Moscow-aligned Ukrainian Orthodox clerics demand tribunal for Patriarch Kirill, key Putin ally

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More than 290 clergy members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate, a body aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church, on Monday demanded a trial for Church heresy against Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Church and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The clerics accused Kirill of preaching “heresy” and committing “moral crimes” in endorsing the weeks-old “special military operation” in Ukraine that began on February 24.

Church leaders said they could no longer be in “canonical submission” to Kirill and the Moscow Patriarchate, a major break with its parent body.

The call by Ukrainian clerics for an “International Church Tribunal” was first reported on Monday by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine. The petition will go to the Council of Primates of Ancient Eastern Churches, of which the Russian Orthodox Church is a member.

The priests and bishops also asked the primates to “clearly and unambiguously condemn” Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Rev. Andriy Pinchuk, UOC-MP Archpriest in Voloske, Ukraine, made the call via Facebook.

“For many centuries there has been a tradition in the Orthodox Church to appeal to the tribunal of such a Council in the event of serious disputes,” Father Pinchuk wrote.

“The Council of Eastern Patriarchs has repeatedly considered legal action against the highest dignitaries of the Church,” he added, noting the case against Moscow Patriarch Nikon some 350 years ago, which was stripped the primate of his rank and position.

“Today, when Patriarch Kirill of Moscow frankly supports Russia’s war of conquest against Ukraine, we, the priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, have decided to appeal to the Council of Primates of the Ancient Eastern Churches with a lawsuit against Patriarch Kirill,” Fr. Pinchuk wrote.

The archpriest said that Kirill “preaches the doctrine of the ‘Russian world'”, defined as “a unique civilizational space, covering territories on which Russian culture has historically had a significant impact”.

Father Pinchuk said this view “does not correspond to orthodox teaching and should be condemned as heresy.”

The Primate of Moscow “committed moral crimes by blessing the war against Ukraine and fully supporting the aggressive actions of Russian troops” there.

As recently as Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the war had resulted in the deaths of “tens of thousands of people” in the city of Mariupol alone.

He added: “We clearly state that it is impossible for us to remain in any form of canonical submission to the Patriarch of Moscow. It is the command of our Christian conscience.

Most Ukrainians are Orthodox, but there is a major division in the country between two Orthodox bodies.

About 23% of Ukrainians identify with the Russian-aligned Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate, while more than 42% say they are affiliated with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In 2018, the latter church obtained autocephaly or direct communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. in Istanbul, the world leader in Orthodoxy.

The question of whether the Orthodox Church of Ukraine should be a national entity, equal to the Orthodox Churches of countries such as Greece or Serbia, or should be a province of the Russian Church in Moscow has been a bone of contention. between Ukrainian nationalism and Russian resistance to it.

The open letter organized by Father Pinchuk is the second major public demonstration by these clerics aligned with the Moscow Church. On February 27, Metropolitan Onufriy, the leader of the UOC-MP, ordered his clergy to pray for Russia’s defeat in the war.

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