lunedì 4 aprile 2022

Patriarch Kirill's latest address & other news

(Peter Anderson)
On April 3, Patriarch Kirill celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the new and magnificent Resurrection Cathedral, the main temple of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. A video of the entire service can be watched at (link). Those present included military personnel standing in formation as well as a crowd of civilians.  After the Liturgy the Patriarch gave his address. (link) The address included the following:

I am very glad that today I had the opportunity to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in this beautiful church, in the presence of our servicemen.  Today, our Fatherland is going through a difficult time.  Today, the name "military man" is again associated with being not only in a peaceful state, but also being on the battlefield.  Fortunately, our Fatherland does not often face the battlefield, but the arrival of young people in the Armed Forces who aspire to become officers, who strive to devote their lives to defending the Fatherland, does not run low.   And if in peacetime this can be explained by some kind of privileges or material considerations, then in wartime, service in the Armed Forces is a real feat, and this is exactly the time we are experiencing now.  The service requires readiness from everyone who has taken the oath to defend the Fatherland, not sparing their lives.

Today the word "independence" is often applied to almost all countries of the world.  But this is wrong, because most of the countries of the world are now under the colossal influence of one force, which today, unfortunately, opposes the force of our people.  And since this is so, since there is great strength, then we must also be very strong.  When I say "we," I mean, first of all, the Armed Forces - but not only.  All of our people today must wake up, wake up, understand that a special time has come, on which the historical fate of our people may depend.

That is why today I celebrated the Divine Liturgy right here, in this church, in order to meet first of all with representatives of our Armed Forces, to address them, and through them to our entire army, to the navy, to all the defenders of the Fatherland, so that they realize the historical importance of the present moment.  I want to say again and again: we are a peace-loving country and a very peace-loving, long-suffering people who suffered from wars like few other European nations.  We have no desire for war or for doing something that could harm others.  But we have been so educated throughout our entire history that we love our Fatherland and will be ready to defend it in the way that only Russians can defend their country.

When I say these words, I do not say any empty compliments.  I start from the history of our people, from the history of our Armed Forces.  After all, we broke the back of fascism, which, undoubtedly, would have defeated the world, if not for Russia, if not for the feat of our people.  May the Lord help us today too, so that we, being peaceful, peace-loving and modest people, are at the same time ready - always and under any circumstances - to protect our home.

Of course, when I say all this, I do not cease to feel anxiety for all the people who live in those places where military clashes are taking place today.  After all, all these are the people and peoples of Holy Rus’, all these are our brothers and sisters.  But, as in the Middle Ages, wishing to weaken Russia, various forces pushed the brothers against each other, plunging them into internecine strife, so it is happening today.  Therefore, we must do everything we can to stop the bloodshed and to avoid the danger of internecine strife with all its consequences.  But at the same time, we must be faithful - when I say "we,", mean, first of all, military personnel - to our oath and readiness to "lay down our lives for our friends," as the word of God testifies.

From these remarks by the Patriarch, it is clear that the Patriarch is telling the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation that they are defending their Fatherland by their actions in Ukraine and that this is something noble and honorable.   This reinforces what was already known.  If the relationship between the Patriarch and the Russian government makes a stance of neutrality by the Church impossible, the Patriarch will side with Russia and not Ukraine.

In considering the Patriarch’s remarks, it should be remembered that his views probably reflect the views of the vast majority of the people living in the Russian Federation.  On March 31, the respected Levada Center in Moscow released the results of a poll with respect to the actions of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine which showed: 53% “definitely support,” 28% “rather support,” and only 14% do not support.  Six percent found it difficult to answer.  (link) Also, the remarks by the Patriarch are more moderate than those of some other Russian hierarchs.  For example, Metropolitan Leonid, Patriarchal Exarch for Africa, on this Telegram channel criticized Igumen Arseny (Sokolov), representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to the Patriarchate of Antioch, for calling the war in Ukraine “fratricidal.” (link) Metropolitan Leonid stated:  “And who, then, does he consider a brother when he speaks of a fratricidal war.  I have no brothers among the brown scum [“коричневого отребья”]!   

The difference in perceptions of what is true and factual between Russians on the one hand and Ukrainians and much of the West on the other hand is huge.  For example, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has posted numerous articles on the funerals given by its clergy to fallen Ukrainian soldiers.  See, for example, (link). These soldiers were honored by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for “defending our Motherland from the aggressive invasion of Russian troops.”   However, in the eyes of Metropolitan Leonid, these fallen soldiers cannot be considered brothers but are rather “brown scum.”  The Church in Moscow and the Church in Ukraine are living in two different worlds.  Differences in perception such as these raise the question of whether the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will remain in the Moscow Patriarchate, especially when it can be seen that the Patriarch has not been neutral but has taken the side of Russia over Ukraine.  I am sure that the Church in Moscow is painfully aware of this question.  Perhaps this is the reason for the silence of Metropolitan Hilarion on the war – to enable him to be some form of bridge with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at a later date.

