September 1, 2022
STATEMENT By His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel
of Montreal and Canada
Over recent months, since the day that the land of Kievan Rus, where by Divine Providence Russian Orthodoxy was born, and so in fact was the Russian Sovereignty itself, military actions commenced, I was asked on more than one occasion to answer questions by journalists regarding my personal opinion towards the internecine strife in this region. I will note right away that I refer to this as an internecine conflict, thereby clearly expressing my attitude towards these events. As a reminder, since 2014, at each divine service we pray for “the suffering Ukrainian land,” and now, we pray for the halt to military actions, praying that peace be restored between the fraternal peoples.
In a recent interview posted on pravoslavie.ru, I confidently, without fear of repetition, said the following words, verbatim: “As Christians, we must understand: political contradictions cannot be allowed to divide us. We are all united in Christ through our faith. We should understand, we must understand, in any case, that we are one nation, and all of these divisions are purely of a political character. We cannot allow these passions to rule over us.”
To my great chagrin, in Canada, the territory of the Canadian Diocese I am entrusted with, local publications in both English and French languages, citing passages from my interviews, completely ignored that which is the voice of the Church. But dissatisfaction was evoked by my words: “In the West there is a favored expression that Russia attacked Ukraine ‘without provocation.’ As a matter of fact, this is a distortion of the truth: Russia undertook these measures for the protection of the Russian-speaking populace of Donbass, which has endured shelling over the course of 8 years. If America, or any other Western nation, found itself in such a situation, they would take exactly the same measures, and no one would condemn them.”
I also added that the radical Ukrainian nationalists “act not in a Christian manner, but by demonic instigation—there is no other way to call the absolutely savage, unacceptable nationalism which they profess.” On the basis of these words, some journalists came to the conclusion that I “support or justify the war against Ukraine.” I will not enter into a polemical discussion with the authors of these words and in fact I denounce their deceit. In fact, more than half of the Canadian readers precisely agree with my point of view, judging by their commentary, and further I would add that I expressed my personal opinion and in no way the official position of our Synod of Bishops.
My point of view on the matter remains unchanged.
The Holy Orthodox Church, from the lips of the Pre-Eminent Apostle Paul, who, as it is said “had the mind of Christ,” teaches his flock: “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). This represents the opinion of the Church of Christ on the matter of the so-called “national question.”
First and foremost, we as the Church must tend to the spiritual aspect of life, not politics. We may consider ourselves to be Russians or Ukrainians, but we must remember that there can be no divisions, and that we are one brotherly people, so we must overcome political differences and conflicts, which have no place in the Church.