Lithuania calls for sanctions against Russian Patriarch Kirill


Eastern Europe


Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Photo EPA, Russian Defense Ministry Press Service

Lithuania proposed to implement sanctions against the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill for supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabrielius Landsbergis, asked the European Union to act against the Russian Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, Laikmetis reports. The news was announced first by the Lithuanian news portal 15min on Sunday.

Currently, the idea remains a proposal. "We have no final answers as to whether it will be possible to do so", Landsbergis said.

In addition, the minister points out that the Lithuanian government participates in consultations about a possible secession of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church from the Moscow patriarchate. However, he stresses that this is a decision the Church has to make for itself.

The Lithuanian Orthodox Church is one of the nine traditional religious communities in Lithuania. The community is led by Metropolitan Inokentijus, the Orthodox Archbishop of Vilnius and Lithuania.

Russian Church brushes idea of sanctions away

In addition, Ukrainian politician Hanna Hopko calls for sanctions as well. She does so in an opinion article, which is published by Dutch daily de Volkskrant, among others. She acknowledges that some people say that religious leaders cannot be sanctioned, because they are outside the political order. Yet, in her opinion, patriarch Kirill is part of the Kremlin regime. Thus, he participates in politics. Earlier, Patriarch Kirill openly expressed his support for the war by calling it just and even holy, Hanna Hopko writes. “Therefore, he should not be able to travel freely and proclaim the Kremlin message of hatred everywhere.”

The Russian Orthodox Church brushed the idea of sanctions against Patriarch Kirill away, Invictory reports. "The imposition of sanctions against religious leaders is nonsense, a rejection of common sense", Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media, said.

Not the first time a religious leader is sanctioned

Nevertheless, the idea of imposing sanctions against a religious leader is not completely unheard of, Religion Dispatches reports. For example, the Irani supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has been sanctioned by the United States. The same applies to the Jamaican-based Islamic cleric Abdullah Ibrahim al-Faisal. However, Christian clerics have not been hit by sanctions ever before.

Yet, sanctions against clerics are mainly symbolic gestures. In practice, their consequences would be limited, Religion Dispatches writes.



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