The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church has seemingly blamed the invasion of Ukraine that has killed hundreds and displaced millions on LGBT+ Pride parades.
For his “Forgiveness Sunday” sermon, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow backed the Russian-Ukraine war and said the bloodshed will decide “which side of God humanity will be on”.
The Russian Orthodox bishop, 75, who leads the most popular and influential religion in the country, said that Ukraine’s pro-LGBT+ laws and parades have presented a “loyalty test” to Russia for aligning with progressive values.
“Pride parades are designed to demonstrate that sin is one variation of human behaviour,” he said, according to The Moscow Times.
“That’s why in order to join the club of those countries, you have to have a gay Pride parade.”
“If humanity accepts that sin is not a violation of God’s law,” he continued, “if humanity accepts that sin is a variation of human behaviour, then human civilisation will end there.”
The Patriarch claimed that “the West essentially organises genocide campaigns against countries that refuse to stage gay parades” before saying that the breakaway Ukrainian regions at the heart of the conflict, collectively known as Donbas, have “rejected” such values.
“For eight years there have been attempts to destroy what exists in Donbas,” he said.
“And in Donbas, there is a rejection, a fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power.
“We know that if people or countries reject these demands, they are not part of that world, they become strangers to it.”
Kirill described the war as being about things “far more important than politics”.
Kirill, real name Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev, has long been in lockstep with president Vladimir Putin of Russia, whom he regards as a “miracle from God”.
Aligning himself strongly with Putin, whose Orthodox faith is central to his policy-making, Kirill has compared marriage equality to Nazism and “Soviet totalitarianism” as well as blaming the rise of Isis on the “godless” acceptance of homosexuality.
In his first public address last month, he stressed that he “deeply empathises with everyone affected by this tragedy” all without quite saying the word “war” or specifying that Russia launched what Kirill simply described as a “military operation”.
The church, otherwise known as the Moscow Patriarchate, is deeply entangled with the seemingly secular Kremlin. Capturing how Putin has used the war as a sledgehammer to reassert Russia’s influence in the region, the Russian church has long desired to unite with its Ukraine branch under a single patriarch in Moscow.
Following the independence of Ukraine in 1991, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was granted legitimacy in 2019 by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the senior authority in Eastern Orthodoxy.
Today, some 700 parishes have swapped allegiance to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. But the remaining 12,000 have sworn loyalty to the Moscow Patriarchate, giving Putin a key channel of influence into the country.
The war, however, has dealt a blow to this, with clergy and worshippers at Ukrainian Orthodox churches tied to Moscow now distancing themselves altogether from Russia in open defiance of threats from Moscow.
In a televised sermon on Sunday, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church patriarch, Metropolitan Epiphanius, made the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s stance perfectly clear. “Dear brothers and sisters,” he said, “we pray and we act.
“Our heroic people are defending ourselves from the attack of Russia, which is throwing its soldiers and weapons at our villages and cities.
“And every hour of our resistance inspires more and more people around the world to support Ukraine.”