Russia and Ukraine: A religious war?

St Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine
(Photo by Paweł ‘pbm’ Szubert)


The Associated Press reported the following:

March 11, 20222

As Western leaders congratulate themselves for their speedy and severe responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they’re also scratching their heads with uncertainty about what their actions will accomplish.

The U.S., NATO and the European Union have focused on strangling Russia’s economy and arming Ukrainian fighters. But it’s unclear how this will stop the war. No one knows what President Vladimir Putin is thinking, but there’s no reason to believe that even the toughest measures will shatter his determination to force the Western-leaning former Soviet republic back into Moscow’s orbit.

They may not say it publicly, but U.S. officials and their NATO allies don’t see a breaking point for Putin — either an economic toll so severe or battlefield losses so devastating — that would convince him to order his troops home and allow Ukraine’s leaders to govern in peace. … And no one is counting on an outright military victory by Ukraine.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, leader of Russia’s dominant religious group, has sent his strongest signal yet justifying his country’s invasion of Ukraine — describing the conflict as part of a struggle against sin and pressure from liberal foreigners to hold “gay parades” as the price of admission to their ranks.

Kirill, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had already refrained from criticizing the Russian invasion – alienating many in the Ukrainian Orthodox churches who had previously stayed loyal to the Moscow patriarch during a schism in their country. Several of these former loyalists are now snubbing Kirill in their public prayers, with some demanding independence from the Moscow church even as their country’s political independence is imperiled.

Kirill, in a sermon delivered Sunday before the start of Orthodox Lent, echoed Putin’s unfounded claims that Ukraine was engaged in the “extermination” of Russian loyalists in Donbas, the breakaway eastern region of Ukraine held since 2014 by two Russian-backed separatist groups. Kirill focused virtually all of his talk about the war on Donbas — 03/08/22

Could religion play any role in this?

Yes, though it is more of a mixture of mainly politics with some religion.

Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church blamed Constantinople for causing a schism between the Eastern and Russian Orthodox churches in October 2018 (see Schism: Russian Orthodox meet with Vatican regarding Constantinople).

Shortly thereafter, leaders in Ukraine met to become independent of the Moscow patriarch:

15 December 2018

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced the creation of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, marking a historic split from Russia.

He said national security depended on “spiritual independence” from Russia.

He was speaking at a special council of orthodox priests in Kiev, where a new leader of the Church was selected.

The Russian Orthodox Church cut ties with the spiritual authority of the world’s Orthodoxy after it recognised the Ukrainian Church’s independence.

Russia also fears that its churches in Ukraine could be seized. …

The special council was held in the ancient St Sophia’s Cathedral – one of Kiev’s best known landmarks.

Ukrainian clerics of different Orthodox denominations – including some bishops from the Moscow branch – elected Metropolitan Epifaniy as the leader of the new church.

“This day will go into history as a sacred day… the day of the final independence from Russia,” President Poroshenko told a crowd of thousands outside the cathedral.

The Russian church was concerned about this and asked for international assistance. And while the Vatican and the World Council of Churches were sympathetic to the Russia position, the Patriarch of Constantinople made a ruling in favor of the nationalistic Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

There was not some new doctrinal change in the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) that caused Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to recognize the Ukrainian Orthodox church as independent of the ROC.

Basically, the schism is due to politics.

Notice also the following about it back in 2018:

A council of Orthodox bishops has created a new Ukrainian church, marking an historic split from Russia which its leaders see as vital to the country’s security and independence.

The announcement on Saturday came after Ukrainian priests held a synod in capital Kiev’s 11th-century Saint Sophia Cathedral to establish an Orthodox church independent from Moscow. …

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that 39-year-old Metropolitan Epifaniy of the Kiev Patriarchate church is the head of the new church. His secular name is Sergiy Dumenko. …

“Ukraine was not, is not, and will not be the canonical territory of the Russian church,” Poroshenko said, adding that an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church was now a “matter of national security”. …

In Moscow, the Russian Orthodox Church protested vigorously and dismissed the synod as uncanonical.

Vladimir Legoida, a spokesman for the Moscow church, told Russian state television that the Kiev synod had “no church, religious or evangelical meaning” and that it will have “no canonical consequences”.

Representatives of Ukraine’s three Orthodox Churches attended the synod, but only two from the branch loyal to Moscow showed up.

