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Explained: Know who is Patriarch Kirill, who is under threat of EU sanctions

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Patriarch Kiril: Amidst the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine (Russia-Ukraine War), the European Union has put Patriarch Kiril, the head of the Orthodox Church, considered close to President Vladimir Putin, in its list of sanctions. proposed to be included. According to a Reuters report, Kirill has been put in the draft blacklist. Including hundreds of Kremlin-related people whom the EU accuses of supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions proposed by the European Union include sealing Kirill’s assets and banning his travels.

Hungary has supported Russia in response to the proposed sanctions on Kirill. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orb├ín said his country would not support sanctions against Kirill as it concerns religious freedom. His relations with the Vatican soured since Patriarch Kirill supported Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The Russian Orthodox Church warned on May 4 over Pope Francis’s statement that he used offensive words about Putin and Kirill.

Russian Orthodox Church

The Russian Orthodox Church, also known as the Moscow Patriarchate, has around 100 million followers. It is the largest of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches. Patriarch Kirill is the leader of the Church in Moscow. It claims exclusive rights over all Eastern Orthodox Christians living in former republics of the Soviet Union, except Georgia, Ukraine. Three years ago in January 2019, the newly founded Orthodox Church in Ukraine was granted independence by the spiritual head of Orthodox Christians around the world, marking a historic break from the Russian Orthodox Church.

The roots of the ROC date back to the time of Kievan Rus, a kingdom in Northern and Eastern Europe, which existed from the late 9th century to the beginning of the 13th century. While an organized Christian community already existed here by the middle of the 10th century, Vladimir I (ruler of Kievan Rus’) is widely credited with propagating the religion. The Orthodox Church in Russia was, at that time, under Constantinople, the religious leader of Orthodox Christians around the world. At that time the residence of the head of the Church of the Metropolitan of Russia was in Kyiv, which was counted among the most important cities of the region. However, after the Mongol invasion in 1237, it was transferred to Moscow by the 14th century.

Patriarch Kirill supported the war

Patriarch Kirill, who has been the head of the Roman Orthodox Church since 2009, made statements regarding supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kirill has also been a longtime ally of President Vladimir Putin, and described his long tenure as a “miracle of God”. Kirill supported Russia’s attack on Ukraine through a statement in April, saying that God help to repel Russia’s external and internal enemies in this difficult time. Kirill has sought to portray the war in Ukraine as a kind of spiritual battle. Not only this, the Patriarch gave the symbol of ‘Virgin Mary’ to a senior military officer as a blessing to the Russian army. She also attended Russia’s annual ‘Victory Day’ celebrations on 9 May to commemorate the defeat of the Nazi army at the hands of the Soviet Union in World War II.

divisions within orthodoxy

Kirill has been strongly condemned by the Vatican and conservative communities for supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Whereas, according to a report by The New York Times, 22 out of 45 such provinces in Ukraine, Orthodox worshipers in Ukraine who follow the Russian Church despite the division, do not remember Kirill in their prayers. Father Pluzhnik, who fled his home during the Russian invasion and took refuge in what is now the city of Chernivtsi in western Ukraine, told the BBC he was “shocked” by the actions of the Russian Church. Father Pluzhnik said he had now left the ROC and applied to join the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

If Kirill is banned, it would be a major crackdown on a religious leader with over 100 million followers. Similar sanctions were also imposed by Western powers on Iran’s biggest leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in recent times. This ban on Ayatollah Ali was imposed in June 2019 after the Iranian military shot down an American drone. America was so annoyed by this action of Iran that it took action on the supreme leader of Iran and banned his travel to America.

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