Photo Credit: Larry Koester
Patriarch Kirill, April 20, 2015.

Last Sunday, the Russian Orthodox parish of Saint Nicholas of Myra in Amsterdam requested “a canonical dismissal” from the Moscow Patriarchate and asked to be taken instead into a diocese under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The Dutch clergy posted a statement on their website, saying: “Today an extraordinary meeting of the parish council took place. … During the meeting, the clergy unanimously announced that it is no longer possible for them to function within the Moscow Patriarchate and provide a spiritually safe environment for our faithful. They have asked Archbishop Elisey (the archbishop of the diocese of The Hague and the Netherlands of the Russian Orthodox Church – DI) to grant them canonical dismissal. They have also sent a request to Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (who belong to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople ­- DI) to be received into his diocese. … The parish council has decided to support this move by the clergy and proposes that the parish follow the clergy in this. This proposal will be presented to a special General Parish Meeting on 26 March.”


In 2018, the Moscow Patriarch was furious with the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the latter’s granting independence to the Ukrainian church, and he responded by refusing to attend the Holy Great Council that had been prepared for decades by all the Orthodox Churches. The decision to set the Ukrainians free resulted in Kirill’s severing ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The move came a few days after the Patriarchate of Constantinople had declared that it effectively ended the Moscow Patriarchate’s jurisdiction over Ukraine.

Moscow Times reported on Tuesday that “Orthodox churches, clergy and congregants inside Russia and abroad are breaking with the Russian Orthodox Church and its patriarch over the war in Ukraine and the ideology of the ‘Russian world’ that underpins it.”

At the same time, according to Moscow Times, an open letter in Russian signed by almost 300 Orthodox clergies in Russia and abroad called for an immediate end to the attack on Ukraine. The signatories called on “everyone who has the authority to stop the fratricidal war with Ukraine to begin reconciliation and immediately cease hostilities.”

Saint Basil’s Orthodox Cathedral on Red Square. / Güldem Üstun

The Russian Orthodox Church, a.k.a. the Moscow Patriarchate, has 194 dioceses inside Russia. The Primate of the ROC is the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia. The ROC officially ranks fifth in the Eastern Orthodox order of precedence, immediately below the four ancient patriarchates of the Greek Orthodox Church: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Wednesday spoke via video conference about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the hopes for a peaceful solution, the Vatican said. In a statement released March 16, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the meeting “was motivated by the desire to show, as shepherds of their people, a road to peace, to pray for peace so that there may be a cease-fire.”

But Patriarch Kirill is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and has so far not condemned his invasion of Ukraine. In fact, he publicly referred to the Ukrainians who are standing up to the Russian invasion as “evil forces.” He also said in his sermon last Sunday that gay pride parades in the West were part of the cause of the war in Ukraine.

According to The Guardian, the clergy of the Amsterdam Russian Orthodox church met behind closed doors last Sunday, and the head of the parish stressed the need to separate from the Moscow archdiocese. “We asked our former Patriarch Kirill to stop the war,” he said, adding, “Unfortunately, this did not happen.”

Under Patriarch Kirill, the ROC has maintained close ties with the Kremlin and promoted Putin’s policy that seeks to mobilize Russian Orthodoxy outside Russia. Patriarch Kirill endorsed Putin’s 2012 election and called his rule over Russia “God’s miracle.”


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