Russian bishop Metropolitan Hilarion in Volokolamsk on Saturday compared the two representatives of the Moscow-backed church to Judas.

Back in 2018, I posted:

The schism between Constantinople and the ROC has the potential to cause Ukraine to split with part supporting Russia. Thiel B. Ukrainian Orthodox meet to become separate: Russian Orthodox ask for the UN to intervene. COGwriter, December 15, 2018)

This has now happened. The Donbas region is in support of Russia and aligned with it.

However, as there is military conflict and deaths now throughout Ukraine, this is causing others associated with the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as some of its seemingly former allies to have issues (bolding mine):

ROME – In new comments to Italian media, the Vatican’s Secretary of State has said recent remarks by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill will only make tensions in the Russia-Ukraine war worse, and said a second meeting with the pope is unlikely.Pope Francis and Kirill met for the first time in 2016 in Havana, Cuba, while the pope was on his way to Mexico. The encounter marked a historic milestone, as it was the first time a pope and Russian patriarch had ever met.

For months it has been rumored that a second meeting between the two would take place this year, however, it now appears that the Russia-Ukraine war, now in its second week, has thwarted these plans. 03/10/22

As Moscow’s Patriarch Kirill continues to support the Russian invasion of their country, priests in Ukraine’s Russian-affiliated Orthodox Church say their communion is splintering, and a formal divide now seems to many inevitable.

A growing split comes as bishops and priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), which falls under Kirill’s jurisdiction, …

Despite the well-known pro-Russian sympathies of the UOC-MP’s leader, Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv condemned the Russian president’s actions on Feb. 24, the first day of the war, describing Putin’s aggression against Ukraine as “Cain’s crime” — fratricide.

At the same time, several UOC-MP bishops announced they would cease commemorating Patriarch Kirill, who has been seen to give cover the invasion, in their liturgies. …

Division within the UOC-MP comes as Vladimir Putin has accused the Ukrainian government of trying to destroy the Russian-affiliated Church.

Putin accused Ukraine of trying to harm the UOC-MP during a speech last month which aimed to justify his invasion of Ukraine. His words on the subject were a logical continuation of Russia’s efforts to present the war it has waged on Ukraine since 2014 as both a geopolitical conflict and a religious one.

In a way, it is true that the war is a religious one, and the UOC-MP has been near the center since the beginning.

In June 2014, Russian-backed forces operating as the militant “Russian Orthodox Army” (ROA) in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine were involved in the murder of four Pentecostal pastors, and the persecution of other denominational and religious believers.

At the official level, the UOC-MP distanced itself from the ROA’s actions. …

UOC-MP priest Fr. Maksym Dynets assessed the position of Patriarch Kirill even more sharply, telling The Pillar he thinks the Church in Russia has become a mouthpiece of state propaganda.

“This structure is not only less and less Orthodox but also [less] Christian. What we’ve heard is not the voice of the Church; this is the voice of Goebbels’ state propaganda,” Dynets said. …

But despite widespread frustration among UOC-MP clerics away from Moscow, no one can say how the UOC-MP’s future in Ukraine will take shape. 03/09/22

Yes, there are religious aspects to this war, but also political ones.

Vladimir Putin is Russian Orthodox and has the support of its Patriarch Kirill.

Patriarch Kirill approves of Vladimir Putin’s restrictions against pushing the LGBTQ+ agenda to children in Russia. Patriarch Kirill also wants those in Ukraine to support his church.

As far as USA and Russian relations go, some may recall that when Hillary Clinton was US Secretary of State, she brought a box to her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The box had a ‘reset button,’ that they were to push in order to ‘reset’ USA and Russian relations. That was supposed to bring about a new and better era of relations between the two countries. Later, then USA President Barack Obama also took some steps, including one that he was unaware was recorded, to try to appease Russia.

But then something happened.

Which was?

The Obama-Biden Administration’s global push of the LGBTQ+ agenda. They thought Russia would support it.

They were wrong:

Notice something that Hillary Clinton wrote that she did with Russia when she was Secretary of State:

When I pressed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to do more to protect the rights of LGBT people, the normally cool and restrained diplomat turned nasty. …

Meanwhile, I looked for ways to make progress closer to home, by better supporting LGBT members of the State Department. . . . I supported the State Department’s annual Pride event, hosted by a group called GLIFFA, Gay and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies. (Clinton HR. Hard Choices. Simon & Schuster, 2014, pp. 577-578)

Sergey Lavrov basically told Hillary Clinton that the USA was not to dictate internal policies for Russia. He was offended at how hard Hillary Clinton was trying to push Russia to promote homosexuality.

