The Russian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with an estimated 150 million members, accounting for more than half of the world’s Orthodox Christians.
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Many Orthodox leaders have openly criticized Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch the war, in a contrast to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill’s continuing tacit support.
Pope Francis has sought to strengthen Catholic-Orthodox ties since his election in 2013.
COMMENTARY: The current tensions bring to a head the same issues that were present in 2014, when Pope Francis refused to criticize Putin’s aggression.
Pope Francis at the General Audience: ‘We Can all Learn from the Perseverance of the Russian Pilgrim’
The speech was the 30th reflection in his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.
NEWS ANALYSIS: Pope Francis cautions Catholics not to ‘meddle’ in ecclesiological conflict between the Orthodox Church of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church.
“The Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t recognize those decisions and won’t fulfill them,” Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev said in Belarus after a meeting of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The 14th plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches was held Sept. 15-22.
The new anti-evangelism law carries fines up to $780 for an individual and $15,500 for an organization. Foreign visitors who violate the law face deportation.