KIEV is the very cradle of Russian Orthodoxy. It was here, after
the conversion of Prince Vladimir from paganism in 988, that the
second great stronghold of the Orthodox Church emerged, and ancient
Rus inherited religion and custom from Byzantium.
By rights, Kiev should have been the focus of the celebrations
of the millennium of this great event in 1988, but Moscow staged
it. Kiev's claim was submerged in euphoria, as Soviet people were
beginning to throw off their shackles.
Russian-speaking Ukrainians do not automatically owe allegiance
to President Putin and all that Russian imperialism stands for. The
Orthodox Church in Ukraine is sadly divided between the minority,
who belong to the Kiev Patriarchate, and the majority, whose
allegiance is to the Moscow Patriarchate. Most of both are Russian
speakers, but millions of each want to remain loyal
to their country of citizenship.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has, up to now, openly declared his
loyalty to President Putin - this was, after all, the root cause of
the indignation of the Pussy Riot demonstrators in the Cathedral of
Christ the Saviour in Moscow, two years ago (News, 27 April 2012).
Further, Patriarch Kirill offered total support to the banished
President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
The acting head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow
Patriarchate, Metropolitan Onufry, unequivocally addressed
Patriarch Kirill last Sunday: "I ask you to lift your voice for the
preservation of the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state."
He sent a similar letter to President Putin.
Patriarch Kirill has replied in equally plain language: "The
Ukrainian people must determine their own future themselves without
What is missing so far is a call by the Patriarch directly to
President Putin. He has the unique oppor-tunity, for the first time
in post-Soviet history, to challenge the interventionist policy of
the Kremlin and the Russian parliament. Patriarch Kirill has never
yet offered a hint of criticism of official policy, but now is his
opportunity to do so.
Canon Bourdeaux is the President of Keston Institute, in