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Ukrainian Catholic bishop reacts to rebellion in Russia

Mercenary fighters with the private Wagner Group stand on a tank outside a local circus near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, June 24, 2023. (OSV News photo / Reuters, Stringer)

(OSV News) — While the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church backed President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to put down a military rebellion, a Catholic bishop in Ukraine warned current events presented “both hope and danger” for his own country.

“Today, when our brothers are fighting and dying on the fronts, selflessly fulfilling their duty, and when the enemies are making every effort to destroy Russia, any attempt to sow discord in our country is the greatest crime, with no justification,” Patriarch Kirill said in a national message June 24. The Orthodox leader spoke as troops from the Wagner Group, a mercenary force, were advancing toward Moscow, after seizing the strategic southern city of Rostov-on-Don. By late evening June 24, The Associated Press reported that the Wagner Group’s boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed he had halted his fighters and they were turning back.

Meanwhile, a Catholic bishop in Ukraine told OSV News that the Wagner Group’s forces could represent an even worse threat to his country, and he urged Catholics worldwide to pray God would “lead events in a good direction.” “We are in shock — no one foresaw such a turn of events, just as no one expected war a year ago,” said Auxiliary Bishop Jan Sobilo of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhya said in a June 24 interview.

“The fact that some of Russia’s armed forces are now taking action against their own Defense Ministry offers hope for Ukraine — that we could win this war sooner than we thought,” the bishop said. “But while any country becomes momentarily weaker when confronted with internal problems, there are also grave dangers of destabilization — and where there’s destabilization, unforeseen processes could be set in motion.”

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