A congregation in the Netherlands is seeking to leave the Russian Orthodox Church in opposition to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow’s support for the invasion of Ukraine, filing a request for “canonical dismissal”
The Russian Orthodox Parish of Saint Nicholas of Myra in Amsterdam posted an announcement on its Facebook page last Saturday stating that “the clergy unanimously announced that it is no longer possible for them to function within the Moscow Patriarchate and provide a spiritually safe environment for our faithful.”
The announcement was “extremely painful and difficult for all concerned” and came in response to what the parish called a “threat to the parish and the clergy.”
“There will be no services in the church in the period leading up to the General Parish Meeting,” stated the parish council. “This is due not only to concerns of safety, but also to pastoral considerations: in this extremely tense situation, it would be virtually impossible to achieve the prayerful atmosphere we strive for during services.”
The parish says it filed a request for “canonical dismissal” and “also sent a request to Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) to be received into his diocese.”
Per Crux, the Dutch news site Nederlands Dagblad reported that priests and a deacon affiliated with the congregation wrote to Archbishop Elisey, who oversees the diocese of The Hague and the Netherlands of the Russian Orthodox Church, to state that they would not mention Patriarch Kirill’s name during their Divine Liturgy celebrations because of his comments in support of the invasion.
Crux notes that at least 15 Russian Orthodox dioceses have allowed priests to stop commemorating Kirill in their Divine Liturgy celebrations.
Kirill had described Russia’s opponents as “evil forces” in a Feb. 27 sermon, adding that they were fighting against the “unity of Russia.”
Additionally, the church’s leaders had signed a petition calling on Kirill to condemn the invasion.
After speaking out against Kirill, AFP reports that the church received a visit from Archbishop Elisey, who told the church leaders that Moscow was watching their actions closely.
In 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church split from the central Orthodox Church community after the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, viewed as a leading authority for the world’s Orthodox churches, recognized the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as independent from Russian control.
In the months after the Orthodox Church of Ukraine left the Russian Orthodox Church, hundreds of churches joined the new body.
Despite the tensions in the Orthodox Church amid the invasion of Ukraine, the parish shared some “positive news.” On Friday, the church received the relics of St. Nicholas of Myra from Egmond Abbey.
“We see this as a sign of hope in these difficult times,” the statement concluded.
Nearly 300 Orthodox clergy worldwide signed on to an open letter calling for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Hundreds of civilians have died since the conflict began late last month and over 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine and over 1.85 million are internally displaced. According to the United Nations, the war has impacted 12.65 million people in the areas hardest hit by the conflict.
“We mourn the ordeal to which our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were undeservedly subjected,” the open letter states.
The Orthodox Public Affairs Committee, which advocates on behalf of the global Orthodox Church, issued a statement last week calling for “the immediate cessation of ground and aerial bombardment of Ukrainian civilians and communities — including houses, schools, hospitals, and churches by Putin’s military.”
“The apparent use of such lethal weapons (vacuum and cluster bombs) highlights the barbarity and savagery of the onslaught on the free people of Ukraine,” the OPAC statement reads.
“We also call on Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to immediately condemn the bombardment of Ukraine with the same intensity that he and the Russian Church decried the bombing of Serbia by NATO forces during Great Lent and Holy Week in 1999.”