By Paul Goble
To support Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, Moscow Patriarch Kirill is increasingly drawing on ideas he has taken from radical Islamism and the Soviet past and violating the basic principles of Orthodox Christianity, according to Sergey Shumilo, a theologian based in Kyiv says.
In a September 28 article that has now been translated into many languages in countries where Orthodoxy is a major denomination, the head of the International Institute of Athenic Inheritance argues that Kirill has adopted what can only be described as a heretic position (radiosvoboda.org/a/kyrylo-hundyayev-russkyy-myr-ideolohiya-viyny/32054793.html in Ukrainian; afon.org.ua/publikatsii/pravoslavnyj-shakhidizm-i-neoyazycheskaya-teologiya-vojny-moskovskogo-patriarkha-kirilla.html in Russian).
Shumilo says that the Russian churchman has deliberately taken out of context Biblical quotations, distorted their meaning, and now argues that Russian soldiers who die in Ukraine will have all their sins exonerated and that Putin’s mobilization is equivalent to “the voluntary atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind.”
Such claims, the theologian continues, are completely at odds with Orthodoxy and Christianity and their origins must be sought not only in the Soviet past but in some of the notions found in radical Islamism, a religion Kirill has long shown himself to be more than a little attracted by.
Shumilo points out that Kirill has followed Putin is claiming that Orthodoxy is closer to Islam than to Roman Catholicism because both celebrate strength, talk about a special “world” centered around its followers and are opposed to the Western powers (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/02/moscow-patriarchate-said-opening-way.html and info-islam.ru/publ/novosti/tatarstan/patriarkh_kirill_v_kazani_v_islame_net_opasnosti/2-1-0-40693).
What makes Shumilo’s article important is that it provides a theological argument other Orthodox believers both in Russia and elsewhere are likely to use and decide to separate themselves from the Russian church leader who, if one accepts what Shumilo has demonstrated, has fallen into the worst forms of heresy.
Others have made similar arguments, of course — see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/03/putins-russian-world-basis-of-his-war.html – but by linking what Kirill is doing to radical Islamism rather than just Putin’s neo-Sovietism, Shumilo has likely made it possible that more Orthodox to break with Moscow than ever before.
If that happens, then the most devoted follower of Putin will in fact be undermining the Kremlin leader and Russian influence in the world more effectively than almost anyone else at the present time.