(Reuters) – The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church called on people on Sunday to rally around the authorities as Moscow pursues its military intervention in Ukraine.
Patriarch Kirill has previously made statements defending Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and views the war as a bulwark against a Western liberal culture that he considers decadent.
“Let the Lord help us unite during this difficult time for our Fatherland, including around the authorities,” the Interfax news agency quoted Kirill, 75, as saying at a sermon in Moscow.
“May the authorities to be filled with responsibility for their people, humility and the readiness to serve them even if it costs them their life,” added the patriarch, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.
The patriarch’s support for Russia’s military campaign, in which thousands of soldiers and Ukrainian civilians have been killed, has angered some within the Orthodox Church at home as well as in churches abroad linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.
On Sunday, he said that once the population unites around the authorities, “there will be genuine solidarity and the ability to repel enemies both external and internal…”
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.
Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Frances Kerry)