By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — In an unusual move, more than 150 Russian Orthodox clerics have called for an immediate stop to the ongoing war in Ukraine in an open letter issued on March 1.
At least 176 Orthodox clerics said that they “respect the freedom of any person given to him or her by God,” adding that the people of Ukraine “must make their own choices by themselves, not at the point of assault rifles and without pressure from either West or East.”
The letter says the clerics “bewail” the suffering that has been “undeservingly imposed on our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.”
It is very rare for such a large number of religious clerics of the Orthodox Church to openly challenge President Vladimir Putin’s government. In recent years, the Russian Orthodox Church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, who did not sign the letter, have fully supported Putin’s policies.
“We call on all opposing sides for a dialogue because there is no other alternative to violence,” the letter says. “Only an ability to hear the other side can give us hope to get out of the abyss our countries were thrown into several days ago. Let yourself and us all enter the Easter Lent in the spirit of faith and love. Stop the war.”
There was no comment or other reaction from Patriarch Kirill or from Russian officials.
The letter makes references to “judgment day” and “eternal suffering,” saying nothing on Earth can prevent that judgment.
“We remind that Christ’s blood shed by the Savior for the world’s life will be taken in the celebration of the Communion by those who gives murderous orders, not as life, but as eternal suffering.”