The Russian Orthodox Church leader that Pope Francis has warned against becoming “Putin’s altar boy” is being targeted in the latest wave of economic sanctions that the European Union is preparing to unleash against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
Patriarch Kirill was identified in an EU document viewed by the AFP Wednesday as “a long-time ally of President Vladimir Putin who has become one of the most prominent supporters” of Russia’s bloody war in Ukraine.
A phased-in Russian oil embargo and sanctions against the family members of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov are also part of the economic measures that the EU is proposing to implement, the AFP added.
The proposed sanctions come after a spokesperson for the Russian Orthodox Church last month said “the imposition of sanctions on religious leaders is nonsense, the rejection of common sense,” the Catholic News Agency reports.
Catholic bishops and cardinals in Poland, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg reportedly have urged Kirill to denounce the Ukraine war.
But Pope Francis revealed in an interview Tuesday he had a 40-minute talk by video with Kirill on March 16 – half of which he says Kirill spent reading from a sheet of paper “with all the justifications for the war”.
“We [the pope and Kirill] are pastors of the same people of God. That is why we have to seek paths of peace, to cease the fire of weapons,” Francis told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper, according to Reuters. “The patriarch cannot become Putin’s altar boy.”
Recently, Kirill blessed the Russian soldiers who are invading Ukraine at a lavish service.
“We need to be very strong. When I say ‘we,’ I mean the armed forces first and foremost,” Kirill said.
And Kirill was quoted as saying, “Russia has never attacked anyone.”
“It is amazing that a big and powerful country never attacked anyone – only defended its borders,” Kirill said in a Tuesday sermon.
Fox News’ Lauren Green contributed to this report.