Russian Patriarch Kirill has reportedly sent messages to world leaders including Pope Francis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, asking for their support in his feud with Kiev over the issue of the Ukrainian Church’s independence from Moscow.
In a statement posted on Friday by Russian news agency TASS, Kirill accused the secular state of Ukraine of exerting “brutal pressure” on bishops and priests of the Ukrainian Church, which, he added “makes it possible to say that a large-scale persecution has begun.”
Kirill said this pressure is aimed at making the bishops acquiesce to the creation of an autocephalous church in violation of the constitutional rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens.
Citing the Ukrainian Constitution, he said that the “state’s interference in relations between churches is unconstitutional.”
The decision by the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in October to begin procedures to grant independence to the Ukrainian Church as early as this month prompted the Russian Orthodox Church to sever eucharistic communion with it. On Thursday, Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios called the move “unacceptable.”