Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, has announced that Russian soldiers who die in the war in Ukraine in order to fulfill their “duty” and their “oath” are making a sacrifice for others, and their sins will be washed away. The troubling statement came on the heels of Putin’s recent mobilization order, the first since WWII, to draft Russian citizens into the armed forces.
Radio Free Europe reports that Kirill’s comments came on Sunday, September 25, in a sermon at Divine Liturgy. The Russian Orthodox patriarch called for prayer that the war would end quickly so that there would be as few casualties as possible in what he described as a “fratricidal war.”
However, after reflecting on Christ’s sacrifice as a sign that sacrificing oneself is the greatest sign of love for others, he suggested that any Russian soldier who fell on the Ukrainian battlefield is making a sacrifice for others:
“But at the same time, the Church realizes that if somebody, driven by a sense of duty and the need to fulfill their oath … goes to do what their duty calls of them, and if a person dies in the performance of this duty, then they have undoubtedly committed an act equivalent to sacrifice. They will have sacrificed themselves for others. And therefore, we believe that this sacrifice washes away all the sins that a person has committed,” Kirill stated.
Kirill’s comments come in the midst of the turmoil that erupted after Putin ordered the “partial mobilization” of 300,000 additional troops from the Russian citizenry. According to NPR, which notes that the real number of additional troops could be as much as three times higher, the order has spurred protests across Russia.
Kirill’s attempt to assuage the guilt of prospective soldiers comes in stark contrast to comments made recently by Pope Francis regarding the Ukrainian war. During his visit to Kazakhstan the pontiff made an appeal for prayers for “beloved Ukraine,” before asking:
“How many deaths will it still take before conflict yields to dialogue for the good of people, nations and all humanity?” he asked. “The one solution is peace and the only way to arrive at peace is through dialogue.”