Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Continue reading

The Origins of Anti-Jewish Rhetoric in the Hymns of Good Friday

by George Demacopoulos | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

iStock.com/Zzvet

The oldest-surviving Christian hymns designed exclusively for Holy Week are a set known as the Idiomele.  In the modern Orthodox Church, they are sung during the Royal Hours service of Good Friday morning (the final hymn is sung during two additional services). Apart from their antiquity, the most noteworthy feature of these hymns is that they were the first to blame “the Jews” for the death of Christ. Not only is this accusation historically misleading, it constituted a dramatic break from earlier hymns that reflected on the crucifixion. Based on recent historical research, we are now able to link the introduction of anti-Jewish rhetoric in the Idiomele to precise events in Palestine at the time of their composition. This historical evidence further accentuates our need to address the theological incoherence of the anti-Jewish rhetoric of these hymns and others composed in later centuries.

The Idiomele may be the oldest Holy Week hymns but they were not the first to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Approximately one thousand hymns emphasizing those very themes predate the Idiomele. Those earlier hymns were composed for an eight-week cycle of Sunday services, known as the Octoechos, and survive in a text known as the Jerusalem Georgian Chantbook. While a few of those hymns do contain negative statements about the Jews, on balance they consistently position the whole of humanity as responsible for the death of Christ, precisely because Christ’s death and resurrection save the whole of humanity from death. In other words, our earliest evidence of Christian Liturgy instructs us that, week after week, Christians sang of themselves as the ones most responsible for the death of Christ. It is both historically and theologically significant that the earliest Christians in Jerusalem did not assign blame for the death of Jesus outside of their own community.

Continue reading

Will There Be a Confessing Church in the ROC?

by George Persh | Русский

Russian Orthodox Parish of St. Nicholas of Myra, Amsterdam

For centuries, the Orthodox Church has taken the side of its state leadership in times of war, and the further it departed from the pacifism of the first centuries of Christianity, the more militant the rhetoric of the Church became. But the tragic events of the twentieth century posed questions for the Church to answer. The first question concerned the reaction to the end of the First World War and the Bolshevik coup in Russia. It was in the 1920s that the first timid pronouncements about the unacceptability of war and the traitorous position of the Church hierarchy, priesthood, and laity who supported this massacre appeared.

A second challenge came with the church policy of Nazi Germany, which for over a decade determined the fate of German Protestantism. Of the more than 18,000 pastors, only 3,000 formed a Confessing Church, 700 of whom were arrested. Among those who did not accept the dictatorship for religious reasons was the new martyr Alexander Schmorel, canonized by ROCOR in 2007.

Since then, Europe has hardly been shaken by major military conflicts. But that all changed on 24 February 2022, when the large-scale invasion of Ukraine began. The result was an anti-war movement both inside and outside Russia. In the first few days of the conflict most of the laity and clergy expected the position of Patriarch Kirill to be critical of the invasion. Instead, he delivered a political sermon in which he spoke about the imposition of “Western values” on the inhabitants of south-eastern Ukraine and stressed that there is no forgiveness without justice: “But forgiveness without justice is surrender and weakness. Therefore, forgiveness must be accompanied by the indispensable right to stand on the side of light, on the side of God’s truth.”

Continue reading

Ukrainian Nationhood, “Russkii Mir,” and the Abuse of History

by Thomas Bremer

Image: iStock.com/berean

Many observers of the current war in Ukraine who try to analyze its deeper reasons refer to the idea of a “Russian World,” “Russkii Mir.” This idea, they claim, is the key concept behind the Russian aggression, and shows the tight connection between religion and politics in Russia. A glance at the website of the Moscow Patriarchate, however, shows that in recent years the term has been used very rarely—and then mostly to refer to a foundation called “Russkii Mir,” established by President Putin and meant to promote Russian culture and the knowledge of the Russian language abroad. True, high-ranking representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church have played an important role in that foundation from the time of its 2007 creation. But what does that have to do with Ukraine now?

In some ways, the year 2014 was decisive. When it became clear after the Euromaidan demonstrations that Ukraine had decided to leave the orbit of Moscow and to definitively turn towards the West, the term “Russian World” all but disappeared from the statements of Russian Church leaders. It was clear that the idea of a civilization based on East Slavic Orthodoxy could not work without Kyiv and Ukraine, so the concept seemed to be no longer feasible. Some of its central ideas stayed, however. It is they which have proved important for the justification of the war against Ukraine, both in President Putin’s and Patriarch Kirill’s argumentations. Here, I will try to outline and to assess the most important points: the denial of a distinct Ukrainian nation, and the denial of Ukrainian statehood as such. The worldview behind these ideas seems to me more important for understanding the Russian aggression than the somewhat amorphous category of a “Russian World.”

Continue reading