European and Russian religious leaders send letter to Russian Orthodox Patriarch urging him to speak with Putin and end war in Ukraine

MOSCOW — Dozens of priests and bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, alongside religious figures from other faiths in Europe, have appealed to Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill I to speak with Russian head of state Vladimir Putin about ending the invasion of Ukraine. About 175 Russian bishops and priests sent a joint letter to Patriarch Kirill I calling on him to pressure the Kremlin into stopping the war in Ukraine.

The letter was widely noticed in international circles, especially since the Russian Orthodox Church rarely expresses explicit reactions against Putin’s government and policies. Patriarch Kirill I has been an overt proponent of Putin’s invasion and called those who oppose Moscow’s invasion “evil forces”.

Patriarch Kirill I’s position is in direct opposition to that of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Istanbul-based spiritual head of Orthodox Christians worldwide based in Istanbul, who called called for an end to war. The letter clarified that the clergy highly appreciate the freedom that God has given to every human being in this world, and added that, “the Ukrainian people are entitled to decide their own destiny; not as is happening now through pressure and weapons directed at them from east and west.”

The bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church also expressed their great concern about the suffering of their brothers and sisters in Ukraine and called on the conflicting parties to sit at the negotiating table, as it is the only option to stop the war and the bloodshed.

The Russian bishops considered that good will should push the parties towards dialogue, which would give hope to many, calling for an end to the bloody war in Ukraine, and inspired by the spirit of love and faith with the start of Lent.

Neither Patriarch Kirill I nor Putin has issued a comment on the letter

Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Epiphanius I of Ukraine likened Putin to the Antichrist shortly after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine. “The spirit of the Antichrist operates in the leader of Russia, the signs of which the Scriptures reveal to us: pride, devotion to evil, ruthlessness, false religiosity,” he said in a statement. “This was Hitler during World War II. This is what Putin has become today.”