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How The Russian Orthodox Church Is Backing Putin’s Holy Crusade

Patriarch Kirill I has offered Putin a religious justification for his invasion of Ukraine, while Pope Francis stands firmly with the Ukrainian people. The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church is a close ally of Putin’s, and has surprising links to the KGB.

Photo of Russian President Valdimir ​Putin and Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Moscow in November 2021

Putin and Patriarch Kirill in Moscow in November 2021

Tobias Käufer


Even the Virgin Mary has been drafted into Putin’s war: “We believe that this image will protect the Russian army and bring us a swifter victory,” Viktor Zolotov, director of the National Guard of Russia, said when receiving an image of Mary from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow recently.

Bestowing the icon on Zolotov is a clear sign that the Russian Orthodox Church is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Russian army and Vladimir Putin’s government.

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While Kirill aimed to give Russia’s attack on Ukraine a veneer of legitimacy through the ceremony, Zolotov told the Patriarch why "things are not progressing as quickly as we would like”. According to the Orthodox Times, he said the problem was “that the Nazis [by which he means the Ukrainians] are using civilians, elderly people and children as human shields”.

Since the first Russian troops entered Ukraine, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has taken on a more prominent role, as he offers Putin a religious justification for his war of aggression.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, on the other hand, has shown strong support for Ukraine. At midday prayers in St. Peter’s Square earlier this month, he said, “In the name of God, I beg you, stop this massacre.” The Argentinian condemned the “barbarism” and “unacceptable armed aggression”, which threatens to transform “entire cities into graveyards”, as the Catholic News Agency reported.

Clash with Catholic Church

The military clashes between Russia and Western-backed Ukraine are not the only battle lines being drawn; there is also the conflict between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches. Pope Francis’s attempts to sway Kirill, most recently in a video call last week, have thus far proved fruitless.

Kirill is a stalwart supporter of Putin’s. Like most of the Russian president’s entourage, he has ties to the KGB, as a former informant and possibly an agent, according to past investigations by various media outlets, including Forbes magazine.

Kirill became patriarch in 2009, after Putin had already shown signs of aggression towards neighboring countries through his war in Georgia. Since then, Kirill has provided the Kremlin with an ideological and religious justification for Moscow’s confrontations with the West. Since the invasion of Ukraine, he has deliberately avoided using the word “war”.

Kirill believes Western countries want to weaken Russia.

“The Russian and Ukrainian people share a centuries-old history, which dates back to the birth of the Rus,” Kirill said. On July28, 988, Vladimir the Great converted to Christianity and adopted it as the state religion of the Kievan Rus, the forerunner of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Photo of a teleconference call between \u200bPope Francis and Patriarch Kirill on March 17

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in a teleconference call on March 17

Vatican News Facebook page

Protection from Western evil

That is why Kirill sees Russia’s power grab in Ukraine as legitimate, because the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv is an important site for the Russian Orthodox Church, both geographically and spiritually. The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest and most powerful religious organization in Russia and one of the most important Orthodox Churches in the world. There are an estimated 100 million worshippers in Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union.

Over the past few years, the Church’s influence has been steadily growing, as we can see from the rising numbers of priests. In the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which comes under the authority of the patriarch in Moscow, Kirill’s pro-war rhetoric has led to calls for independence and a rejection of his leadership.

Like Putin, Patriarch Kirill I blames the West for developments in Ukraine. He believes Western countries want to “weaken Russia, as it has become a strong, truly powerful country”. He claims the West is fomenting conflict between the Russian and Ukrainian people and spreading diabolical lies. According to local news reports, in a recent sermon, Kirill said that one aim of Putin’s military operation in Ukraine was to protect Russia from the West’s gay pride parades.

Klitschko invites the Pope to Kyiv

The two Christian Churches collide in the Ukrainian capital, as we can see from Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko’s invitation for Pope Francis to visit the city. In a letter, the former boxer said that the Pope’s presence would be “decisive in saving lives and bringing peace to the city, the district and beyond.”

In response to the Russian Orthodox Church’s ceremony in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the Vatican is also staging a special liturgical act. During a penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 25, Pope Francis will consecrate Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

On the same day, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski will carry out the same consecration in Fatima, one of the most important pilgrimage sites dedicated to Mary. During the ceremony, priests ask Mary to offer her maternal protection to people or entire countries, to deliver them from danger and evil temptations.

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How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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