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TOPIC: orthodox

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Violent Priest, A Wounded Soldier And The Weight Of Russia's Orthodox Church In Ukraine

A confrontation between the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches has been brewing for centuries. But a video showing a Ukrainian war veteran being beaten up in church shows that the standoff has become all-out war.

KYIV — On the first Sunday of April, Ukrainian soldier Artur Ananiev decided to go to church. Having recently returned wounded from the frontline, Ananiev had not come to pray — but to speak.

“How many more people have to die for you to stop following the Moscow Patriarchate?” he declared after walking into the parish in the city of Khmelnytsky in western Ukraine.

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Like others in the country, the local church’s choice to remain loyal to the eastern Orthodox patriarch of Moscow — a friend of Vladimir Putin’s — has created growing tension since last year’s Russian invasion.

Indeed, moments after his provocative question, priests and parishioners surrounded Ananiev, and began beating him up. In a video of the scene, one priest can be seen dropping the Gospel before knocking down the soldier and kicking him on the floor.

While local police investigated the incident, which left Ananiev bloodied and with a concussion, residents gathered near the parish and voted for its transfer to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. And now the incident and circulation of the video has reignited the debate across Ukraine that's been brewing between Kyiv and Moscow for not only the past 13 months — but 300 years.

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The Real Message Of Putin’s Bogus Christmas Ceasefire

Vladimir Putin used the Orthodox Christmas holiday as a 36-hour communication ops, while plans proceed to widen his war in Ukraine.

The announcement of the truce was all properly orchestrated: first a request from the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kiril, famously close to the Kremlin, which was duly and promptly accepted by Vladimir Putin himself.

Russia thus decrees a unilateral ceasefire on Orthodox Christmas, from Friday noon to midnight Saturday (local time).

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It is the first truce since the beginning of the Russian invasion, just over 10 months ago. Yet unfortunately, this should not be seen as the prelude to any significant let up in the fighting.

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Is A Christmas Truce In Ukraine Possible?

Few see reason right now for holiday optimism, though Christmas ceasefires have happened multiple times since the conflict in Donbas started in 2014. A new call by religious leaders has raised hope for at least a pause in the fighting.

Last year at this time, there was good news coming out of Donbas: the simmering seven-year conflict in eastern Ukraine would see a much needed holiday season ceasefire. Negotiators from the Trilateral Contact Group, along with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, had helped seal a Christmas truce. There was even hope that the pause in fighting could lead to a wider de-escalation between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian troops, and even a lasting peace.

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Of course, we know what happened next. Not only did the ceasefire not last long (like others before it in Donbas), but two months later Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Now, over the past 72 hours, a widening effort is underway for a new Christmas truce in Ukraine.

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For Orthodox Jewish Women, Cinema Inspires A Silent Revolution

Orthodox women are not allowed to go to the cinema and their film screenings are often interrupted by protesters. But in Israel, there is a booming audience for their films and a big cultural shift is happening.

In 1994, the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was the target of a terror attack that killed 85 people and injured 300 others, most of whom were Jewish. The perpetrators were never identified, probably for political reasons. Shattered, a new film by Israeli director Dina Perlstein, follows Argentinian Jewish prosecutor Anna, who lost her father in the attack, as she searches for the truth. She is joined by a young Israeli Orthodox Jew, Yael, whose older sister was also killed in the attack. Their journey will bring a long-buried secret to light and change their lives forever.

The film, which was recently shown at the Jewish Film Festival Berlin Brandenburg, is unusual. Like Perlstein’s 14 other films, the three-hour long production only features women – most of them Jewish. Perlstein is the first and best known female Orthodox Jewish filmmaker in Israel and she also makes English-language films that are shown at special screenings for Orthodox Jewish women in the USA.

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Tobias Käufer

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.


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.

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Louis Imbert

Pandemic Prompts Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Youth To Cut Loose

The COVID-19 crisis has upended normal routines and led some young Haredims to drop out of school, experiment with drugs and distance themselves from family.

BNEI BRAK — Neighbors discovered the plump, 16-year-old boy out out behind their building in Bnei Brak, the capital of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the Haredim, meaning those who "tremble before God." He was sleeping on an abandoned office chair.

A video of the boy — we'll call him Gadi, for the sake of discretion — circulated from neighbor to neighbor until it reached Tova Bouriya, an ultra-Orthodox mother of Yemeni origin. As the head of the association Tov Ba'lev, she keeps her door open to teenagers on the street. Bouriya then contacted Gadi's grandfather, an influential Sephardic rabbi, who made it clear that he is disowning the boy.

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The Lord's Way

This Orthodox bishop in the Greek city of Patras was on his way to St Andrew's Cathedral, the largest church in the country.

Pavlos Kapantais

Why Syriza Leftists Play Nice With Greek Orthodox Church

The Church is hugely wealthy and exempt from almost all taxes. But its charitable works are crucial in Greece, ravaged by financial crisis and an inept public sector.

ATHENS — Under the watchful eye of the imposing Father Pavlos, Maria, Katerina and Roula, all three volunteers in their fifties, serve meals to the poor of all ages. Pavlos, 68, who leads St. Nicholas Church on the outskirst of Athens, proudly notes that the parish has been distributing food for 40 years. But with Greece's devastating financial crisis, the number of distributed meals in this working-class district of Kallithea has increased from 140 to more than 270 per day over the past five years.

From time to time, while Pavlos is speaking, people timidly approach him to ask for a bit of money to pay for water or electricity bills. Others who have lost their social security, beg so they can buy medicine.

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Iconic Cyprus

The Stavrovouni Monastery in southern Cyprus is one of the few places that boasts a piece of the Holy Cross. It was particularly interesting to see how one of the oldest monasteries in the world manages to maintain the island's tradition of Byzantine icon painting.

Pavel Korobov and Yanina Sokolovskaya

High Stakes As Ukrainian Orthodox Must Choose New Leader

Ukrainian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Volodymyr died on Saturday. The showdown between Kiev and Moscow makes picking his successor more than a religious event.

KIEV — The death of the long-time leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Volodymyr Sabodan, who had been gravely ill with cancer and heart disease, did not come as a surprise.

Still, the death Saturday of the 79-year-old religious leader comes at a particularly delicate moment as clashes with Russia continue near Ukraine's eastern border. After Volodymyr was buried on Monday in the historic Kiev-Pechersk Lavra monastery, experts were busy weighing the meaning of his legacy and the huge political stakes in choosing his successor.

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Tamer Wagih

The Dark Side Of The Revolution For Egypt's Coptic Christians


CAIRO - Copts are being persecuted in Egypt. So, what’s new about that? This has been the norm in our “beloved homeland” since at least the 1970s.

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Syria Will Attend Geneva 2, Sochi Criticism, Palace Squatting

Syrian state television announced that the government will participate in the second round of the Geneva 2 peace conference, due to start Feb. 10, quoting Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad. The announcement came as a first group of 200 civilians is about to be evacuated from the city of Homs, after an agreed ceasefire between the Syrian army and opposition fighters. Read the full story from the BBC.

Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, is finding herself embroiled in a diplomatic scandal after she was recorded as saying “F*** the EU” during a phone conversation about Ukraine’s future. Read the story here.

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