Russian Orthodox church absolves Russian soldiers dying in Ukraine

Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill is a key Putin ally who backs the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

  Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, conducts a service on Orthodox Christmas at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, Russia January 6, 2018. (photo credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS)
Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, conducts a service on Orthodox Christmas at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, Russia January 6, 2018.
(photo credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS)

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has said that Russian soldiers who die in the war against Ukraine will be cleansed of all their sins, days after President Vladimir Putin ordered the country's first mobilization since World War Two.

Patriarch Kirill is a key Putin ally and backer of the invasion. He has previously criticized those who oppose the war and called on Russians to rally round the Kremlin.

"Many are dying on the fields of internecine warfare," Kirill, 75, said in his first Sunday address since the mobilization order.

"The Church prays that this battle will end as soon as possible, so that as few brothers as possible will kill each other in this fratricidal war."

Patriarch Kirill

"But at the same time, the Church realizes that if somebody, driven by a sense of duty and the need to fulfill their oath ... goes to do what their duty calls of them, and if a person dies in the performance of this duty, then they have undoubtedly committed an act equivalent to sacrifice. They will have sacrificed themselves for others. And therefore, we believe that this sacrifice washes away all the sins that a person has committed."

 Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia conducts a service in Moscow (credit: Patriarchal Press Service/Oleg Varaov/Handout via REUTERS) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia conducts a service in Moscow (credit: Patriarchal Press Service/Oleg Varaov/Handout via REUTERS)

Russia announces mobilization

Russia says it is calling up some 300,000 additional troops to fight in Ukraine, in a mobilization drive that has stoked public anger, led to an exodus of military-age men and triggered protests across the country.

Kirill's support for the war in Ukraine has deepened a rift between the Russian branch of the Orthodox Church and other wings of Orthodoxy around the world. Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, has been a vocal opponent of the war, and has appeared to scold Kirill's position in several public addresses, including earlier this month when he said God does not support war.