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Orthodox Easter sparks war of words

21 April 2023

ALAMY

People attempt to save icons as they clear the rubble after a Russian rocket destroyed an Orthodox church last Sunday in Komyshuvakha, Zaporizhzhia region

People attempt to save icons as they clear the rubble after a Russian rocket destroyed an Orthodox church last Sunday in Komyshuvakha, Zaporizhzhia re...

PATRIARCH KIRILL of Moscow has praised the Russian Orthodox Church’s ever closer links with the State, but denied “receiving orders” from President Putin, as religious communities in Russia and Ukraine celebrated their second Easter while at war with each other.

“Today, there is indeed a kind of symphony of secular and ecclesiastical power, which was dreamed of in Byzantium but never fully realised; what is happening in Russia today is unique, and runs counter to the general apostasy movement,” Patriarch Kirill told a congregation in the Ugresha Monastery, Moscow.

“Some of our opponents point fingers and say the Patriarch acts on orders from the President. Before God, I tell you the President has never given orders to the Patriarch — as a believing churchgoing Orthodox person, he does not give them, and, I am sure, will not give them.”

The Primate of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church (OCU), Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), however, said that Easter festivities had shown how Orthodox Christians were rejecting the “false ideas of the so-called Third Rome”, and concluding that dependence on the Moscow Patriarchate was just “one of many tools” being used “to restore the imperial yoke”.

The Metropolitan made the appeal as Easter was celebrated by his Church (according to the Julian calendar, a week later than in the Western Church) for the first time in Kyiv’s disputed 11th-century Pechersk-Lavra monastic complex, and as Russian forces continued to attack civilian targets after rejecting an Easter truce.

Ukrainian government sources said that services had taken place at 13,000 churches across the country — 163 in the capital — attracting record congregations, despite a weekend curfew on overnight vigils and warnings of Russian strikes.

In a weekend message, President Zelensky said that Easter symbolised the “victory of good, truth, and life”, and was being celebrated by Ukrainians “with unshakeable faith in the irreversibility of these victories”.

Ukraine’s flag represented the “yellow-hot sun in a peaceful blue sky”, and it would fly again on “all the territories temporarily occupied by devils”, as those who “killed, tortured, and robbed” answered “both to the International Tribunal and to God’s judgement”.

In his Easter address in Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow, Patriarch Kirill said that he hoped that “peace and love” would soon restore “fraternal relations” between peoples living in one vast “historical Russian land”.

“When I say Russian, I mean Rus’, from which the Great Russians, the Ukrainian-little Russians, and other nationalities emerged.”

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