Political religion of the UOC-MP did harm to Church, says Archimandrite Cyril (Hovorun)
“I was categorically against the Russian world ideologeme, which emerged before the war in the east of Ukraine and which became the main instrument of aggression against Ukraine,” said Archimandrite Cyril (Hovorun), who is now a lecturer at the University Loyola Marymount Los Angeles, USA, in an interview with Voice of America, Radio Liberty has reported.
Commenting on the situation in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) on the eve of the war, when Cyril headed the Department of External Church Relations of this CUOC, he said: “I was then in Moscow, I worked with His Holiness the Patriarch (of Moscow - Ed.) and tried to convey the idea that one cannot deal with Ukraine in a coercive manner, through coercion ... It is impossible to force the Ukrainian people.
Using the Russian World ideology in the time of Russian aggression against Ukraine disserved the Church, the religious activist is convinced.
“In my opinion, the things that happened in Ukraine when Russia acted with aggression and acted precisely on the basis of the Russian World narrative constructed by the Church – this seems to have brought harm to the Church itself - both in Russia and in Ukraine. The Russian World ideologeme became a synthesis of the religious and political elements. The one that I would call “political religion,” says Archimandrite Cyril.
Archimandrite Cyril believes that participation in events on the Maidan in 2013-2014 brought together the churches of the Kyiv and Moscow Patriarchs in Ukraine, but, following the outburst of aggression towards Ukraine, on the contrary, the mental and psychological distance aggravated.
The situation when the priests of the UOC-MP in Zaporizhia refused to perform a funeral service for a two-year-old boy who died in tragic circumstances, only because he was baptized in the UOC-KP, showed the lack of contact between the church and society, the activist said.
“Now the UOC (MP - Ed.) is in the information bubble that they created on their own, and this bubble prevent them from being aware of social processes, the state of society. The episode in Zaporizhia became a manifestation of the lack of contact between the church and society. The Ukrainian Church (UOC-MP – Ed.) seems to be now the most remote from public needs,” he says.
According to the Archimandrite, this “distance” can be overcome by “compassion, that is, the ability to respond to pain, suffering, tragedy.”
Autocephaly could be one of the solutions to the problem, but he does not believe that it guarantees success.
“It can also lead to negative consequences for Ukraine. What the people attending the Orthodox Church can see? They can see that the Church sends signals that do not correspond to what they feel. A person wants to go to church, but the signals the church transmits are in conflict with this person’s conscience. And a one has a choice: either they quit the church, or suppress their conscience, closes their eyes. This causes deformation inside a person, that is, there are no good solutions here. I am not confident that if autocephaly existed, people would feel peace in their souls. Although for many, autocephaly could be a solution to the burden of conscience,” says the Archimandrite.
Speaking about the situation of the Orthodox Church in Russia, Archimandrite said that there is a very dangerous legitimization of Stalinism, which in his opinion, is “suicidal for the Church.”
“Stalin destroyed the church. Those who adhere to this rhetoric, become contributors to the destruction of the Church. The personality of Stalin is an important part of the “political religion” in Russia. Every “political religion” has its own pantheon, its iconostasis. Earlier in Russia, an important role in this pantheon was played by the personality of Tsar Nicholas II. Now a new pantheon is being formed, and the milder figures in it are replaced by crueller figures. And sometimes they are not compatible with each other: Ivan the Terrible and Stalin, the king and anti-Tsarist. They are together side by side in this pantheon,” notes the Archimandrite.
In order for the Church to become a positive factor in resolving the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, it must stop the hostilities and change Russia's policy towards Ukraine, says Archimandrite Cyril, call things their names and repent.
“The task of the Church is to call violence violence, call a lie a lie and call the truth the truth. It is necessary to proceed from calling a war a war, and also calling aggression, victim, and aggressor their names. And then we have to develop the unification rhetoric. And I think that without repentance in this process cannot take place. In particular, those church leaders who supported this aggression, which became its heralds. If this is impossible, then it is impossible to talk about reconciliation,” says Archimandrite Cyril.