Metropolitan Mark (ROCOR): War is negatively affecting Russian Church, must stop immediately

Berlin, June 1, 2022

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The Russian Orthodox Church is being negatively affected by the fratricidal war in Ukraine, which should be immediately stopped, believes His Eminence Metropolitan Mark of Berlin of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

In a recent interview with the German outlet, Met. Mark tells about his upbringing in Germany, about how he discovered Orthodoxy through Russian literature, and about Church life in his diocese and Germany as a whole.

Vladyka Mark is the senior ROCOR hierarch and is now serving as the Locum Tenens since the recent repose of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of New York.

The conversation also turned to how the fratricidal war in Ukraine has affected his diocese and the broader Russian Church, and the Metropolitan’s views on the fighting.

“I can’t subscribe to this point of view,” that the war is about Russia defending itself, His Eminence says, but without condemnation: “I know that during the communist period the official Russian Church repeatedly justified communism and the crimes of the communist state. At the time, I said I didn’t want to contribute to this, but I don’t know the reasons. I must also say this clearly today in view of this war.”

On February 22, just two days before the war began, Met. Mark and the other ROCOR hierarchs in Europe issued a statement calling for increased prayers and repentance in order to “save the world from fratricide.” And in a Memorial Saturday sermon in March, His Eminence made a plea to preserve Church unity and avoid the temptation of “divid[ing] along national traits.”

Therefore, Met. Mark and his diocese have been very active in helping refugees and those suffering within Ukraine. As soon as refugees began to appear in Germany, the Church contacted state and local officials to offer its language skills and understanding of the Ukrainian people. The diocese also supports convoys sending food and clothing to Ukraine, in particular to a monastery in eastern Ukraine that is housing more than 1,500 refugees.

Presumably His Eminence is referring to either the Holy Dormition-Svyatogorsk Lavra or the Monastery of St. Basil and the Convent of St. Nicholas in the village of Nikolskoye, Donetsk.

Besides humanitarian aid, the Church most especially copes with the fratricidal through prayer, the Metropolitan affirms: “We cannot and do not want to participate in any form of war. But we provide support through our prayers. Members of our Church are fighting on both sides. That’s challenging. In some communities, the situation is causing conflict.”

Asked his view on the war, the senior ROCOR hierarch answers plainly: “I consider this war a crime.”

He continues: “Some say that it’s actually been going on for eight years and that, for example, the Ukrainian government made a mistake in banning the use of Russian in schools. That’s probably true. But this can never be a justification for a war. No way.”

While acknowledging that there are groups in Ukraine that are “close to the spirit of the former Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera,” Met. Mark doesn’t believe its tenable to argue that they rule in Kiev.

However, at the same time, Vladyka doesn’t rush to directly condemn Russia for every tragedy that occurs during the course of the fighting: “In a war, the population and cities are affected by acts of war on both sides. I don’t allow myself any judgement… In many cases, you really don’t know who destroyed it, because there’s shooting from both sides: one attacking, the other defending.”

He has also received reports from clerics that the Ukrainian army has taken up positions in residential areas. “Isn’t it to be expected that the Russians will shoot at them, hitting innocent people in the process?” the hierarch asks.

“I also don’t understand why our monastery with all its refugees has come under fire, by whoever.”

Next, the interviewer asks: “Should the Russians pull out of Ukraine?” to which Met. Mark responds: “Is that a question? Yes, definitely! And completely.”

In his March sermon, he spoke very harshly about the reality of war:

During these terrifying days when streams of blood merge with the flow of deceit and wickedness, we Christians cannot allow ourselves to submit to the spirit of war. The spirit of war is demanding. It requires us to divide into parties. It forces us to hate.

We Christians must understand: the wrath with which war burns is the wrath of hell. The enemy of God drinks in not so much human blood as human bitterness and division. The devil wants nothing more than to separate man from his neighbor, from the Church and from Christ.

