Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia leads the Orthodox Christmas service at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia, January 6, 2023. (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, a staunch supporter of President Vladimir Putin, worked for Soviet intelligence services when he lived in Switzerland in the 1970s, Swiss newspapers reported, citing declassified files.
According to the Sonntagszeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers, the Swiss police file on what is now the spiritual head of the Russian Orthodox Church “confirms that ‘Monsignor Kirill’, as he is called in this document, worked for the KGB.”
The two newspapers claim to have had access to the file in the Swiss national archives.
Kirill, now an ardent supporter of Putin’s war in Ukraine, lived in Geneva in the early 1970s, officially as the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church at the Ecumenical Council of Churches (COE). ).
Under the code name “Mikhailov,” Kirill’s mission was to influence the Council, already infiltrated by the KGB, according to the documents.
In those same years, a young Putin began his career in the KGB, which he joined in 1975.
Russian President Vladimir Putin presents flowers during a ceremony to award the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle the First Called to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Moscow, Russia, November 20, 2021. (Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/REUTERS )
The Russian Orthodox Church has refused to comment on Kirill’s spying activity in Geneva, while the COE said it had no information on the case, Swiss newspapers reported.
The objective of the Soviets was to make that institution in Geneva denounce the United States and its allies and moderate their criticism of the lack of religious freedom in the Soviet Union, according to the newspapers.
A nephew of the patriarch, Mikhail Gundyaev, who replaced Kirill as representative of the Moscow Patriarchate in Geneva, told Le Matin Dimanche that his uncle “was not an agent, despite being under the ‘strict control’ of the KGB.”
And this, he insisted, “did not affect the sincerity of his commitment to ecumenical work with other churches.”
Gundyaev also insisted that his uncle had a special appreciation for Switzerland.
Kirill had visited the wealthy Alpine nation at least 43 times, the newspaper reported.
Patriarch Kirill leads a function to consecrate the renovated Cathedral of the Nativity of the Holy Mother of God in Rostov-on-Don, Russia October 27, 2019. (REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov/File Photo=
Among other things, he was passionate about skiing, it is even said that he broke his leg on the Swiss slopes in 2007.
“Between religious diplomacy, espionage and finance, Kirill has been continually drawn to the Alps and the shores of Lake Geneva,” Le Matin Dimanche said.
“I have special feelings for your country,” said the patriarch himself in 2019 when receiving the president of the Upper House of the Swiss Parliament.
“Of all the countries in the world,” he said, “it is possibly the one I have visited the most times.”
Unlike his grandfather, a priest who was a victim of Stalin’s repressions, Kirill -his civilian name is Vladimir Gundiayev- found his place in the Church apparatus in Soviet times, subjected to the communist regime. For this reason, his close ties to the KGB, which relied on the ecclesiastical institution to spy on the faithful, have been suspected for a long time.
In 1965, at the age of 19, he entered the seminary in his hometown of Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) and became a monk four years later.
He took up his first diplomatic post since 1971 and in 1989 headed the foreign affairs department, the equivalent of a foreign affairs ministry.
Kirill has been responsible for Russian Orthodox Christians since 2009 and put his church at the service of Putin, with whom he shares his ambition for a conservative, strong and imperial Russia, and supported Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.
Patriarch Kirill attends an annual meeting of the Defense Ministry Board in Moscow, December 21, 2022. The religious leader is a staunch supporter of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS)
For many years, the religious leader has not hesitated to show himself blessing weapons and missiles, nor to justify the repression of the opposition and the independent media. He, like Putin, also sees Ukraine and Belarus as “brother” countries that should have remained under Moscow’s rule, and not as different nations.
The patriarch has multiplied statements of support for the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
On February 27, three days after the start of hostilities, Kirill described critics of Russian ambitions in the neighboring country as “forces of evil”. In April, he called on the Russians to “stand together” to fight “enemies outside and inside.”
Kirill, who in 2009 succeeded the late Patriarch Alexis – who had rebuilt the Church after the fall of the USSR and its atheist system – has turned Russian Orthodoxy into a true political-religious machine at the service of the Kremlin.
In 2012, Kirill proclaimed that Putin’s reign is “a miracle from God” after the post-Soviet crisis of the 1990s.
For him, the large demonstrations after the arrest in January 2021 of the opponent Alexei Navalny revealed a “crisis within the young generation”
Kirill is also a detractor of homosexuality and praises the law desired by Putin that prohibits “the propaganda of homosexuality to minors”, a text considered by NGOs as a homophobic instrument.
(With information from AFP)
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