Germany's President, Frank Steinmeier, has taken aim at Russia as he stressed that the leadership of the Orthodox Church of Russia justifies and supports the war of his country's political leadership in Ukraine.
Steinmeier attended the first day of the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe on Aug. 31 evoking criticism for his remarks from the Russian church, for interference.
He said he was happy that the first assembly of the World Council of Churches in Europe after 50 years was being held in Germany.
"The heads of the Russian Orthodox Church are currently leading their members and their entire church down a dangerous and indeed blasphemous path that goes against all that they believe," said the German leader.
The Russian Orthodox Church is the biggest Orthodox church in the WCC.
The WCC represents over 580 million Christians and includes most of the world's Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, and many United and Independent churches..
Referring to the Russian Orthodox Church Steinmeier said, "They are justifying a war of aggression against Ukraine – against their own and our own brothers and sisters in the faith."
He noted, "We have to speak out, also here in this room, in this Assembly, against this propaganda targeting the freedom and rights of the citizens of another country, this nationalism, which arbitrarily claims that a dictatorship's imperial dreams of hegemony are God's will."
The German president said, "How many women, men and children have become victims of this hatemongering, hatred, and criminal violence?
"Carpet bombings targeted attacks on civilian buildings, apartment blocks, hospitals, shopping centers, stations, and public spaces. War crimes take place in full view of the world."
"Here, today, we cannot remain silent. We must call it by its name. We must denounce it. As a Christian community, we must express our commitment to the dignity and the freedom and the security of the people of Ukraine."
The Russian Orthodox Church hit back, however, in a statement from the Department for External Church Relations chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk.
"The President of Germany's address contained completely unsubstantiated accusations fully ignoring all the humanitarian efforts the Moscow Patriarchate made in the context of the confrontation in Ukraine as well as an outright demand that the WCC Assembly should condemn the Russian Orthodox Church," said Anthony.
The Russian church leader said he believes Steinmeier's position "is an example of rude pressure made by a high-ranking representative of state power on the oldest inter-Christian organization.
"It is interference in the internal affairs of the World Council of Churches, an attempt to question the peace-making and politically neutral nature of its work."