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‘For Putin, the Church is Merely Another Tool of Power’

In this enlightening article, former Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo discusses Father Oleg Sknar, a Ukrainian Orthodox priest who is ministering to his flock in Kyiv even in the midst of the Russian invasion. Father Oleg was the first Ukrainian cleric to sign the Tomos of Autocephaly granted to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on January 6, 2019. His All-Holiness’ Tomos gave the Orthodox Church in Ukraine independence from the Moscow Patriarchate.

In 2015, recounts Pompeo, Father Oleg “opened his church to provide medical care for Ukrainians who had fought and been injured in the freedom efforts in the city center of Kyiv.” At that time, Russian Orthodox Church leaders threatened Father Oleg’s life, warning him that he would be “held to account” if he aided Ukrainians who were fighting against the Russian puppet regime.

Pompeo noted that for Putin, the Russian Orthodox Church is just a political tool for the spread of propaganda and fear of the Russian political regime. “Putin,” writes Pompeo, “has used the church as a political cudgel to build on his imperialist agenda and truly faithful Christians wanted none of this — they wanted to worship the Lord, not Putin.”

It was in an effort to make it possible for Ukrainian Orthodox Christians to worship the Lord, not Putin, that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew made the courageous and far-seeing decision to grant Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, when on January 6, 2019, His All-Holiness signed the Tomos of Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, formally establishing the world’s fifteenth autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Michael R. Pompeo served as Secretary of State of the United States from 2018 to 2021. During his tenure as Secretary of State, on November 17, 2020 Pompeo visited the Phanar and met with His All-Holiness, the first such meeting ever by a sitting Republican Secretary of State. Under the auspices of Secretary Pompeo, the United States Department of State hosted a Ministerial for the Advancement of Religious Freedom in Washington, DC, with over 1,000 representatives from around the world in attendance. On September 24, 2020, Pompeo also met with His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America to discuss issues involving the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus. Pompeo was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Founders Dinner of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation for the Sacred See of Saint Andrew in New York City on October 29, 2021, in the presence of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

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