Christo El Morr
Tuesday October 4th, 2022 (Arabic version)
Whenever one reads Kirill, the Patriarch of Russia, declaring that whoever defends his country and dies in the war “his sins are erased,” years after an official spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church declared that Russia’s war in Syria is a “holy war”, one wonders what this rhetoric reach in the event of a third world war.
Historically, since Emperor Constantine entered Christianity, the Church has not called on Christians to leave the military or public life. The general basis remained that “all human beings are the children of God” because of the “paternity” of God the Creator, and that every killing is evil, and it is also a killing that occurs between family members. The position is that although the aggravation of evil may require a war, and consequently murder, murder in itself remains evil and does not become good merely by having to do it; that is, killing is sometimes a necessary evil. For this reason, the Byzantine Orthodox Church subjected those returning from war to a path of repentance because they had to kill in war.
For this reason, Orthodoxy did not know in its theology such expressions as “holy war”. There is nothing in the Bible, nor in the history of the Orthodox Church, that can be relied upon to justify a holy war, no matter how necessary and defensive that war, so much more if it was not? The only holy one is God whom Christianity sees as love, and therefore there is no holiness outside love represented by Jesus Christ, who died freely defending his principles and a witness to the truth, and for that he was killed and did not kill in a situation similar to what was mentioned in the Qur’an “If you raise your hand to kill me, I will not raise mine to kill you” (Al-Ma’idah). Therefore, the official position of the Orthodox Church remains that only those killed for the sake of faith are called martyrs. As for forgiveness, it is a process that takes place on the basis of a path of return from “sin” (the word literally means missing the aim), a return to the path and aim of love.
But Patriarch Kirill, in his attempt to support his people and his country's political and military position, went as far as distributing a kind of indulgences. In an unfortunate past, some Popes used to give a certification for the forgiveness of sins in exchange for a donation of money, and today Patriarch Kirill asks for more, asking for human life as a sacrifice on the altar of civil authority in exchange for a fake indulgence. He goes beyond some of the popes of the past, using human life as a price for a key to heaven that he devised to serve the civil authority, and thus he turns against his role, as his role is to bear witness to the word of the Gospel, even if it is in conflict with the civil authority, in order to maintain the independence of the faith realm from the political realm so that the latter does not to become a servant in the court of the state and its interests.
On the other hand, we have the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, serving what agrees with the court of the United States of America. In 2019, he hastily agreed unilaterally, and in violation of ecclesiastical laws, to create an ecclesiastical entity in Ukraine separated from the Moscow Church, that is, to split the Russian Church into two churches each in a country. The United States was pushing for secession and publicly supporting it through the person of the US Secretary of State at the time, Pompeo, who was the first US Secretary of State to visit during his term the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In flagrant violation of Orthodox theology, the Ecumenical Patriarch has appointed himself as the head of the entire Orthodox world, violating ecclesiastical laws that do not accept the declaration of the independence of a new church (autocephaly) without the approval of all churches. This is while the newly installed Ukrainian Patriarch of the Church of Ukraine is deeply involved in the game of Ukrainian nationalism and hatred.
The two Ecumenical and Russian Churches are quarreling over the leadership of the Orthodox world, and the two Churches are immersed in the worship of their Greek and Russian nationalisms, declaring that their liturgical languages are “holy.” The two patriarchs are working to employ God in the service of death and war. The two patriarchs are involved in employing the Church to serve the courts of political and military authority. American empire on the one hand and Russian nationalism on the other. Both use countries like ours as pawns for their interests, and they are reconciled with the apartheid regime in occupied Palestine, support it, and are comfortable with it. And while our countries are weakening, the patriarchs of the East continue in a gloomy repetition of dull discourses devoid of life, and they follow a shameful silence about the oppression and exploitation of our political authorities, normalizing with injustice and normalized by it, in return for enjoying ecclesiastical authority and preoccupation with “major” tasks such as placing the obedient bishop in the appropriate place for religious authorities, protecting politicians and corrupt people of power, including metropolitans, priests, and monks, continuing a barbaric religious-political dance over the remains of nations and people. All this takes place in a church whose only master died in the nakedness of the poor and the marginalized outside the walls of power, lived in the service of the poor, and taught that authority is service not domination, and that those who are called children of God are the peacemakers.