Applause erupted outside a Kiev cathedral Thursday after Orthodox clerics in Istanbul agreed to recognise the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate also agreed to reinstate the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Patriarch Filaret, who addressed journalists and worshippers in Kiev.
Patriarch Filaret, who was excommmunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church in the dispute with Moscow over the status of the Ukraine Church, said he hoped the change could take place without violence.
He said other churches would have the right to exist in the country after the "autocephaly" -- or granting of independence -- but would not have the right to say they were part of a unified Ukrainian Church.
"Unification will take place purely on a voluntary basis, without any violence," he said outside Saint Volodymyr's Cathedral in Kiev.
An AFP reporter at the scene said the dozens-strong crowd was festive, chanting "Glory to Ukraine".
At the entrance to the cathedral, Lyudmyla Kosnur said she had been praying for the independence decision.
"We are waiting for a real Ukrainian church, where prayers will be in the Ukrainian language, understandable for Ukrainians," she said.
"We are inspired but we are worrying a little, we are waiting for the end of this proccess".
Meanwhile a man named Artem, 27, said the "Ukrainian people, the church, the state" had made the decision.
"I believe there should be no control (over us), they cannot influence us in any way," he told AFP.
"There are territories, there are borders."