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Patriarch Kirill puts trust in power of prayer 

15 December 2023

Patriarch speaks of how country will defeat enemies


Svitlana Magdenko, aged 79, stands in front of her damaged house after a Russian rocket attack on a residential neighbourhood in Kyiv, on Wednesday

Svitlana Magdenko, aged 79, stands in front of her damaged house after a Russian rocket attack on a residential neighbourhood in Kyiv, on Wednesday

THE Patriarch of Moscow has insisted that the power of prayer will help his country to defeat its enemies, as Ukrainian church leaders urge the international community not to abandon their people in the struggle against the Russian invasion.

“We should thank the Lord every day that we live in a truly free country; I’ve counted only five such countries — maybe a few more — since none of the others are really free,” Patriarch Kirill told Interior Ministry officials on Sunday.

“When we combine our deeds with fervent prayer and sincere faith, we will gain victories both on the battlefield and our internal life structure. Although many have taken up arms against us, we must ask God with special prayers to save Russia from this invasion of foreigners. As long as we unite our human military and political power with God’s power, we can be confident the enemy will never win.”

The Patriarch was preaching at the dedication of a new Ministry church in Moscow, while Ukrainian forces struggled to fortify defensive lines for the winter, and Russian troops encircled the strategic eastern towns of Avdiivka and Marinka.

The “vast majority” of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine were religious believers, the Patriarch said, and the experience of facing death in trench warfare had “revealed everything — the whole ultimate truth”.

Patriarch Kirill called on Russians to pray for President Putin, recognising the “enormous responsibility” entrusted to him by God; and for those protecting their country “not just from external enemies, but from disorder, crime, and everything which may cause civil strife if not stopped by force”.

The Primate of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, Major Archbishop Svetoslav Shevchuk, said that Russian bombs, rockets, and cruise missiles had also struck Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and Kherson in a “massive attack” this week.

“The enemy is not only relentlessly attacking positions along the entire front line, but is also killing our civilians; amid the fatigue and tears, we want the whole world to hear our voice,” Archbishop Shevchuk said in a national message on Monday.

“We appeal to international institutions not to forget Ukraine’s pain, or turn our people’s suffering into diplomatic or political games. Ukraine needs help from the world.”

The rival appeals were delivered as President Zelensky, after a weekend visit to Argentina, made a stopover in Washington, DC, on Tuesday for both talks with President Biden and to urge Republican senators not to block a vital new military aid package for his embattled country.

The secretary-general of Ukraine’s RC Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Edward Kawa, told Poland’s Catholic Information Agency that humanitarian aid had also sharply declined, despite growing winter needs; he counted on efforts to reverse Western “tiredness and lack of interest”.

Bishop Vitaliy Kryvytskyi, who chairs the Roman Catholic Church’s church-state commission, said that Russia was again attacking Ukraine’s essential infrastructure in a bid to exhaust its population with “darkness, cold, and hunger”.

“We sometimes have the impression that Ukraine is to be left to its own fate”, Bishop Krywicki told Vatican News. “But freezing the conflict by sanctioning the status quo of Russian occupation would merely show that war is a lawful tool for achieving one’s goals.”

In his message, Archbishop Shevchuk confirmed that his Greek Catholic Church had been banned in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia region, along with Caritas, the Knights of Columbus, and other humanitarian organisations. He urged international organisations to “raise their voices in defence of repressed believers”.

The Greek Catholic Church said that the decree, signed by the head of the annexed region’s military-civil administration, Yevgeny Balitsky, had charged Greek Catholic leaders with both working for “foreign intelligence services” and helping to distribute “literature calling for violation of the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity”.

The Church was also outlawed in 1946 in Soviet-ruled Ukraine, by agreement with Russia’s Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate: thousands of Greek Catholic clergy were murdered, imprisoned, or dispatched to labour camps.

The ban was reported as Ukraine’s Moscow-linked Orthodox Church (UOC) complained that more of its places of worship had been seized, and as Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, sorted through amendments to a draft law outlawing Orthodox communities from maintaining ties with Moscow.

Several UOC leaders face prison terms on charges of collaborating with Russian occupiers. An appeal by Metropolitan Ionafan (Yeletsky), who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with property confiscation for justifying Moscow’s invasion, is to be heard this month by a Vinnytsia court.

In a statement last week, the head of the UOC’s Synodal Department for Cooperation with the Armed Forces, Metropolitan Augustyn (Markevic), said that Russia’s “full-scale invasion” had changed the life of Ukrainians. He praised the “daily selfless feats” of Orthodox Christians who had “joined the Ukrainian army to repel the invader and protect their native land from enemy forces”.

In a speech to soldiers’ families on Tuesday, however, Patriarch Kirill said that Russia faced “a clear challenge from evil”, which would “expand if not stopped”.

He said that he was “making every effort” to stop the war in Ukraine, while the Russian Church contributed to the “noble cause” of helping wounded soldiers who had “stood up to defend the fatherland”.

“There cannot be passivity in the face of evil — this must be remembered as one of the rules of life,” the Patriarch said.

“Our country faces an evil today that threatens the Russian world — and, since the Russian world occupies a significant and important part of all human civilisation, we are talking about a situation which may have dire consequences for all peoples.”

In an appeal last week, faith and civil-society groups in Britain, including the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers in Britain), called on the Russian and Ukrainian governments to recognise the rights of conscientious objectors.

The letter to the London embassies said that more than 20,000 male Ukrainians had “risked their lives to avoid killing others or dying on the battlefield” by fleeing their besieged country, while conscientious objectors in Russia could also face up to ten years in prison.

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