In the week before Orthodox Lent began, some 233 Russian
Orthodox priests published a petition calling for peace. The signatories spoke
of the ‘fratricidal war in Ukraine’, with a call for an immediate ceasefire,
and deplored ‘the trial that our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were
undeservedly subjected to’. Anyone who knows how authority is exercised in the
Russian Orthodox church, and how closely it has allied itself with Putin’s
authoritarian state, will recognise the clerics’ courage. But what effect is it
likely to have on the attitude of the highest authorities in the church?
To answer these questions, we need to
understand not only the centuries-old link between political power and
religious authority in Russia, but also the record of the key players.