The Fort Worth Press - Divided soul: rival Orthodox churches wage shadow war in Ukraine

USD -
AED 3.673016
AFN 71.737228
ALL 92.504722
AMD 387.156217
ANG 1.800157
AOA 848.359004
ARS 889.580927
AUD 1.508751
AWG 1.8025
AZN 1.703567
BAM 1.801999
BBD 2.016769
BDT 117.160363
BGN 1.801999
BHD 0.376468
BIF 2867.093564
BMD 1
BND 1.348689
BOB 6.901921
BRL 5.138719
BSD 0.998848
BTN 83.019118
BWP 13.570738
BYN 3.268807
BYR 19600
BZD 2.01336
CAD 1.36675
CDF 2810.00011
CHF 0.914499
CLF 0.032842
CLP 906.220468
CNY 7.241992
CNH 7.26126
COP 3864.74
CRC 512.092873
CUC 1
CUP 26.5
CVE 101.593956
CZK 22.705302
DJF 177.841249
DKK 6.87691
DOP 58.819736
DZD 134.383379
EGP 47.144437
ERN 15
ETB 57.390519
EUR 0.92175
FJD 2.26765
FKP 0.796099
GBP 0.78505
GEL 2.70968
GGP 0.796099
GHS 14.532639
GIP 0.796099
GMD 67.774965
GNF 8586.17036
GTQ 7.758787
GYD 208.974064
HKD 7.81284
HNL 24.683282
HRK 6.979956
HTG 132.795872
HUF 354.269684
IDR 16045
ILS 3.658575
IMP 0.796099
INR 83.05245
IQD 1308.425853
IRR 42075.000091
ISK 138.170072
JEP 0.796099
JMD 156.318238
JOD 0.708896
JPY 156.873999
KES 130.349572
KGS 87.955704
KHR 4074.261759
KMF 455.650128
KPW 899.999697
KRW 1366.349793
KWD 0.30701
KYD 0.832358
KZT 442.391855
LAK 21378.357212
LBP 89445.15594
LKR 299.212236
LRD 193.574997
LSL 18.479837
LTL 2.95274
LVL 0.60489
LYD 4.839913
MAD 9.963146
MDL 17.71963
MGA 4426.221956
MKD 56.774312
MMK 2097.572212
MNT 3449.999773
MOP 8.03796
MRU 39.739565
MUR 46.079845
MVR 15.459914
MWK 1731.791588
MXN 16.672615
MYR 4.709637
MZN 63.496955
NAD 18.480124
NGN 1468.150173
NIO 36.762335
NOK 10.5915
NPR 132.830884
NZD 1.633275
OMR 0.384669
PAB 0.998848
PEN 3.734095
PGK 3.881697
PHP 58.190296
PKR 277.863546
PLN 3.92215
PYG 7512.783895
QAR 3.641506
RON 4.586599
RSD 107.934675
RUB 91.625017
RWF 1313.493343
SAR 3.750603
SBD 8.475185
SCR 13.659033
SDG 600.999662
SEK 10.660099
SGD 1.349602
SHP 1.26345
SLE 22.847303
SLL 20969.50094
SOS 571.000261
SRD 32.274498
STD 20697.981008
SVC 8.740038
SYP 2512.529855
SZL 18.363661
THB 36.649681
TJS 10.767402
TMT 3.51
TND 3.11875
TOP 2.364801
TRY 32.224902
TTD 6.783065
TWD 32.229839
TZS 2596.949818
UAH 40.091215
UGX 3800.617312
UYU 38.439213
UZS 12698.207951
VEF 3622552.534434
VES 36.500745
VND 25471
VUV 118.72199
WST 2.803093
XAF 604.373704
XAG 0.032815
XAU 0.000428
XCD 2.70255
XDR 0.754503
XOF 604.373704
XPF 110.701654
YER 250.349933
ZAR 18.41569
ZMK 9001.187991
ZMW 26.658682
ZWL 321.999592
  • VOD

    -0.0300

    9.33

    -0.32%

  • GSK

    -0.0300

    45.12

    -0.07%

  • BP

    0.3000

    36.72

    +0.82%

  • NGG

    -1.0300

    60.69

    -1.7%

  • RBGPF

    -1.8300

    55.21

    -3.31%

  • AZN

    0.3600

    78.54

    +0.46%

  • CMSC

    0.1200

    24.24

    +0.5%

  • BTI

    -0.1100

    30.62

    -0.36%

  • RYCEF

    0.1020

    5.65

    +1.81%

  • SCS

    0.1300

    13.18

    +0.99%

  • RIO

    0.4300

    71.85

    +0.6%

  • RELX

    0.5300

    44.69

    +1.19%

  • BCC

    4.6500

    141.11

    +3.3%

  • BCE

    -0.2200

    33.57

    -0.66%

  • CMSD

    0.0000

    24.09

    0%

  • JRI

    0.0250

    11.395

    +0.22%

Divided soul: rival Orthodox churches wage shadow war in Ukraine
Divided soul: rival Orthodox churches wage shadow war in Ukraine / Photo: © AFP

Divided soul: rival Orthodox churches wage shadow war in Ukraine

As war rages across Ukraine, Mykhaylo Tereshchenko is locked in his own spiritual battle that risks tearing his parish apart.

