Open Letter to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’

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Your Holiness!

Only great sorrow and a deep sense of anxiety for all that is happening in Russia today, especially in its spiritual sphere, compels me to show my Christian duty and to address You with a bitter word of truth. I am convinced that the thoughts I have given in this letter are of concern not only to me, but also to all those who sincerely grieve over the fate of Russian Orthodoxy, who are looking for a way out of the moral catastrophe that has shaken our country.

I regret to note with increasing frequency that spiritual life in Russia is being destroyed and eradicated. Christ’s commandments, compassion and mercy are being replaced by hatred, and people’s hearts are filled with anger instead of love for their neighbors. Our Russian people breathe the compressed air of fear, tens of thousands of wives and mothers are in grief, having lost their sons during these two years, but many, which is especially painful for me, live in sin, in a militaristic drunken frenzy, reveling in other people’s grief, rejoicing in deaths and murders, fires, bombs and missiles flying at the peaceful heads of Ukraine.

The war has also come to the homes of Russians, taking with it the lives not only of dead soldiers, but also of the inhabitants of border territories. The common man knows all this, but the whole picture of the ongoing devastation is hidden from him by the thick veil of lies and hypocrisy that shrouds his eyes. Like any non-healing wound, this war causes the rotting of our society and has a devastating effect on the Orthodox world as a whole and on the role of the Russian Church in it.

Should not the Church now speak her word? Should not the Church be among the first to denounce the sins of those in power and guide them to the way of truth? We know that «there is no authority except from God,» so it would seem that a Christian should not say anything against the authorities. However, neither Christ Himself nor our other saints were afraid to speak to and against authority.

Just as John the Baptist denounced Herod and Metropolitan Philip of Moscow refused to bless Tsar John the Terrible for his atrocities, you could have appealed to the secular authorities for peace, as other Orthodox churches and ordinary Christians do. The «evil forces» that you speak of in your sermons, which are destructive to the Russian Church, do exist, but from within Russia, not from outside. One of these forces is fear of power. But we should not be afraid of the authorities if we are sure that they are forcing us to do godless things.

St. Tikhon of Zadonsky said about it as follows: «If the master commands you to do wrong: to offend, steal, lie, etc., do not obey (do not listen). If he threatens you with execution for that, do not be afraid: do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but of those who cannot kill the soul; but be more afraid of Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna (Matthew 10:28)». We must listen to God and not pretend to be deaf and blind. Isn’t it time for the Church to stop catering to the whims of the state and instead act in the true interests of the Church of Christ? Isn’t it time for the Church to return to the path of the deification of people instead of aiding and abetting their dehumanization?

I cannot remain silent about what is happening around the figure of politician Alexei Navalny, who died in custody on February 16. It pains me to see how Russians who, at the behest of their hearts, wish to honor the memory of the deceased face violence on the part of law enforcement agencies. It is even more painful to see how some people with a clouded conscience and muffled sense of sin trample on memorials, throw away flowers, extinguish and break lamps. Are you indifferent to the fact that a clergyman, albeit of another Church, was arrested for simply wanting to hold a peaceful memorial service?Are you indifferent to the fact that now people are fined not only for the notorious «offense to the feelings of believers», but also for «wrong» prayers, as if for peace or for the repose of a disgraced politician? Are these not sinful acts, not harbingers of the coming godlessness? Does this not cause you concern?

The situation with Navalny’s body and funeral is essentially a real mockery. There is no greater sorrow for a mother than needing to ask the authorities to return her son’s body. In this place I remember both the procurator Pilate, who gave away the body of Christ immediately after his death, and Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow, who reproached the Bolsheviks for the fact that even after the massacre of their imaginary enemies they deprived them of «the last pre-mortem consolation».

«Is this not the height of aimless cruelty on the part of those who pretend to be benefactors of humanity?», St. Tikhon asked at the time.

At the same time, I should note that the death of Alexei Navalny has brought many Russians, even formerly unbelievers, to the temples. Some of them say that through this grief they have found not only comfort but also faith. Therefore, I also urge you not to put obstacles in the way of people who wish to experience their pain in this way. Open the doors of the temples and reach out. Return to the side of light.

Ilia Bobrik, Christian, Russian church historian