UK government sanctions Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill

“We won’t get tired of defending freedom and democracy, and keeping the pressure on Putin, until Ukraine succeeds.”

The Russian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with approximately 150 million members, representing more than half of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

The war in Ukraine strained the relations of the Moscow Patriarchate with the other Eastern Orthodox Churches.

It also prompted Catholic bishops across Europe to urge Kirill to speak out against the invasion. These include Polish Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich and Irish bishops.

In an interview published in May, Pope Francis explained that he expressed concern about Patriarch Kirill’s stance on the war during a March 16 videoconference.

The pope added that he and Kirill had canceled a meeting scheduled for June 14 in Jerusalem, saying “we agreed it might send the wrong message.”

Pope Francis said in an interview published this week that he hoped to meet Patriarch Kirill in Kazakhstan in September.

“I had a 40-minute conversation with Patriarch Kirill. In the first part, he read me a statement in which he gave reasons justifying the war. When he finished, I intervened and said to him: ” Brother, we are not clerics of the state, we are pastors of the people,” the pope recalls.

“I was supposed to meet him on June 14 in Jerusalem, to talk about our common problems. But with the war, by mutual agreement, we decided to postpone the meeting to a later date, so that our dialogue would not be misunderstood.

“I hope to meet him at a general meeting in Kazakhstan in September. I hope to be able to greet him and talk a little with him as a pastor.

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