Monday, July 15, 2024

    Russian church introduces pro-war prayers in liturgy

    The Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate (ROC MP) reportedly directed all its clergy to change their liturgy to include pro-war prayers in support of Russia’s war of conquest against Ukraine and is likely threatening to defrock ROC MP clergy who do not support the war.

    That’s according to ISW.

    A Russian Telegram channel with insider sources within the ROC MP amplified on March 31 a document dated March 29, in which Head of the ROC MP Affairs, Metropolitan Gregoriy of Voskresensk, instructed clergy to read a prayer — the “Prayer for Holy Rus” — on a daily basis during Lent.

    Metropolitan Gregoriy of Voskresensk also called on the clergy to read the “Prayer for Holy Rus” at home and to offer to read this prayer to parishioners. The “Prayer for Holy Rus” is a new prayer that the ROC MP officially introduced in September 2022.

    This prayer is a highly politicized and pro-war and pro-Kremlin prayer filled with Kremlin talking points and other false Russian narratives. The prayer asks God to “to help [Russian] people and grant [Russia] victory” against “those who want to fight [and] have taken up arms against Holy Rus, eager to divide and destroy her one people.”

    The mention of “Holy Rus” and “one people” echoes Putin’s long-term false narrative that Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians comprise one Russian nation, and is a misappropriation of the history of Kyivan Rus.

    ROC MP Head Patriarch Kirill — reportedly himself a former Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB) officer and a known staunch supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin — first read the “Prayer for Holy Rus” (which he supposedly authored) on September 25, 2022, following Putin’s unpopular call for partial mobilization. The ROC MP had previously instituted politicized prayers in June 2014 and March 2022 supporting Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and ISW has long assessed that the ROC MP is a Kremlin-controlled organization and a known tool within the Russian hybrid warfare toolkit that promotes the Kremlin’s interests and nationalist ideology domestically and abroad.

    The ROC MP leadership has also intensified internal scrutiny against ROC MP clergy and has reportedly defrocked several clergy members that refused to promote Kremlin-introduced prayers supporting Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. A guest researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Ksenia Luchenko, noted that the ROC MP regards individual ROC MP clergy members’ refusal to use assigned prayers in liturgy as perjury and a sin punishable by defrocking under the 25th Apostolic Canon.

    The Christians Against War Project, a Russian organization that tracks persecutions of Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian priests, reported that ROC MP or Russian state authorities have already disciplined no fewer than 28 ROC MP clergy members from Russia, five from Belarus, one from Kazakhstan, and six from Lithuania for anti-war rhetoric or refusing to read the assigned pro-war prayers during liturgy.[6] The ROC MP has reportedly administered various punishments, including defrocking, demotions, and excommunication.

    Local Russian state officials opened administrative cases and issued fines for “discrediting the Russian Armed Forces” against several such anti-war ROC MP clergy members.

    Patriarch Kirill, for example, approved a decision in February 2024 to defrock one of the most famous and respected ROC MP priests, Archpriest Alexey Uminsky, for refusing to read the “Prayer for Holy Rus.”

    The Court of the Moscow Diocese also defrocked a priest in May 2023 for substituting the word “victory” with “peace” when reading the ”Prayer for Holy Rus.” Luchenko also reported that clergy members are increasingly self-censoring themselves out of fear that their own parishioners will report them for sharing anti-war sentiments. Parishioners, for example, reportedly called the police on a ROC MP priest in March 2022 after he prayed for peace in Ukraine. The ROC MP recently intensified Kremlin rhetoric about Russia’s war in Ukraine and cast it as an existential and civilizational “holy war,” and the Kremlin will likely continue to use the ROC MP to promote its imperialist and aggressive goals in Ukraine and elsewhere to secure long-term domestic support for Putin’s war efforts.

    The ROC MP also recently approved an ideological and policy document tying several Kremlin ideological narratives together in an apparent effort to form a wider nationalist ideology around the war in Ukraine and Russia’s expansionist future.