Ukraine baby’s tragic death exposes religious divide

A Moscow-led church in the central city of Zaporizhia refused to bury the one-year-old boy because he was christened by a rival one that is overseen by Kiev

KIEV The death of a baby crushed by a drunk man who jumped out of an eighth-storey apartment in Ukraine has exposed the deep religious divide in the predominantly Orthodox Christian country.

A Moscow-led church in the central city of Zaporizhia refused to bury the one-year-old boy after his death on New Year’s Eve because he was christened by a rival one that is overseen by Kiev, his family told the local media.

The Ukrainian Church has been split since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 and the bad blood has been heightened by the Russian-backed war in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 people in nearly four years.

The Moscow-led denomination is much larger and also the dominant one in Zaporizhia — a city of over 700,000 people that was founded more than 1,000 years ago and is now an industrial Ukrainian hub.

But the family of the boy, who was killed by the plunging man as he was being led out of the apartment building by his father, belongs to the Kiev-led faith.

The father Roman Polishchuk said the priest of the Moscow-led church they turned to told the family he could not perform the burial ceremony.

“The priest said our baby was unchristened and our church was a sham,” Polishchuk told the local Forpost news site.

“My wife cried and threw herself before him on her knees, but this did not help.”

The family eventually took the baby’s body to the church where he was christened to perform the burial rights.

The priest who turned the family away said he had no choice because those were the rules of his faith.

“I am very sorry. I feel for those people,” Yevgen Molchanov told Forpost.

“But there are certain lines I cannot cross. A child christened by the Kiev Patriarchate remains unchristened.

“And the Kiev Church itself is a hoax.”

A spokesman for the Kiev Patriarchate said such incidents had happened before and only fed frustrations among the faithful in Ukraine.

“There is no official document from the Moscow Patriarchate saying this must be the case,” Yevstratiy Zorya wrote on Facebook.

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