Thus, Vladyka believes there needs to be compromise in Ukraine. On the one hand, there should be more leeway for the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine, while “Ukraine’s EU membership seems sensible to me, even if this arouses great resentment on the Russian side again,” he says in the recent interview

Met. Mark is certain that the war will change the Church, “and unfortunately not for the better.”

“I find it difficult to believe that the Ukrainian part of our Church wants to stay with the Russian. And Ukrainians are the most faithful members of the Russian Orthodox Church,” the Metropolitan comments.

His Eminence’s interview was given before the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that was held on Friday, at which the UOC Statutes were amended to remove all mention of any connection to the Russian Orthodox Church.

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Mark Wright6/5/2022 8:56 pm
m. Cornelia, the thing is - the people of the Soviet Union were protecting their homeland from outside attack. They were sacrificing themselves. In our present situation, it's the Ukrainians who are protecting their homeland from outside attack. They're sacrificing themselves. The example of WW2 doesn't apply to Russia today -- Russia is willing to sacrifice thousands of ... Ukrainian lives? for the sake of defeating Nazism? The example doesn't work when applied to Russia. And further, while the USSR was a terrible place that killed and persecuted its own people, those people still defended it from attack. So today, even though there are indeed evil groups and authorities in Ukraine who are persecuting the people, Ukrainians are nevertheless rallying to defend their homeland from outside attack.
m. Cornelia6/5/2022 12:37 pm
Herman and Mark: I can understand your points. Yes, we can cherry pick any number of facts from World War II concerning Nazis. But it makes more sense to look at the end of it. The Soviet Union--and that includes Ukraine--preferred to lose millions of lives, and suffer the destruction of their cities rather than surrender to the German fascists, thus saving Europe also from Nazi domination, which we now know would have meant the death of every Jew, gypsy, as well as other "unwanted" nationalities. The Nazis justified the slaughter of Serbs by Croatians. Untermenschen. If you can show some proof of Russian Nazis in Lugansk I'll take that argument into consideration. But there are many eyewitnesses to Azoz atrocities in Mariupol, Odessa, and scads of villages that were completely at their mercy for eight years. There is a difference between this kind of genocide and simply war, in which casualties are inevitable on both sides. But I will reiterate: the Russian troops are under orders not to intentionally kill civilians, while the Azov and other neo-Nazi battalions were even given orders to kill civilians. Do not think even for a moment that Russians hate Ukrainians and want to kill them or even dominate them. Ukrainian nationalists, on the other hand, have made "Moscal (derogatory name for Russian) on the lamp post" their battle cry since Maidan. They have called Russian speakers or sympathizers "Colorado beetles" (a reference to the St. George ribbon), and sent troops to the Donbas to "squash" them. This is reality and not Kremlin propaganda. This is not the place to talk about all of this in detail. You can find more details on other websites, such as the Saker--although compared to the bombardment of Western propaganda there is very little in English. But I will end my discussion with the hope that Ukrainians will realize that the US has been trying to change their genetic code, to make them non-Russians, to turn them against their real Slavic brothers for many years now--and this is the real root of the problem. We must pray very, very hard for an end to the bloodshed, for an end to hatred, so that Ukraine can finally prosper. I emphasize: With the exception of a few oligarchs, Ukrainians have not been prospering under US domination. To the contrary, Ukraine has become very poor, and full of strife. One nation's well being cannot be brought about by its hatred for another.
Herman6/5/2022 4:14 am
