Pope Francis to Patriarch Kirill: Let’s be ‘true peacemakers’ for war-torn Ukraine

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill L Credit PatriarchiaRu PopeFrancis R Credit Alexey Gotovsky CNA Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill (L) | Patriarchia.Ru/PopeFrancis (R) Credit: Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.

In an Easter message to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Pope Francis expressed hope that the Holy Spirit would “make us true peacemakers, especially for war-torn Ukraine.”

In a letter published on April 24 on the Moscow Patriarchate’s website, the pope wrote: “May the Holy Spirit transform our hearts and make us true peacemakers, especially for war-torn Ukraine, so that the great Easter passage from death to new life in Christ may become a reality for the Ukrainian people, who long for a new dawn that will end the darkness of war.”

Vatican News, the online news portal of the Holy See, said that the Easter greeting was sent not only to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia but also to the heads of other Eastern Churches that celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar.

Pope Francis announced last week that the Vatican had canceled plans for a June summit with Patriarch Kirill in Jerusalem. It would have been the second meeting between the two leaders since their historic encounter in Cuba in 2016.

The pope said that his relationship with Kirill was “very good,” but “our diplomacy understood that a meeting of the two of us at this time could cause a lot of confusion.”

The two men discussed the Ukraine war during a video conference call on March 16.

According to the Holy See press office, the pope told the patriarch: “There was a time when even in our Churches we talked about holy war or just war. Today we cannot speak like that. The Christian conscience of the importance of peace has developed.”

Catholic bishops across Europe have appealed to Kirill — who is considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin — to speak out against the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24.

Among those who have called on the patriarch to intervene are Poland’s Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Luxembourg’s Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, and the Irish bishops.

The Russian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with an estimated 150 million members, accounting for more than half of the world’s Orthodox Christians. Its stance on the Russia-Ukraine war has heightened tensions within Eastern Orthodoxy.

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