Published on April 06, 2022.
As Easter approaches, the commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a Christian fight is raging within the war in Ukraine.
The battle pits leaders from different factions of the Orthodox Christian Church, the predominant religion in Ukraine and Russia. It is reminiscent of so many other religious conflicts dating back, from Portugal’s point of view, to the Second Crusade in the Holy Land and the Battle of Lisbon in 1147 when the city was taken under Muslim Almoravid occupation. It was a pivotal event that allowed Portugal to become an independent Christian kingdom.
Portugal is not innocent of forcibly occupying other countries. From the 1400s, this small nation sent occupiers as well as explorers to South America, Africa and Asia. One of their main goals was to spread Catholicism. Portugal’s Christian empire survived for more than six centuries and only finally came to an end after the wars in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau in 1975. But none of this was as devastating as the current invasion in Ukraine.
It should be noted that although the name of Jesus Christ was often used to justify military conflicts, the Gospels contain no trace of Jesus giving his disciples explicit teaching on the subject of war.
Unlike Jesus, the leader of Russia’s 60 million Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Cyril, has certainly not been silent on the current war in Ukraine. He gave his wholehearted blessing to the brutal massacres of civilians and the urban destruction of Russia. In sermons televised from the Moscow Cathedral, he described the war as “an apocalyptic battle against the forces of evil who sought to destroy the God-given unity of Holy Russia”.
Patriarch Kirill and President Putin share a nationalist ideology which they believe justifies war. Kirill once went so far as to say that Putin’s presidency was “a God-given miracle”.
Putin himself is considered a devout Christian and he often appeared with Kirill at Easter services. It would be interesting if they met this year on Sunday April 24 to reinforce the propaganda regularly broadcast by the Kremlin’s public media.
Contrary to Russian claims, World Orthodox Church leader Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, joined other Orthodox leaders and denounced the invasion as an “atrocious” act that is causing havoc. enormous suffering. . On a recent visit to Poland, which has taken in the largest number of refugees fleeing war, Patriarch Bartholomew said: “It is simply impossible to imagine how devastating this horrific invasion has been to the people of Ukraine. and the whole world”. during a press briefing in Warsaw, solidarity with Ukrainians “is the only thing that can overcome evil and darkness in the world”.
Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, head of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, also deplored Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it resulted in the deaths of “thousands of innocent people, including hundreds of children, old people, women and men who had nothing to do with the hostilities. Many actions of the aggressor bear the mark of genocide. Gądecki urged the Russian patriarch to use his influence over President Putin to demand an end to the war and the resignation of Russian soldiers. Kirill did the exact opposite and praised the Russian forces.
The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is divided between an independent church based in kyiv and another faithful to Kirill in Moscow.
Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church broke contact with Barthélemy after the Patriarch of Istanbul recognized the Orthodox Church of Ukraine as independent from the Patriarch of Moscow in 2019.
Even though Putin justified his invasion of Ukraine in part as a Moscow-oriented defense of the Orthodox Church, leaders of both Ukrainian Orthodox factions condemned the invasion, as did Ukraine’s large Catholic minority.
Globally, the Orthodox Church is the smallest of the Christian denominations with around 260 million members, 60 million of them in Russia, with the rest spread mainly in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and in the Middle-East. Protestants have around 800 million members worldwide and Roman Catholics around 1.2 billion.
Despite the current bitter rivalry, as a whole the Orthodox Church claims to be the only true church established by Christ and his apostles. The same goes for the Roman Catholic Church whose people in parts of Russia and Ukraine split off and converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity in 988.
For the first time since the millennial schism, a Catholic pontiff and an Orthodox patriarch met in 2016. Then last month, Pope Francis spoke again with Patriarch Cyril, this time by videoconference. The pope rejected Russia’s religious defense of the Ukraine crisis. The pope insisted that wars are always unjust because those who pay are “the people of God”.
According to a statement from the Vatican, the pope continued, “We must unite in the effort to help peace, to help those who suffer, to stop the fire.” He added: “Our hearts cannot help crying in front of the children, the women killed, all the victims of war. War is never the solution. The Church should not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus.
Many non-religious people around the world who do not believe in God have to wonder if indeed He really exists and does not take sides in wars, is it worth anyone in any religion to pray for the peace ?
President Putin is a Christian. Just like President Biden. Will God listen to their very different views and prayers on Easter Sunday?
The leader of Russian Orthodoxy, Patriarch Kirill, called Vladimir Putin a “miracle of God”.(Reuters: Sergei Karpukhin)
Port of Len is a journalist and author. Born in Ireland, his first written pieces were published while working at the Natural History Museum in London. Since then he has worked as a journalist, mainly in Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Portugal. As well as reporting hard news for some of the world’s leading news agencies, he has produced countless feature articles on all sorts of topics for a range of publications. Now living in southern Portugal, her books include travel guides and children’s stories. His ebooks – People in a special place and The Fatima Phenomenon – Divine Grace, Illusion or Pious Fraud? are available on Amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. His blog posts can be viewed at algarvenewswatch.blogspot.com