martedì 1 marzo 2022

Putin more important than the UOC-MP?

(Peter Anderson)
On February 28 the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) issued an address to the Ukrainian people. (link) A good English translation of the entire text of the address can be read at (link).  The address leaves absolutely no doubt that the Holy Synod stands with the Ukrainian people against the invasion from the Russian Federation.  This is demonstrated by such statements as the following:

In such a difficult situation, we call on everyone to be courageous, to enhance prayer and unite around the defense of our Homeland.  Addressing all our defenders today, we want to testify that we honor you and pray for you because your risking your lives sacrificially truly testify how one can fulfil the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:13).  For our part, we once again confirm that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has always supported and continues to support the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  We fully share the pain and suffering of our people.  In these challenging times, fervent prayers are offered in all the churches and monasteries of our Church for an end to the war and the restoration of peace in Ukraine. 

The address also includes a direct appeal to Patriarch Kirill in Moscow.  This appeal states:

Realizing our special spiritual responsibility, today we address His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.  Your Holiness!  We ask you to intensify your prayer for the long-suffering Ukrainian people, to say your First Hierarch’s Word on the cessation of fratricidal bloodshed in Ukrainian land and call on the leadership of the Russian Federation to immediately stop hostilities that are already threatening to turn into a world war.

The appeal unambiguously asks Patriarch Kirill to call upon the leadership of the Russian Federation (namely President Putin) to immediately stop hostilities (namely begin a ceasefire).  However, to this moment, there has been complete silence on the part of Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church in the Russian Federation.  There is not much time left for Patriarch Kirill to speak as the final assault by the Russian forces on Kyiv is now beginning.   With few exceptions, the appeal was not reported by the Russian secular and religious media.  One of the few exceptions was the popular religious website (link) It quoted the first part of the appeal as can be seen below:

“Realizing our special spiritual responsibility, today we address His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.  Your Holiness!  We ask you to intensify your prayer for the long-suffering Ukrainian people, to say your First Hierarch’s Word on the cessation of fratricidal bloodshed on Ukrainian land <…>.”

The website replaced the key phrase about calling on the leadership of the Russian Federation with dots.  It is reported that Vakhtang Kipshidze, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media, was asked about the appeal of the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP to Patriarch Kirill, and Kipshidze responded, “We are not commenting yet.” (link)  Meanwhile, the full onslaught on Kyiv is beginning.

The inaction by Patriarch Kirill has certainly been noticed by the UOC-MP.  It has been reported that the following dioceses of the UOC-MP have already directed that Patriarch Kirill no longer be commemorated in the Divine Liturgy:  Sumy, Rovnskaya, Mukachevskaya, Vladimir-Volynskaya and Zhytomyr.  It is also reported that the Vladimir-Volynskaya diocese has called for a complete separation from the Moscow Patriarchate. (link) Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, who together with Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil is the leading spokesperson of the UOC-MP, addressed this matter on his Telegram channel a few hours ago. (link) He stated:

I was approached by the Russian media with a request to comment on the fact that the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill was stopped in many churches of the UOC.  I wrote a comment.  But they did not take it, they said that this would not work for them.  "As you wish," I said, "but this is the truth as it is."  Posting this comment here.  Maybe someone from Russia will read it.

“Yes, many of our priests have stopped commemorating the Moscow Patriarch during divine services this Sunday. From Sumy, where Russian tanks are already driving, to Volyn, where in many parishes the Patriarch has not been commemorated for a long time.  Many priests call me and tell me about it.  Such is the reality.  And the reason is obvious.  The perfidious open invasion of Ukraine is a huge mistake of Russia.  Perfidious, because we have heard earlier assurances from high-ranking Russian officials that "there is no invasion and it is not planned."  In Ukraine, all the people stood up for the defense of the country, namely the country, and not personally for President V. Zelensky or his policies.  In fact, this is a Patriotic War.  War to defend the Fatherland.  And the Church did too.  Like in 1941.  It's a matter of principle.  After all, there is a fact of an open invasion of the territory of a sovereign country.  The defense of the country is the sacred duty of every citizen.  And our Beatitude clearly stated this in his statement on the first day of the war.

Today Russia is at war not with our government, but with the people.  That is how we perceive it.  This means that it is impossible for the aggressor to win such a war.  In addition, people did not hear from the Patriarch a clear assessment of this war and his call to stop this madness.  But people heard these words from His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry.”

By being silent, Patriarch Kirill may be saying that his relationship with President Putin is more important than his relationship with the UOC-MP.  However, for the primate of a Local Orthodox Church, the most important consideration should be doing what is right in the eyes of God, and not man.  Would God want an immediate end to this bloodshed?

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA