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German President’s speech to the WCC on the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church

Mission of to Karlsruhe

F. Steinmeier first stressed that he is happy that the first assembly of the World Council of Churches in Europe after 50 years is being held in Germany.

He stressed Germany’s position that anti-Semitism always remains an ideology of hatred and extremism and that the security of the Jewish community in Germany and around the world is a priority for all Churches.

He then referred to the war being waged in Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

As he stressed, the leadership of the Orthodox Church of Russia justifies and supports the war of its political leadership in Ukraine.

“The heads of the Russian Orthodox Church are currently leading their members and their entire church down a dangerous and indeed blasphemous path that goes against all that they believe. They are justifying a war of aggression against Ukraine – against their own and our own brothers and sisters in the faith.

We have to speak out, also here in this room, in this Assembly, against this propaganda targeting the freedom and rights of the citizens of another country, this nationalism, which arbitrarily claims that a dictatorship’s imperial dreams of hegemony are God’s will.”

The German president continued: “How many women and men and children have become victims of this hatemongering, this hatred, and this criminal violence. Carpet bombings and targeted attacks on civilian buildings, apartment blocks, hospitals, shopping centers, stations, and public spaces. War crimes take place in full view of the world.

Here, today, we cannot remain silent. We must call it by its name. We must denounce it. As a Christian community, we must express our commitment to the dignity and the freedom and the security of the people of Ukraine”.

F. Steinmeier thanked again the delegation of the Church of Ukraine present at the Assembly.

He added that “there are representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church here today. The fact that they are here is not something we should take for granted. I expect this Assembly not to spare them the truth about this brutal war and the criticism of the role of their church.

Yes, time and again Christians are called to be bridge-builders. That is and remains one of our most important tasks. But building bridges requires a willingness on both sides of the river.

A bridge cannot be constructed if one side tears down the pillars that support it. In the run-up to the Assembly, the opinion was expressed that dialogue at least should be made possible. Yes, but the dialogue is not an end in itself. Dialogue must bring to light what is happening. Dialogue must draw attention to injustice, and must identify both victims and perpetrators – and their henchmen.

Yet dialogue that does not move beyond pious wishes and vague generalizations can, in the worst case, become a platform for vindication and propaganda. What sort of dialogue will we engage in here? That is the choice this Assembly has to make, and Germany’s stance – I am speaking here also on behalf of the Federal Government – is clear”.

The German president went on to say that there are hundreds of Russian Orthodox priests have engaged in public resistance and taken a stand against the war despite the threats by Putin’s regime.

“I address these brave individuals, whose example reminds us of the responsibility of the religions for peace: even though you cannot attend this Assembly and speak to us today, we hear you! May your voice also find an echo in this Assembly.”

Referring again to the leadership of the Russian Church, he stressed that it has aligned itself with the crimes of the war against Ukraine.

He noted that this totalitarian ideology, disguised as theology, has led to the complete or partial destruction of so many religious sites on Ukrainian territory.

“Every Christian who still has his faith, his mind, and his sanity, cannot see the will of God in all this,” he stressed.