Putin is ‘making it a religious war’ — Head of U.S. Ukrainian Orthodox Church slams Russian leader, Moscow Patriarch Kirill

As Archbishop Daniel, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, watched his residence nation endure an invasion by the hands of Russia this week, he discovered himself waffling between two feelings: shock and devastation.

It’s not that he was stunned by stress between the 2 international locations, which is long-standing. The rifts between Russia and Ukraine even lengthen to the spiritual realm: In late 2018 and early 2019, Orthodox Christians in Ukraine declared independence, or autocephaly, from the Orthodox Patriarchate in Russia. The Orthodox Church in Constantinople promptly set about recognizing the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, whereas Russian Orthodox leaders refused. The end result: two opposing Orthodox factions within the nation.

However seeing such tensions escalate to the extent of armed battle — with lethal penalties for Ukraine and its folks — tore at Archbishop Daniel’s coronary heart.

“I got here to the US of America in 1995, proper after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” he mentioned Thursday in an interview for Faith Information Service with Lew Nescott Jr., an unbiased producer masking faith and politics. “I lived via the pictures of tanks going via Moscow and when the Soviet Union fell.

“Now, 30 years later,”  the archbishop mentioned, “I’m dwelling via the pictures of Russian tanks going via the streets, via the sovereign borders of Ukraine.”

The interview is under, edited for size and readability.

You went on a pastoral go to to Kyiv the primary weekend in February. It should appear to be it occurred a 12 months in the past.

Completely. After I was in Kyiv, I stayed in a lodge very near St. Michael’s Cathedral. I acknowledged the balcony the place CNN was doing their reside shot on tv — on the lodge the place I stayed. I known as a good friend of mine who lives in a monastery, a monastic. I mentioned, “How’s it going? What’s occurring?” He despatched me photos of reports media throughout St. Michael’s monastery attempting to get as a lot protection as they’ll.

As we had been speaking, he mentioned, “Are you able to hear it — explosions within the background?” It was in all probability in a proximity of some kilometers from there, and so they had been in a position to hear them.

Being in Kyiv initially of February, folks had been on edge. They considered the potential for provocation from Russians, however no person anticipated a full invasion. Now, our Western allies and intelligence from the U.S. have been saying — and in lots of information networks — that it’s doable, the Russians would do this. However you recognize, we reside within the twenty first century; who desires to consider that in the midst of Europe, in Ukraine, someone will take the actions that he has taken?

I simply completed speaking to our seminarians — we now have seven of them from Ukraine that reside within the seminary (within the U.S.). They’re telling me their mother and father are afraid to go outdoors. Bombs are being thrown. Plane are flying. Explosions are all over the place. My mom lives in western Ukraine, and he or she says that in the present day, she wasn’t in a position to purchase bread. The pharmacies are empty. Individuals standing in traces, folks attempting to get as shut as they’ll to the Polish border.

I perceive you spoke with Metropolitan Epiphanius of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine a number of hours after the invasion began. How is he and what did he say to you?

I reached out to him by way of cell units and tried to see how issues are in Ukraine. My message didn’t get to him till about 4 within the morning in the present day. I acquired a cellphone name again from him and, then, later I spoke to him for the second time. He’s at St. Michael’s Cathedral, in his workplaces. He advised me he’s in good well being. He’s standing with bishops, clergy and trustworthy navy chaplains of Orthodox Church of Ukraine. He’s not planning to depart Ukraine. He mentioned he’s the non secular father of the folks of Ukraine and he have to be along with his flock, along with his folks.

So he’s staying in Kyiv, and I encourage all people to supply their prayers for the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Orthodox Christians worldwide are on the verge of getting into probably the most holy of seasons: Nice and Holy Lent. What’s your message to Ukrainian Individuals right here in the US and to Ukrainian Orthodox Christians worldwide?

The sacred season of Nice Lent is one in every of my favourite non secular journeys that I at all times take very critically. As Ukrainian Individuals, we now have a blessed alternative proper now to observe actually the prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian when he talks about humility, when he talks about sacrifice, when he talks about our personal sinfulness and repenting over our private transgressions and coming unto the Lord and asking for cover and for the renewal that we want. I’m dropping, with my folks of God of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, onto my knees, in that humble prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian, asking God to have mercy over the folks of Ukraine. Troopers, navy generals, proper now they’ve these highly effective weapons — they’ve nuclear energy, tanks and what have you ever. However as Christians, as folks of religion, we even have a weapon in our palms — and that’s a prayer.

