June 15, 2023

ROC: Pacifism is Heresy


ROC: Pacifism is Heresy
John Burdin, former priest of the Russian Orthodox Church. NEXTA, Twitter.

A Russian Orthodox priest who is noted for his defiance to authority and standing against Russia's War on Ukraine, posted a call for peace and was condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church. On June 11, Mediazona reported that a church court file on the case said that pacifism was "incompatible" with Orthodox teachings.

In February 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine, John Burdin, a priest in the Kostroma diocese, posted a statement on his church's website condemning the war in Ukraine:

"We, Christians, don't dare stand to the side when a brother kills another, [when] a Christian kills another. We cannot close our eyes, shamefaced, and call what is black white, what is good evil (...)."

A month later, Burdin gave an anti-war sermon at his local church, for which he was fined. Burdin left his parish shortly afterward, yet continued to criticize the church on Telegram. On March 19, he was banned from the priesthood. In church court documents, arguments against the priest said that pacifism was "heretical."1
Burdin's primary charge revolves around the violation of ancient canonical rules, including the Apostolic Canons that penalize those who insult one's tsar or superiors. The court argues that Burdin's sermon in March 2022, where he claimed that Christians cannot remain indifferent when one Christian kills another, discredits the military.

President Vladimir Putin has relied on his alliance with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to justify invading Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill has called the war "metaphysical" and claimed that dying in the battle could liberate one's sins. Most priests are aligned with the Kremlin, and those who don't face persecution. The FSB interrogated priest Maxim Nagibin after he delivered an anti-war Easter sermon.

Other faiths have also been persecuted. The Supreme Lama of Kalmykia, Erdne Ombadykow, was declared a foreign agent and fled to Mongolia. Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, is also in exile.

The Russian Orthodox Church has argued that pacifism has historically been associated with heretical doctrines in the past. Indeed, noted author and Christian pacifist (who was himself excommunicated from the ROC) Lev Tolstoy wrote, in  "Christianity and Patriotism" (1895), "In all history, there is no war which was not hatched by a Government independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful."

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