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Russian Orthodox Church labels pacifism a heresy “incompatible” with Orthodox faith

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An ecclesiastical court of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has declared pacifism to be a heresy incompatible with its teachings, according to a report by media outlet Sota citing documents in a case on the defrocking of priest Ioann Burdin, who spoke out against the invasion of Ukraine. In a sermon, Burdin said: “we, Christians, dare not stand aside when a brother kills a brother, a Christian kills a Christian.”

Ioann Burdin
Ioann Burdin

The publication wrote that Burdin had been trying to leave the Russian Orthodox Church and join the Bulgarian Orthodox Church since last fall, but was warned that “if [you] try to leave the Russian Orthodox Church, you might be banned and stripped of your ministry. Apparently no one gets to leave the ROC.”

Burdin regardlessly submitted an official request to transfer. The priest was banned from ministry on March 16, with a church trial being scheduled for June 16. He was also told that the ROC's decision to disassociate from the priest was made personally by Patriarch Kirill, wrote Sota.

“Pacifism is not compatible with the actual teaching of the Orthodox Church.”

The publication studied the case files, which said that pacifism was a concept alien to the current teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church.

“...pacifism, which priest Burdin tries to use as a cover against accusations against him, is not compatible with the actual teaching of the Orthodox Church, in particular that set out in the Fundamentals of the Social Concept. Pacifism has been present in heretical doctrines at various times in Church history…”

The case files also indicate that church officials accused Burdin of “pseudo-pacifism.” In particular, they said that Burdin criticized the Russian authorities, as opposed to those of Ukraine, and kept silent about “the auto-da-fé arranged in his hometown of Odesa,” referring to the clashes in Odesa in 2014, which resulted in the deaths of 48 people, 46 of whom were anti-Maidan and pro-Russian activists. 42 of the victims died in the Trade Unions House fire.

The case files also indicate that the church court directly admitted the ROC's political affiliations.

“Whosoever shall insult the King, or a ruler, contrary to what is right, let him suffer punishment.”
“His pacifism is imaginary, one-sided, [and] his anti-Russian political position – unacceptable in our country – is clearly visible. What’s important to stress, [his position is] radically divergent from the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is undoubtedly known to him.”

The court also wrote that Burdin has violated numerous canonical rules, all relating to the obedience of authority.

“Canon 84 of the Holy Apostles: ‘Whosoever shall insult the King, or a ruler, contrary to what is right, let him suffer punishment. If he be a clergyman, let him be deposed; if a layman, excommunicated.’”

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