By Paul Goble
In a sign of growing anger at Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, even priests of the Moscow Orthodox church in that country are calling on the leaders of world Orthodoxy to condemn the invasion and to bring Moscow Patriarch Kirill before a church tribunal to answer charges that he has betrayed his responsibilities.
Clearly the 191 priests who have signed this declaration are closer to their congregations than anyone else – on the likelihood of that, see life.pravda.com.ua/society/2022/03/10/247745/, but their appeal is not canonical under the usual rules of the church which would require that any such call come from or be supported by bishops or higher clergy rather than priests alone.
Nonetheless, it is another sign the UOC MP is in a state of ferment and headed toward collapse, with that outcome ever more likely the longer and more vicious Russian actions in Ukraine continue. (Cf. windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/03/moscow-orthodox-church-likely-finished.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/03/orthodox-leaders-in-ukraine-now.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/04/as-putins-war-in-ukraine-continues.html).
The appeal had its origins in a declaration by Andrey Pinchuk, an archpriest of the UOC MP (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=5012948892114452&id=100001981718431). He wrote and 190 of his fellow priests called on the leaders of the Ancient Eastern Churches, the so-called Pentarchy of the Orthodox world, to take action against Moscow.
“We, priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in these tragic days when a cruel war is being waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine consider it our pastoral duty to turn to the entire World Orthodox community,” to demand that it condemn Russian aggression against Ukraine and the actions of Moscow Patriarch Kirill in supporting that aggression.
More than that, they have called for the convention of an Orthodox church tribunal which, if it found Kirill guilty of violating the principles of the church, could strip him of his post. Moscow would be unlikely to recognize any such finding, but its existence would further isolate the Russian church from the rest of the world.
But perhaps most important, such a finding by the Pentarchy would lead to the collapse of a separate Russian church in Ukraine and both demands for and international recognition of the autocephaly of Orthodox churches elsewhere in the former Soviet space, a loss for Moscow not only in prestige and income but also any influence in the Kremlin as well