lunedì 26 settembre 2022

A comparison of last Sunday's sermons by Kirill and Onufry

(Peter Anderson)
On Sunday, September 25, both Patriarch Kirill (head of the Moscow Patriarchate) and Metropolitan Onufry (head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) delivered sermons to their faithful. The sermon by Patriarch Kirill received much media attention. However, the sermon by Metropolitan Onufry is important too. The two sermons are very different in their approaches. According to Patriarch Kirill, those that die in Ukraine fighting for Russia have all their sins washed away as a result of fulfilling their military oath. On the other hand, according to Metropolitan Onufry, those killing Ukrainians and destroying Ukrainian communities need prayers to change their hearts. This clearly implies that heaven is not guaranteed for the individuals doing the killing and destroying. 
On Sunday, Patriarch Kirill celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos in the skete of St. Alexander Nevsky near Peredelkino. The skete is near the Patriarch’s country residence and is where the Patriarch celebrated the Liturgy in his periods of self-isolation during the pandemic. The full text of the Patriarch’s sermon can be read at (link). A video of his homily can be viewed at (link). The part of the Patriarch’s sermon that has received the greatest attention is the following: 
We know that today many are dying in the fields of internecine warfare. The Church prays that this warfare will end as soon as possible, that as few brothers as possible kill each other in this fratricidal war. And at the same time, the Church is aware that if someone, driven by a sense of duty, the need to fulfill an oath, remains true to his calling and dies in the line of military duty, then he undoubtedly commits an act that is tantamount to a sacrifice. He sacrifices himself for others. And therefore we believe that this sacrifice washes away all the sins that a person has committed. 
With respect to “the need to fulfill an oath,” it is my understanding that all persons entering the Russian armed forces are obligated to take the following oath: “I, (full name), solemnly swear allegiance to my Fatherland - the Russian Federation. I swear to observe the Constitution of the Russian Federation, strictly comply with the requirements of military regulations, orders of commanders and superiors. I swear to fulfill military duty with dignity, courageously defending the freedom, independence, constitutional order of Russia, the people and the Fatherland.” (link) Because the oath is required for all soldiers, it would seem that all Russian soldiers who die “in the line of military duty” are fulfilling their oath and would have all of their sins washed away according to the Patriarch. 
On the same Sunday, Metropolitan Onufry celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Church of the Annunciation in Sviatoshyn. The official website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church highlighted certain remarks by Metropolitan Onufry. (link) These remarks are as follows: 
We pray that the Lord will fill the hearts of all people with love, and especially those who today kill our people, destroy our cities, villages, so that they remember that God did not put us on earth to kill each other, to take away from each other something that we desire, but that we live in peace, in love for God and for each other. 
The foregoing raises a number of questions. The following are just a few: Do those who kill Ukrainians and destroy Ukrainian settlements need a change in heart before all their sins are washed away? Would Patriarch Kirill say that Ukrainian soldiers that die in the line of military duty also have all their sins washed away? It is likely that the remarks by Patriarch Kirill will give rise to many interesting discussions by Orthodox and other theologians. 
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA