Dr Andrey Kordochkin introduces the open letter which nearly 300 of his fellow Russian Orthodox Priests have signed
The Church is not an organisation where the leaders can have the monopoly on speaking while everyone else stays silent.
For my fellow Orthodox Priests and I, it was important to spread a message born from our faith and from the Gospel. Our open letter (below) calls for an immediate ceasefire, but has been criticised by many for not being radical enough. We have to remember, that the Church is there not to judge or condemn, but show the path of salvation. Therefore, being in the liturgical calendar between the Sunday of the last judgement and the Sunday of forgiveness we remind the authorities that at no price the judgement of Christ may be avoided, and the only way to find a way through it is forgiving, but also being forgiven.
signing this letter is an act of bravery
We also understand that the letter will be read by a wide audience. We would hope that for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine this will be an expression of our solidarity, because, in the words of the Apostle Paul, when one part of the body feels pain, the whole body of the church suffers. (1 Corinthians 12)
We have heard of some priests being reproached by their bishops for signing it, although there is no sign of widespread persecution. Of course, while the word “war” is officially prohibited from being spoken in the public discourse, signing this letter is an act of bravery.
We hope for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine this letter is seen as an expression of our solidarity
It is very important that neither in the UK nor any part of the world a Russian adult or child is made responsible for the actions of their government. We have to take into account that the victim of the war is not only the Ukrainian people, but also the Russian people. It goes far beyond the economic consequences. The freedom of press and speech is suppressed. Anyone who left Russia two weeks ago is bound to return to a different country.
The Open Letter has been signed by 286 church leaders and reads:
A CALL FOR RECONCILIATION AND TO END THE WAR
We, the priests and deacons of the Russian Orthodox Church, each in our own name, appeal to everyone on whom the cessation of the fratricidal war in Ukraine depends, with a call for reconciliation and an immediate ceasefire.
We send this appeal after Sunday about the Last Judgement and on the eve of Forgiveness Sunday.
The Last Judgement awaits every person. No earthly authority, no doctors, no guards will protect from this judgement. Concerned about the salvation of every person who considers himself a child of the Russian Orthodox Church, we do not want him to appear at this judgement, bearing the heavy burden of mother’s curses. We remind you that the Blood of Christ, shed by the Saviour for the life of the world, will be received in the sacrament of Communion by those people who give murderous orders, not into life, but into eternal torment.
We mourn the trial that our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were undeservedly subjected to.
We remind you that the life of every person is a priceless and unique gift of God, and therefore we wish the return of all soldiers - both Russian and Ukrainian - to their homes and families safe and sound.
We bitterly think about the abyss that our children and grandchildren in Russia and Ukraine will have to overcome in order to once again begin to be friends with each other, respect and love each other.
We respect the God-given freedom of man, and we believe that the people of Ukraine should make their choice on their own, not at gunpoint, without pressure from the West or the East.
In anticipation of Forgiveness Sunday, we remind you that the gates of paradise are opened to anyone, even a seriously sinned person, if he asks for forgiveness from those whom he humiliated, insulted, despised, or from those who were killed by his hands or by his order. There is no other way but forgiveness and mutual reconciliation.
“The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground; and now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive the blood of your brother from your hand,” God said to Cain, who was envious of his younger brother. Woe to every person who realises that these words are addressed to him personally.
No non-violent call for peace and an end to war should be forcibly suppressed and considered as a violation of the law, for such is the divine commandment: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
We call on all warring parties to dialogue, because there is no other alternative to violence. Only the ability to hear the other can give hope for a way out of the abyss into which our countries were thrown in just a few days.
Let yourself and all of us enter Great Lent in the spirit of faith, hope and love.
Stop the war.
Priests and deacons of the Russian Orthodox Church who wish to sign the letter can write to email@example.com