Is religion the new divide between Russia and the West?

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Good morning and welcome to the Euro Express weekend newsletter. I’m back to discuss one of the most interesting issues of the past 7 days: the role of religion in Europe’s most heated political controversy.Thanks for voting last week’s poll: Over 80% believe that Germany is not doing enough to deal with the war in Ukraine.


I believe Pope Francis released a message this week mark upcoming 2nd World Day for grandparents and the elderly.

Francis does not blame Vladimir Putin for violence in Ukraine (“The Pope never names a head of state,” he said last month). This time he also did not criticize Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Support Putin Invasion.

Two weeks ago, however, the Argentine-born pope spoke out against the war in uncompromising language. Francis says Russian military is to blame for Ukraine atrocities, Looking back at the Rwanda genocide 1990s. He also warned Kirill not to become “Putin’s altar boy.”

These remarks lead to reproach Coming from the Moscow patriarchy, the emphasis on Putin’s war has exposed sharp divisions between the Roman Catholic Church and the official Russian branch of the Orthodox Church.

How beautiful things looked in 2016 when the Pope and Kirill held talks and hugged each other in Havana, the capital of Cuba.This is a A truly historic meeting – For the first time since the establishment of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1589, between the leaders of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox institutions.

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill embrace in Havana, Cuba, February 2016 © Gregorio Borgia/Pool/AP

But now Francis cancelled A second meeting with Kirill was scheduled for next month in Jerusalem. The gulf between the two leaders could not have been sharper. What does this tell us about how war entangled religion with Russia’s geopolitical rivalry with the West?

First, the Russian Orthodox Church – except some very brave lower priests ——Stand firmly on Putin’s side. As in other Orthodox countries, religious beliefs in Russia have deep historical ties to national identity and state authority.

Percentage of Russians bar graph, survey conducted between June 2015 and July 2016 shows that approximately 100 million people in Russia identify as Orthodox Christians

But second, and more important, under Kirill, the church hierarchy is picking up the stick on Putin’s behalf and arguing that Russia is defending Orthodox Christianity against the ungodly, depraved West.

It’s not just propaganda. For Kirill, this is a sacred cause. For Putin, it’s a political project that, he believes, will draw strength from the Orthodox Church’s long tradition of producing obedient, patriotic citizens.

in the insightful new statesman essayRowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012, wrote:

Vladimir Putin sees himself as a protagonist in the fight for the survival of an intact Christian culture, just as the Islamic State positions itself as a defender of Islamic cultural purity. . .

Moscow Patriarch Kirill in an extraordinary Sermon on March 6the day before the start of Orthodox Lent, saw the movement in Russia as a war to defend Orthodox civilization from corruption in the West, with gay pride marches listed as the main symptom.

In taking his position, Kirill was in agreement with the Tsar and the descendants of several prominent Russians in Soviet history.

Peter Tolstoy, great-great-grandson of Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace (and a strict pacifist in his later years), roaring Italian newspaper interview Russia must “completely denazify” Ukraine and not stop the war until its armed forces reach the Polish border.

Then there was Vyacheslav Nikonov, grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov, Joseph Stalin’s foreign minister, who had blood on his hands during the massive Soviet repression of the 1930s. “This is really a holy war we are going on and we have to win it,” Nikonoff says.

It’s the kind of exaggeration we’ve grown accustomed to in the Putin era. However, religious tensions between Russia and the West are real.On Friday, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin suggested Western supplies Ukraine’s weapons of self-defense are justified According to the Church’s “just war” teaching – an argument that is sure to be heavily influenced in the Kremlin.

notable, citable

Those with coasts and ports can import oil by boat from all over the world, but there are no sea littoral countries. We have to take one if it hasn’t been taken from us – Orban Viktor, Prime Minister of Hungary

Today I chose this striking statement and my colleague Val also flagged it European Express Thursday EditionHere, Orban angered Croatia by lamenting the “loss” of Rijeka, once part of the Habsburg Empire, now in Croatia. This is a rare example of a historic dispute between two EU countries over territorial issues.

Tony’s Pick of the Week

  • do not miss it this gripping account Clive Cookson, FT science editor, NASA scientists are testing new spacecraft to prevent asteroids from hitting Earth

  • Ensuring access to vital minerals and metals is a strategic priority for the EU, Written by Tobias Gehrke and Mart Smekens In a policy briefing by the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based think tank

tony.barber@ft.com

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