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Metropolitan Hilarion: Unholy conflict

The Russian Orthodox Church's head of external relations warns of rising religious tensions caused by Ukraine crisis.

Last updated: 16 May 2014 15:02
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Orthodox priests picking their way through the battlements in Ukraine is a symbol of how this church is caught in the middle of an unholy conflict.

This is what is most important for us: The church is not to divide people but to unite people.

- Metropolitan Hilarion, head of relations for the Russian Orthodox church

The majority of people on both sides of the Ukraine conflict are Christian, and most but not all are members of the Russian Orthodox Church.

But the crisis is beginning to create a possibly serious conflict within the Russian Orthodox Church, and between the Church and the Vatican.

This has come after some church leaders in Ukraine - especially Catholic leaders - decided to push back against Russian influence, even asking US authorities to intervene.

That's according to Metropolitan Hilarion, the man responsible for foreign relations at the Russian Orthodox Church.

For many years, top officials from his church and the Vatican have been trying to set up a meeting between their two leaders, the Patriarch Kirill and the Pope.

But now, according to Hilarion, this will not happen in the near future due to actions taken by some Catholic leaders in Ukraine.

"The problem with the Kiev Patriarchate - as well as, unfortunately, the Greek Catholics - is that they do not want to stand together. On the contrary, they take one position in the political battle, they support only one side of this battle, and this is not the way the Church is supposed to do," said Hilarion. 

So what is next for the church? Could a conciliatory dialogue be possible? What repercussions will this conflict have within the Christian community? And is the church currently in a battle with liberalism?

We explore all this as Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, joins Sue Turton on Talk to Al Jazeera.

Watch more  Talk to Al Jazeera

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