Russia: Patriarch Kirill’s “Holy War”

Source: FSSPX News

A document, assumed to have been directed by Patriarch Kirill, describes Russia's special operation against Ukraine as a “holy war.” This label caused reactions almost everywhere. But what is this text and what is its origin?

Genesis and Origin of the Document

The document is titled “Recommendations of the 25th World Congress of the Russian People ‘The Present and Future of the Russian World’” and is dated November 28, 2023. In fact, the declaration was not drawn up by the Patriarchate of Moscow, nor by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, but by an institution called the “World Congress of the Russian People.”

The initiative to create the Congress, in May 1993, came from the current Patriarch Kirill, who was then Metropolitan of Smolensk and headed the Department of External Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow. He has assumed leadership of the Congress since becoming Patriarch in 2009. In accordance with the statutes, the Congress holds annual meetings presided over by the Russian Patriarch.

These meetings bring together a large number of Orthodox hierarchs, but also senior Kremlin officials, military leaders, university professors, and hundreds of young patriots from all regions of Russia. The supreme leader is Vladimir Putin.

The Recommendations were developed in November during the 25th Congress and approved by a new meeting of the Congress last March 27. It is in this document that the following passage can be read:

“From a spiritual and moral point of view, the special military operation is a Holy War, in which Russia and its people, defending the unified spiritual space of the Holy Rus', fulfill the mission of  the ‘Holder’ [cf. 2 Thess. 2, 6-7.NDT], protecting the world from the onslaught of globalism and the victory of the West which has fallen into Satanism.”

The Claimed Theological Foundation

The French version, published by the website, provides an enlightening exegesis of this text. The authors, it is explained, echo the words of St. Paul (2 Thess.2:7), who writes: “For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way.” In Orthodox exegesis, the interpretation of “he who now holdeth” is threefold.

“The first, by St. John Chrysostom, assimilates 'he who now holdeth' to the Roman Empire. This empire is seen as a force of restraint which, by its power, prevents evil from spreading, thus slowing down the actions of Satan. The second attributes this role to the grace of the Holy Ghost, while the third associates this function with the universal diffusion of the Gospel.”

The commentator goes on to note that Patriarch Kirill “relies on the first interpretation in some of his public statements.” Here, there is “a reinterpretation of the identity of 'he who now holdeth': it is no longer a question of the Roman Empire, but of Russia and its people who, by carrying out their ‘special military operation’ takes on the role of ‘Restrainer.’”

The Congress met in the Kremlin. Putin delivered his speech by videoconference, his face projected between two flags. Before the presidential speech, Kirill sang the hymn to the Heavenly King.

Moreover, in the prayer books distributed to soldiers, Putin is likened to the “Arch-strategist,” the archangel Michael, who leads the heavenly armies in the apocalyptic war against the Evil One, the latter being identified as a Ukraine “Nazified” and enslaved to the West.

The Ultimate Goal of the Operation

It is expressed as follows: “After the end of SMO [the special military operation] all territory of modern Ukraine should enter into a zone of exclusive influence of Russia. The possibility of the existence in this territory of a Russophobic political regime hostile to Russia and its people, as well as a political regime governed from an external center hostile to Russia, must be completely ruled out,” concludes chapter one.

The basis for this conclusion lies in the way in which the Russian world is conceived as explained in chapter two. “Along with the representatives of the Russian oikumene scattered all over the world, the Russian World includes all those for whom the Russian tradition, the shrines of Russian civilization and the great Russian culture are the highest value and meaning of life.”

“The highest meaning of the existence of Russia and the Russian World created by it – their spiritual mission – is to be the world’s “Restrainer”, protecting the world from evil. The historic mission is to permanently destroy attempts to establish universal hegemony in the world, attempts to subordinate humanity to a single evil principle.”

This text must be supplemented by a quotation from chapter three – on foreign policy – ​​which concretely determines the borders of this Russian world. Thus “the reunification of the Russian people should become one of the priority tasks of Russia’s foreign policy.”

“Russia should return to the doctrine of the triunity of the Russian people, which has existed for more than three centuries, according to which the Russian people consists of Great Russians, Malorussians [inhabitants of Ukraine. Ed.], and Belarusians, which are branches of one people, and the concept of ‘Russian’ covers all Eastern Slavs – descendants of historical Rus'.”

An Ambitious Family Policy

The document then dwells at length on family policy, and places special emphasis on the demographic issue. He would like to see the current 144 million inhabitants of the Russian Federation increase “to 600 million inhabitants in a hundred years of sustainable demographic growth.” This implies a real fight against abortion.

It must be said that, since its legalization in 1920, abortion has claimed more than 310 million victims in Russia. This demographic policy is associated with a “new migration policy” described in chapter five, as well as an education and training policy in the next chapter.

The assimilation of “the spiritual and moral values ​​of Russian civilization” is the most important aspect “in the education of future generations of Russian citizens.” This is why instruction and education programs “purified from destructive ideological concepts and attitudes, primarily Western ones, that are alien to the Russian people and destructive for the Russian society.”

Finally, for this renewed Russian people, a remodeled territory is needed: “From the territory of sixteen megacities and depopulated vast spaces, by 2050 Russia should turn into an evenly populated and developed low-rise country of 1,000 revitalized medium and small towns – into the Gardarika [self-governing cities] of the XXI century.”

At the individual level: “Suburban settlements should become the main type of settlements in the country, 80% of the Russian population (or more than 30 million Russian families) should live in their own individual house on their own land.”

Because “life on one's own land, in ecologically favorable and comfortable conditions, in one's own comfortable home, in which one can start a family, give birth and raise three or more children, should become a visible embodiment of the ideas of the Russian world.”