THE independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine has rejected the suggestion of peace with Russia under its current system of government, despite an appeal by the Pope for an openness to “serious peace proposals”.
In a message on Sunday, Pope Francis for the first time directly urged the Russian and Ukrainian presidents to end the war and negotiate.
A lasting settlement must be based on “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, and the rights of minorities and legitimate concerns. I deeply deplore the grave situation that has arisen in recent days, with further actions contrary to the principles of international law, which increase the risk of nuclear escalation,” the Pope told pilgrims in Rome, in an apparent reference to the territory annexations.
“My appeal is addressed first and foremost to the President of the Russian Federation, imploring him to stop this spiral of violence and death, also for the sake of his own people. On the other hand, saddened by the Ukrainian people’s immense suffering from the aggression suffered, I address an equally confident appeal to the President of Ukraine to be open to serious proposals for peace.”
In response, a spokesman for the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church (PCU), Archbishop Eustratius (Zorya), said: “The proposal to make peace with Russia is a proposal for our state to make peace with the mafia.
“All three classical branches of government — legislative, executive, and judicial — have been usurped by this mafia group, and power in this group belongs to one person. . . I believe that peace will be possible when Russia has a legitimate, not a mafia, state representation. Until then, only its military deterrence is realistic.”
The Archbishop was writing in a post on Facebook on Tuesday. Ukrainian forces pressed on with their counter-offensive, despite Russia’s announcement last Friday that it was “permanently incorporating” the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia regions.
The Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, said in a message on Monday that he believed that his country’s victory was now “inevitable”, and urged citizens to “move towards this common goal” for “future generations and the whole world. . .
“Step by step, day after day, our soldiers are tirelessly liberating our homeland’s towns and villages. Through the eyes of its wounded defenders, we already see Ukraine’s victory. . . It isn’t just about our army’s ability to master new types of weapons, but about the ability of every Ukrainian to reaffirm their homeland’s independence and freedom with new strength.”
The Russian State Duma ratified the annexation of the four Ukrainian regions on Monday, despite confusion over where their borders lay and international rejection of referendum votes in late September that allegedly approving the move (News, 30 September).
Visiting wounded soldiers in Kharkiv, the Primate of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), said that Ukraine had “already won morally”, and was now being gradually liberated as its fighters “withstood the enemy’s onslaught”.
The Moscow-linked Orthodox Church in Ukraine also “decisively condemned” the Russian army’s “aggression”, and reiterated its “complete and unconditional support for the sovereignty and integrity of the Ukrainian state”. It also warned any pro-Russian clergy in its ranks that they would “bear full responsibility as citizens” for their “personal political choice”.
Ukraine’s Religious Information Service said that the Russian Orthodox Church had received “large sums” from President Putin’s government to help “Russify Ukrainians in the occupied territories”.
In his annexation speech last Friday, President Putin said that the “dictatorship of Western elites” was “directed against all societies”, and that Christ had exposed similar “false messiahs” in his Sermon on the Mount.
“They do not give a damn about the natural right of billions of people, the majority of humanity, to freedom and justice, the right to determine their own future — they have already moved on to the radical denial of moral, religious, and family values,” President Putin said of the West.
“Their complete renunciation of what it means to be human, the overthrow of faith and traditional values, and the suppression of freedom are coming to resemble a religion in reverse — pure Satanism.”