The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held an in-person meeting on March 24. (link) The Patriarch’s website stated: “Due to the international situation, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Metropolitan Vladimir of Chisinau and All Moldova, Metropolitan Innokenty of Vilna and Lithuania, and Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovarsky could not attend the meeting.”  At least three of the four had previous expressed their opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.   On May 20, Metropolitan Hilarion was asked whether the Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate will be held in May 2022 as previously planned. (link) The Metropolitan answered:

The Council was scheduled for November [2021], but then, due to the severe epidemic situation, it was postponed.  Now other difficulties have arisen: it is very likely that many bishops will not be able to arrive in Moscow due to transport restrictions, so we will monitor the situation and at the right time we will make a decision on how and when to hold the Bishops’ Council.  There are several options: one option is to hold it at the appointed time, the other option is to postpone, reschedule the Cathedral to a later date, maybe in the fall.  The third option is to provide for the remote participation of bishops.  We will have to weigh all these factors in order to make an appropriate decision.

In my opinion, the bigger question is whether the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be willing to go to Moscow to attend the Council even if transportation were possible.  In 2017, the Bishops’ Council in amending the Statutes of the Moscow Patriarchate created a new and separate Chapter X governing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  (link)  Under Section 9 of this Chapter, the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church participate in the work of the Bishops’ Council in accordance with Chapter III.  Section 15 of Chapter III in turn provides: “None of the hierarchs who are members of the Bishops’ Council may refuse to participate in its meetings, except in cases of illness or any other reason recognized by the Council as valid.”  Thus, attendance of the Ukrainian bishops at the next Bishops’ Council is mandatory.  A decision by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church not to attend the next Council could signal a major break with the Moscow Patriarchate.  Moscow may decide to postpone the Council to lessen the chances of this happening.

Pope Francis spent this last weekend on a pilgrimage to Malta.  In a speech on April 2, the Pope made his strongest statement to date with respect to the Russian – Ukrainian war. (link) (complete text)   He stated:

Finally, there is the wind coming from the east , which often blows at dawn, which is why Homer called it “Eurus” (Odyssey, V, 349.423).  Yet from the east of Europe, from the land of sunrise, the dark shadows of war have now spread.  We had thought that invasions of other countries, savage street fighting and atomic threats were grim memories of a distant past.  However, the icy winds of war, which bring only death, destruction and hatred in their wake, have swept down powerfully upon the lives of many people and affected us all.  Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that, will either shared, or not be at all.  Now in the night of the war that is fallen upon humanity, please, let us not allow the dream of peace to fade!

On his flight back to Rome on April 3, Pope Francis answered the questions of journalists.  (link) The Pope was asked about a possible trip to Ukraine.  In this regard, the Pope stated:

The other option is the trip that some of you have asked about; I answered with sincerity that I was planning to go, that my availability remains constant.  There is no “no”: I am available.  What are my thoughts regarding such a trip?  This was the question: "we heard that you were thinking about a trip to Ukraine"; I said that it is on the table; it is there, one of the proposals I have received, but I don't know if it can be done, if it is fitting, and whether it would be for the best or if it is fitting to undertake it, whether I should go… all this is in the air.

For some time there have been considerations made regarding a meeting with Patriarch Kirill; that's what's being worked on, with the possibility of the Middle East as a venue for such a meeting.  This is how things are being considered at the moment.

In Africa, Father Dionysius Grishkov of the Moscow Patriarchate arrived in Rwanda from Moscow on approximately March 31. (link) He is a 2019 graduate of the Moscow Theological Academy and is the rector of the Church of the Burning Bush in the Otradnoe District of Moscow.  For a number of years he has been connected with the Missionary Commission of the Moscow Diocesan Council.  It appears that Fathers Georgy Maksimov and Alexander Novikov have completed their recent African tours and are back in Russia.  When Father Georgy was in Rwanda in February, there were two Rwandan priests who joined the Moscow Patriarchate.  It appears that this number remains the same.  On April 2, Father Dionysius was in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.

Metropolitan Leonid has now provided a rebuttal to the article which appeared in the Kenya newspaper Star on March 16 (discussed in my news report of March 20). (link)  According to Metropolitan Leonid, the recent sanctions only affected some of the Russian banks, and funds continue to flow through other Russian banks to Kenya for the construction and repair of churches, for missionary and educational activities, for the clergy, and for assistance in the case of the loss of close relatives. (link) With respect to clergy returning to the Alexandrian Patriarchate, the Metropolitan stated that when Father Georgy Maximov left Kenya [on February 12], 92 priests in Kenya had joined the Moscow Patriarchate.  Since then, five priests have returned to the Alexandrian Patriarchate, one has died, and seven priests and a deacon have now applied for admission into the Moscow Patriarchate. (link) With respect to clerics joining the Moscow Patriarchate’s African Exarchate in the last month, the numbers seem to be fairly static.  At the present time, a significant majority of the clergy that have joined the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa are in Kenya, and a large majority of these Kenyan clergy are in the diocese of Kisumu and West Kenya.

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA