Ukrainian church, said in a phone conversation with Russian prankster Vladimir Kuznetsov that he received considerable support from the United States, with the conversation's recording having been released on Kuznetsov's Youtube channel.

    "Yes, there is very tangible support from the United States in this regard, I believe, we will maintain contact in the future to ensure the [autocephalous] Ukrainian church will have support in the future", Epiphanius said, when asked by the prankster about his recent conversation with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo.

    The statement comes after the non-canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church's press service said on 22 December that Metropolitan Epiphanius had been tricked by Russian pranksters. According to the press service, the prankster talked to Metropolitan Epiphanius on behalf of David McAllister, the chair of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, with Metropolitan Epiphanius having had to stop the conversation since it became suspicious.

    READ MORE: Kremlin Points to Pompeo's Unprecedented Meddling in Ukrainian Church Affairs

    The US State Department earlier this week said that Pompeo had spoken on the phone with Epiphanius and stressed the US support for religious freedom in Ukraine.

    Epiphany Dumenko was elected head of the autocephalous church on 15 December, at a "unification council" that was held in Kiev at the initiative of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew. Only two bishops of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) participated in the council, according to Ukrainian media. The Ukrainian authorities reportedly expect to get tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople in early January.

    The Moscow Patriarchate has commented on the matter and described the situation as the "legalization of schism", stressing that it would have catastrophic consequences and affect millions of Christians in Ukraine and other countries.


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