ROME – A Russian Orthodox priest who signed a petition calling for an immediate end to the war in Ukraine has been arrested by Russian authorities amid the country’s ongoing crackdown on anti-war protesters.

Father Ioann Burdin of the Resurrection Church in Russia’s western Kostroma region was detained for allegedly discrediting Russian military forces in his March 6 sermon for “Forgiveness Sunday,” the final Sunday before the beginning of the Russian Orthodox Lenten season.

In his sermon, Burdin spoke to his parishioners about “Russian troops in Ukraine shelling the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv and killing citizens of Ukraine – brothers and sisters in Christ,” according to Media Zona, an independent Russian media outlet.

Burdin will be tried for anti-war sentiments, and for publishing the link to an anti-war petition of which he is a signatory on his parish website.

His parish reportedly posted a link to the petition last week along with a statement criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine Feb. 24.

In the statement, Burdin said that “We, Christians, cannot stand idly by when a brother kills brother, a Christian kills a Christian. Let’s not repeat the crimes of those who hailed Hitler’s deeds on Sept. 1, 1939.”

According to a police report quoted by Media Zone, Burdin was arrested for having “committed a public offense aimed at discrediting the Russian armed forces which are conducting a special military operation” in Ukraine, which is how Putin is describing the war.

Burdin is scheduled to appear in court this week in the Krasnoselsky District Court of the Kostroma region to answer to the charges against him.

He is number 77 of 286 Russian Orthodox priests to sign the petition, which was launched Feb. 27 and calls for “an immediate ceasefire.”

In the petition, the priests said those responsible for the war will have to answer for their actions before God at the Last Judgement and said Ukraine ought to be free to choose decide on their future alone, “not at gunpoint.”

They also criticized the arrest and oppression of peaceful protests to the war, saying “no non-violent call for peace and an end to war should be forcibly suppressed and considered as a violation of the law, for such is the divine commandment: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’”

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Notably, the first signatory of the petition is Father Igumen Arseny, the Patriarchate of Moscow’s representative to the Patriarchate of Antioch, who recently accompanied Metropolitan Hilarion, president of the Patriarchate of Moscow’s Department for External Ecclesial Relations, on a March 5 trip to Syria.

The second signatory of the petition is Father Hegumen Nektary, who is widely known and highly regarded amongst the Russian Orthodox for his writings.

In the last few days, however, there have been very few additional signatures added to the petition, which could be the result of a crackdown on critics of the war.

So far, over 13,000 people have reportedly been arrested in Russia since its military invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, with around 5,000 detained in protests last weekend in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities, where demonstrators held signs and shouted slogans such as, “No to war!” and “Shame on you!”

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny Sunday voiced support for the protests.

Although no metropolitans – the most senior figures in the Russian Orthodox hierarchy – have signed the petition, there has been pushback by the leaders of several dioceses within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Since the beginning of the war, at least 15 dioceses have publicly given their blessings to priests to stop commemorating Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who has made several statements appearing to support the war, in their Divine Liturgy celebrations.

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