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Putin’s War in Ukraine Turns Orthodox Christians Against Their Saints in Moscow

KYIV — The onslaught of Vladimir Putin has brought Tatiana Bondarenko, a 53-year-old Ukrainian Orthodox Christian, to the brink of collapse. First, she was forced to flee her hometown of Donetsk during the 2014 war. Then, in March, she had to leave Mariupol after her husband died in shelling and the city was wiped out by Putin’s army. . Her life, she said, was ruined, and her heart was broken.

On Thursday, Bondarenko wept on the steps of Kyiv’s Pokrovsky Monastery, one of 12,000 Ukrainian Orthodox parishes still serving under the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) led by Russian Patriarch Kirill. She told The Daily Beast that she still feels comfortable near the convent, but her feelings about the organization and its leaders have changed dramatically since the war began.

Bondarenko says she doesn’t want her church to have anything to do with Russian Orthodox leader Kirill anymore. “Please, God, Patriarch Kirill has blessed this war, he has no moral right to tell us ‘God is love,’” she said. blessed are Putin’s friends, commander Zolotov and the Russian soldiers who killed us, Ukrainian Orthodox believers,” Bondarenko added with tears in his eyes.

She was referring to a recent ceremony in which the Russian Patriarch prayed to President Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard, Victor Zolotov, who is now the commander of the Russian National Guard, which is fighting in Ukraine. . “Let it inspire young warriors who have taken an oath, to embark on the path of defending the Fatherland,” the patriarch said during a ceremony in Moscow last month. In turn, Zolotov complained to the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church that “not everything is happening as quickly as we would like.” The commander then expressed his wish that the prayer would protect the Russian Army “and hasten our victory.”

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Devotees of Ukraine gather to attend a mass at the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Lviv, Ukraine on April 17, 2022.

Ozge Elif Kizil Agency / Anadolu via Getty Images

The Russian Orthodox Church and its leader played a huge role in garnering public support for Putin’s war in Ukraine, where some 10 million Orthodox still pray. in the churches of the Moscow Patriarchate. Ukrainian Orthodox Christians whose lives have been ravaged by war are left to grapple with the fact that the leader has all but condone the murder of thousands of innocent civilians.

Now, the rifts are beginning to show: More than 400 Ukrainian priests have spoken out against Patriarch Kirill for supporting the war, demanding that he be brought to trial by the Eastern Patriarchate. In addition, many Orthodox parishes in Ukraine that have long been loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate have begun to withdraw from the UOC-MP, changing their affiliated authorities instead to participate in the UOC-MP. Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

“Kirill committed a crime: he blessed innocent murders,” Metropolitan Oleksandr, one of the most senior clerics of the Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kyiv, told The Daily Beast. . He was on his way to a parish that had recently declared independence from the UOC-MP.

“I understand their decision, the Russian criminal army has killed thousands of innocent women, children, men in Ukraine, my relatives are in occupied Mariupol, I don’t know my godfather. live or not. Last I heard he and his family were cooking food over a fire outside their dilapidated home.” His voice cracked when talking about his family members.

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This aerial photo taken on April 12, 2022, shows the city of Mariupol, during Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.

Andrey Borodulin / AFP via Getty Images

A Ukrainian priest and his wife, who belong to a church in the Luhansk breakaway region of the Moscow Patriarchate, told The Daily Beast that the church’s instructions were so jarring that they decided to leave it altogether. whole.

“We were allowed to pray for Ukraine for eight years, while Luhansk was a breakaway republic but in February, when the war started, we were told that we could no longer pray for Ukraine, this goes against our beliefs,” the priest’s wife told The Daily Beast while on a bus to Lviv. “The Russian Orthodox Church made us make the decision to run away with our three children. More and more priests disagree with the Moscow Orthodox Church in Ukraine”.

So far at least 16 dioceses out of 53 parishes loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate have stopped praying for Patriarch Kirill. Many were displeased when the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Onufriy, continued to pray for the holy leader of Russia at Kyiv’s Pechersk Lavra, the oldest monastery on Ukrainian territory built in 1051.

“The time has come for all the parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be independent from Moscow.”

“It is hard to imagine how Father Onufriy or any other priest is still praying for Patriarch Kirill… My 91 year old grandmother who lived under German occupation during the Second World War and currently occupied by Russia, told me that Russian soldiers were looting houses. , shop and kill three of her neighbors,” Metropolitan Oleksandr told The Daily Beast. “Moscow accuses us and other Orthodox Christians of being hateful but we don’t feel hate, we feel justifiable anger… every priest who refuses to submit to the Moscow Patriarchate is punished by them. condemn and forbid execution, and then they will ban us from breathing.”

By Thursday evening, four parishes from the Chernihiv and Cherkasy regions had asked Metropolitan Oleksandr to allow them to join the Autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

“In just one day today, four parishes have made the decision to leave the Moscow patriarchal church,” Metropolitan Oleksandr told The Daily Beast. “The time has come for all parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be independent from Moscow.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/putins-war-in-ukraine-has-orthodox-believers-turning-on-their-holy-men-in-moscow?source=articles&via=rss Putin’s War in Ukraine Turns Orthodox Christians Against Their Saints in Moscow

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