By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – The European Union canceled plans to impose sanctions against Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill after Hungary threatened to veto the bloc’s latest round of measures against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had made clear he would not support the EU’s 6th package of sanctions as long as Kirill, 75, remained on the list of punished individuals.
Several representatives of the European People’s Party, the leading conservative grouping in the European Parliament, condemned Orban for not including Kirill in the package.
Orbán“has vetoed sanctioning the Russian warmonger” who “backed [Russian President] Putin’s war on the grounds that it protects the people of Donbas from gay marches,” noted Polish European legislator Radosław Sikorski, an EPP member.
“That’s not conservatism, Viktor, but nastiness. “I’m glad we chucked you out of the EPP,” he added in a message on the social media site Twitter. “You belong in United Russia.”
There was frustration among diplomats that EU-member Hungary held up the latest round of sanctions for nearly a month.
However, Hungary’s government said it had warned the EU’s executive European Commission that it would not accept sanctions against religious leaders.
Tristan Azbej, Hungary’s state secretary for aiding persecuted Christians, suggested sanctions would bring hardship to the Russian Orthodox Church “as it has 160 million believers and 40,000 priests worldwide.“
It would be an “insane” idea to prohibit a patriarch from entering the EU as it would isolate the faithful from their religious leader. “This idea is harmful and does not lead to reconciliation,” Tristan added.
The government also suggested that targeting the patriarch could have repercussions for the religious freedom of ethnic Hungarians in, for instance, Russian areas. Critics say Orbán did not want to upset Russian President Vladimir Putin as it would endanger multi-billion dollar deals, including those related to energy.
Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church has thanked Hungary for not supporting European Union sanctions against the Russian Orthodox Church leader.
Under the EU’s plan, Kirill would face a freeze on his assets estimated at $4 billion, though the patriarch has not publicly recognized those figures. Additionally, he would not be allowed to enter the 27-nation EU.
Other sanctions will remain in place, including limiting Russian oil imports to 90 percent.
Additionally, Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, will be cut off from the Swift payment system, which allows the rapid transfer of money across borders.
And there will be restrictions on individuals who the EU claims are “responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.”
Also, three more Russian state-owned broadcasters will be banned inside the EU despite critics saying it will limit press freedom and freedom of expression.
If you are interested in articles produced by Worthy News, please check out our FREE sydication service available to churches or online Christian ministries. To find out more, visit Worthy Plugins.