AS RUSSIAN troops continue to blockade military bases in the
Crimean peninsula, Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow in the Russian
Orthodox Church, has written to the Orthodox clergy in Ukraine,
urging them to push for peace.
"The blood of our brothers shed in Kiev and other Ukrainian
cities is the fruit of hatred that members of the opposition from
various quarters have allowed the enemy of the human race to grow
in their hearts," he said in a letter sent on Sunday.
"No one living now in Ukraine should feel like a stranger in his
own home, no matter what language he speaks. We cannot allow the
further polarisation of society or increasing violence against
civilians." He said that the Church should ensure that "the entire
population" had their "rights and freedoms" protected, "including
the right to participate in making crucial decisions".
His words were condemned, however, as "unworthy" and "evil" by
the Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is
separate from the Moscow Patriarchate. In a press statement, the
Church said that Patriarch Kirill's statement did not contain "a
single word condemning the flagrant interference of Russia in
Ukraine's internal affairs, military aggression, or inciting
The statement also questions Patriarch Kirill's insistence that
the Ukrainian people must determine their own future: "Is not the
government of Russia and its President [putting] public pressure on
Ukraine to give up the European way of development? That was the
root cause of all the current tragic events."
The statement says: "Ukraine has no hatred for the Russian
people and Russia as a nation. . . We are grateful for the support
of all those Russians who, fearing reprisals, have expressed
condemnation of aggression. We thank everyone in Russia who
sincerely prays for peace in Ukraine."
In response to the Kiev Patriarchate's statement, a
spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church has appealed to its
faithful to stand guard on churches in Ukraine "for fear that the
schismatics, under the self-proclaimed head of the Kiev
Patriarchate, Filaret Denisenko, may take these by force",
Archpriest Nikolai Balashov of the Church's external relations
He went on: "The reasoning behind taking these churches by force
is that the monks of the Moscow Patriarchate will allegedly take
all the holy relics and values away to Russia. Such claims are
absolutely unfounded, but the believers remain on duty round the
clock to defend their shrines."
Patriarch Kirill said: "As we are praying for an end to the
strife amid the fraternal people of Ukraine, we urge everyone to
understand that the path to civil peace in Ukraine rules out any
religious stand-off, or introduction of discord in churches or
The Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop
Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, told the country's magazine
Credo that Ukrainians must be prepared to die to defend
"It is obvious that military intervention has already begun. Our
people and our country are currently in danger. We must stand up
for our country, to be ready, if necessary, to sacrifice our lives
in order to protect the sovereign, free, independent, and unified
The West must be careful of responding in the way that others
might expect, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten,
said on Wednesday. The Bishop, who is currently supporting the Kiev
Patriarchate's attempt to find premises for a church in London,
said: "We aren't in a very strong position to be able to say that
nobody should interfere in the affairs of another state, bearing in
mind our track record on Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, and Libya."
Diplomatic communications with Russia should be kept open, and "any
reconciliation, any solution, must be brought about together.
"The Churches ought to be able to contribute to that rather than
seeing themselves simply as the voice or the mouthpieces of the
politics that they themselves are inextricably involved in."
He called for a solution in which "Ukraine can continue as one
complete state, but at the same time respecting the different
traditions and political elements that come together to make it as
A senior foreign-policy adviser to the Archbishops' Council, Dr
Charles Reed, said that the Churches of Europe should be pressing
"for a policy which tries to bring together Russia and NATO to work
In an analysis on his blog (ethicalcomment.wordpress.com),
he wrote: "We really must find someone or some way of galvanising
the Ukraine Churches into a similar co-operative mindset. Outside
south-west India, there is nowhere where there is greater
fragmentation and mistrust between the Churches. The division
between the Churches and the competing jurisdictions and rites
underlines just how fragmented Ukraine has become.
"We, too, should admit our own failings here. We have allowed
the reconciliation work of the Churches that was at the heart of
the post-1945 ecumenical movement to slip off the agenda as we
jostled unceremoniously for a seat at the table in Brussels."
He suggested that now was a "good time for the Conference of
European Churches to reach out again to the Russian Orthodox
Church, and to develop, however painful the process, a more
inclusive pan-European ecumenical engagement with the institutions
DIPLOMATIC efforts to lower the tensions were increasing
this week. In a press conference on Tuesday, President Putin
insisted that the armed soldiers who were blockading military bases
in the Crimea were local self-defence forces rather than Russian
troops. He warned, however, that while Russia had "no need" to
deploy armed troops to Ukraine at the moment, "the possibility
remains." He said that "such a measure would certainly be the very
The United States' Secretary of State, John Kerry, was
due to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for talks in
Paris on Wednesday. The two were in France for a prearranged
international conference discussing Lebanon.
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Andriy Deshchytsia, was
scheduled to attend, and it was expected that this could lead to
the first high-level direct contact between Russia and Ukraine
since the conflict began.
The US has warned Russia that it might impose financial
sanctions if the crisis continues.
European heads of government were planning to meet
yesterday in Brussels to discuss the possible implementation of EU
sanctions. Already, the British Government has joined others in
saying that it will not attend any of the Paraympic Games, which
are starting today in Sochi. Prince Edward, Patron of the British
Paralympic Association, has pulled out of the event, on the advice
of government ministers.
Should Patriarch Kirill reprimand