WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca meets patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church at the Patriarchal Residence in St Daniel’s Monastery, Moscow, 17 October 2022. Photo: Moscow Patriarchate

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and World Council of Churches (WCC) acting general secretary Fr Ioan Sauca met on 17 October in Moscow, discussing how churches are called to be peacemakers

Also attending the meeting, which took place at the Patriarchal Residence in St Daniel’s Monastery, were Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations; Archimandrite Philaret (Bulekov), DECR vice-chairman; Fr Mikhail Gundyaev, representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to the WCC and international organisations in Geneva; Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), DECR secretary for inter-Christian relations; and Rev. Prof. Dr Benjamin Simon, WCC programme executive for Church Relations.

In addition to a public conversation, Patriarch Kirill and Fr Sauca had their own private audience to discuss Orthodox matters. 

Patriarch Kirill welcomed the guests, saying: “I appreciate that you have come to Russia in these hard times to meet with me and my people and talk about the difficult international relations we live in and are confronted with today which naturally affects our inter-church relations, as well.”

Fr. Sauca thanked the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church for the meeting, and said: “The members of our fellowship are looking with great interest and hope to this visit,” explaining that the WCC delegation came to Moscow because of a mandate from the WCC central committee to visit WCC member churches with “bleeding wounds.” Those visits have included the Middle East—Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine—and then Ukraine, and now Russia.

“You are aware of the concerns” that WCC member churches have with regard to the war between Russia and Ukraine, said Fr Sauca, “and of our statements that condemn the war and violence which we made in our governing bodies – the statements which were elaborated with the participation of delegates from the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Fr Ioan Sauca and patriarch Kirill
World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca and patriarch Kirill. 

Fr Sauca expressed his gratitude for previous correspondence with Patriarch Kirill.

“The reason for coming here is to see what we can do together to build bridges of peace and reconciliation and stop the bloodshed and the danger of nuclear conflagration,” Fr Sauca said. “I think it would very helpful now to make the same statement, saying clearly to the world what you told us, here, today: stop the bloodshed, stop the killing, stop the destruction of infrastructure, look for peace and reconciliation.”

This will help greatly the world and the Orthodox Church as well, Fr Sauca said to Patriarch Kirill, “and will make it clear what is your personal position to the war.”

The patriarch stated that he does not think that any church or Christian can have a supporting position to wars and killings, and that churches “…are called to be peacemakers and to defend and protect life,” he said. “War cannot be holy.”

But when one has to defend himself and his life or to give his life for the lives of the others, things look different, stated Patriarch Kirill. “We have so many examples in our Christian history,” he said. “Yet, as peacemakers we have to make all efforts to bring peace through dialogue and avoid any conflict or violence.”

Patriarch Kirill added that the times in which we live today are very difficult—yet these difficulties do not come from the churches, “but from the political context, and this context constitutes an extreme danger today,” he said.

Churches today “must not add fuel to the fire,” he added. “On the contrary, we must do everything within our power to put out the fire. In this regard, the World Council of Churches has a very important function.”