Russian Church, govt share responsibility for crimes in Ukraine - Bartholomew I in Vilnius

  • 2023-03-22
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - The Russian Church and the country's government share responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople said in Vilnius on Wednesday.

"The Church ant the state leadership in Russia cooperated in the crime of aggression and shared the responsibility for the resulting crimes, like the shocking abduction of Ukrainian children. They have provoked enormous suffering not only to Ukrainian people but also to the Russians who count more than 100,000 casualties and responsibility for terrible atrocities," the patriarch told a conference on intercultural and religious dialogue at the Seimas on Wednesday.

The patriarch also says the government in Russia has been trying to instrumentalize religion and use it for their own ends since the Tsarist times, and this is still being done now, with the Kremlin regime promoting the "Russian world" ideology.

"Of special importance in this respect is the pan-Slavism, the ideology according to which all Slavs will be united under Moscow's leadership. This 19th century deeply racist ideology found it's religious expression in ethnophiletism condemned as an heresy by Constantinople in 1872," the patriarch said.

The war in Ukraine has shown that spiritual unity is just as important as economic and political unity, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople said.

"As you all know, after the end of the Cold War, all borders collapsed. Borders disappeared; the movement of people and goods accelerated," the patriarch told a conference on intercultural and religious dialogue hosted by the Lithuanian parliament.  

"This unification was strictly material, dominated by technological and economic factors. At the same time, global, worldwide problems emerged and became more acute: the climate crisis, the financial crisis, the health crisis during the pandemic, the energy crisis. All this became global challenges that required global action," he said. 

Bartholomew I noted that, regretfully, efforts to achieve unity in dealing with these issues had been interrupted by Russia's war in Ukraine.

"Instead of striving for global unity and action at the global level, unfortunately, due to Russian aggression in Ukraine, everything stagnated," he said.

"Eventually it became clear that, apart from political and economic unity, spiritual unity is also very important, but instead of making progress in this area, we, unfortunately, experienced a steady regression."

According to the patriarch, recent decades have shown that hopes that economic globalization will unite people on a cultural and spiritual basis and lead to world peace have not come true. Religion has become marginalized and used for geopolitical and political goals.

Ukraine will need not only major physical but also spiritual post-war reconstruction, the patriarch said.