Head of Polish Orthodox Church backs Russian Patriarch Kiril, appears to lend support to Russia’s actions in Ukraine

Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, left, speaks to the press, as his Polish counterpart, Sawa, stands behind him. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
2 Min Read

The letter from the Polish orthodox cleric was issued on the occasion of the 14th anniversary of Kiril being installed as the Patriarch in Moscow. Its contents appear to indicate that Polish Archbishop Sawa supports Russia’s actions in Ukraine. He accused the Ukrainians of trying to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church.

“The enemy of the faith does not like the stability of the Church — he tries to destroy it. What happened in Ukraine testifies to this,” wrote Archbishop Sava to Kiril.

Archbishop Sava may be referring to Ukraine’s actions of dismantling and banning the Russian Orthodox Church from operating in Ukraine, which many view as an attack on religious freedom.

However, according to Patryk Panasiuk, an expert on the Orthodox Church and head of the foundation Hagia Marina, Archbishop Sawa’s letter goes way beyond the protocol associated with noting an anniversary and is rather indicative of close relations between the two clerics.

However, more concerning for many Poles, who generally support Ukraine in the war, is the support the Polish archbishop gives to the Moscow patriarch rather than to the Greek and Ukrainian churches. 

Patryk Panasiuk, a journalist from the Catholic Information Agency (KAI), notes that this is not the first time that close links with Moscow have been exposed in the Polish Orthodox church. Should the Polish authorities react against the Orthodox Church in retaliation, that would give the Russians the occasion to claim that they have to defend the Orthodox Church from persecution by the Polish state, says Panasiuk.

Archbishop Sawa’s letter was published on the official web page of the Moscow patriarch. It was one of a few letters of congratulations that came from much of the leadership class of Russia and Belarus, such as Vladimir Putin, Alexander Lukashenko, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, and the Speaker of the Russian Duma Vyacheslav Volodin.

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