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Catholic Herald: Putin presser patriarken til kanten

21. feb. 2015

Geraldine Fagan skriver i en kommantar hos Catholic Herald bl.a.:

The Patriarch of Moscow laid the intellectual groundwork for Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. But now he is paying an exceedingly heavy price

Russia has done shocking things in Ukraine – but, with a display of nerve that should surprise no one, it presents its designs on that country as the legitimate resurgence of an Orthodox Christian civilisation.

President Vladimir Putin opened his March 2014 speech marking Crimea’s annexation by reminding his Kremlin audience that the Black Sea peninsula was where Grand Prince Vladimir of Rus was baptised in 988 AD. “His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilisation and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus,” he boldly declared.

In other words, Putin wants us to believe that the issue that sparked the Ukraine crisis – whether to sign an association agreement with the European Union – was not just a question of trade, but a choice between civilisations. He adopted a similar tactic during the winter of 2011-12, when tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets to demand democratic accountability. There was only one way he could go and still retain power: authoritarianism. And in order to legitimise it, he resorted to the notion of Russia as a separate, spiritually purer Orthodox civilisation.


Catholics and Protestants are already reporting difficulties in the pro-Moscow areas. Protestant communities are particularly strong in south-east Ukraine, following a 19th-century spiritual revival among German settlers originally invited there by Catherine the Great. In the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, Protestants report confiscations of their churches as well as the Donetsk Christian University, previously among the largest Protestant institutions of higher education in the former USSR. In one particularly grave incident in June 2014, four Pentecostal men known for their active mission work were kidnapped by separatists in Slavyansk and later found shot dead, their bodies showing signs of severe beatings.

A small Catholic convent founded 18 years ago in the Crimean city of Simferopol was forced to close in late 2014, according to Forum 18 News Service. The convent’s three Franciscan nuns – citizens of Poland and Ukraine – were denied extensions to their residency permits. Six of the peninsula’s 12 Roman Catholic priests had similarly been forced out by the end of last year. Forum 18 also reports that only one of Crimea’s five Eastern Rite Catholic parishes currently has a priest. Being citizens of Ukraine, their seven priests may spend only 90 days at a time on Russian territory before leaving the country for a further 90 days.

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