Russian Orthodox leader says Ukraine invasion is part of struggle against ‘gay parades’

A Russian Orthodox leader suggested last weekend that the country’s invasion of Ukraine is part of an ongoing conflict to resist liberal pressure to hold gay pride parades, sparking backlash from other Orthodox churches in the region.

In a sermon on Sunday, Russian Orthodox bishop Kirill, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that Ukraine was engaging in the “extermination” of Russian loyalists in the Donbas, a breakaway Ukrainian territory held by two Russian-backed separatist groups since 2014 that is now playing a key role in Russia’s strategy.

Kirill made no mention of Russia’s attacks on civilian areas, The Associated Press reported

Kirill said that the Donbas separatists were sacrificing themselves for the “fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power.” Kirill further claimed that liberal forces are presenting a “test for the loyalty” of countries by demanding they hold “gay parades” and join a club of nations with different ideas of freedom, according to the AP. 

Kirill had previously avoided criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, angering Ukrainian Orthodox churches that had remained loyal to the Orthodox leader even with geopolitical complications in their own country. A number of these churches have now excluded Kirill’s name from public prayers and demanded separation from the Moscow church, the AP reported. 

The Rev. Mykola Danilevich, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, said days before Kirill’s most recent comments that many priests had stopped commemorating Kirill in church services.

“And the reason is obvious,” Danilevich wrote before Kirill’s sermon this past Sunday, according to the AP. “The treacherous open invasion of Ukraine is a huge mistake of Russia … People did not hear from the patriarch a clear assessment of this war and his call to stop this madness.”

After the religious leader’s comments last weekend, officials in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church both in the country and around the world spoke out against the remarks. Clergy in the Lviv and Volodymyr-Volynskaare dioceses called for independence from the Russian Orthodox church on their Facebook pages, according to the AP.

Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA also condemned Kirill’s comments, calling them “incomprehensible.”

“Regardless of our beliefs and regardless of our stance on social and moral issues, you cannot use that as a propaganda tool to justify the Russian invasion and the slaughter of innocent people,” Daniel said, the AP reported.

The comments come after Putin tried to justify the Russian invasion into Ukraine last week by claiming that Russian forces were defending the country from neo-Nazi forces.

Tags Russian Orthodox Church Ukraine-Russia conflict Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin

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