PODCAST: Pope Francis warns Patriarch Kirill against being Putin’s ‘altar boy’ (ICH 05.06.22)

This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to Reuters, The Pope has cautioned the head of the Russian Orthodox Church against serving as Vladimir Putin’s ‘altar boy’ after Patriarch Kirill gave the Russian invasion of Ukraine is seal of approval. Kirill sees the war as a bulwark against a decadent West – particularly over the acceptance of homosexuality – that threatens his vision of a ‘Russky Mir’ (‘Russian World’) that includes Belarus and Ukraine. We (the Pope and Kirill) are pastors of the same people of God. That is why we have to seek paths of peace, to cease the fire of weapons. The patriarch cannot become Putin’s altar boy,’ Francis was quoted as saying. Pope Francis also told an Italian newspaper on Tuesday (May 3) that NATO may be partly to blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and he said he hopes to visit Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in hopes of brokering a peace. Talking to reporters from Il Corriere della Sera, Francis said that “NATO barking at Russia’s doors” may have raised alarms in the Kremlin about the Western European alliance’s intentions in Ukraine. “I can’t say if (Russia’s) anger was provoked,” he continued, “but facilitated, maybe yes.” The Russian Orthodox Church responded by scolding Pope Francis on Wednesday for using the wrong tone after he urged Patriarch Kirill not to become the Kremlin’s “altar boy”, cautioning the Vatican that such remarks would hurt dialogue between the churches. The Russian Orthodox Church said it was regrettable that a month and a half after Francis and Kirill, the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, had spoken directly, the pope had adopted such a tone. “Pope Francis chose an incorrect tone to convey the content of this conversation,” the Moscow Patriarchy said, though it did not explicitly mention the “altar boy” comment. “Such statements are unlikely to contribute to the establishment of a constructive dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, which is especially necessary at the present time.” The Russian Orthodox Church is by far the biggest of the churches in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which split with Western Christianity in the Great Schism of 1054. Today it has about 100 million followers within Russia and more outside.

According to CBN, The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) armed group has claimed responsibility for an explosion that killed six people and seriously wounded 19 others last month at a market where alcohol was sold in Nigeria’s eastern Taraba state. One attacker was also killed, according to Abdullahi Usman, police spokesperson in Taraba. The attack occurred on April 20 at a busy cattle market in the Ardo-Kola local government area of Taraba state where villages have been largely unaffected in the last year by the decade-long Islamic extremist violence in the northeast. Many traders saw their goods destroyed in the attack, said Ladan Ayuba with Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency. In a statement posted last week on a Telegram messaging channel used by ISWAP, the group described those who detonated the bomb in the market as “soldiers of the caliphate in central Nigeria.” The statement said the attack had struck “a gathering of infidel Christians” and expressed satisfaction that the place where alcohol could be purchased had been destroyed.

According to France24, Pope Francis, who has suffered from pain in his knee, used a wheelchair for the first time at a public event on Thursday. The 85-year-old was wheeled into the Paul VI hall at the Vatican for a meeting of a Catholic organisation of sisters and nuns, according to an AFP journalist. He used a wheelchair after an operation on his colon last summer, but this was the first time he has been pictured in one at an event open to the media. Francis has been suffering for months with pain in his right knee, cancelling numerous engagements, and in recent days has struggled to walk. On Wednesday, he had to be helped out of his chair by an assistant at the weekly audience in St Peter’s Square. The Vatican has not said officially what the problem is, although sources have told AFP he has chronic arthritis.

According to International Christian Concern, A young Coptic Christian man was viciously killed last week in the Egyptian city of Dabaa, Matrouh Governorate. Four unidentified masked men reportedly shot him numerous times while he was at work. Rani Raafat, who worked in veterinary medicine trade, died instantly after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds. The suspects also burned his car before fleeing. Raafat’s relatives believe he was killed over his Christian faith and that his attackers were extremists. “I was at home in Dabaa, and a phone call came to my son to open the shop to receive goods for agricultural supplies in a project he works in the afternoon,” explained Raafat Nour, the victim’s father. “I later received a phone call of the death of my son. When I went to the store, I found him dead and lying on the ground, overwhelmed in own his blood.” Egyptian news outlets also reported there was a second victim, Sherif Rashad, who sustained a gunshot wound and was treated at an area hospital.

According to CBN, An Employment Tribunal in the United Kingdom has determined that a Christian pastor, who also worked as a primary school caretaker, was discriminated against when he was forced out of his part-time job almost three years ago after posting a tweet warning Christians and children against supporting local LGBTQ pride events. Christian Legal Centre, a legal ministry of the watchdog group Christian Concern, announced on Friday that Employment Judge King ruled in favor of Pastor Keith Waters. Waters’ lawyer, Michael Phillips, argued that the Isle of Ely Primary School had “interfered with the pastor’s rights to freedom of religion, thought and expression and that the tweet that led to his forced resignation was a manifestation of his Christian beliefs.” As CBN News previously reported in January, Waters went to work part-time as a caretaker at the school in 2016 while he was pastoring a local evangelical church, Ely New Connexions Church. The pastor believes LGBTQ pride events conflict with Christian beliefs on human sexuality and are harmful, especially for young children who often attend such events or are encouraged to attend. On June 1, 2019, at the start of Pride Month, Waters tweeted: “A reminder that Christians should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Christian faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.” Waters noted that his intention for the tweet was to address and warn Christians about LGBTQ pride events across the U.K. as they often involve nudity, people in sadomasochistic outfits, and displays of an overtly sexual nature.

In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!

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