archbishop: “Moscow weaponizes the Russian Orthodox Church against Ukraine.

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“One important aspect of the media’s coverage of the conflict in Ukraine has gotten relatively little attention: the ROC’s backing for this terrible and immoral war.According to the Kremlin, and in the expressive words of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the ROC, the terrible assault on Ukraine “is a metaphysical battle.”Surprisingly, the ROC has justified its “ideological” and “spiritual” support for Europe’s most brutal conflict since World War II.The ROC has worked to incite war fervor, even goading the faithful in these most violent efforts, as Russian aggressors torture and behead Ukrainian POWs, rip Ukrainian children from their families, and deport them to unnamed places under the guise of evacuation schemes, engage in atrocities unheard of in our civilized world.Knowing that Patriarch Kirill was formerly a former KGB agent entrusted with refuting allegations of religious intolerance in the Soviet Union should not be surprising.He blesses them today and promises them forgiveness for their crimes: “Sacrifice, in the course of carrying out your military duty, washes away all sins.”Under his direction, Kirill has ensured that the ROC advances the geopolitical objectives of the Kremlin, cementing the centuries-old connections between Church and state.Additionally, the ROC has supported the persecution and targeting of religious minorities by the Putin administration.Following Russia’s invasion of the east of Ukraine and Crimea in 2014, Russian occupation authorities targeted religious communities, branding Orthodox Church of Ukraine members as “enemies of the Russian Orthodox people” and “American spies.”Former deputy editor-in-chief of the Moscow Patriarchate Publishing House and exiled Russian theologian Sergei Chapnin, a professor at Fordham University, has exposed ROC duplicity in an open letter.Bishops in the ROC are called “embittered castle-builders swilling the cocktail of imperial myth, resentment, and unbelievably primitive eschatology,” according to Chapnin. You support Patriarch Kirill, a guy who has abandoned the Church and defends war crimes. You reiterate his claims that they were criminal.Two of my fellow Greek Catholic priests from Ukraine were detained and allegedly tortured in Berdyansk in November. They are still held as war hostages, and nobody knows where they are. Shortly after Russians took control of the city, Melitopol’s main Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was closed.The Ukrainian Catholic Church has been outlawed under every Russian administration of Ukrainian land from the end of the 18th century, whether it was tsarist, communist, or Putinist.Other faith communities have also been restricted and persecuted at various historical points.Putin approved the ‘Yarovaya Law seven years ago, which mandates that all churches and other religious institutions in Russia register with the government.The law has been applied to punish adherents of numerous religions by outlawing “missionary activities” and even responding to inquiries about religion outside of locations authorized by the state.Similar actions are being taken by the Kremlin in occupied Ukraine today.Many religious groups have experienced arrests, detentions, or deportations, including Baptists, Mormon missionaries, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and Ukrainian Greek Catholics.Additionally, we are seeing long-lasting effects of this pressure in Russia and religions other than Christianity. The exiled head rabbi of Moscow has advised Jews to leave Russia as soon as they can, warning them that the government may use rising antisemitism in the nation to make them the focus of blame for the Kremlin’s mistakes in Ukraine.It is outrageous and troubling that Russia lacks religious freedom, which is now being practiced in occupied Ukraine.We can observe the effects of the state-backed ROC being used for oppression, control, and even murder.Tens of thousands of innocent Ukrainians have been killed at the hands of the Russians, and the world is witnessing this as the leaders of the ROC and their 90 million followers not only do nothing but applaud the war effort.The ROC, its function under the Putin administration, and the scope of Russia’s assault on Ukraine’s religious institutions are the subjects of a recent Institute for the Study of War report.The article claims that 29 Christian religious leaders had been arrested or killed in occupied territories. Additionally, Russian soldiers across Ukraine have demolished or damaged at least 500 churches and places of worship.All Ukrainians, including atheists, are working together to defend their democracy and end this devastation campaign.It is still possible for supporters of the ROC to break away from the dark forces of the Kremlin, repent of their sin of wanting to enslave the Ukrainian people and oppose Putin’s despotic government.People of goodwill can continue to support Ukraine in its epic war to save human dignity and freedom, including the freedom of religion. This battle is akin to the David vs Goliath story.The conflict in Ukraine now directly affects the future of peace and prosperity in the world.The Ukrainian people are grateful to America for its critical role in preserving Ukraine from Russia.But more work needs to be done.Americans of religion can play a crucial role in assisting Ukraine in confronting this wickedness and ending it as the ROC approves a most diabolical war.

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