‘We’re neighbours’ Archbishop Prowse tells local Russian Orthodox community
We’re neighbours, Archbishop Christopher Prowse has told Canberra’s Russian Orthodox community as it wrestles with different attitudes to the war in Ukraine.
The archpriest of Canberra’s Russian Orthodox church, Alexander Morozow, called the war and its resonance in the community “tragic” and “devastating”. The community is “fragile and conflicted,” he said.
“Many are proud of their Russian heritage but dismayed at what has occurred in the name of the Russian people by the leadership of the Russian nation.”
In response, Catholic Archbishop Christopher Prowse assured Father Morozow of his prayers for peace when he visited St John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Canberra.
“We’re neighbours,” Archbishop Prowse said. “We’re becoming stronger neighbours because of this tragedy, so we pray with your people for these hostilities to cease.”
The Orthodox priest was concerned about the lack of public condemnation of the war by the Church’s hierarchy.
He highlighted a petition signed by nearly 300 Russian Orthodox priests in February, calling for an “immediate ceasefire”. He said church leaders were not among the signatories.
“We, with grief, think of that chasm that will be left to our children and grandchildren to restore normal relationships between Russians and Ukrainians,” the priests’ statement said.
The Russian Orthodox Church, especially its leaders in Moscow, is widely seen as a strong ally of the Kremlin.
“Over the last hundred years, we have prided ourselves as the Church’s conscience,” Father Morozow said. Under communism, the church was not free to express views.
Father Morozow told the Catholic Voice that, though he is not an official spokesman for the Russian Church, he unequivocally condemned the war.
“Once the fighting stops, the long-term tragedy of this war will last for generations. Moreover, we have a common heritage and the cradle of Russian Orthodoxy is Kiev, all the more reason not to go to war,” the priest said.
The Canberra Orthodox parish is part of the Australian and New Zealand Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia.
The diocese started as a temporary church administration after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. Since the fall of communism, it has recognised the Patriarch of Moscow as its ultimate head, though it still operates as an autonomous church body, with its headquarters in New York.
Father Morozow has extended an invitation to all to join the Russian Orthodox community in Narrabundah for Divine Liturgies beginning at 9.30 each Sunday.
“People are very welcome to view our beautiful church and join us in praying for peace.”
Archbishop Prowse has invited the local Russian Orthodox and Catholic Ukrainian priests to join him, the newly appointed Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Balvo, and the clergy of the diocese for the annual Chrism Mass at St Christopher’s Cathedral in Manuka. It takes place at 5 pm on Monday, April 11.