The Scandalous Silence of Moscow’s Patriarch

Epigraph:

Every human life is precious and sacred and killing one is like triggering a genocide. (Al Quran 5:32/33)

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, during a visit to the St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral in Kronshtadt, Russia, July 30, 2017.

Source: National Review

By TIM KELLEHER

March 3, 2022 6:30 AM

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has maintained, at best, an unacceptable neutrality in Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine.

Let us be clear, what Vladimir Putin has declared isn’t a just war, it’s just war. All the more reason, therefore, for the one person uniquely positioned to be a lever for peace, and leaven of justice, to act. That person is Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, and his silence to date is a scandal.

The role of the patriarch in Putin’s architecture of aggression is critical. For Westerners long accustomed to separation of church and state, the Russian arrangement can seem an anachronous quirk. It’s not.

Put simply, Putin has been keen to impose a Byzantine model of order known as symphony, in which crown and cathedra work in “providential” harmony. Rooted as it is, however, in gross distortions of history and purpose, this symphony has produced more anthems than hymns.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis last week did what Patriarch Kirill seems to have no intention of doing ever. Breaking with convention, the pope went to the Russian embassy, knocked on its door, and, in the spirit of the prophets, appealed for peace, and offered his office to help broker it. Kirill, understandably, is unable to knock on a door he dwells on the other side of.

Among the titles ascribed to a pope is Pontifex Maximus — that is, chief bridge builder. For better and worse, Francis has striven to be that. Conversely, Kirill, at almost every turn, has attempted to undermine the very bridges he’s entrusted to construct. Moreover, his program of divide and conquer shifted to an urgent gear when, in 2019, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which granted Moscow its independence, granted the same to Kyiv. Examples of Kirill’s campaign contra unity is an expanding record, and evidence that president and prelate are working from the same book. It’s not a prayer book.

A statement issued in Kirill’s name fell short of tepid: “I urge the entirety of the Russian Orthodox Church to offer earnest and fervent prayer for the earliest restoration of peace.” The earliest restoration of peace would be the instant Vladimir Putin says, Stop! The patriarch has his president’s phone number. He should call it.

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