Russian Orthodox Priests Persecuted for Supporting Peace in Ukraine


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Standing in an old Orthodox church in Antalya with a Bible in one hand and a candle in the other, the Rev. Ioann Koval led one of his first services in Turkey after the Russian Orthodox Church leadership decided to defrock him following his prayer for peace in Ukraine.

Last September, when Russia President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists, Moscow Patriarch Kirill required his clergymen to pray for victory. Standing in front of the altar and dozens of his parishioners in one of Moscow’s churches, Koval decided to put the peace above the patriarch’s orders.

“With the word ‘victory’ the prayer acquired a propagandistic meaning, shaping the correct thinking among the parishioners, among the clergy, what they should think about and how they should see these hostilities,” Koval said. “It went against my conscience. I couldn’t submit to this political pressure from the hierarchy.”

In the prayer he recited multiple times, the 45-year-old priest changed just one word, replacing “victory” with “peace” — but it was enough for the church court to remove his priestly rank.

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