In a public statement of March 2 and in a private letter of March 3 on the occasion of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, I expressed, as Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Freiburg /Switzerland, to Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), Director of the Department of Ecclesiastical External Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow and Full Professor of the Faculty since 2011, my expectation that he will use his ecclesiastical and political influence, to publicly and unequivocally condemn the military invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which is contrary to international law, publicly and unequivocally call on President Putin to immediately withdraw Russian troops, and publicly and unequivocally commit to a solution to the conflict based on dialogue, on the basis of international law and human rights.
In a letter dated March 3, Metropolitan Hilarion informed me that he and his Church have been engaged in the humanitarian field, especially since 2014, in the context of the Ukrainian conflict, and that they are doing everything possible to help people in need and end the conflict. However, since this does not correspond to what the faculty expects of him at this time, he considers it appropriate to suspend his position as full professor, while personally thanking me and the faculty for the many years of collaboration fruitful.
As dean of the faculty, I am disappointed that Metropolitan Hilarion, a long-time tenured professor in our faculty, does not feel able to oppose Russia’s blatant violation of international law. I am particularly shocked by the public statements of the highest authority of the Patriarchate of Moscow regarding Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. The sermons of February 27 and March 6 in which Patriarch Kirill I justifies Russia’s war against Ukraine by calling it a “metaphysical fight” are outrageous from a theological and political point of view. As Metropolitan Hilarion seems, by his silence, to endorse the position of his Patriarch, I declare that the post of full professor granted to him in 2011 is suspended until further notice. This in no way affects the thanks for the collaboration we have had.
The reason for this decision is obvious: as too often in the history of Christianity, a Church leadership does not dare to ask the question “by what right?” when the rulers of its own people set in motion a machine of aggressive war against a brother people, whether for tactical-diplomatic considerations or for reasons of ideological connivance. Since the catastrophe of the First World War, nationalism, a perversion of the biblical idea of election, has often become a new political religion. The peoples of Europe, who in 1815 considered themselves in the manifesto of the “Holy Alliance” as “one Christian nation of brothers”, have so far not been able to permanently overcome the pathology of nationalism. Churches and theologies are not innocent in this process.
Prophetic courage is represented in today’s Russia by simple laity, priests and deacons or by civil society actors who publicly protest against Putin’s war, when they have more to fear than a leadership of the Church who let themselves be courted by him. The Faculty of Theology of Friborg will continue to be a place of understanding and encounter with and between the different Churches of Orthodoxy. But silence, when it comes to speaking loud and clear, is not part of the prophetic tradition of Christianity, as it is so prominent for our faculty.
Teacher. Dr. Dr. Dr. h.c. Mariano Delgado
Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Friborg
Freiburg, March 8, 2022