May 20, 2022


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Pope Francis warns Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill not to be 'Putin's altar boy'

Pope Francis warns Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill not to be ‘Putin’s altar boy’

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Pope Francis has warned the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church against being “Putin’s altar boy” and justifying the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine.

In an interview on Tuesday with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Francis said he spoke with Patriarch Kirill, the main supporter of Vladimir Putin and his war, for 40 minutes via Zoom. Francis said that during the March 16 conversation, Kirill was listing all the justifications for war from a piece of paper he was holding.

“I listened to him and then said, ‘I don’t understand anything about this,'” said Francis. “Brother, we are not clergy of the state, we cannot use the language of politics but the language of Christ. We are the shepherds of the same holy people of God. For this reason, we must look for ways of peace, to put an end to the firing of weapons.”

After that, Francis, who repeatedly called for an end to the war, went further and challenged Kirill not to follow the actions of the Russian president.

“The patriarch cannot turn himself into Putin’s altar boy,” the Pope said.

How Putin’s invasion became a holy war for Russia

Russian Orthodox Church, In a statement issued Wednesday,He replied: “It is a pity that after a month and a half of conversation with Patriarch Kirill, Pope Francis chose the wrong tone to convey the content of this conversation.”

The statement said Kirill sought to help the pope see the pro-invasion view, reiterating Russian allegations about attacks on Russian speakers in Ukraine.

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Kirill then told Francis that “promises were not kept” about NATO’s non-expansion after the end of the Soviet era.

The statement noted that “the Pope said in agreement with the Patriarch that ‘the Church should not use the language of politics but the language of Christ.'” Pope Francis added: “We are the shepherds of the same holy people who believe in God, in the Holy Trinity, in the Holy Mother of God: for this reason we must To unite in efforts to help peace, help those who are suffering, seek ways of peace and stop the fire.”

Russian Orthodox leader supports war in Ukraine and divides religions

Kirill, 75, was elected in 2009 as patriarch of the influential Russian Orthodox Church, which has more than 100 million followers. Orthodox Christianity is the dominant faith in both Russia and Ukraine—but since the war, the church has contributed to a rift between Moscow and Kiev, with Kirill ingrained heels in pro-war rhetoric.

Last month, the patriarch stood in front of a major cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces and called on Russian soldiers to “love our homeland … protect it, because only Russians can defend their country.” he is describe it affected by the conflict in Ukraine as “the people of Holy Russia. They are our brothers and sisters.” He also has praised Military service “as an active manifestation of evangelical love for neighbours.”

In the past decade, Russia’s geopolitical ambitions have also been Rrelated to faithPutin began embracing the church for political gain. The relationship between Kirill and Putin helped lay the groundwork for the war as both echoed the other’s rhetoric to justify Russia’s actions in Ukraine. When Putin used the language of faith to disguise his political and military ambitions, Kirill also used sermons to justify the campaign on spiritual grounds.

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Kirill’s tenure proved divisive, as priests throughout Ukraine and Europe condemned his support for the war. Nearly 300 priests and deacons of the Russian Orthodox Church have signed open call Demanding reconciliation and an immediate ceasefire. In Ukraine, more than 320 priests signed another letter accusing the patriarch of preaching “herety” and of committing “moral crimes with the blessing of war against Ukraine,” and asking church leaders to decide whether the patriarch should be impeached.

How the Russian war in Ukraine divides the Orthodox Christian world

Kirill, who once described Putin’s leadership as “a miracle from God”, faces possible sanctions from the European Commission for his support of the invasion, According to Agence France-Presse. The New York Times too mentioned The European Union intends to punish the patriarch, according to diplomats who have seen the document. In addition, a prominent spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church compared the punishments to the decades of oppression the church suffered under Soviet rule.

Francis also noted that he had asked to meet with Putin. “We haven’t got an answer yet, and we’re still insisting,” the Pope said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that “no agreements were reached on the meetings,” Russian news agency TASS reported. mentioned.

Chico Harlan contributed to this report.