Istanbul-based Bartholomew is considered “first among equals” among Orthodox patriarchs. Although the titular head of the Orthodox Church worldwide, other Orthodox leaders — including Kirill — are able to wield more power from their base in countries with larger Orthodox populations.

The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians on Tuesday denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an “atrocious” act that is causing enormous suffering, AP reports.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I didn’t mention Russia by name in comments made during a visit to Warsaw after meeting with Ukrainian refugees. Poland has accepted the largest number of people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

“It is simply impossible to imagine how much devastation this atrocious invasion has caused for the Ukrainian people and the entire world,” Bartholomew said at a news briefing. He added that solidarity with Ukrainians “is the only thing that can overcome evil and darkness in the world.”

Bartholomew also met with Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the head of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, who went even further in his denunciation of Russian actions, which he said bore “the hallmarks of genocide.” Unlike Bartholomew, Gądecki mentioned Russia by name.

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