m. Cornelia: I appreciate your response. I am not taken in by any propaganda, whether Russian or Western. I am certainly not a supporter of the current Ukrainian government, but I'm also not a supporter of the current Russian government. As for the Donbass, I deliberately omitted that in my comment, because I refuse to have yet another argument, with yet another person, about this. However, briefly - there would have been no reason for the Ukrainian military to shell anything in Donbass, had the Kremlin and the "separatists" (including the neo-Nazi paramilitary Wagner Group) not attempted to secede from the Ukrainian state. I also know a woman from Lugansk, and she says that everything was fine there until, in her terms, the "Russian terrorists" moved in in 2014. So, as I said before, let's see what the next 3 months brings. Maybe after another 30-60 thousand deaths, another 4-6 million refugees, and another 80 Orthodox churches destroyed and damaged, the people of Donbass will finally be able to live "normal" lives. As for Nazism, wasn't that what Hitler said about his invasion of Poland? Just wanted the ethnic Germans to be able to live normal lives there? Didn't he also accuse Poland of planning to attack Germany? Let's be honest - from 2014 to 2022, the estimate is about 14 thousand deaths in Donbass (a third Ukrainian military, a third Russian separatist fighters, a third civilians). In the last 3 months, the death toll estimate seems to be 30-60 thousand across Ukraine. At this point, the Russians have killed far more in 3 months than the Ukrainians have in 8 years. For this reason alone, I have no sympathy for the "special operation" whatsoever, and I don't believe the Kremlin's propaganda that attempts to justify their actions there. My main concern however is the Church, which is suffering even more now since Russia began this war, and I fail to understand how this will turn into a positive development... but we'll see how that develops as time goes on.
Nikolai6/5/2022 12:54 am
Thank you m. Cornelia for your sober thoughts and efforts.
Mark Wright6/4/2022 11:42 pm
m. Cornelia, forgive me for butting in, but at the same time, you ignored everything Herman said about all the destruction being wrought in Ukraine in the last few months. More people have been killed, more churches have been destroyed, and more people have been forced to flee in 3 months than in 8 years. Do the people of Donbass deserve a normal life? Of course. No one denies this. But is that what Russia has brought them? Hardly. Russia has mainly succeeded in alienating Ukraine and even the canonical Church and in destroying its military's reputation. I mean, these things are just factual. So how many deaths and how much destruction must the people endure before it no longer seeems worth it?
m. Cornelia6/4/2022 11:27 pm
Herman, although I admit that what I said about latent hatred for Russians is unfortunate, I do know that Met. Mark loves Russia and was instrumental in the reunification of the ROCOR and the MP. I respect Met. Mark and I respect his opinion. But I can also tell you that you are not right about the Russians having such a negative view of Ukrainians. Yes, there are Nazis who have been given too much control there. That is a fact. But I happen to know many Ukrainians here in Russia and Ukraine, who are also very much against that. A number of Ukrainians have told me in no uncertain terms that they want very much for their country to be cleansed of those horrors. Of course, no one wants war--war is hell. But they really have been terrorized since the Maidan revolution. Especially the canonical Orthodox. These are facts and cannot be denied. And you apparently don't know very much about the history of Ukraine under the Soviet Union. Before it became part of the USSR, there was no Ukraine as it is today. The Soviet government gave them their territory. There were plenty of Ukrainian communists, many of whom surpassed others in their cruelty to their own people. You seem to be taken in by the "Ukrainian: good; Russian: bad" propaganda that it being intentionally spread. It is spread because the real occupier of Ukraine--the US--wants everyone to see it that way. Ukrainians and Russians are just like everyone else--there are good and bad. But Nazism is always detrimental to its host country and especially to the nations it maintains have no right to exist. It darkens the minds of its adherents and makes them capable of doing very bad things (just like many other radical, totalitarian beliefs). Although you are critical of what I said about Germans and Met. Mark, you have not acknowledged what I said about the people of Donbas. They have a right to a normal life. They have been deprived of it for eight years now.
Herman6/4/2022 5:17 pm
