The European Commission has reportedly proposed sanctions against the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The news agency said it had seen a document describing the patriarch as “a long-time ally of President Vladimir Putin, who has become one of the main supporters of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.”
The European Commission is the executive branch of the European Union, a political and economic union of 27 member states.
The EU has imposed sanctions against more than 1,000 individuals in connection with the Ukraine war, consisting of asset freezes and travel restrictions. Sanctions against the 58 new figures would require EU member states’ approval.
A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church dismissed reports last month that Patriarch Kirill could face sanctions.
Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Church, Society and Media Relations, said: “The imposition of sanctions on religious leaders is nonsense, the rejection of common sense.”
The pope said: “I spoke with Kirill for 40 minutes on Zoom. For the first 20 minutes, he read from a piece of paper he was holding in his hand all the reasons that justify the Russian invasion.”
“I listened to him and then replied: I don’t understand any of this. Brother, we are not state clerics, we shouldn’t speak the language of politics, but rather the language of Jesus. We are shepherds of the same holy flock of God.”
“For this reason, we must look for a path to peace, we must stop the fighting. A patriarch can’t lower himself to become Putin’s altar boy.”
The pope added that he and Kirill had called off a meeting in Jerusalem on June 14, saying “we agreed that it could send the wrong message.”
Catholic bishops across Europe have appealed to Kirill to speak out against the invasion of Ukraine. They include 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.
The Ukraine war has strained the Moscow Patriarchate’s relations with other Eastern Orthodox Churches.