Ukraine War Leads to Church Conflict

A war of words has erupted between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Pope Francis, leader of the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics, warned the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church not to become “Putin’s alter boy,” the pontiff revealed in an article this week. The Pope took Patriarch Kirill to task for endorsing Putin’s much-publicized reasons for the invasion.

There is no information on the pope’s thoughts on the leaked Roe v. Wade decision that would end abortion as a constitutional right in America.

“I spoke to him for 40 minutes via Zoom,” Pope Frances told an Italian newspaper. The Patriarch spent 20 minutes reading a list of the Kremlin’s reasons to justify the invasion, and the Pope listened.

But he responded by telling the Patriarch that “we are not clerics of the state, we cannot use the language of politics.”

The Russian Orthodox Church, without specifically quoting the “alter boy” comment, said it is “regrettable” that Pope Francis spoke of their conversation the way he did. The Moscow Patriarchy said the pontiff “chose an incorrect tone” and that his statements will not contribute to meaningful dialogue between the churches.

One large church in Amsterdam recently announced it will split with the patriarchate, the first known Western church to break away over the invasion. The leadership of the parish of Saint Nicholas of Myra decided unanimously but called it “extremely painful and difficult.”

Patriarch Kirill, a close ally of Putin, calls Ukraine’s defenders “evil forces” and blamed gay pride parades in Western nations as a reason for the invasion.

Pope Francis said he reached out through diplomatic channels to tell Putin that he would like to travel to Russia to help broker peace. The Pope says his request has not been answered.