Head of Polish church asks Russian patriarch to intervene with Putin over Ukraine war

The head of Poland’s Catholic episcopate has asked the leader of the Russian Orthodox church to appeal to Vladimir Putin to “stop this pointless fight against the Ukrainian nation” and to Russian soldiers to ignore their orders.

His call comes as Catholic parishes around Poland have mobilised to help house, feed and in other ways support the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have been fleeing over the border.

The head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, is known to be a longstanding supporter of Putin and has openly supported the actions of the Russian military in the past.

“Our soldiers cannot have any doubts whether they have made the only right and just choice,” he said in a sermon delivery shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine, notes Gazeta Wyborcza.

But this week the president of the Polish Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, sent an official letter to Kirill asking him to convince Putin to stop the war.

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“I am asking you, brother, to appeal to Vladimir Putin to stop this pointless fight against the Ukrainian nation, in which innocent people die, while suffering is cast upon not only soldiers but also civilians – especially women and children,” wrote Gądecki.

“No reason, no argument excuses a decision to launch a military invasion on an independent country, bombing residential areas, schools and kindergartens,” he continued.

The Polish hierarch went on to urge Kirill to appeal to Russian soldiers too and convince them “to not participate in this unjust war, to disobey their orders, which – as we can already see – lead to numerous war crimes”. The archbishop stressed that disobeying orders in such circumstances is “a moral duty”.

Gądecki’s letter echoes a similar appeal from Ioan Sauca, the secretary general of the World Council of Churches. “In these times of hopelessness, many look to you as the one who could bring a sign of hope for a peaceful solution,” wrote Sauca, calling on Kirill to take up a role as a mediator.

Meanwhile, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to Poland, Catholic parishes and other religious organisations have joined the unprecedented mobilisation of civil society and state institutions to aid those escaping the war.

Caritas, the church aid organisation, has already made accommodation available for almost 900 refugees in Kraków, while Warsaw parishes report accepting the first groups of migrants that need shelter and support.

“We make a list of those willing to take refugees. We note the number of people they can accommodate, if they can provide food as well,” Monika Buzała from Caritas, who is coordinating aid efforts, told the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

Caritas is also very active in the eastern dioceses, especially those bordering Ukraine, where the refugees first arrive. They offer medical help and food and direct those in need to reception centres inside the country.

In numerous churches around Poland, collection points have been set up, where people are bringing medical supplies, hygiene products, as well as sleeping bags and blankets and other goods that are later distributed among refugees or brought to the crossing points.

Main image credit: Kremlin.ru/Wikimedia Commons (under CC BY 4.0)

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