The priest of a Moscow-led church in Ukraine has refused to bury a one-year-old boy because the baby was christened in a Kiev-led Orthodox church.
Roman Polishchuk said that the priest of the Moscow-led church in the central city of Zaporizhia had refused to bury his 21-month-old child, leading him to lash out in disgust.
"The priest said our baby was unchristened and our church was a sham," Polishchuk said. "My wife cried and threw herself before him on her knees, but this did not help," he added.
According to Daily Mail, the baby died on New Year's Eve after being crushed to death by a suicidal man who had jumped from a building.
Polishchuk witnessed the moment when the man landed on his son. The boy's mother, Anna, was reportedly saying goodbye to her parents after celebrating New Year's with them and only rushed out a few moments after the boy was hit.
"I heard a loud thump and then the boy's mother rushed out," said neighbor Sergey Borisov. "She ran to the ambulance where paramedics were seeking to save the child, and understood everything instantly," he added.
Paramedics said that the baby had "crumpled from the strength of the hit." Senior paramedic Vitaly Reznikov said they tried to reanimate the baby's heart and lungs but he died inside the ambulance.
Priest Yevgen Molchanov said that Polishchuk punched him after he refused to perform burial rites for the baby. A small brawl broke out inside the church before the bereaved family was forced to leave. The baby's body was eventually taken to the church he was christened to perform the burial rites.
Molchanov contended that he was only following the rules of his faith. "I am very sorry. I feel for those people," he said.
"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," he went on to say.
A spokesman for the Kiev Patriarchate dismissed claims that there are such rules in the Moscow-led church.
"There is no official document from the Moscow Patriarchate saying this must be the case. This is all completely arbitrary and based on some verbal orders that are issued under the guise of secret 'canons,'" Yevstratiy Zorya wrote on Facebook.
The rivalry between Moscow-led and Kiev-led churches in Ukraine began when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The dispute intensified due to the war in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed and Kiev-backed sides that has resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 in nearly four years.
According to Agence France-Presse, the Moscow-led church is much larger and is dominant in Zaporizhia, a city with a population of more than 700,000 people.