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Dissent from war is treason, says Patriarch Kirill

28 April 2023

ALAMY

An apartment building destroyed by Russian shelling is seen in the outskirts of Izium, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, last Friday

An apartment building destroyed by Russian shelling is seen in the outskirts of Izium, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, last Friday

PATRIARCH KIRILL of Moscow has again lauded current Russian war efforts in Ukraine, cautioning that shows of dissent should now be viewed as treason.

“As our soldiers defend Russia in the Donbas, we must remember they are not just fighting against some local phenomenon, dangerous and unfriendly towards Russia,” the Patriarch told a weekend congregation in Moscow’s Assumption Cathedral. “They are fighting for our country’s future — and I call on everyone to raise a special prayer today for our President, authorities, army, and people, so that no external and internal malevolent forces will be able to divide and weaken us.”

Russia would never be defeated, Patriarch Kirill added, since God was with its people, who had been raised in the Orthodox spiritual tradition to see “defence of the motherland” as “the greatest duty and a holy deed”.

“Someone outside our country has noticed the divergent civilisational development of Orthodox Russia from the Western world, and concluded that this divergency provides a reason, an excuse, to defeat Russia by force,” the Patriarch said. He has already been sanctioned by several Western countries for backing Russian aggression.

“Today, we must be really united, with all our perplexed questions, our irritability and hostility relegated to the distant periphery. Today, hostility towards each other is akin to treason against the motherland.”

The Patriarch issued the warning as Kyiv’s forces were reported to be raiding Russian positions east of the strategic River Dnipro, and as Moscow deployed a new battle tank along the 600-mile front line in expectation of a full-scale Ukrainian counter-offensive.

The Primate of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church (OCU), Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), urged citizens to use this week’s Radonitsa remembrance festival by lighting candles for the “dead children of Ukraine”, who had “laid down their lives for its independence”.

“In every corner of our country, graves have been sown in the course of Russia’s full-scale invasion — for so many freedom fighters, defenders and soldiers, as well as innocent victims of occupation, lost civilians and murdered prisoners,” Metropolitan Epiphany wrote in a Facebook message on Tuesday.

“We cannot know all their names, but every one of them is known to God — and our prayer during these memorial days, in churches and before their graves, should be one sincere gratitude for their feat, their torment and their courage, as we continue their good work, fighting the enemy and protecting our motherland.”

Ukraine’s Religious Information Service said that Orthodox churches had been wrecked by Russian rockets this week in Odessa, Kherson, and Maryinka, although the UOC said that Ukrainians had also torched a church on Monday night in Chernivtsi, and seized others near Kyiv and Borislav.

It also accused Ukrainian TV of manipulation and “provoking intolerance” after interviews were screened in Kyiv with elderly UOC members, praising Russia and President Putin.

Ukraine’s Culture Ministry said that it was pressing ahead with moves to repossess Kyiv’s historic Pechersk-Lavra monastery, whose Father-General, Metropolitan Pavlo (Lebed), remains under house arrest (News, 14 April). Several Ukrainian MPs urged President Zelensky’s government to speed up a law banning UOC communities from maintaining ties with Moscow.

Preaching on Tuesday in Moscow’s Archangel Cathedral, Patriarch Kirill said that preserving and spreading the Orthodox faith, especially among young people, would enable Russians to “hope for the future”.

He again urged prayers for the country’s protection “from external and internal enemies”, and from “those ready to make money in Russia but never to serve the Fatherland”.

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