Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Cyril Gundyayev) preached this a few weeks ago, on Forgiveness Sunday Divine Liturgy, at the cusp of the Great Fast, in which we usually hear words of humility, repentance, forgiveness, and meekness:
"If we see [Ukraine] as a threat, we have the right to use force to ensure the threat is eradicated,” Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill recently preached to his church’s 90 million faithful followers. We have entered into a conflict which has not only physical but also metaphysical significance. We are talking about human salvation, something much more important than politics.”
Kirill is not alone in this opinion. Archdeacon Vladimir Vasilik, who is a professor (St Petersburg State University) and a member of the Synodal Liturgical Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate, chimes in:
"We can say that those who are being released from Ukraine are not very happy to be released. Of course, especially now, when they have to sit in the basement, expecting rockets and bombs, to suffer deprivation and various sufferings, the death of loved ones. It is natural for people to want peace and not think about big politics and the future. But no surgery is devoid of blood and pain. The patient may murmur before the doctor, ‘I was better off with the tumor before.’ But then he will understand that his life has been saved ...”
If it is not clear already, Vasilik is claiming that the butchers of Bucha, Putin and his Russian marauders, are only "saving" Ukraine. It is hard to imagine a more sycophantic corruption of churchly rhetoric: even the Sadducees are embarrassed, wherever they are.
I should note that Russian state TV does in fact show video of Bucha and other places, but claim that this is the work of Ukrainian Nazis who are bombing and butchering their own cities and populations.
This does not beggar belief: what does is the drab reality that so many Americans hop on the contrarian bus and join in with the "this is too complex and there must be two sides to every story" train.
But my main point is even more melancholy. The ghastly opinions of Kirill and, it appears, his entire Patriarchate present a terrifying challenge to Orthodox ecclesiology. What are we to make of the administrative structure of world Orthodoxy?
When the administration of the largest segment of our worldwide faith community has wrapped itself in a fascist ideology -- when a Patriarch preaches the eradication of a nation from the Amvon -- the status quo cannot remain unchanged, because it has already withered.
The status quo has fallen as a fait accompli.
To say that this is heartbreaking is an understatement.
What remains for us, who try to be faithful to our cherished Orthodox faith that is anti-ideological (which it must be), fully separated from the siren-deceptions of the cultural wars -- a faith that is kenotic and sophianic, Patristic and Biblical, fully Trinitarian and Christological, courageous and winsome, charged as salt and light in the world, no matter how secular and "woke" the world might be --
-- what remains for us is to pray and love and teach the truer and higher things, and to serve under the omophorion of a Patriarchate that remains true to the foundations and to the abiding call of the One Who will return.