Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam announces separation from Moscow | Christianity

A Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam has announced that it will split from the Moscow Patriarchate, in the first known case of a Western-based church cutting ties over the invasion of Ukraine.

“The clergy have unanimously declared that it is no longer possible for them to work within the Moscow Patriarchate and provide a spiritually safe environment for our believers,” the clergy said in a statement published on its website. “This decision is extremely painful and difficult for everyone involved.”

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, a confidant of Vladimir Putin, declined to condemn the Kremlin’s decision to invade its neighbor, calling Russia’s opponents in Ukraine “evil forces“. In a Sunday sermon last week, he also said that gay pride marches organized in the West were a reason for the war in Ukraine.

The statement said the Russian Orthodox congregation of Saint Nicholas of Myra had asked the Russian Archbishop of the Diocese of the Netherlands, based in The Hague, to grant the church “canonical discharge”.

The community’s clergy said they had applied to join the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Istanbul-based Orthodox branch seen as a rival to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Kirill’s stance on the war has unnerved some Russian Orthodox priests protesting the invasion of a country often referred to in religious circles as a “fraternal nation.”

More than 280 Russian Orthodox priests and church leaders from around the world have signed an open letter expressing their opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was said that “eternal torment” awaited those who issued “murderous orders.”

The Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam, which consists of four priests and one deacon – one of the largest Russian Orthodox congregations in the Netherlands – has been critical of Russia’s role in the war since the invasion began on February 24.

She said last week she would no longer mention Patriarch Kirill’s name in her liturgy because he supports the invasion of Ukraine. “We, as clergy of St. Nicholas Parish in Amsterdam, have expressed our shock at the invasion of Ukraine by Russian Federation forces… We distance ourselves from the narrative of Patriarch Kirill,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

The statement contradicted the official policy of the Russian Orthodox Church not to use the words “war” and “invasion” to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Russian priests in Amsterdam told Dutch outlet ND that Archbishop Elisey of the Netherlands visited their church afterwards and warned that “Moscow is watching their actions closely”.

The Amsterdam church held a closed session on Sunday, where the head of the congregation reiterated the decision to break with Moscow. “We asked our former patriarch Kirill to end the war. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” he said in a video address posted on the church’s YouTube page.

A Russian member of the church choir, who was standing in front of the church, told the Guardian that she supports the decision to secede from Moscow. “When the war started, there was only one way out,” she said, asking not to give her name.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also drawn criticism from other Christian religious leaders, including the head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and Pope Francis, who on Sunday delivered his harshest condemnation of the invasion, saying the “unacceptable armed aggression”. must stop.

Bartholomew, who is considered the spiritual leader of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christians, previously said Putin had committed “a great injustice” by going to war against his “coreligionists” and “deserved the hatred of the whole world.”

In 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church seceded from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, considered the spiritual authority of the world’s Orthodox Christians, after Bartholomew granted independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, previously under Moscow’s control.

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