Pushing the Patriarch into Putin’s Arms

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and  Vladimir Putin attend celebrations marking the 700th anniversary of St Sergius of Radonezh earlier this month

In the Catholic Herald:

Until the dramatic downing of flight MH17, Ukraine had ceased to be regularly at the forefront of the news agenda, displaced by conflicts elsewhere and by more mundane events. The return of international attention to the strife-torn country reminds us that the situation there continues to be as alarmingly tense as ever.

In the midst of so much turmoil and confusion, Ukraine’s competing Orthodox churches and its much smaller Catholic and Protestant communities continue to play a role as both symbols and factors of differing political and cultural outlooks. Their own future, too, will depend to a greater or lesser extent on the outcome of the conflict. The Moscow patriarchate continues to position itself as a close ally of the Kremlin. The Orthodox Church – which venerates the Roman emperor Constantine, who established Christianity as the religion of his empire, as “equal to the Apostles” – has always been nostalgic for the Byzantine symbiosis of Church and polity. Nobody who knows history should be surprised at this latest example of the alliance between throne and altar, whether we judge it holy or the opposite.

Nevertheless, Moscow’s Patriarch Kyrill has tried to put some distance at least between his Church and the more extreme positions of Russian nationalists. We must hope that respect for peace, truth and justice underlie his caution. But we should also remember that he knows that many members of his flock are attached to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their homeland and that by no means all are nostalgic for Kremlin rule. He certainly fears that many might defect to the rival Kiev patriarchate. The latter group, although considered uncanonical and schismatic by most Orthodox churches worldwide, has made significant inroads into Moscow’s flock in recent years.

Any acceleration in this loss would significantly undermine Moscow’s ambition to be recognised as the de facto leader of worldwide Orthodoxy. Voices have recently been heard expressing the hope that the schism would soon be healed and most of Ukraine’s Orthodox reunited under a single jurisdiction. That seems overly optimistic for now, but Kyrill will be convinced that the division must at least not be exacerbated. Hence the dove-like noises he has been making, pleading for a peaceful solution at a time when the more hawkish voices are setting the agenda in Russian society as a whole. His statement on the downed plane neither points the finger nor attempts to deflect blame, confining itself to expressing sorrow and the hope for an impartial investigation.

But however moderate Kyrill tries to appear, not everybody is impressed. The Ukrainian government was alarmed by suggestions that he might turn up in Kiev this month to celebrate the anniversary of the baptism of Kievan Rus’ (which both Russians and Ukrainians claim as the founding of their church) and made it clear that he would be persona non grata. The recent death of the chief hierarch of the Moscow-based church, Metropolitan Volodymyr, adds to the uncertainty. The coming election of a successor by the Moscow synod will offer an indication of whether Moscow chooses a more moderate figure – someone like Volodymyr’s locum tenens Metropolitan Onufry, often judged more conciliatory – or turns to a more confrontational candidate.

Whatever the talk of reunifying Ukraine’s splintered Orthodox majority, the reality concerning relations between Catholics and Orthodox is not so edifying. In particular, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGGC), which follows the same Byzantine rite and customs as the Orthodox but is in union with Rome, is in the firing line. The Orthodox have long seen Greek Catholics, to whom they refer by the disparaging term of “uniates”, as a papal Trojan Horse, used by the Vatican to undermine Orthodoxy. Rhetoric about the evils of “uniatism” has traditionally been turned up when the Orthodox have felt insecure and threatened. Last month it reached a paroxysm that was all the more distressing in that it came from a churchman usually seen as being of a relatively irenical disposition.

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the spokesman of the Moscow patriarchate for external affairs, is a respected theologian relatively favourable to ecumenical dialogue with western Christians. In April he claimed that “uniatism’ was and is a special project of the Catholic Church, aiming to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism”. He accused Greek Catholics, and thus implicitly the Catholic Church as a whole, of “oppressing the Orthodox clergy in all possible ways” and of launching a “crusade against Orthodoxy”.

The response from the Vatican was predictably muted: Roman ecumenists are patient men, loathe to endanger decades of painfully slow progress in reaction to what might be construed as an intemperate but uncharacteristic outburst. The head of the UGCC, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, made a mild response, pleading for the Orthodox to see him and his church as brothers and not enemies. Without over-dramatising, it is worth asking why Hilarion, who must have known that his statement would endanger hard-won improvements in ecumenical relations, chose to make it anyway.