After reading through the comments here, I feel obligated to defend the current acting First Hierarch of my Church, the Russian Church Abroad. The insinuation by m. Cornelia that Met Mark is somehow being influenced by "Russophobia" in Germany is ridiculous. This is a man who has dedicated his life to the Russian Church, speaks primarily Russian in his daily life, and played a major role in the reunion of the ROCOR and the MP in 2007. Rather then assuming he is just a tool that is being swayed by some kind of "latent hatred" (?) perhaps it would be better to consider that Met Mark is making an accurate, non-biased assessment of the current situation? This current war has already cost tens of thousands of lives - mostly Ukrainian. Already some 4-6 million Ukrainians have left their homeland as refugees pouring into foreign countries such as Poland and Germany, Romania, Serbia, etc. Some 80 or so Orthodox churches have been destroyed and damaged due to the Russian invasion. That's only in the last 3 months - how many more will they destroy? The idea that the Russian army is behaving as angels and the Ukrainian army has just gone wild and began to attack their own country is absurd. Russians have been indoctrinated for years with the idea that Ukrainians are a fake nation, they are pigs and "nazis" and хохлы, so how do you think Russian troops will behave when they arrive there? Why wouldn't they attack civilians? Because they alone have morality but the Ukrainians are just bloodthirsty savages? And what of Russia's original stated goals? Are they, or will they ever be, fulfilled? Do you really believe that these actions will bring the Ukrainian nation into alignment, politically or spiritually, with the Russian Federation? Look at the reaction of the Russian people - most of them do not support this, and the ones that do are flying Soviet flags, and painting the letter "Z" on everything. It's an entirely insane response. How do you think most Ukrainians, who were terrorized for years by Soviet oppression, feel about seeing Russian tanks flying the satanic atheist red banner entering their country again? And now, the Ukrainian Church under the respected and loved Met Onuphry is distancing and separating themselves from the Moscow Patriarchate. Is this a negative, or positive, development in Church life? Did Met Onuphry, or anyone, welcome the Russian invasion? Did he tell his people to pray for Russia, that they can finally liberate the Ukrainian people from the "nazis and drug addicts" who occupy Kiev? No. By any standard whatsoever, this war in only 3 months has proved disastrous for the Russian Federation, for Ukraine, and for the Church. What will the next 3 months bring? Listen to Met Mark, consider what he is saying here. He's one of the few who understands the reality of the situation.
Juan6/4/2022 7:49 am
Ioann: The Russians are not shelling civilians intentionally. That is what the Ukrainian army is doing. The Ukrainians are also using civilians as human shields, so that they get shelled by both sides. You are very biased.
Zac6/3/2022 11:18 pm
I trust Fr. Artemy Vladimirov, because his writings breath with the spirit of the holy fathers. Batiushka Artemy believes this conflict is just and founded upon the blessings of God because of the terrible slaughter in the Donbas. How can we not also see this as the wrath of God against the schismatic OCU, which drags souls away from Christ? Russia, for all its faults, was chosen by God to be the successor Orthodox Empire after the fall of Constantinople, then it endured the reign of antichrist for 80 years and then another decade of lawlessness and starvation. Elder Ioann (Krestiankin) said it best: "Only Russia is aching for God." God bless all the fallen in war. May God forgive the sins of all who suffer a violent death. May God preserve ROCOR from schism. Are they still so controlled by the CIA that they will again separate from the Patriarch? May God prevent it.
Ioann6/3/2022 11:10 pm
Look at our past spiritual history: Cain and Svyatopolk. There can be no victory in fratricide.
Ioann6/3/2022 11:02 pm
Juan, if you are against shelling civilians in principle, then you must be against the Russians too.
Juan6/3/2022 10:57 pm
Ioann: "I am against bullies (cf. David vs Goliath)." If you are against bullies, then you have to be against the Ukrainian army, which is shelling innocent civilians. Re: “Do you believe there is such as thing as pre-emptive self-defense?” What about simply defending the defenseless? You don't seem to care about the people whom the Ukrainian army is killing, and blame everything on Russia.
Ioann6/3/2022 3:33 pm
