Sunday, March 31, 2024

Russian Orthodox Finding Ways to Break with Increasingly Bellicose Moscow Patriarchate, Zanemonets Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 27 – This week, the World Russian Popular Assembly, which is led and controlled by Moscow Patriarch Kirill, declared Russia’s military operation in Ukraine “a holy war in which Russia an its people, in defending the single spiritual space of Holy Rus is fulfilling the mission of defending the world from globalism and satanism.”

            Moreover, Kirill’s group declared that “the possibility of the existence on this territory of a Russophobic regime hostile to Russia and its people and one run from an external center hostile to Russia must be completely excluded” (

            Such a call represents a call for the destruction of the Ukrainian state and certainly is what Kirill and his bosses in the Kremlin want, but Aleksandr Zanemonets, a Finnish Orthodox churchman, says that it doesn’t reflect what many in the Russian Orthodox Church believe and that its members have options (

            Given Russian tradition and the tendency of others to follow it, many assume that whatever the top person says in any Russian hierarchy is what everyone below him or her believes, but that is not the case in any of these, the priest, who is subordinate to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constaninople and who follows Russian Orthodoxy from the Netherlands, says.

            Many people in the ROC MP do not accept what Kirill and his like are saying. As in Soviet times, it is dangerous for them to speak out; but many of them do what they can by acting to help Ukrainians who have fled the war and by discouraging young Russians from going there to fight.

            Some Russian Orthodox churchmen have fled the country where they find it far easier to express their views, Zanemonets says, because Orthodox leaders in other countries including Finland don’t follow Moscow’s line. But while they have greater freedom of speech, they have less influence in practical ways than those who remain inside Russia.

            He concludes his commentary by quoting the observation of the late émigré churchman, Father Aleksandr Shmeman, who observed that “there is one path for those who leave and another path for those who remain” but who also insisted that in either situation, Orthodox Christians must strive to remain human.

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