USA-Russian relations have gone downhill since the State Department pressed the LGBT agenda and Russia would not go along with it.

Hillary Clinton and the Obama-Biden Administration was pushing a type of immorality that Russia wanted no part of.

From then on, that Administration turned against Russia, and that is part of what has been a reason for the distance between Russia and the USA.

The international reality is that Vladimir Putin has been the most influential political leader who has tried to publicly block aspects of the LGBTQ+ agenda.

Patriarch Kirill appreciates that as well as other support Vladimir Putin has given the Russian Orthodox Church.

That being said, yes politics plays a role in what is happening between Russia and Ukraine.

But religion is also involved as political leaders have long invoked it when it comes to military conflict.

Pray to the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) for God’s kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

Russia and Ukraine: Their Origins and Prophesied Future Russia in prophecy. Where do the Russians come from? What about those in the Ukraine? What is prophesied for Russia and its allies? What will they do to the Europeans that supported the Beast in the end? There is also a video sermon available: Russia in the Bible and in Prophecy as are two video sermonettes Russia, Ukraine, Babylonian Europe, and Prophecy and Ukraine in Prophecy?
Is Russia the King of the North? Some claim it is. But what does the Bible teach? Here is a link to a video, also titled Is Russia the King of the North?
Ezekiel 38: For Russia & Iran in Our Day? Is Ezekiel 38 about to be fulfilled? Are we close to the battle with Gog and Magog? Four related videos are available: Ezekiel 38 Gog and Magog War: Is it Soon?, Ezekiel 38: For Russia, Ukraine, & Iran Now?, Russia, Iran, Syria, & the Bible (Code), and Gog, Magog, Vladimir Putin, and Ezekiel 38?
Cross-dressing and other assaults against your children.  What should you do? Is there an agenda to turn your children and/or grandchildren away from biblical morality and towards practices promoted by homosexuals? What does the Bible teach about cross-dressing? What should parents do? If there is an agenda, what has been going on?  There are also three YouTube videos related to this, titled Transgender ‘Woe to those who call evil good’ and Cross dressing and Other Assaults Against Your Children and USA pushing gender confusion.
The Bible Condemns Homosexuality “Same-sex marriage” for “gays” and lesbians is becoming more acceptable to many. What does the Bible teach about homosexuality and the LGBTQ agenda?  Can homosexuals change? A related video sermon is titled: What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? A short video is available titled: Gay Gene? Born That Way?
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are? Here is a link to a related sermon: Eastern Orthodox 40+ Similar Beliefs to the CCOG.
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God This free online pdf booklet has answers many questions people have about the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and explains why it is the solution to the issues the world is facing. Here are links to four related sermons:  The Fantastic Gospel of the Kingdom of God!, The World’s False Gospel, The Gospel of the Kingdom: From the New and Old Testaments, and The Kingdom of God is the Solution.Will the Interfaith Movement Lead to Peace or Sudden Destruction? Is the interfaith movement going to lead to lasting peace or is it warned against? A video sermon of related interest is: Will the Interfaith Movement lead to World War III? and a video sermon is also available: Do You Know That Babylon is Forming?
Why Should American Catholics Fear Unity with the Orthodox? Are the current ecumenical meetings a good thing or will they result in disaster? Is doctrinal compromise good? Here is a link to a related video Should you be concerned about the ecumenical movement?
Beliefs of the Original Catholic Church. Did the original “catholic church” have doctrines held by the Continuing Church of God? Did Church of God leaders uses the term “catholic church” to ever describe the church they were part of? Here are links to related sermons: Original Catholic Church of God?, Original Catholic Doctrine: Creed, Liturgy, Baptism, Passover, and What Type of Catholic was Polycarp of Smyrna?, Tradition, Holy Days, Salvation, Dress, & Celibacy, and Early Heresies and Heretics, and Doctrines: 3 Days, Abortion, Ecumenism, Meats, Tithes, Crosses, Destiny, and more, and Saturday or Sunday?, The Godhead, Apostolic Laying on of Hands Succession, and Church in the Wilderness Apostolic Succession List.

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