Patriarch Kirill: Putin ally faces backlash after ‘blessing’ war
Pope and several priests appeal to the Russian Orthodox Church leader after he endorsed the Ukraine invasion.
Published On 28 Mar 202228 Mar 2022
The head of the Catholic church warned the Russian patriarch against hiding behind religion to justify armed aggression and conquest.
“Once upon a time there was also talk in our churches of holy war or just war,” the pope said, according to the Vatican press office. “Today we cannot speak like this.”
Ten days earlier, in a sermon, Patriarch Kirill appeared to endorse Moscow’s so-called “special peacekeeping operation,” as the war on Ukraine is officially called in Russia.
“We have entered into a struggle that has not a physical, but a metaphysical significance,” the patriarch said.
He referred to gay pride marches as an example of what outsiders were trying to force on the people of Donbas in eastern Ukraine, on whose behalf Moscow was ostensibly intervening.
“He expressed his view that behind the war in Ukraine there is a spiritual difference between the West and the Orthodox world, and it is obvious that for him, the latter is the better,” Thomas Bremer, who teaches Eastern Churches Studies at the University of Münster in Germany, told Al Jazeera.
“So according to him, the war is not about political aims or influence, but about spiritual, or, as he put it, ‘metaphysical’ aims. Thus, he gives the official Russian point of view a theological underpinning.”
Putin and the patriarch enjoy close ties, with Patriarch Kirill describing Putin’s 2012 election victory as a “miracle of God”.
And as Putin sees Ukraine as part of the “Russian world”, so Patriarch Kirill claims dominion over the churches in Ukraine and Belarus.