» 03/11/2015, 00.00
Ukraine, Pope Francis, Charlie Hebdo: Patriarch Kirill releases his first wide-ranging interview with secular media
The conversation with Tass is dedicated to the themes of Lent, but also to the war in Ukraine, schismatic Orthodox Churches and relations with the Catholic Church.
- The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill, has released his first
interview with a secular magazine, choosing the official news agency Tass.
Published on 10 March and dedicated to the period of Lent, the lengthy
interview touches on various topical issues: the Mohammed cartoon, the war in
Ukraine, relations between the Church and society, and also relations with the
Catholic Church. The interview failed to provoke specific comments or clamor in
the media, but is part of the broader effort to reaffirm the Church's presence
in the secular life of the nation. In late January, for the first time, Kirill
had intervened with a speech before the Duma, the lower house of parliament.
Experts had then pointed out that in a time of economic and international crisis
like the present, all institutions, especially religious ones, need to be
In the interview, the primate focuses on the value of repentance, explaining
that a person who loses the ability to repent is "like a pianist who loses
his musical ear". "In principle, you can try to execute the piece
following the notes, but your execution will be terrible." "In
Christianity it is the sacrament of reconciliation that helps a person to
develop a sense of repentance, that is, to control their spiritual state,"
said Kirill. The Patriarch believes that the future of civilization depends on
its religious life: the danger of transforming freedom it to something that is
arbitrary appears when "there are no criteria of truth." "Not
every human truth is God's truth and cannot be absolute," he said warning
that "denying the absolute righteousness of God, we destroy the
The Patriarch admitted that currently the issue that most concerns him is the
war in Ukraine: "This does not let me sleep - both literally and figuratively." He said he is convinced that
sooner or later the country will return to peace, but it is important to
overcome mutual hostility: "we are calling on the conflicting sides in Ukraine to show prudence. The
seeds of antagonism will grow with poisoned fruit in the future".
Kirill returned to the theme of the divisions in the Orthodox Church in
Ukraine, denouncing that the political and military situation is being exploited
by the schismatic community and "a violent seizure" of the parishes
of the Russian Orthodox Church is taking place in the country. " This is a huge mistake on the part of those who
declared war on the Church in Ukraine," he added ensuring that the canonical Church in the former Soviet
republic will not disappear and rejecting any notion of a schism from Moscow.
The Church, he assured, is doing everything possible so that the conflict does
not create new victims. " We do not exaggerate our
capabilities, but we don't belittle them either".
Turning to the relationship between faith and society, Kirill described both terrorism
and blasphemy as unacceptable. " We unambiguously condemn
terrorism and killings of people for their convictions. We are grieving for
those who suffered at the terrorists' hands. But along with it we find both
pseudo-religious and secular radicalism unacceptable". Referring to the controversy surrounding
the publication of cartoons about Islam, the Orthodox primate explained that
the Church of Moscow believes "outrages on religion and
defilements of religious feelings are inconceivable in the same way as insults
in connection with someone's ethnic identity are." According to him, today's Europe is "choking"
in trying to combine multiculturalism and liberal values and Russia deserves
praise because it had "sufficient common sense in legislation to prevent actions like publication of
religious cartoons in the media. Regardless of what particular religion is
concerned in each case "
The Catholic Church and the Pope
The Tass journalist notes to the Patriarch that the Catholic Church is
considered less conservative than the Orthodox: " It is nice to hear the accusations against the Church for maintaining
fidelity to its fundamental principles." The Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic faithful of Rome "belong
to different nations with different ancient traditions." "Each of us
needs to focus on our own affairs and should not interfere in those of the
Questioned on modest lifestyle, chosen by Pope Francis, unlike the luxury of
which the upper echelons of the Patriarchate of Moscow are often accused,
Kirill replied: "I do not think I should comment on the style of conduct of the Primate of
the Roman Catholic Church. And I am confident he would not make comments as
regards me either. I have sincere respect for Pope Francis and for the fact he
keeps up close bonds to the monastic tradition that molded him".
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Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, whom the pope will meet in Cuba on 12 February, is transforming his communities by offering them younger bishops and a functioning curia with the Catholic Church as his model and Nikodim’s legacy as a precedent. The bureaucratisation and self-centredness are real risks.
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