The former Archbishop of York has said that Vladimir Putin will “have one day to answer to God” for the “absolute viciousness” he is unleashing on the Ukrainian people.
Dr John Sentamu, who is now a peer and chairman of the Christian Aid charity, questioned how the president, who identifies as a Russian Orthodox Christian, can say his prayers at night after inflicting acts of “evil” in Ukraine.
Dr Sentamu, 72, spoke with the PA news agency after joining other church leaders in saying prayers during an act of witness for the war-torn nation outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Holland Park, west London.
Around a hundred Christians, including some from Ukraine, held a minute’s silence for the besieged country while holding blue and yellow hearts in the air before singing the national anthem in a spontaneous outburst of solidarity.
Dr Sentamu described Ukraine as a “very, very strong Christian country” and condemned the violence seen over the weekend in Bucha, near Kyiv, as “brutality, absolute viciousness”.
When asked whether Mr Putin can ever be forgiven for his actions in the eyes of the church, Dr Sentamu told PA: “First of all, the people who are going to forgive him are the Ukrainians, and the rest of us can try to remind him that the Cross of Jesus is the end of violence.
“If you really wear a cross like I do, you must be non-violent.
“To unleash such brutality is just beyond me.
“If I was a Russian Orthodox Bishop, actually, I would be going and telling Putin that what he’s doing is contrary to the love of God, contrary to humanity as we know it, contrary really to anything else.
“He will have one day to answer to God.”
When asked whether he held any hope in the ability of Christian leaders to appeal to Mr Putin through religious reasoning, he added: “What I would say to him, is whenever you see the poor, the vulnerable, looking at you – that’s Jesus looking at you.
“Because He (Jesus) is among the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, the unloved.
“So Putin, if he is saying he is doing all this – how can he say his prayers at night, particularly that phrase in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Deliver us from evil’?
“How can he do evil acts and then say: ‘I’m on God’s side’ – never, never, never.”
Dr Sentamu said he visited Odesa in south-west Ukraine in 1983 and was overcome with the “remarkable” hospitality of the residents there, so he was saddened to see the city had heard explosions this weekend.
Reverend Dyfrig Rees, 62, general secretary of the Union of Welsh Independents, which represents 350 congregational churches in the nation, also attended the act of witness with his wife, Mandy Rees, 62.
He told PA he hoped Ukrainians would find people around the world saying prayers for them “inspiring and encouraging”.
Reverend Rees said: “I’m sure that if someone tells someone now in Ukraine that there were 100 people in London thinking about you praying for you and standing with you, I’m sure that’s going to keep them going.
“I felt pride and I felt inspired and I felt filled with hope and joy.”