We cannot exclude from the equation the effects of passions and fears which violent conflicts have on the judgment even of Christians. But I wonder if there is not a more calculated side to Hilarion’s statement. Nothing unites a body divided so much as a common enemy. Might Hilarion not have hoped that by re-awakening long-held fears of Catholic expansion he might encourage his co-religionists to abandon internecine strife, in order to concentrate their fire on the ancestral foe?

Rest here. Interesting stuff.

 

Patriarch Kirill: Russia Poses No Military Threat

May God give that everyone realizes Russia poses no military threat and no other danger to people.

Orthodox Church News:

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said he urged global community not to perceive Russia as an aggressor.

“May God give that those, who do not understand Russia, understand it today. May God give that everyone realizes Russia poses no military threat and no other danger to people. We will find salvation in unity and love – we address this appeal of St. Sergius to the entire Russian world and beyond, to the entire human kind. And may God give that our homeland remains able to implement this legacy of the great Saint of the Russian land,” Patriarch Kirill said at a concert in Sergiyev Posad dedicated to the 700th birth anniversary of St. Sergius of Radonezh.

Historical Rus “is the most important thing we should keep and give to next generations,” the patriarch said. “And we should be like-minded in all this and guard our unity – spiritual unity and human one. Love is where dissidence ends,” he said.

“With God’s mercy we will overcome all internecine quarrelling and all disruption at the space of historical Rus,” Patriarch Kirill said. The patriarch said he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attended the concert, for reflecting “the consensus, which exists in our society today.” “It is essential that the state leader is able to form common thoughts and ideas uniting people,” Patriarch Kirill said.

The Russian Patriarch offers condolences over Malaysian airliner’s crash in Ukraine here.

 

Kalashnikov ‘Repented Killings’ in Letter to Church

Yes, the AK-47 (Avtomat Kalashnikova) has historically been the weapon of choice for terrorists and other evildoers. More AK-type rifles have been produced than all other assault rifles combined. Now, the Telegraph is reporting that,

The creator wrote a lengthy emotional letter to Russian Orthodox Church to repent in the months before his death in December.

Mikhail Kalashnikov presents the submachine gun named after him

The designer of the Kalashnikov assault rifle was apparently so racked with guilt that he sought solace from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to express remorse for those killed by his invention.

In a lengthy letter to Patriarch Kirill, Russia’s chief cleric, written just six months before his death in December Mikhail Kalashnikov described struggling with the “unbearable spiritual torment” of knowing the carnage the AK-47 rifle wreaked upon the world.

“My spiritual torment is unbearable. One and the same question: if my rifle killed people does that mean that I, Mikhail Kalashnikov, 93 years of age, the son of a peasant, Christian and orthodox by faith, am responsible for people’s deaths, even if they were enemies?” He wrote.

Mr Kalashnikov, who died on December 23 at the age of 94, began designing weapons after being wounded in battle during the Second World War.

He later blamed the Nazis for prompting him to invent the AK-47, the assault rifle that sired a family of weapons that has been called Russia’s most successful global brand.

But while he was known to have expressed regret at how it had been misused, Mr Kalashnikov always publicly defended his invention, saying in successive interviews that he had designed it only to be used in defence of the country.

Born and bred in the Soviet Union, and later a national hero of the fiercely secular Communist state, Mr Kalashnikov was for most of his life an atheist.

But in his letter to Kirill, which was reproduced by the Russian daily Izvestia on Monday morning, the aging designer explained how he turned to God as he grew older.

Mr Kalashnikov wrote that he his conversion began with the sense of “excitement” he felt when he first entered a church at the age of 91, later being baptised into the Orthodox faith.

A spokesman for the Church said Patriarch Kirril had welcomed the letter and even written a reply.

“This letter was very welcome at a time of attacks on the Church. The Patriarch thanked the legendary designer for his attention and position and answered that Mikhail Timofeevich was himself an example of patriotism and appropriate attitude to the country,” Patriarch Kirill’s spokesman Alexander Volkov told the paper.

And he added that from the Church’s point of view Mr Kalashnikov had little to repent for, at least as far as his invention is concerned.

“The Church has a very definite position: when weapons serve to protect the Fatherland, the Church supports both its creators and the soldiers who use it,” Volkov said.

“He invented that weapon for the defence of the country, not for the use of Saudi Arabian terrorists,” he added.

Wikipedia has more on Lt Gen Mikhail Kalashnikov here.

 

Patriarch of Antioch Thanks Russian Church for Defending Christians in Middle East

On the Russian Orthodox Church website:

His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Great Antioch and All the East sent a message to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, in which he expressed his gratitude for the efforts that the Russian Orthodox Church makes to defend Christians in the Middle East.