Benjamin: Re: “This further confirms my theory that many priests and monks have a temperament that isn't conductive to realpolitik.” The definition of realpolitik “politics based on practical and material factors rather than on theoretical or ethical or moral objectives.” The work of the priest or monk is to advance the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ tells us: “My kingdom is not of this world.” If you are an Orthodox Christian, then you must chanting-praying this regularly: “Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation. When their breath departs they return to their earth; on that very day all their plans perish.” Sometimes we can become the prisoner of the present, the bars of our cages made up of the 24/7 news cycle and social media. The immediacy of this war and the looming idolatrous images of the driver of this war - just one man - may make some people think that this man is going to be around forever. The rule of this man and his enablers will end some day and with their end their schemes will die. But the Kingdom of Heaven IS forever. Make a choice: Are you a child of Henry Kissinger or are you a child of God?
Ioann6/3/2022 2:41 pm
Tatiana: Re: “From this, some have concluded that the ROCOR MP may also join the allegedly separated from the Moscow Patriarchate of the UOC-MP.” I know that ROCOR-MP as a church body will not leave the Moscow Patriarchate to join the de facto autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but it is safe to say that there is at least one individual who may leave the ROCOR if this church body continues its tacit support of the Russian invaders.
Ioann6/3/2022 2:20 pm
Benjamin: Re: “Do you believe there is such a thing as a "Just War"? Yes, there is such a thing. If there is a necessity to categorize a war as just, then there must be a category for wars that are unjust. The war started by the Russian invaders falls into the unjust category. Re: “Do you believe in the idea of self-defense?” I’m with G.K. Chesterton who wrote: [quote]”A child's instinct is almost perfect in the matter of fighting; a child always stands for the good militarism as against the bad. The child's hero is always the man or boy who defends himself suddenly and splendidly against aggression. The child's hero is never the man or boy who attempts by his mere personal force to extend his mere personal influence. In all boys' books, in all boys' conversation, the hero is one person and the bully the other.” [end quote] I am against bullies (cf. David vs Goliath). Re: “Do you believe there is such as thing as pre-emptive self-defense?” No, I do not.
m. Cornelia6/3/2022 10:26 am
It is not surprising to hear this point of view from Met. Mark since he is German and living in Germany, where the Russophobia has reached heights comparable to WW2 (mainly within the government--many ordinary Germans are refusing to participate in it). But I have to add as someone who hears daily about what's been happening in Donbas for the past eight years: Don't the people of Donbas have the right to live normal lives, without Ukrainian forces shelling them, killing civilians, denying children of their childhood, and generally terrorizing everyone, young and old, simply because they wanted to keep living as they did, speaking their own, native language? The Germans may have some latent hatred for Russians because they foiled their plans for enslaving the population back in WW2, albeit at an enormous cost to themselves.
Benjamin6/3/2022 2:06 am
@Ioann: at the local ROCOR church I go to, I have not really seen any sort of political discussion at all, either regarding the current events or politics in general. In fact, it wasn't until attending after several weeks that I even noticed a single national flag (the American) furled up in the corner. At first I found this odd. But later, I came to realize this was due to the high state of spiritual development of those whom attend the church. TBH, despite being a Russophile, I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of *any* sort of national flag being displayed in the church, any church, even though I believe Russia was entirely justified in its invasion. I must ask you: putting all prejudices aside, do you believe there is such a thing as a "Just War"? Do you believe in the idea of self-defense? Do you believe there is such as thing as pre-emptive self-defense?
Tatiana6/3/2022 12:25 am
You really really need to read this article if you are interested in Truth. Non-existent sensation Excerpt: Recently, an interview with Metropolitan Mark (Arndt) appeared on the Internet, in which he expressed disagreement with Patriarch Kirill, the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate and condemned the war in Ukraine. From this, some have concluded that the ROCOR MP may also join the allegedly separated from the Moscow Patriarchate of the UOC-MP. But this, as it is now customary to write, is a "fake sensation."
Ioann6/2/2022 4:26 pm
