Western publication doubts pope and patriarch can end war


Institute of Religion and Policy, 20 August 2022


In Russia now every religious community is feeling the new line of the Kremlin with regard to faith, the Economist posits. Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, repeats official justifications for the war and puts forth his own. The head of the Department of External Church Relations of the RPTs, Metropolitan Ilarion, who received education in the West, refrained from active support of the war and in June 2022 was suddenly demoted and sent to Budapest as bishop.


The former chief rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldshmidt, who recently left the country, says that now it is impossible to maintain "proper but distant" relations with the authorities, like before the war. Now clergy of all denominations say that they must support the invasion. In a carefully worded statement explaining his departure, which was published in July, the rabbi said:


"I could not be silent, seeing such great human suffering." However he continued: "It became clear that the Jewish community in Moscow would be in danger if I remained at my post."


While for insufficiently loyal religious leaders it means resignation, ordinary clergy face as much as criminal prosecution.


In the first ranks of supporters is the loyal portion of Muslim leadership in Russia, who, in the estimation of the newspaper, even surpassed the Orthodox church in the zeal of its pro-war declarations. Talgat Tajuddin, a highly placed leader of Russian Islam, whose rhetoric always has been fiercely anti-American, in July supported the Kremlin's declaration about the "denazification" of Ukraine. Mufti Tajuddin said that it is necessary to continue to pursue the military goals "so that there will not be any fascists as parasites among us, because then there would not be enough dichlorvos insecticide."


Achieving goals through diplomacy with Christians has turned out somewhat more difficult.


Since the time of the "cold war," the Russian Orthodox Church has used the World Council of Churches, based in Geneva, as a place where it could present the Kremlin's point of view to the world. But the war in Ukraine has horrified western churches. Rowan Williams, the former leader of the Anglican world, urged the WCC to expel the RPTs from its ranks.


In September, Patriarch Kirill may meet Pope Francis on the sidelines of an inter-religious congress in Kazakhstan. The Holy See decisively defends its determination to continue communication with the religious leaders of Russia, a position that several Catholic and Orthodox prelates in Ukraine and other post-soviet countries criticize as hopelessly naïve.


The Vatican's ideal scenario consists in having the spiritual leaders of western Christianity and Russian Orthodoxy jointly exert pressure on the secular leaders with a view to reconciliation.


But the Economist is nearer to the following point of view:


The Vatican may be completely overestimating Patriarch Kirill's influence. If he were to mitigate his line with respect to Ukraine, then it is likely he would not remain patriarch for long.


As is known, the Institute of Religion and Policy holds to a different approach, considering the joint peacemaking efforts of Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis to be useful for the sake of preserving human lives, while understanding all of the impediments to this. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 August 2022)

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