God must never be held hostage to human thirst for power

the evil of war

Pope Francis says God must never “be held hostage to the human thirst for power”, and religion must never be used to justify the “evil” of war.

An implicit criticism of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who backs the invasion of Ukraine and has boycotted a conference of faith leaders, the Pope made his views plain in Kazakhstan, at the opening of the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

He challenged delegations to unite in condemning war.

“God does not guide religions towards war,” he told Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and leaders of other faiths.

“God is peace. He guides us always in the way of peace, never that of war.”

“Let us commit ourselves, then, even more to insisting on the need for resolving conflicts not by the inconclusive means of power, with arms and threats, but by the only means blessed by heaven and worthy of man: encounter, dialogue and patient negotiations.”

The “viruses” of hate and terrorism would not be eradicated without first wiping out injustice and poverty, he pointed out.

Furthermore, religious freedom is essential for peaceful coexistence in any society. No creed has a right to coerce others to convert, he said.

Among those at the conference was Metropolitan Anthony (pictured). He attended on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill. The Russian Orthodox Church firmly backs Russia’s invasion.

Reading a prepared speech from Kirill, Anthony acknowledged the world’s major concerns.

Besides the pandemic, there are food, economic and energy concerns, he read on Kirill’s behalf.

These are all problems “caused by attempts to build a world without moral values,” Anthony relayed.

“The possibility of dialogue in the current difficult circumstances is a very precious resource, an important step toward the solution of existing problems.”

Kirill is confident “the peaceful dialogue of religious leaders, coupled with their influence on people’s minds and hearts, can and must contribute to overcoming the challenges of our time, harmonising international relations and establishing a just world order.”

However, he justifies Russia’s invasion on spiritual and ideological grounds. It’s a “metaphysical” battle with the West, Anthony explained.

Kirill therefore defends it on religious grounds as an opposition to western secularism.

Francis sees this stance as indefensible. Faith cannot justify the evil of war, he stressed.

“May we never justify violence. May we never allow the sacred to be exploited by the profane,” he told the conference.

“The sacred must never be a prop for power, nor power a prop for the sacred!”

Later, he had a private talk with Metropolitan Anthony.

Francis’s remark earlier this year that Kirill shouldn’t be Putin’s “altar boy” hasn’t helped, Anthony said after their talk. It hurt efforts toward building Christian unity.

His meeting with Francis was “very cordial” though, Anthony says.

Besides discussing the Russian Orthodox community in Kazakhstan, they discussed arranging a meeting between Francis and Kirill.

They were scheduled to meet in Jerusalem in June. The Vatican cancelled the meeting, however. It was concerned about possible diplomatic fallout given Kirill’s support of the war.


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