Volokolamsk Metropolitan Antony (Sevryuk), who in his capacity as chairman of the Department for External Church Relations represents the Russian Orthodox Church at the WCC Assembly in Karlsruhe, reacted to the speech of German Federal President Steinmeier at the opening of the forum.
In his speech, the president called on the participants to follow their Christian conscience and denounce the injustice that is being done in Ukraine. He openly stated that “the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church are currently leading their believers and their entire church down a terrible, blasphemous path that is downright hostile to the faith.” He drew a parallel with the state of the German churches after the Second World War, which were accepted to participate in the World Council of Churches without avoiding questions about the crimes committed by the Germans during the war. Steinmeier called on the participants to condemn the Russian Church’s support for the war against Ukraine, justifying it with theological arguments. According to him, dialogue cannot be an end in itself and it is only possible if both parties want it and contribute to it. Dialogue without justice is a platform for propaganda, the German president was categorical.
His speech unpleasantly surprised the Russian delegation, for whom the participation in the WCC forum in Germany is the first way out of the international isolation of the Russian Orthodox Church after the start of the war against Ukraine. H. Eminence Antony (Sevryuk), who took over the Foreign Department of the Moscow Patriarchate after Metr. Hilarion (Alfeev), issued a statement in which he expressed hope that the participants would not listen to the words of the German president and would not condemn the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the “opposition in Ukraine”.
Here is the full text of his reaction:
“On August 31, the President of Germany F.-V. During the opening of the Assembly, Steinmeier addressed the participants in the forum and in his speech questioned the validity of the participation of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the WCC assembly.
The speech of the President of Germany contained baseless accusations, completely ignoring all humanitarian efforts of the Moscow Patriarchate in the context of the opposition in Ukraine, as well as a direct request to the WCC Assembly to condemn the Russian Orthodox Church.
I believe that the position of Mr. Steinmeier is an example of gross pressure exerted by a high-ranking representative of the state on the oldest inter-Christian organization, of interference in the internal affairs of the World Council of Churches and of an attempt to question the peace-making and politically neutral nature of his activity.
It is worth noting that before Mr. President, the Acting General Secretary of the WCC, Prot. Ioan Sauka, on the contrary, noted the importance of the presence of representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate at the assembly, as it corresponds to the very essence of the largest inter-Christian organization, which should contribute to the strengthening of dialogue, peace and mutual understanding.
This publicly expressed position of the leadership of the World Council of Churches, the numerous appeals of the delegates of the WCC Assembly from Germany and other countries to the delegation of the Russian Church show that the accusations of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany against the Church do not have the expected support.
I hope that the World Council of Churches will continue to be an independent platform for dialogue, following in its activities not biased political orders from certain countries, but the goal of promoting peace and harmony.”
Photo of the Department for External Church Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Russian delegation