On the eve of Christmas for the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow's Patriarch Kirill called for a Christmas truce between Ukraine and Russia amid the ongoing hostilities. The ask was for a 2-day cease-fire so that the faithful could attend Mass. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to the short-term cease-fire.
The leader of the war-torn nation of Ukraine balked at the idea of peace, with Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to the Chief of Staff, calling the call for a truce a "cynical trap and an element of propaganda." Zelensky recently appeared in Washington to tell President Joe Biden and Congress that he needs more money for the war effort, as current US spending levels on that conflict were "not enough."
"I, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, appeal to all parties involved in the internecine conflict to cease fire and establish a Christmas truce from 12.00 on January 6 to 24.00 on January 7," read a statement from the Russian Orthodox Church, "so that Orthodox people can attend services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day."
"The Russian Orthodox Church is not an authority for global Orthodoxy and acts only as a 'propagandist of war.' The Russian Orthodox Church has called for the genocide of Ukrainians, encouraged mass murders, and insists on even greater militarization of the Russian Federation. Therefore, the statement of the Russian Orthodox Church about the 'Christmas truce' is a cynical trap and an element of propaganda," tweeted Podolyak.
President Volodymyr Zelensky was angered at Kirill's statement that the war was an "internecine conflict," which he believed was a disparagement of Ukraine's sovereign national identity.
"Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the combat areas, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a cease-fire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the Day of the Nativity of Christ," Putin's order on the Kremlin’s website read.
The Ukraine Orthodox Church split politically from the Moscow Patriarchy in May 2022, specifically in opposition to Kirill, who they said supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Ukraine Orthodox Church determined that they were no longer "subordinate" to Moscow, but that the split was not a schism.
The AP reported that in December 2022, Ukraine "banned the activities of religious organizations 'affiliated with centers of influence' in Russia and said it would examine the links between the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches."
Zelensky later urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the country. This as Zelensky announces that Ukraine will participate in January’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, and is in talks with BlackRock CEO Larry Fink about rebuilding the nation after the war.
"A meeting of the National Security Defense Council (NSDC) was held today. A meeting at which we examined numerous facts of the ties of certain religious circles in Ukraine with the aggressor state," Zelensky said in a taped statement.
"It is necessary to create such conditions in which any figures dependent on the aggressor country will not be able to manipulate Ukrainians and weaken Ukraine from within," he said.
"The NDSC instructed the government to submit to the Verkhovna Rada a bill on the impossibility of the activities of religious organizations affiliated with the centers of influence in the Russian Federation in Ukraine," he added.In September, Kirill told members of the Church that fighting in Ukraine on behalf of Russia had a spiritual upside, saying the "sacrifice in the course of carrying out your military duty washes away all sins." Pope Francis of Rome cautioned Kirill against becoming "Putin's altar boy."
"We know that many today are dying in the fields of internecine battle," Kirill told followers in September. "The church is praying that this battle will end as soon as possible, that as few brothers as possible will kill each other in this fratricidal war."
"The church realizes that if someone, driven by a sense of duty and the need to honor his oath, stays loyal to his vocation and dies while carrying out his military duty, then he is, without any doubt, doing a deed that is equal to sacrifice," he continued.
The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, which split with Catholicism in 1054.