Orthodox Patriarchs Take Sides in Ukraine War
The patriarchs of the various Orthodox Church jurisdictions are taking sides in regard to the Ukrainian War. In 2019, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was granted independence from the Russian Orthodox Church by the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew. Bartholomew is the Eastern Church’s equivalent of the Pope.
In a public statement, Bartholomew said,
“Even in the most unfavourable circumstances, such as today, where the world community is following with horror Russia’s, beyond every sense of law and morality, military attack and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, an independent and sovereign state, or perhaps even more so now as the fiercest conflict since the time of World War II unfolds in Europe, in our neighbourhood, we direct our prayers to the Lord Jesus, the Ruler of peace, asking Him with a fervent soul that He “will give strength to His people” and “bless His people with peace” (cf. Psalm 27:11).”
The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, who disagreed with the Ukrainian Church becoming an autocephalous (self-governing) branch of the Orthodox Church declared,
“Today we also need unity – the unity with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. We are aware of the difficult circumstances encountered today by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. I especially prayed today for His Beatitude the Primate and certainly for the whole episcopate and all the faithful people of Ukraine; and I call you to lift up these prayers too. God forbid that the present political situation in fraternal Ukraine so close to us should be aimed at making the evil forces that have always strived against the unity of Rus’ and the Russian Church, gain the upper hand. God forbid that a terrible line stained with the blood of our brothers should be drawn between Russia and Ukraine. We should pray for the restoration of peace, for the restoration of good fraternal relations between our peoples. A guarantee of this fellowship is our united Orthodox Church represented in Ukraine by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Onuphry. We prayed for them today as well. We prayed that the Lord may give them strength and wisdom to repulse the attacks of the evil one while serving their people in faith and truth promoting peace by all possible ways.”
Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad in Europe (loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate) said,
“ It is not possible to agree with the extremely one-sided picture of current events portrayed by Western sources of information. Events, we know, are much more complex. Not daring to assume the role of judges, but rather fulfilling our calling as humble servants of the Church, we earnestly pray for the appeasement of human souls ‘in the lands of Ukraine’ — for the ‘softening of hearts’; and at the same time, for wisdom to be granted to all those who are now directly responsible for the fate of the peoples in Europe, including both Ukraine and Russia, with Belarus. We lift up these petitions in a special liturgical ‘Prayer for Ukraine’, inserted in our Divine Services in the same place where once, indeed for decades, our prayer for the peoples’ liberation from atheistic power was heard.”
Eastern Churches have tended to remain closely affiliated with their respective governments.