In his letter, His Beatitude Patriarch John X mentioned the celebration marking the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism Russia, which was held in Moscow, Kiev and Minsk with the participation of the Primates and representatives of all Local Orthodox Churches, saying in particular, “I was… so happy to see the brothers gathering about the holy Divine Altar and praising the Author of Life, Our Lord Jesus Christ who blessed Russia and the Russian People and granted this great nation all his heavenly blessings to be a true and sincere witness of Christendom. The baptism of Russia is not only an historical event, but it is also a concrete and lived reality that all people and nations can “come and see” (John 1:46) and praise the Lord Jesus Christ.”

According to His Beatitude, “with deep feeling of respect and appreciation” he read the Statement by Heads and Representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches Assembled for the Celebration of the 1025th Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia. The main theme of the joint statement is the situation of Christians in the Middle East.

“I consider it my duty to raise an Antiochian thankful voice to support and share every word of the released statement,” Patriarch John’s letter reads. “Truly, Christians are persecuted and damaged in the Middle East, in the land of Jesus Christ. The salvation of Syria and of all the Middle East comes, as mentioned, through the logic of dialogue and peaceful political settlement. Extremism, fundamentalism and blind radicalism are the most great dangers which threaten not only the Christian presence, but the existence of the States and the peace of all the nations.”

His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Great Antioch and All the East expressed his wish to pay a brotherly visit to the Russian Orthodox Church and said in conclusion of his letter, “May Lord, Jesus Christ, the King of Peace give us His Divine Peace, grant you, the Russian Synod and the Russian People His heavenly blessings and bless the efforts of all the orthodox world to settle the peace in the Middle East and in all the world redeemed by the precious blood of our Savior.”

 

Putin: Defender of Christians Worldwide

Vladimir Putin has urged the world’s political leaders to stop the violent persecutions against Christians that have erupted in many Middle Eastern countries.

LifeSiteNews reports:

Speaking at a meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders in Moscow last week, the Russian President said he noted “with alarm” that “in many of the world’s regions, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa inter-confessional tensions are mounting, and the rights of religious minorities are infringed, including Christians and Orthodox Christians.”

“This pressing problem should be a subject of close attention for the entire international community,” Putin said. “It is especially important today to make efforts to prevent intercultural and interreligious conflicts, which are fraught with the most serious upheavals.”

Putin praised the growth of cooperation between the Orthodox Churches and the Russian state, saying, “We act as genuine partners and colleagues to solve the most pressing domestic and international tasks, to implement joint initiatives for the benefit of our country and people.”

The Russian Federation recently passed legislation making it illegal to promote homosexuality as normal, a move that, while condemned by many European leaders, was strongly supported by the Orthodox Church.

Putin added Thursday that the Church was giving Russians a moral compass when so many were looking for help. “Today when people are once again searching for moral support, millions of our compatriots see it in religion,” he said. “They trust the wise, pastoral word of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

He added that it was the Church that was ultimately responsible for the development and rise of “culture and education” in Russia over the last 1,000 years. “The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland, made it an inseparable part of the Christian civilization and helped it turn into one of the largest world powers,” Putin said.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, said at the same meeting that the attempts to push Christians out of Syria would lead to a “civilization catastrophe.” Kirill and other Orthodox leaders have been critical of the lack of response to the crisis facing Christians in the Middle East by US and other Western leaders…

Rest here.

An unlikely voice indeed…

 

Russians. Stop Having So Much Fun

The Patriarch has spoken.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has urged Russians to have less fun and spend more of their free time in seclusion.

On July 11, Kirill said there was “more fun than needed” in the life of Russians.

He said people spent a lot of their energy working and should occupy their time in isolated, quiet places instead of celebrating during their vacations.

He cited the rugged archipelago of Valaam, close to the border with Finland, as a suitable holiday destination. (Valaam is home to a 14th-century monastery and has a population of roughly 600.)

The ultraconservative patriarch, who is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, has not hesitated to speak his mind on a number of other issues in the past…

 

Russian Patriarch Tells European Leader: Same-sex Marriage is Sinful

In a meeting with the secretary general of the Council of Europe, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church emphasized that same-sex marriage is sinful.

“If people choose such lifestyle, this is their right, but the Church’s responsibility is to say that this is a sin in the face of God,” Patriarch Kirill told Thorbjørn Jagland.

Saying that he was heartened by the popular demonstrations against same-sex marriage in France, Patriarch Kirill lamented that through same-sex marriage, “the sin is justified by law for the first time in the entire history of mankind.”

Source