I’m asking folks of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Catholic Church and other people of goodwill no matter background to make use of the weapon of prayer, to melt the guts of the aggressor towards Ukrainian folks, and to cease the crimes towards humanity that we’re experiencing.

Many Individuals can be stunned to be taught Russia and Ukraine are predominantly self-identified Orthodox Christian international locations. Wouldn’t it be honest to characterize this as a spiritual warfare with Orthodox Christians killing Orthodox Christians?

I believe the president of the Russian Federation is making it a spiritual warfare. The accountability is on him and his soul.

Look, main saints of the Slavic Orthodox Church — and I’m speaking about Ukrainian Russian Orthodox Church and Serbian, what have you ever — a whole lot of them are of Ukrainian descent. Ukraine has produced the fathers of Orthodox Church which have served in Russia, Serbia, Moldova, Romania, in different components of the world, together with the Center East and in Jerusalem. Ukrainians have contributed to the material — into the mosaic — of the non secular entity of who we’re as Orthodox Christians.

We’re two distinct teams of individuals, Russians and Ukrainians. We’re folks of 1 religion — we’re Christians. However our cultural background makes us completely different. Due to the impression that Western society has had on Ukraine, folks in western Ukraine, and basically in Ukraine, are open to their entire thought of self entities, figuring out themselves as Christians and asking themselves legitimate questions, “Why am I a Christian? Why am I Orthodox? Why am I doing the ritual I’m doing? Why am I dwelling the way in which I reside?”

Within the northern half, or the northern neighbor, the Russian Federation, they’d usually use the teachings of the saints of the church and indicate that you’re not worthy of something as an individual, as a toddler of God, to perform something with a view to absolutely and actually strategy him along with your worthiness. Two distinct approaches to the sanctity of human life.

You’re saying that, imbued in considering and observe in religion, the Ukrainian view is one in every of independence and freedom. Those that profess Orthodoxy usually are not completely devoid of their skill to be good. Whereas within the extra austere type of Russian Orthodoxy, all of humanity is condemned?


Ukrainians are striving or attempting for hundreds of years to protect their id — who they’re as kids of God.

There was an announcement launched Wednesday from Moscow Patriarch Kirill. What are your ideas on that assertion? Conciliatory? Goodwill? An attraction of some type?

A letter from a spiritual politician, and never a non secular father of the folks of Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Kirill is repeating a so-called historical past lesson all of us acquired from President Vladimir Putin a number of days in the past. You can not rewrite historical past, Ukrainians and Russians. I’m not being divisive right here, however we’re not sharing the identical historical past. Ukraine — Kievan Rus’, not Russia.

To say that we share the identical ethnic background and what have you ever — I believe it’s a mistake. It’s an incorrect assertion. And I want the spiritual leaders would right that terminology he’s using. It’s not a brotherly battle that we’re having in Ukraine. I’ve a youthful brother, and once we had been rising up, we had a battle. We fought over little issues. However on the finish of the day, we knew we had been brothers and we knew we needed to respect one another as a result of there was love between us. In the event you love someone, as a brother, as a real brother, you’re not going to go and bomb the properties and destroy the lives of individuals, after which say, “Properly, let’s deliver humanitarian support,” and what have you ever. In the event you’re actually the non secular father, as you declare, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow, Patriarchate in Ukraine, then go and confront the political chief of the Russian Federation and inform him, “Cease abusing the folks of my church.”

What’s vital for folks in the US, specifically, to know? Particularly those that would possibly say, “I’m not Ukrainian. I don’t know any Ukrainians. Why ought to we be involved with Ukrainians? It’s their combat.”

It’s a problem of crimes towards humanity. It’s towards who we’re as freedom-loving folks of God.

If we permit one thing like this to occur in Ukraine in the present day, then atrocities much like it will occur in different components of the world — sanctioning different dictators and political leaders to go forward and abuse the sanctity of human life. I agree with you — some folks might watch and listen to studies and watch movies and say, “What do I’ve to do with Ukraine? I’ve my very own lifestyle. I reside in America. It’s 1000’s of miles away. So far as I’m involved, Ukraine is way, distant from right here, and it’s not harmful for me.”

Properly, it’s. We reside in a cosmopolitan society, in a cosmopolitan world. It’s now not about one single nation right here and there, unfold across the globe. We’re all interconnected, our economies, our lifestyle, our cultures. After which there’s the very core of our existence: created within the picture and likeness of God. We’ve to maintain that in thoughts. We’re all a part of the magical physique of Christ.

Jack Jenkins contributed to this report.