Head of the Russian Orthodox Church: Brussels plans sanctions against Cyril

Status: 04.05.2022 2:04 p.m.

Since the start of the war against Ukraine, Russian Patriarch Cyril I has stood firmly with Putin – now the EU probably wants to impose sanctions on him as well. Cyril I does not seem impressed by the plans.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church is to be placed on the European Union sanctions list. According to media reports, the European Commission is proposing an entry ban for Cyril I and the freezing of his assets in its sixth sanctions package. There is no official confirmation.

The Lithuanian government had campaigned for sanctions against the Russian Orthodox Patriarch because he supported the war against Ukraine. Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in late April that the church leader was more concerned with “killing souls than saving them”. The sanctions package is currently being discussed in EU member states and then needs to be coordinated.

“Fear no one – except God”

Patriarch Kirill I. is apparently unimpressed with EU sanctions against him. You have to be “completely ignorant of the history of the Russian Orthodox Church to intimidate its clergy and faithful by putting them on any list”, wrote its spokesman Vladimir Legoida on his Telegram channel.

He wanted to remind the authors of the sanctions initiative that Cyril I came from a family whose members had been oppressed for decades because of their faith and moral stance during “militant communist impiety”, but ” none of them were afraid of prison or even acts of revenge”.

Cyril’s grandfather, Wassilij Gundjajew, fought as a priest against the closing of churches in the 1920s to 1940s. The patriarch once said that even more than 20 years of imprisonment did not break his grandfather, but, on the contrary, encouraged him to advise his grandson: “Do not be afraid of anyone – except God.”

Propaganda for a “Russian world”

Kyrill I. has been horrifying for weeks, especially in Ukraine, with statements about Russia’s war of aggression like Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin. He justified the military operation as a “metaphysical struggle” between the good and the evil of the West. For years, the patriarch has been propagating a “Russian world” that also includes Ukraine. During a service at a Moscow Kremlin cathedral on Tuesday, he said Russia had never attacked anyone, “it was just defending its borders”.

Critics have also come from Pope Francis: Cyril I “cannot become Putin’s sidekick”, he told Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera. Francis had recently canceled a scheduled meeting with Cyril I because of his behavior.

Cyril’s spokesperson stressed that the patriarch was praying for peace. But “the blinder the sanctions become, the more they lose the sense of common sense, the further away from peace,” Legoida said.

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