LONDON (Reuters) – The head of the Russian Orthodox faith was quoted as saying on Thursday that his church and its faithful were holding back the antichrist.
Patriarch Kirill was speaking six weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has forced over 4 million people to flee, killed or injured thousands and left cities and towns destroyed.
While he was not quoted specifically referring to Ukraine, Kirill’s comments backed the Kremlin line on the war by implying that Russia’s actions there were a forced response to a foreign aggressor.
“Why did external forces rise up against the Russian lands? “Why do they strive to destroy, divide, set brother against brother?” Kirill was quoted by Russia’s RIA news agency as saying.
The Kremlin says the invasion is a special operation to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine, arguments Ukraine and Western governments reject as a false pretext for an invasion.
Kirill, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, has defended Russia’s actions and sees the war as a clash with a Western liberal culture he considers decadent, in particular in its acceptance of homosexuality.
That stance has angered some within the Orthodox Church and in affiliated churches abroad.
Referring to a New Testament text in which intensifying conflict between good and evil culminates in the second coming of Christ, Kirill said “the Book of Revelation mentions a certain force that holds back the coming into the world of the antichrist.”
“Some thought it is the church that is holding this back, and that is correct,” he was quoted as saying.
“The church keeps people from losing their bearings in life … it is the Orthodox faith, living and acting in the Orthodox church – this is the force that holds back (the antichrist).”
Kirill said it was no coincidence that “at this force today are aimed all the sharp arrows of all those who seek to compromise the church, to divide and tear it from the people,” according to RIA.
(Reporting by Peter Hobson, editing by Mark Trevelyan and Jonathan Oatis)