The head of the powerful Russian Orthodox Church today described Russians who stopped serving their homeland as “internal enemies” and patriotism as one of the “greatest virtues,” state news agency Ria reported.
Patriarch Kirill is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and has strongly supported the war in Ukraine, in which tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions have fled their homes.
“Today our prayers are directed to our homeland, which the Lord can protect from all external and internal enemies, from all those who do not associate their lives with Russia, who are ready to make money in Russia, but were never ready to serve the homeland,” Kirill said in his sermon.
“We must instill in the world, and through the ecclesiastical sermon, love for the homeland, which is the greatest virtue,” he said in his sermon from the Archangel’s Cathedral inside the Kremlin compound in central Moscow.
Patriarch Kirill did not elaborate, but his remarks showed in part to target Russians who avoid conscription, sometimes fleeing abroad to avoid serving what Putin calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Putin often uses the Orthodox Church and its rich traditions to foster a sense of national pride and patriotism among Russians. Last week he attended Easter mass holding a candle and making his cross several times.
Putin, who is strongly supported by Patriarch Kirill, sees Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine as a defensive rebuff against what they see as an aggressive and decaying West that wants to destroy Russia and its culture.
Ukraine says Russia is waging an unprovoked war of aggression aimed at seizing territory and crushing its independence.