Staunton, November 21 – Patriarch Kirill, who has become the leading promoter of the traditionalist national values in Putin’s Russia, says on the occasion of his 70th birthday that the Moscow Patriarchate will never allow an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church or the appearance of multiculturalism in Russia itself.
Feted by Orthodox and Russian state leaders, including Vladimir Putin who not only gave Kirill another award but suggested that it is likely it was Kirill’s father who secretly baptized the young Putin many years ago (interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=65227), the patriarch used the occasion not only to reaffirm his hard line but to declare that he has “only just begun” to push it.
Kirill made that declaration in the course of an extensive interview with the Moscow newspaper, “Kommersant” (kommersant.ru/doc/3148819), which he began in the best traditions of the Soviet background which he shares by providing statistics about the growth in church institutions rather than concern about religious faith itself.
“If you’ll permit me,” the Russian church leader said, “I will begin with statistics.” Since he became patriarch, the number of Moscow Patriarchate churches has increased by 5,000, the number of priests by 10,000, and the number of monasteries by 122. There are now 160 more parishes in Moscow, and the number of bishoprics has gone up from 159 to 296.
The expansion in the number of bishoprics has been especially important, the patriarch continued, because it means that his administration has “more information” about what is going on in the country, including anti-church attitudes, and is better positioned to promote the values of Orthodoxy in Russia. “We are only at the very beginning of that,” the hierarch said.
His two clearest declarations on policy have been about church affairs in Ukraine and cultural and ethnic relations in the Russian Federation. With regard to Ukraine, he declared, “our Church will never leave in misfortune our brothers in Ukraine …We will never agree to a change in the holy canonical borders of our Church” (interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=65240).
The reason for that is simple, Kirill said, “Kyiv is the spiritual cradle of Holy Rus just as Mskheta is for Georgia or Kosovo for Serbia.”
Unfortunately, he continued, there are forces in Ukraine that are trying to undermine that. They are “forcibly” seizing churches, “ignoring the decisions of courts, conducting an information campaign against the Church,” and even proposing laws which “discriminate and put in the most difficult conditions the largest religious community of the country.”
According to the Moscow patriarch, those behind this consist primarily of “Greek Catholics or atheists.” And in words certain to offend Ukrainians and the Vatican, he declared that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church is “continuing aggressive and offensive attacks on Our Church as a whole and also on canonical Orthodoxy in Ukraine.”
With regard to Russia itself, Kirill, who has often been criticized for his support of archaic and obscurantist views, maintained his tough line against modernity, democracy and human rights but took at least one position that may bring him into conflict with the Kremlin (russian.rt.com/russia/article/334313-patriarh-kirill-intervyu-rt).
In an interview on Russian television, he said that “multiculturalism has no future” because it promotes “cultural mixing” and that in turn “carries within itself a source of division.” He noted that “the ideas of multiculturalism didn’t exist even in the times of the USSR.” And he insisted that they should not be introduced or accepted now.
When in Soviet times, Moscow proclaimed the formation of “a Soviet people,” it nonetheless “recognized that within it Turkmens will remain Turkmens, Tajiks will remain Tajiks, Uzbeks Uzbeks, Russians Russians and Jews Jews.” That same approach must be developed “in the new Russia.”
Kirill’s defense of Russianness is certain to be seen by many in his country as support for Russian ethnic identity and thus indicate his support for those who oppose the idea of a creation of a civic and non-ethnic Russian identity, something that at the end of October, Vladimir Putin appeared to support.
If Kirill has decided to come out swinging against any move in that direction, the prospects for the enshrinement in Russian law and the constitution or at least the enforcement of what might be inserted in either of the idea of a civic nation worthy of the term are certainly far less bright than many had thought.