Ukraine’s Religious Battle Lines

Anna Nemtsova discovers that the conflict has engendered a schism of sorts within the Orthodox church:

Throughout Ukraine, where 11,000 Orthodox churches serving over 10 million believers answer to the Moscow Patriarchate, priests prayed for peace without a “fascist” and “neo-Nazi” government, as they call the new authorities in Kiev, but also without war and victims. Yet the leaders of the church hierarchy are drawing their own battle lines in a country divided not only by language and ethnicity, but by the nationalist leanings of the religious patriarchs.

In Kiev, at the height of protests that brought down Yanukovych, Orthodox priests passed through the crowd blessing the demonstrators, and on Easter Sunday there, Patriarch Filaret made a blunt political speech. He described Russia as “evil” and prayed, “Lord, help us resurrect Ukraine.”

In Moscow, Patriarch Kirill addressed an audience that included Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kirill prayed “that peace be restored in the minds and hearts of our brothers and sisters in blood and faith and that the lost ties and cooperation which we all need so much also be restored”—which would sound benign if Putin’s political technicians were not working so hard to shatter peace in Ukraine so the Kremlin can restore “lost ties and cooperation” by invading and annexing the Russian-speaking parts of the country should Putin deem it necessary.