The Russian patriarch prays for a speedy end to the Ukraine conflict but avoids criticizing him

©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia holds a service to inaugurate the renovated Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God October 27, 2019 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov/File Photo

(Reuters) – The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, whose support for Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine has dismayed many fellow Christians, said on Saturday he hoped it would end quickly, but again did not condemn it.

At an outdoor service at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior on the eve of Orthodox Easter, Patriarch Kirill sprinkled holy water on brightly decorated Easter buns known as kulichi and said many of them were being sent to the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.

“God grant that this Easter gift will help those involved in this difficult conflict to calm their hearts, minds and souls so that the mutual quarrels end as soon as possible and the long-awaited peace reigns and, with it, the piety of the people and the Faith can be strengthened,” he said.

Patriarch Kirill, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has previously issued statements supporting Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine, a position that has fragmented the global Orthodox Church.

While speaking of the need for reconciliation on Saturday, he neither questioned nor criticized the military operation.

“First of all, may the Lord reconcile our people in Ukraine, in Donbass, where blood is still being shed,” said Kirill, who, like Putin, believes that Russians and Ukrainians are essentially one people.

“May the Lord heal the wounds inflicted on the people, families who have lost their breadwinners, parents who have lost their children and children who have lost their parents.”

The Patriarch’s support for Russia’s military campaign, which has killed thousands of soldiers and Ukrainian civilians, has angered some within the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as in churches abroad linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Russia says it is conducting a special military operation in Ukraine aimed at demilitarizing and “denazifying” the country. Ukraine and the West reject this as a baseless pretext.

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, has dropped plans to meet Kirill in June. The Russian patriarch prays for a speedy end to the Ukraine conflict but avoids criticizing him

Chris Barrese

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