On 20 November 2022, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow celebrated his 76th birthday. At a reception to mark the occasion, held in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, the Patriarch warned his guests in apocalyptic terms of the current dangers facing Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. Without explicitly mentioning the war in Ukraine, Kirill called on the Church to play an active part in “the struggle of our Fatherland against global evil” and against “this movement of the Antichrist, which is capable of destroying both the entire world and Russia.” All the forces of the Antichrist, he claimed, would be directed against Russia, because the Russia of today was the “restraining force” (uderzhivuaiushchii) that was mentioned in Scripture in relation to the appearance of the Antichrist in the world.
Speaking to the audience at his birthday reception that mostly comprised hierarchs of the Orthodox Church, Kirill evidently did not feel the need to explain the Biblical concept of the “restraining force.” Several months earlier, however, in a sermon he preached in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on 7 April, Kirill had called for prayers to be said for peace in Ukraine and for the preservation of the unity of the Orthodox Church. Why, he asked, had external forces attacked the “Russian land”? The Bible, he explained by way of an answer, contains a reference to a certain force that restrains the coming of the Antichrist into the world. It does not say what this force is: some think it was the Roman Empire; others believe it is the Church. The latter view is correct, Kirill claimed, but the restraining force is also “the entire pious people of all times and all countries, it is the Orthodox faith which lives and acts in the Orthodox Church.” This, he concluded, is why the enemies of the Church are now attacking its unity.Continue reading