Kirill: Russia, Ukraine are one nation, church persecution 'pathetic'
In celebration of Orthodox Christmas, the Patriarch of Moscow and All of Russia reaffirms the importance of the role of the church in society, especially during times of conflict.
Orthodox Christians in Russia celebrated Christmas on January 7. At midnight, the Patriarch of Moscow and All of Russia, Kirill, held Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow where he reiterated past support and compassion for all those harmed as a result of the war in Ukraine.
Significantly, Serbs, Georgians, Poles, and Ukrainians, as well as parishioners of the Greek Orthodox Church of Al-Quds, Eastern Catholic Churches, and monks of Mount Athos also celebrated Christmas on January 7.
During service, Kirill highlighted that "all of the most terrible conflicts today occur because people are moving away from faith. Conversely, relying on faith, one can heal conflicts and overcome them," as he hoped for peace throughout the world.
Compassion toward those in need and offering help and support were at the core of Kirill's Christmas message ahead of the liturgy as he called on people to sympathize with each other.
War in Ukraine and the Orthodx church
Following a ban by Ukraine against the Russian Orthodox Church and following several violent incidents against its priests and adherents, the Patriarch noted in his Christmas message that "we deeply sympathize with all those who lost their homes and were forced to leave the [Ukraine] conflict zone, move to safer places."
The bill that banned the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine aimed to "defend Ukraine's national security," according to the text of the bill itself, as it associates "the liberation of Ukraine from the Russian Orthodox Church [to] another step towards independent Ukraine."
However, the Russian Patriarch argued that attempts to destroy the canonical Orthodox church in Ukraine were not only futile but also "pathetic". He explained that the religious division that the Ukrainian government invoked as well as reinforced is what's standing in the way of servitude to the people and the Ukrainian society.
Read more: Ukraine disregards Russian Orthodox Christmas truce, shells Donbass
Kirill also reaffirmed, in an interview for Rossiya-1, following morning Mass on Saturday, the unity of Russia and Ukraine as a single nation, stressing that the church must take every precaution to prevent them from becoming adversaries.
"This is a single nation who came out of Kiev's Epiphany font, but a very large people spread from the White to the Black Sea. And this enormity always caused fears and envy among others; therefore, since ancient times, external forces have worked to divide this people, pull them away, or even pit one with another," the Patriarch said.
Патриарх Кирилл назвал русских и украинцев единым народом, вышедшим из киевской купели крещения— Газета.Ru (@GazetaRu) January 7, 2023
По словам священнослужителя, Церковь должна делать все, чтобы они не стали врагами. pic.twitter.com/mDnBD7W62Y
In this regard, Kirill explained that Ukraine attempted to create a "civilizational prerequisite" for the separation of Russians and Ukrainians.
The Patriarch concluded that "of course, the future depends on how 'successful' all this activity aimed at creating a gap between two parts of the same nation will be. But the church must do everything so that in no case do Ukrainians and Russians become enemies."
Father Vasilyev becomes a symbol
Earlier in November of 2022, the rector of the Patriarchal Metochion at the headquarters of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, Advisor to the Chairman of the Synodal Department of the Moscow Patriarchate for Cooperation with the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies Archpriest Mikhail Vasilyev war killed in Ukraine by what reports noted were shrapnel wounds from a missile launched by a US-made HIMARS system.
Father Vasilyev served decades in the Russian military. He has participated in a number of armed conflicts, where he offered spiritual guidance to the nation's troops during Russian peacekeeping missions to Kosovo and Bosnia, battles in Abkhazia and Kyrgyzstan, insurrections in Russia's North Caucasus, and Russia's mission in Syria.
❗Владимир Путин присвоил звание Героя России протоиерею Михаилу Васильеву, погибшему в ходе СВО pic.twitter.com/niY1ecf4ea— Газета.Ru (@GazetaRu) November 8, 2022
During the interview with Rossiya-1, Kirill remembered Father Vasilyev and remarked that “we knew that Father Mikhail Vasilyev was followed and this strike was conducted in order to kill him. Every priest near the frontline is aware he is an easy and wanted target, however, no one leaves until the priesthood recalls, all remain loyal to their priestly oath and pastoral duty.”
It is also important to note that in 2022 while carrying out their pastoral duties in the area of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, Russian Archpriest Oleg Artemov, Priest Anatoly Grigoriev, Archpriest Evfimy Kozlovtsev, and Priest Alexander Tsyganov were also killed.
Putin's Christmas message
At midnight, on January 6-7, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended Christmas Mass at the Kremlin’s Annunciation Cathedral.
Following the service, Putin stated, "I wish Orthodox Christians and all those celebrating Christmas good health, success and all the very best.”
In his Christmas message, Putin also noted the importance of the role of the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations in “unifying society, preserving our historical memory, educating the youth and strengthening the institution of family.”
Furthermore, he added that the Russian Orthodox Church prioritized maintaining interethnic and interfaith peace in Russia, as well as providing support for anyone in need alongside supporting soldiers participating in the special military operation in Ukraine.
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