Apr 22, 2022 - World

Zelensky condemns Russia's rejection of Orthodox Easter truce

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking during a press conference in Kyiv on April 21.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking during a press conference in Kyiv on April 21. Photo: Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an address denounced Russia's rejection of a proposed truce for the upcoming Orthodox Christian Easter weekend, saying it "shows very well how the leaders of [Russia] actually treat the Christian faith."

Why it matters: Russia earlier this week rejected a proposal from the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to establish a four-day ceasefire in Ukraine to mark the Eastern Orthodox Holy Week and to allow civilians to evacuate parts of the country.

What they're saying: "Unfortunately, Russia rejected the proposal to establish an Easter truce," Zelensky said in the address posted on the presidential website overnight, though it was unclear if he was referring to the UN's proposal or a separate one.

  • "This shows very well how the leaders of this state actually treat the Christian faith, one of the most joyful and important holidays," he added. "But we keep our hope. Hope for peace, hope that life will overcome death."
  • "Tomorrow is Good Friday for Eastern Christians. The most sorrowful day of the year. A day when everything you can do in life will weigh less than prayer. Except for one... defending the Homeland, defending brothers-in-arms in battle."

The World Council of Churches, a letter published Tuesday, called on Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church who has backed Russia's invasion of Ukraine, to call for an Easter ceasefire.

  • "I am aware that it is not in your power and authority to stop the war or to influence those who have such powers of decisions. But the faithful are waiting for a comforting word from Your Holiness," Rev. Ioan Sauca, a Romanian Orthodox priest and acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches, wrote in the letter.
  • "They think that if you come out with a public statement and request, as the spiritual father of so many millions of Orthodox in both Russia and Ukraine, that might have an impact," Sauca added.

The big picture: The World Council of Churches has recently faced internal pressure from some of its members to expel the Russian Orthodox Church from its ranks over its support of the invasion.

  • Kirill was criticized by several religious authorities around the world after publicly supporting the war in March, framing it as a struggle against sin and a rejection of Western values, per the National Catholic Reporter.
  • His support of the war has exacerbated divides within the Orthodox Church, the New York Times reported.

Go deeper: The latest on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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