The head of the Russian Orthodox Church urged Russians not to fear death after some 300,000 reservists were called up to fight in Ukraine.
“Go bravely to fulfill your military duty. And remember that if you lay down your life for your country, you will be with God in his kingdom, glory and eternal life,” Patriarch Kirill, a staunch ally of President Vladimir Putin, said in a sermon at the Zachatyevsky Monastery in Moscow on Wednesday.
Kirill, who has justified the invasion of Ukraine by arguing that Russians and Ukrainians were historically one people, said in his sermon that a person of “true faith” is not afraid of dying.
According to the clergyman, a person becomes “invincible” when he stops fearing death.
“It is the fear of death that drives a warrior from the battlefield, that prompts the weak to commit betrayal and sets brother against brother. But true faith destroys the fear of death,” Kirill pontificated following a liturgy celebrating the birth of the Virgin Mary.
In his remarks to the congregation, Kirill also urged Russians not to view Ukrainians as their enemies.
“We know the kind of danger is hanging over the Ukrainian people,” the religious leader said, claiming that attempts were being made to transform Ukraine into a nation hostile to Russia.
“We must pray today that God strengthens fraternal feelings between the nations of the Holy Rus,” Kirill preached.
Kirill delivered his remarks just hours after the Russian president announced a partial military mobilization — Russia’s biggest call-up since World War II — following a series of devastating military setbacks in Ukraine seven months into the invasion.
Putin’s address to the nation sparked protests against the war in 38 cities and sent prices for air tickets from Moscow soaring above $5,000 for one-way flights as Russian men of military age fled for their lives.