The Kiev Pechersk Lavra
© Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko
The Kiev Pechersk Lavra
A Bulgarian Orthodox priest has condemned the actions of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is set to grant self-rule to a schismatic Orthodox church in Ukraine - contrary to the religion's canonic law.

A day before millions of Orthodox Ukrainians celebrate Christmas, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople plans to grant independence to a freshly created 'Orthodox Church of Ukraine' - a unified body of two schismatic churches in the country.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which was the supreme Orthodox authority over Ukrainian territory for centuries, denies Constantinople's claim over Ukraine and says its autonomous branch, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, remains the only canonical Orthodox organization in the country.

The controversial merger earlier this year was an "obvious iniquity," Bulgaria's Archpriest Bozhidar Glavev told RT, accusing Patriarch Bartholomew of "perverting history."

"For him, the canonical law is not important... He does not act in the interests of the Orthodox Church, but against it," Fr Bozhidar said, praising members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate for their defense of the faith.

The unification of two schismatic Orthodox churches in Ukraine was personally spearheaded by President Petro Poroshenko with the full backing of the US government. While Patriarch Bartholomew's "plan" focused on "splitting the unity of the Orthodox Church," the United States "took advantage of the situation" to drive yet another stake in Russian-Ukrainian relations, the Bulgarian clergyman explained.

The government in Kiev claims that Orthodoxy in Ukraine needs to be separated from Moscow's influence. In practice, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a self-ruled entity with its own central governing body, which has ties to Moscow mostly in a spiritual sense. The Moscow Patriarchate was granted jurisdiction over Ukraine by Constantinople back in 1686, and the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew rely on the claim that the decision can be arbitrarily revoked by Constantinople.

After Constantinople's move, Moscow declared that it was no longer in communion with it. Other canonical Orthodox churches throughout the world, including the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, will now be forced to choose between sides in the unfolding conflict.