National Public Radio reports: the growing anger over Ukrain’s largest Orthodox church alignment with Moscow.
As the war’s bloody toll grows, public anger at Orthodox clergy who remain under Patriarch Kirill’s purview has also grown.
It surged again earlier this year after Ukraine’s intelligence service, known as the SBU, released a wire-tap phone recording of a top religious leader, Metropolitan Pavel, apparently praising Russia’s invasion.
“There are already Russian flags everywhere,” Pavel can be heard saying. “And people are happy. People are happy.”
A separate recording released last November appeared to show Moscow-aligned Orthodox believers in Kyiv singing, “Mother Russia is awakening.”
Those sentiments sparked outrage and led to regular counter-protests outside the monastery complex in Kyiv.
Angry Ukrainians turn up on most days to confront Orthodox worshippers loyal to the Russian tradition, shouting insults through bullhorns and accusing them of disloyalty.
“We are at war with Russia,” said Alex Melnick, who carried Ukraine’s blue and yellow national flag. “We are protesting against the Moscow church, against the Moscow priests.”
There’s a growing debate in Ukraine over just how much their society should tolerate Orthodox believers loyal to the Moscow church in a time of bitter war.
Since independence in the 1990s, Ukraine has developed a tradition of religious freedom. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish. Defense Minister Rustem Umerov is Muslim.
Religious scholars say roughly a hundred different religions are practiced freely and without interference within the country.
But Ukraine’s government clearly views Orthodox clergy influenced by Russia as a threat.
Meanwhile, some religious leaders in Ukraine say it’s time for the Moscow-aligned church to be banned outright.
“Our armed forces are repelling the Russian aggressor, but war will return as long as this collaborating Moscow church is here,” said Mykhailo Omelian, a priest and spokesman for a separate branch of the Orthodox church governed entirely within Ukraine.
This accusation — that Orthodox believers loyal to the Moscow patriarch are a danger to national security — frightens some believers, who insist that their faith is nonpolitical.
Nikiforov, the religious scholar who worships in a Moscow-aligned church, said he hopes Ukraine’s government will find a way to balance these pressures.
He told NPR that government officials should arrest and prosecute anyone, including priests, found to be actively aiding Russia.
Glory to Ukraine!