Russian invasion of Ukraine divides Russian Orthodox Church

CORRECTS TO SERVICE, NOT MASS - FILE - Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill delivers a Christmas service in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
By Dénes Albert
4 Min Read

Its top leader, Patriarch Kirill, may fully support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the war is driving a wedge in the Russian Orthodox Church, reports Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet.

The Russian Orthodox Patriarch gave his full blessing to the offensive launched by Vladimir Putin with the views of the Russian president and the church leader only differing to the extent that while the former sees the occupation of Ukraine as a restoration of the balance of power, the latter considers it a crusade.

“War serves as a bulwark against decadent Western liberal culture,” the Patriarch Kirill has claimed in earlier statements.

In his sermon on Sunday, the Moscow archbishop urged believers to stand up for the authorities while Moscow continues its military offensive in Ukraine.

“May the Lord help us to unite in this difficult time for our country, including cooperation around the authorities. And the authorities must be filled with responsibility for their people, humility and a willingness to serve their country, even when it comes to their lives,” the Interfax news agency quoted the sermon as saying. The 75-year-old patriarch added: “If the people join forces with the authorities, they will be able to repel external and internal enemies.”

Patriarch Kirill’s position in favor of war provoked opposition both within the Russian Orthodox Church and within foreign churches affiliated to the Moscow Patriarchate. There are currently about 260 million Orthodox Christians in the world, the majority of whom live in Russia.

In Russia, about 300 members of the Orthodox Church, a group called the Russian Priests for Peace, have signed a letter condemning “kill orders” in Ukraine. In addition, 17 dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, part of the Moscow Patriarchate, announced that they would no longer mention the Moscow leader as usual in the liturgy because Patriarch Kirill had not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In Ukraine, there are approximately 30 million Orthodox believers who belong to three different churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, the Moscow Patriarchate, and the Self-governed Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The World Council of Churches, meanwhile, debated the Russian Orthodox Church for its involvement in Vladimir Putin’s “political intrigue.” Reverend Ioan Sauca, Acting Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, had previously written to Patriarch Kirill to mediate between the parties to end the war, but received a negative response.

Despite all this, the Italian Catholic Episcopal Faculty confirmed on Monday that Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, who headed the Catholic Church, could meet in June to promote peace.

Both the Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate proposed a neutral venue for a possible personal meeting between the two church leaders. As reported previously by this site, on Sunday, on a return flight from his visit to Malta, Pope Francis said they were working on a meeting with Patriarch Kirill which could be held in the Middle East.

According to the latest press reports, Pope Francis will travel to Amman, Jordan on June 12, and from there on to Jerusalem on June 14.

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