We offer you the most interesting excerpts from the 2019 interview with Metropolitan John (Renneto) of Dubna, head of the Archdiocese of the Orthodox Churches with Russian Tradition in Western Europe, part of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which he gave to Radio Liberty days ago.

… I regret to admit that the gravity of the crimes prompts us to compare this Russian war against Ukraine with the Second World War. By invading Ukraine, Russia condemned the Ukrainian population to excruciating suffering. The infrastructure of Ukraine, small villages and big cities like Mariupol have been destroyed. Eyewitness accounts, horrific photos from Bucha and other Ukrainian locations speak of the atrocities of the Russian army. Russian propaganda denies the obvious, but constantly repeats the thesis of the need to revive the “Russian world”. However, Russia does not have the right to declare sovereign states the “Russian world” and dictate its will to them just because it wants to. This is unacceptable. Because Ukraine is the Ukrainian world, Poland is the Polish world, etc. And then Russia resorted to aggression, attacked Ukraine, as Hitler once attacked Poland.

A genocide has been declared against the Ukrainians, in whose place the “Russian world” must come… The deportation of a peaceful Ukrainian population deep into Russia for the purpose of assimilation, the theft of children for the purpose of forcibly turning them into “Russians” is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of genocide and its punishment. Russia has violated many international laws. And I believe she will be held accountable for this.

… I agree that Putin is not all of Russia. However, it took more than a day for the disaster we are experiencing today to happen. Russia’s international isolation and the bloody war against Ukraine are the result of Putin’s years of rule. Information in Russia was placed under the strict control of the authorities in order to create a suitable mood and “official picture of the world” among the population. Television, radio and the press hammer into people’s heads the idea of the “perestroika of the Russian world” and the revival of the “mythical Russia” – the Soviet Union.

Unconditional loyalty is imposed in the Russian Orthodox Church as well. I realize with bitterness that a considerable part of the clergy yielded to the pernicious current, and those who declared themselves against the war were immediately removed. Perhaps not a few priests look at the “unique resurrection of the Soviet Union” with different eyes, but support Patriarch Kirill or remain silent, apparently out of fear. There is something ominous about this strange “resurrection of the USSR”, isn’t there?

… I read today that a thousand Russian soldiers were killed in one day yesterday. The loss of one human life is a terrible misfortune, and there are tens of thousands! What young men hear before they are sent to the front: “You will be saved if you are killed for defending the vision of Russia that brings “morality” and “word for good” to the West. Your sins will be forgiven!’ Soldiers are called to fight the “decadent West”, for the “salvation” of the “Russian world”. Something similar can be heard among suicide bombers in radical Islamic movements, but from the mouth of a patriarch it is unacceptable and unheard of!

… History remembers forcing people to live in a certain way against their will, for example in concentration camps. The Third Reich did this under the banner of National Socialism. Putin’s Russia applies its own interpretation of “Christian morality” to similar ends, although a large number of Russians are atheists, practicing Islam or other religions. A simplistic, one-sided view of such complex issues does not bode well. Both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union ended badly.

I wrote a letter to Patriarch Kirill: “Your Holiness, you hurt all the love that the Western world felt for Russia, because now the Russia we love, the Russia that brought us up, that gave us great writers and spirituality, this Russia has fallen low in our eyes … This is not the Russia we love. This is an attempt to revive the other Russia – the Soviet one. Now we have a tragic picture of Russia, we fear that this new Russia will destroy itself and collapse in its return to the Soviet spirit, which is happening now.

… Patriarch Kirill’s position was revealed gradually. I am sorry to say that at first there was complete silence, no one said anything at a high church level in defense of peace and against war. The silence was followed by justifications of war and calls for it. On Farewell Sunday, March 6, the patriarch addressed the faithful in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. From his sermon it followed: there is a justification for bloody, aggressive war, because it is a “metaphysical struggle” in the name of “the right to stand on the side of light”…

The mission of the Church must be a mission of peace. Unfortunately, we have seen that the mission of peace is not close to the Moscow Patriarchate. We begged Patriarch Cyril to ask the civil authorities to take steps towards peace as soon as possible. Unfortunately, he himself was involved in the process of war, it was disturbing to see him in military green robes calling on the faithful to sacrifice. For what? To seize a piece of land or to crush the Ukrainians? Is this the mission of the Church? It is a big question for me and a source of inner anguish when I see the Church calling for a war, even a “metaphysical” one. The problem is that the “metaphysical war” each of us is waging against our own passions. And Russia is waging a real war against Ukraine – there is violence, torture, death, human suffering, all the heavy human passions that war reveals.

And this happens after those numerous sacrifices that the confessors gave during the Soviet era, in the period of persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church. You know, we have always bowed to this sacrifice, to the sanctity of the Church that arose during the Soviet period, and now this sanctity is being destroyed by collusion with the authorities, which are so similar to the Soviet regime, which killed millions of people. We have millions of confessors. Now I say: we walk on the blood of our martyrs.

… I think the only thing that will help to heal the deep wounds of the war is a return to the previous borders, as recommended by the UN. And then maybe the wounds will gradually heal, heal. It will take generations. On February 24, 2022, a time of hatred and violence began between two close peoples who became enemies, like the biblical brothers Cain and Abel.


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