Text size:

The priest is at a loss. He is a cleric of the Moscow branch of Ukraine's Orthodox Church, which formally pledges allegiance to Russia's Patriarch Kirill.

But on the ground, Tereshchenko is a fierce Ukrainian patriot, shocked by the brutality of President Vladimir Putin's invasion of his country.

"This war has brought nothing good," Tereshchenko told AFP from his church in Kozelets, around 50 miles (80 kilometres) north of Kyiv.

"It has only brought us grief, destruction and death."

He sighed, recounting the war's chaotic early days, when he sheltered people fleeing nearby fighting in the church catacombs, among icons and the tomb of the parish's founder.

"There are villages nearby where lots of people died and houses were destroyed. This pain is also ours," the priest said.

Putin's invasion has put Moscow-backed priests in Ukraine in a precarious position.

Russia lost a large number of Ukrainian parishes in 2019, when a historic schism fuelled by the Kremlin's land grab of Crimea and backing of a separatist insurgency in the Donbas led to the creation of the Kyiv Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church.

Now, with Russia's full-scale invasion which Patriarch Kirill has vocally supported, the Russian church is likely set to lose even more clerics and parishes.

As waves of Russian forces crossed into Ukraine, Kirill spoke out against the "forces of evil" opposed to the historic "unity" between Russia and Ukraine.

He later urged his followers to rally against Moscow's "external and internal enemies".

Kirill's words led to Western calls for sanctions against him and a searing warning from his old rival in the Vatican, Pope Francis, to stop being "Putin's altar boy".

For priests in Ukraine like Tereshchenko, standing by their leaders in Moscow has become increasingly untenable.

But breaking links with the church also risks stirring unrest among their own congregations.

- 'Hard to believe' -

Patriarch Kirill's apparent blessing for Putin's invasion has infuriated Ukrainians, where millions have fled their homes and the civilian death toll rises every day.

"It's hard to believe what the Patriarch has said," Tereshchenko bristled.

"Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians. We are all Slavs. And yet, he gives his blessings to go and kill his people."

Some of his fellow clerics of the Moscow church have gone further, with hundreds signing an online petition calling for Patriarch Kirill to face a religious tribunal.

The head of the Moscow-backed church in Ukraine, Metropolitan Onufriy, has so far refrained from any criticism of his boss.

But his social media is full of funerals for fallen Ukrainian soldiers and support for Kyiv's army.

He also had called for an Easter procession to retrieve trapped and wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, besieged by the Russian army.

Ukrainian priests who have already broken ranks with Moscow say Kirill's message confirms what they have long said of Russia's religious authorities and accuse him of blasphemy.

"The behaviour and statements of Kirill the Patriarch are simply terrifying," said priest Oleksandr Shmuryhin from St Volodymyr's Cathedral -- part of the Kyiv Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church -- in the Ukrainian capital.

"This is propaganda and theology that serves the war. It's not Christianity."

- 'Follow one mission' -

Now, some in Ukraine want the Moscow church to be banned outright.

In March, a draft piece of legislation was introduced in the Ukrainian parliament which if approved would formally prohibit the Russian Orthodox Church from operating in Ukraine and allow the seizure of its properties.

In Moscow, the clergy hit back, saying this proved that Putin's "special military operation" was justified.

The rhetoric is likely to backfire and cost them more priests in Ukraine.

Some Ukrainians have turned their backs on the Russian church.

"All Ukrainians all over the world have to unite now and follow one mission -- to help Ukraine in this victory," said Daria Kolomiec, a 33-year-old Kyiv resident.

But Kirill, who has not been to Ukraine since before Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea, still has his defenders in Ukraine, even in the heart of Kyiv.

"Yes, I have my worries," 34-year-old churchgoer Iryna Gen told AFP, comparing Putin to "Satan" ahead of a service at a Moscow Patriarchate church in Kyiv.

However, she insisted "Kirill has no connection" to the Russian president's actions.

But for priests like Tereshchenko, the war has forced them to confront difficult questions that have lingered for years and an uncertain future.

"I want us to have our own Ukrainian church -- independent from Moscow and any other state (including Ukraine)," said Tereshchenko.

"You can't do anything with aggression, only with love."

G.George--TFWP