Article: Russian Orthodox Church Under Threat Of EU Sanctions

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5/7/22

The European Union is debating on imposing sanctions on Patriarch Kirill, the head of The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), also known as the Moscow Patriarchate, who leads about 100 million believers. The EU has accused him of supporting the war in Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin. The sanctions would entail an asset freeze and a travel ban, with EU diplomats set to meet this week to discuss the sanctions, which is part of a wider package proposed by the EU on Wednesday. About 75% of Russians and 60% of Ukrainians profess to be Orthodox Christians, which can be both a religious as well as cultural affiliation. In a sermon in March, Kirill preached against western values such as greed and gay-pride parades. Kirill and many Russians who hold his views, see the war in Ukraine in terms of religious values, defending conservative moral values against a corrupt West. Kirill has referred to “so-called homosexual marriages” as a threat to family values. “When laws are detached from morality they cease being laws people can accept.” The Ukraine had been closely united with Russia. The prevailing faith in Ukraine was the Russian Orthodox Church. A large percentage of those living in Ukraine speak Russian and identify themselves as ethnically Russians. However, in the decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the independent status of Ukraine, the government there has been leaning toward the West. They want to join the EU, NATO and accept western views on gay issues. “By separating from Moscow we are adhering to the Christian vision of the world,” said Father Vladymir Melnichuk of the Russian Orthodox Church in Udine, Italy. Melnichuk recently split his church from Moscow, and instead allied with a church based in Istanbul. In 2018, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), were considered “schismatics” (illegally segregated groups) by the Patriarchate of Moscow (ROC), as well as by the other Eastern Orthodox churches. The schism forms part of a wider political conflict involving Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea and its military intervention in Ukraine, as well as Ukraine’s desire to join the EU and NATO.

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