World Council of Churches does not agree to XXV WRCC's Decree

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World Council of Churches does not agree to XXV WRCC's DecreeThe General Secretary of the WCC says the organization cannot reconcile the Decree of the XXV World Russian People's Council, whose head is the Orthodox Patriarch, which describes the conflict in Ukraine as a "holy war."

In a statement released on 12 April, the World Council of Churches (WCC) stated that a Decree approved on 27 March by the XXV World Russian People’s Council entitled “The Present and Future of the Russian World” raised “grave concerns among WCC members.

The Russian People's Council is the largest Russian public forum, and according to its Statutes, the head of the council is the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, under whose presidency the annual council meetings are held, said the WCC General Secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr. Jerry Pillay.

The document describes the conflict in Ukraine as a “holy war.”

“Among other concerns arising from the recent decree,” said Pillay, “the World Council of Churches cannot reconcile the statement that ‘the special military operation [in Ukraine] is a Holy War’ with what we have heard directly from Patriarch Kirill himself, nor with relevant WCC governing body policy pronouncements, nor indeed with the biblical calling for Christians to be peacemakers in the midst of conflict.”

The WCC General Secretary said that in a meeting in Moscow in May 2023, Patriarch Kirill said that any references he had made to “holy war" in the current context were related to the metaphysical realm, not to the physical armed conflict in Ukraine. He agreed with the WCC general secretary that no war of armed violence can be “holy.”

“The decree contradicts this position,” Pillay noted.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, WCC’s highest governing bodies – the central committee in June 2022, and the WCC 11th Assembly in September 2022 – have strongly affirmed the position that “war is incompatible with God’s very nature and will for humanity and against our fundamental Christian and ecumenical principles.”

They explicitly denounced the invasion of Ukraine as “illegal and unjustifiable.” In addition, they rejected “any misuse of religious language and authority to justify armed aggression and hatred.”

The Russian Orthodox Church was represented in both of these key governing body meetings and in the processes leading to the adoption of these statements.

Letter to the Patriarch

The WCC general secretary has written to Patriarch Kirill to clarify whether this decree should be understood as expressing the Russian Orthodox Church's position.

According to the WCC statement, he wants to know how such positions can be held by a member church of the World Council of Churches and how they compare with what he has heard directly from the Patriarch himself.

"An urgent meeting has been requested to discuss this matter and to find ways in which the concerns raised within the fellowship can be addressed," said Pillay.

Vatican News