Military chaplain: staying in the Moscow Patriarchate means complicity in killing Ukrainians

At the outbreak of the war, on February 24, the priest was near Bakhmut as the chaplain of the 30th mechanized brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Earlier, he was one of the first clerics of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate; UKP) to leave it and moved to the newly formed PKU, which on January 6, 2019 received autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. His decision was influenced by the fact that the UOC supported the seizure of Crimea by Russia and the actions of pro-Russian separatists in Donbas.

Now, “when the Moscow Patriarchate began to bless the murder of Ukrainian citizens, I perceived it as a crime,” said the chaplain, nicknamed “Padre” by the military, which means father in Italian. He pointed out that the Russian Church in Ukraine, including in Kherson, where he served for several years, was and remains to this day the base of the so-called Ruthenian world. His church in this city occupied by the Russians in the south of the country, after the invasion of aggressors there, was forcibly incorporated into the UKP.

Currently, the clergyman is the chief chaplain of the territorial defense forces, numbering over 100,000. soldiers and officers. According to the new regulations, the Ukrainian army is to have around 200 chaplains who need to be trained, shaped and appropriate structures to be created. The point is “that those people who bring faith, hope, good and light to the military should take care not only of their religious feelings, but also psychological help and the social dimension of their service” – explained the chaplain. He added that it is also a concern for tolerance and religious freedom. In this context, he disagreed with the widespread view that “there were no atheists in war” as there are both atheists and agnostics and pagans, people of all faiths, so “it is important to admit these people as well.”

Fr. Dmitriyev assured that he was constantly in military units or directly in the combat zone, and that the “full-scale war” found him in the area of ​​Bakhmut and Svitlodarsky Arch [w obwodzie donieckim — KAI]. He noticed that the people who came to him with their affairs are the same as the others, and that they differ from civilians only in that they are ready to defend the country with arms in hand, even at the cost of their lives. “There are different conditions, rules, discipline, order of the day, but otherwise everything is the same,” said the priest. He pointed out that many non-professionals went to the army, he met, for example, directors of commercial companies, journalists, singers, designers, TV announcers and other people who had never before held a gun in their hands.

According to the clergyman, there is no single reaction of religious communities to the current war, because people react – some support it, others do not, regardless of their religion. For example, in Europe, Ukraine is supported by Poland and the Baltic states, but not by Hungary. In this context, Fr. Serhiy remarked, cautioning that it was his personal view that the Vatican was not on the side of Ukraine. The apostolic nuncio in Kiev is not active in this matter, unlike, for example, the Lithuanian ambassador or the representative of the United States. “At Easter, he went to the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and prayed with the Moscow clergy, this means support for the Moscow Patriarchate,” said Fr. Dmitriyev.

He also assessed that the closing of the eyes by some politicians, including the Vatican, to the war started back in 2014 “enabled a full-scale invasion of the Russian troops into Ukraine and today we have even more victims”. “If there is still no response [zagranicznej]then we will have an even more cruel war with us, and later in Europe “- Fr Serhiy is convinced.

He then talked about the social service he managed under the PKU called “Eleos-Ukraine”, which included a network of civic organizations, defending human rights, fighting domestic violence, etc. The “Eleos” shelter in Bucza survived the occupation, the women and children staying there saw outbursts missiles, then most of them were removed. Today, the facility has resumed its activity. The organization intended to open three more similar shelters in the Kiev, Donetsk and Kharkiv oblasts, but the outbreak of the war thwarted these plans and now “Eleos” shelters operate in the Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi and Volyn oblasts.

The purpose of this social activity is not only to provide shelter, but also socialization, cooperation with psychologists, looking for a job, housing, spiritual counseling, caring for physical health, etc. An Orthodox priest announced that work was underway on a project aimed at creating a shelter for raped women by the Russian military, and because this is a problem not only related to the Russian army and the war, this project is also intended to help women victims of sexual violence after the war.

In this context, he recalled that the Church stands for the protection of life and condemns abortion, adding, however, that every human being has the right to decide “and we have no right to condemn a woman who terminated her pregnancy.” The Church should not forbid anything, but the pastor’s duty is to be next to people in every life situation and with every choice. He pointed to difficult cases, for example, of a 12-year-old girl raped by a Russian soldier. “Her mother is very religious and does not want her daughter to have an abortion, but after giving birth she would like to leave her in an orphanage. Father says that he will not support anyone and is in favor of an abortion” – said Fr. Serhiy. He noted that they had a priest from the Moscow Patriarchate and convinced them that the girl was to give birth, but – rhetorically asked the chaplain – will this clergyman continue to help her and her child, or will he limit himself to advice?

The clergyman said that staying in the Church under the Moscow Patriarchate now means complicity in the murdering of Ukrainian citizens. He himself left the UOC shortly after the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, especially since his parish in Kherson had already been Ukrainian-speaking, and various Ukrainian national organizations and associations were active in it. While the previous head of the UOC, Metropolitan Vladimir (who died in 2014), there was talk of the unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, after the “revolution of dignity” in Kiev’s Maidan (2013-14), and especially after the occupation of Crimea by Russia and the start of the war in Donbas, this is impossible.

Fr. Dmitriyev expressed the opinion that possible reconciliation between Ukrainians and Russians is possible only “after the victory of good over evil, after the victory of Ukraine”. He also explained that this occurs when a person asks for forgiveness and complains about what he has done. He admitted that he liked the statement that only a victim can forgive. “When we stand at the memory wall of fallen soldiers, this question is answered [o pojednanie – KAI] can only be given by their children and mothers, they have the right to talk about forgiveness and reconciliation “- emphasized the Orthodox chaplain. He added that instead of reflecting on whether to forgive or not,” we now have the right to defend and support those who suffered ” .

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