Category Archives: Religion and Politics

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi? Ukraine and the Second Sunday of Pentecost in UOC and OCU Liturgies

by Nadieszda Kizenko

Image: The “Virgin of Vladimir” Icon

Most people who have written about the tensions between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) after the Russian invasion tend to focus on one thing: who is commemorated. This is not surprising. Accepting the authority of this bishop, but not that one, is an easy shorthand for where one stands on all sorts of other issues. The recent UOC decision not to commemorate Patriarch Kirill anymore was emblematic of its clerics’ denying Russian claims, attacks, and brutality. The UOC’s subsequent declaration of independence opens the door to dialogue with the OCU.

The focus on commemoration and canonicity, however, may obscure other, less obvious challenges. Even before February 24, the differences between the UOC and OCU went well beyond which bishop one was willing to follow. The liturgical choices of both churches—what language they use, which saints they invoke, which hymns they sing, which icons they venerate, what wording they use for such traditionally State-glorifying services as those to the Elevation of the Cross, which national holidays or traumas they commemorate and how—indicate divergent approaches. Any future rapprochement will need to consider those divergences as well.

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Why Did Viktor Orban Block the EU’s Sanctions against Patriarch Kirill of Moscow?

by Daniela Kalkandjieva | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Hungarian flag on parliament building in Budapest
Image: iStock.com/MarinaLitvinova

On June 3, the European Union reached an agreement on the sixth package of sanctions against Russia after difficult talks with Hungary. To avoid its veto, the other member states had to remove the name of the Moscow patriarch from the EU’s blacklist. Why does the prime minister of a non-Orthodox state so fervently support to head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the main ally of Putin in the war against Ukraine?

Some observers search for the answer in the conservative mindsets of Viktor Orban and Patriarch Kirill, who endorse traditional values. The present partnership between the Hungarian state and the Moscow Patriarchate, however, also has historical roots. A lesser known page of their history is the Kremlin’s project for establishing an autocephalous Hungarian Orthodox Church after the Second World War.[1] The initial idea of a unified Hungarian Orthodox Church belongs to Horthy’s regime. As an ally of Nazi Germany, it established control over areas with a significant Orthodox population and considered that a unified church institution would facilitate its administration.

Despite the political change after the fall of Nazi Germany, the postwar Hungarian state did not give up the idea of a local Orthodox Church. The major obstacle to this plan was the specific composition of the Orthodox minority in Hungary. Only a small number of its members were ethnic Hungarians. Meanwhile, the majority of the Orthodox believers had settled in the country as refugees from the Ottoman Empire and Bolshevik Russia. As a result, the Orthodox minority consisted of different ethnic groups belonging to five different jurisdictions: the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Serbian Patriarchate, the Romanian Patriarchate, the Bulgarian Exarchate, and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. When the Red Army occupied Hungary, however, the last one was not able to administrate its parishes because it was treated as Hitler’s ally by the Soviets.  

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The Moral Defeat of the Russian World: Putin, Kirill, and the Tribunal of History

by Paul L. Gavrilyuk | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Pat. Kirill and bombing of Mariupol

In Mariupol, Russian rockets destroy a maternity ward, wounding dozens. Meanwhile, in Moscow, Patriarch Kirill (Gundiaev) blesses the Russian troops. In the same town of Mariupol, Russian bombs kill hundreds of children and elderly in the Drama Theater. Putin’s Patriarch has the gall to describe the war as a “metaphysical struggle” against Western values. A Russian missile destroys a building in Odessa, burying a mother with her three-month-old infant alive. Obedient to his master in the Kremlin, Gundiaev justifies the war as an act of self-defense.

Many western observers are puzzled. Aren’t the troops blessed by the Russian Orthodox Church presently slaughtering fellow-Orthodox civilians in Ukraine? Aren’t the Russian missiles destroying the Orthodox churches and monasteries, along with the schools, hospitals, and train stations, of the fellow-Orthodox in Ukraine? If all of this is true, how can Patriarch Kirill be sending the Russian troops into battle with his blessing? Isn’t this war precisely “fratricidal,” as Metropolitan Onufriy (Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate) called it, in a moment of recently found clarity? It did not previously dawn on Metropolitan Onufriy that Russia’s invasion of Eastern Ukraine in 2014 was also an act of fratricide. Meanwhile, several senior bishops within Onufriy’s jurisdiction continue to promote blind submission to Patriarch Kirill, who rationalizes and justifies the killing of the members of their flock in Ukraine—the bombings and the shelling, the slaughter of children and civilians, and the displacement of millions—as Russia’s act of self-preservation. Have Onufriy’s bishops lost their minds or consciences? Is this foolishness or treason? Whatever the answer, the outcome is the same: complicity in acts of violence on a scale unseen in Europe since WWII.

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Sunday, May 8, 2022: The Global Orthodox Laypeople’s Demonstration Against the War in Ukraine

by Lori Branch

In these paschal days when we sing and greet each other with “Christ is risen,” the people of Ukraine suffer hunger, cold, injury, and death. While individually we help through IOCC and other charities, at the level of the global Church we are too often passing them by on the other side of the road. Like the priest and Levite in Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), we may tell ourselves we can’t do anything meaningful or that more important duties call us—loyalty to Church hierarchs perhaps, some who have blessed the invasion and others who remain silent about it. Our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, meanwhile, remain bleeding by the wayside.

On Pascha, a small pan-Orthodox group of Christians in Iowa City decided to change this by launching GOLD: the Global Orthodox Laypeople’s Demonstration Against the War in Ukraine. We call our Orthodox family worldwide to join together on Sunday, May 8, 2022 to pray and witness for the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15) against the war in Ukraine and hierarchs who have sanctioned it. Act now and plan a demonstration: contact a friend or two (Matthew 18:20), involve your children, designate one hour to meet together in front of your church, and spread the word on email and social media. Carry icons, signs, flowers, and flags, speak your conscience, and pray for peace in Ukraine. Post pictures and video to social media and to our Facebook group. Let our brothers and sisters around the world, from hierarchs to laypeople, in Russia and Ukraine and elsewhere, hear our testimony: Orthodox Christianity cannot be used to endorse this war. If the war continues, we will plan a second demonstration for Pentecost.

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