Juan: In my experience (anecdotal, yes) I have been lectured by people in church leadership positions who have given full-support to the Russian invasion with little to no regard for the innocent victims including our Ukrainian Orthodox brothers and sisters. I have heard lots of talk of stratagems from these persons in support of the geopolitical ambitions of the invading country but not one spiritual justification for the fratricide. Metropolitan Mark is the first hierarch from ROCOR who has spoken clearly against this war. In his words: “I consider this war a crime.” I know that Metropolitan Mark’s words against the war scandalized the war-supporters within ROCOR. My questions are these: Should Metropolitan Mark’s ethical argument prevail within the ROCOR, would the pro-war contingent stay or go? Where would they go? Do the Moscow Patriarchate parishes outside of the Russian Federation support the invasion or not?
Juan6/2/2022 3:50 pm
Ioann: You seem to have a love for schisms and division. But that's not what we pray for.
Ioann6/2/2022 3:24 am
If voices echoing Metropolitan Mark prevail in the ROCOR Synod in the near future (September), could there be a potential for schism in ROCOR? Could the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA of the Moscow Patriarchate (and elsewhere outside of Russia) see a resurgence if it absorbs the disaffected ROCOR supporters of the "Special Military Operation?"
Benjamin6/2/2022 2:58 am
I see a lot of the right-wing neo-pagans and occultists going on about how "Christianity is pacifist / a suicide cult / etc" and I try to rebuke these people. However, its made significantly harder when you have people like these come out of the woodwork and attack war in general. Like, what are you supposed to do when a neighboring country is funding a literal neo-Nazi terrorist group (Azov), even incorporating them into their official military, and attacking Russians in the Donbass since 2014? I wonder if this metropolitan would've condemned Russia's defense of its people during WWII when Hitler was planning on liquidating the Slavic peoples? Stalin goes into this that flat-out in his VE Day speech, if anyone cares to look it up. This further confirms my theory that many priests and monks have a temperament that isn't conductive to realpolitik. Our goal shouldn't be to try and supercede God by building the kingdom on Earth-- Marx explicitly wanted this, didn't end well anywhere it was tried. We should instead be working for the best (least-worst) socio-political outcomes rather than striving for perfection in all instances. You end up making the perfect the enemy of the good. Yes, killing is a sin, even killing in war. However, unless you're going to become a monk and literally "leave the world", you have to deal with real-world stuff to get by, and that will inevitably involve some degree of sin. Accept it, realize the world isn't perfect (and neither are you), repent, and move on.
Nikolai6/2/2022 1:28 am
Dear Brother Ioann, Pray more - thank you for your Holy Prayers.
Ioann6/1/2022 11:25 pm
Nikolai: Does Bishop Ireney in London serve and pray more than Metropolitan Mark? Is this why his opinion (stating the obvious) is more acceptable to you?
Nikolai6/1/2022 9:19 pm
Metropolitan Mark needs to pray and serve more - less talk and personal opinion at this point is more beneficial. Bishop Ireney in London expresses it well when he comments that "the situation is complex".
Mark6/1/2022 8:41 pm
"One attacking, the other defending." Amen.
Justina6/1/2022 6:37 pm
it is so sad how the Orthodox in varioius western lands are deceived so easily by the mainstream media narrative and rarely check closer but trust blindly. It is good they are helping refugees, some of who may learn to accept slavs as a result, but many of whom secretly believe themselves to be special nordic whatnot superior to slavs and slavs a contaminant that should be destroyed.
James6/1/2022 6:26 pm
Finally! I can be proud to be ROCOR once more!
Ioann6/1/2022 6:26 pm
We in the ROCOR must continue to pray this prayer from our ROCOR Prayer Book (Prayer X from Morning Prayers) until the Lord frees our Church: "O Lord Jesus Christ our God, forgive our iniquities. Through the intercessions of Thy most pure Mother, save the suffering Russian people from the yoke of the godless authority. Amen."
Dionysius Redington6/1/2022 5:57 pm
I agree with him entirely. Although he is unlikely to be elected permanent Metropolitan of ROCOR, I am glad that he is at least the Locum Tenens. --Dionysius Redington
Dimitri6/1/2022 4:06 pm
I don't agree with him, at all. Sadly.
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