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Russia is restoring values to the world, asserts Patriarch Kirill

25 August 2022

Ukrainian church leader dismisses his efforts to justify war

Alamy

A woman leaves Bakhmut, Donetsk region, in eastern Ukraine, during its evacuation last weekend, as Russia’s attack continues

A woman leaves Bakhmut, Donetsk region, in eastern Ukraine, during its evacuation last weekend, as Russia’s attack continues

PATRIARCH KIRILL of Moscow has praised his country for helping to restore values to the world. He spoke this week after a Ukrainian church leader accused Russia’s “criminal government” of encouraging citizens with Orthodox support to “get rich through plunder”.

“The nationalism disease can affect any nation, especially if their spiritual immunity has been weakened by proud self-praise, at the cost of historical memory and the ideals of good-neighbourliness, peacefulness, and mutual respect,” Patriarch Kirill told a military forum in Moscow, on Monday.

“How important it is to prevent feelings of hatred, pride, and cruelty from finding room in our hearts. . . Our people are achieving a difficult and very responsible mission — returning values to the world which it seeks in its madness to abandon.”

The Patriarch made his comments as Western leaders again appealed for security arrangements at Ukraine’s nuclear plants; and Russia’s representative at the UN, Gennady Gatilov, ruled out diplomatic talks to end the war.

At another meeting with military personnel on Monday, Metropolitan Pavel (Ponomarev) of Moscow, called for closer Church co-operation with the Russian Defence Ministry. He said that many Orthodox clergy were former army officers, aware of the need for strength and courage “not just on the battlefield”, but also for “the fatherland’s spiritual security”.

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, dismissed attempts to “justify aggressive war”. He thanked the Pope and World Council of Churches (WCC) for “condemning Russia’s military aggression.

“Twentieth-century history teaches that all those who start aggressive wars lose them — that’s why it is so terrible to hear people today, even religious people, justifying this,” Major Archbishop Shevchuk said in a message on Sunday.

“Those coming to kill us and torture our people are from those regions of Russia who have had any possibility of integral and just development stolen by the criminal Russian government. The only way to survive, to support their family and find a livelihood, the Russian authorities suggest, is to go and kill.

“And today, recruiters of this kind are sadly scattered all over Russia, even through the network of Orthodox churches. They are encouraged with all kinds of terrible prizes to kill with impunity and get rich through plunder.”

The exchange took place as fighting continued along a 1500-mile front in eastern and southern Ukraine. There were civilian casualties in the towns of Avdiivka, Bakhmut, Mykolaiv, Slovyansk, and Voznesensk from intense shell fire.

In an address on Sunday in Rome, the Pope urged “closeness and prayer” for “the dear Ukrainian people who are experiencing inhuman cruelty”.

The US-based World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) called on Churches to mark Ukraine’s Independence Day, on Wednesday, by praying for “an end to the war, the loss of life, destruction and atrocities, and the beginning of healing. . .

“As of now, there is still no end in sight for this war, as the Russian government refuses to withdraw its forces and Ukraine must defend itself. While the world may continue to look for weapons to bring about peace and justice by force, we know that true and lasting peace can only be accomplished through unceasing prayers,” the WEA said in a joint message with the European Evangelical Alliance.

The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians to be vigilant in advance of Independence Day celebrations, warning that Moscow could “try to do something particularly disgusting, particularly cruel”.

In a preparatory booklet for its 11th Assembly, which opens in Karlsruhe on Wednesday of next week, the WCC said that the Assembly’s objectives would include facilitating dialogue between Churches in Ukraine, and fostering “reconciliation, unity, and peace-building”.

Religious leaders in Ukraine have offered the basements of churches, convents, and seminaries as air-raid shelters for children in an effort to reopen schools on 1 September. An RC priest in Kharkiv, Fr Nikolai Bielychev, told Vatican Radio that, despite this, a start to classes looked unlikely, because of continued Russian shelling and missile attacks.

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