Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, has again preached to the faithful of the Russian world. He told them that if they heed their president’s call to arms, they shall be absolved of their sins and avoid any possibility of Hades.
‘The Church realises that if somebody, driven by a sense of duty and the need to fulfil their oath… goes to do what their duty calls of them, and if a person dies in the performance of this duty, then they have undoubtedly committed an act equivalent to sacrifice,’ he told his national congregation earlier this week. ‘They will have sacrificed themselves for others,’ he continued, before deploying his thermobaric bomb of salvation: ‘And therefore, we believe that this sacrifice washes away all the sins that a person has committed.’
Kirill’s speech was a tactical weaponisation of spirituality designed to stem the flow of Russians fleeing to the mountains for safety, or flying out of the country to escape Putin’s zealous ‘partial mobilisation’ draft. If coerced and conscripted Russians should die in the righteous process of slaughtering Ukrainians and taking back the historic territory of ‘Holy Russia’, his message went, their souls shall fend off all demons, and the angels shall lead them directly to paradise with Kirill’s passport to eternal rest.
This is a perversion of the gospel of Christ, who came to bring peace, not a sword. It is also contrary to the Orthodox understanding of war and peace. There is no tradition of the ‘just war’ as there is in the Western Church: the whole spiritual vision, worship and liturgy of Eastern Orthodox Christianity is permeated with prayers and petitions for peace.
Of course, war may sometimes be inevitable in the pursuit of justice against evil, or necessary in self-defence against corrupt and aggressive nations.