The head of the Russian Church, Patriarch Kirill, is not hiding his concern.
His comment yesterday, came not in the form of an official speech, statement, or sermon, rather in brief off-the cuff remarks he made while chairing an administrative meeting in Moscow.
Surrounded by his most senior clerics, including Bishop Tikhon, well-known in the West because of his best-selling book, 'Everyday Saints', Kirill spontaneously mentioned how dangerous the current international situation appears to him. His somber expression, voice, and phrasing conveyed gravity, and it was clear that he was speaking his mind plainly:
' ... the international situation is quite tense and has many issues which could lead to great wars ... which are so dangerous in their potential that they could lead to unpredictable consequences. (These conflicts) are now a reality ... (and) could have the most severe impact on the lives of nations.' (Full transcript below)
Kirill has been out of public view for two weeks with a light bout of Covid, so he likely had time to reflect on global developments while recuperating. This was his first public appearance since returning to work yesterday.
Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Anthony, the 'Foreign Minister' of the Russian church, at the meeting.
It is a Russian cultural trait to use understatement to indicate when one is very serious, whereas in the West one would use hyperbole to emphasize a point. This is why President Putin is often misunderstood in his public statements directed at the West. So when the Patriarch says 'could lead to unpredictable consequences', Russians understand that he means 'possible nuclear annihilation', and 'severe impact on the lives of nations', means a similarly cataclysmic developments.
Kirill's presence and influence in Russian society is far greater than religious leaders in the West, the only analogy being the Pope, although that comparison is also imprecise because the Pope does not focus on one particular nation. So much of his public life is filmed, transcribed, and broadcast, that the public gets a rather intimate picture of him as a genuine person.
Transcript of his remarks:
'Your Eminences, Priests, bishops, members of the Synod, I cordially welcome you all to the regular meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Today we have a rather lengthy agenda, consisting of 20 topics, each of which will require our corresponding attention.
In addition, I would like to say that the Holy Synod is meeting at a time that cannot be called calm. And the international situation is quite tense and has many problems which could lead to great wars.
Therefore the task of the church, which has always been and will be a peacemaking force, is that through our prayers and our works, through our positive influence on society, we may defuse tension and influence the easing of conflicts, which are so dangerous by their potential that they may lead to various unpredictable consequences.
Indeed, in a sense, we are experiencing a very important historical moment. And the Church, as a peacemaking force, as a force that has been given the grace of God to reconcile people, to strengthen the spiritual life of people, must today increase its prayer for all the countries that also make up the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, so that the internecine strife, which unfortunately has already become a reality in modern life, will not lead to serious consequences for our countries and for our Church.
Let us pray that the Lord will show His mercy. And we as a church will work to ensure that the conflicts that are now a reality will not lead to consequences that could have the most severe impact on the lives of our nations.
May God grant that divine justice may prevail and that peace may prevail in our hearts.
Let us begin our work.'