Voices from Russia

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Who shall be the New First Hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate? Three Possible Candidates…


Editor’s Foreword:

This has all the hallmarks of a puff-piece by the Kirill faction. It is useful, nonetheless. However, keep this in mind as you read it. I believe that the assessment of Metropolitan Kliment to be… interesting… very interesting. Kirill must fear him. Caveat lector.




Metropolitan Kirill Gundyaev of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (1946- ), the Patriarchal Locum Tenens, head of the MP Department of External Church Relations, the putative front-runner in the patriarchal election

The special session of the Archpastoral Council of the Moscow Patriarchate, which will meet at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on 25-26 January, must propose three candidates for the office of Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias to the extraordinary Local Council of the MP. On 27 or 28 January, only one of these three nominees will become the new patriarch (unless the Local Council advances yet another figure to the post). Let’s try to guess who will be these three candidates.

Of course, the first, and most obvious, candidate will be Metropolitan Kirill Gundyaev of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (the head of the MP Department of External Church Relations) (the Patriarchal Locum Tenens: KM.ru). If one were to measure only worldly abilities, he has almost no competition. He has 20 years of experience on the MP Holy Synod, as he was named to it in the time of Patriarch Pimen, and he remained a member during the entire reign of Patriarch Aleksei (there are only two other “veterans” on the Synod with as much service, Metropolitan Philaret Vakhromeyev of Minsk and Metropolitan Yuvenaly Plyarkov of Krutitsa). Throughout the entire patriarchate of Aleksei Rediger, Metropolitan Kirill, in fact, led the external and, to a considerable degree, the internal policies of the Church.

He is always available to the press; on television, he presents the programme Slovo Pastyrya (A Word from the Pastor), which has enjoyed high ratings for 15 years. He is well-known in Russia and in the Near and Far Abroad. He has “a good name in secular society”, and, in addition, he is the ideal age to become patriarch, 62-years-old (the same age that Aleksei Rediger and Pimen Izvekov assumed the patriarchate). His ascension to the office of Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias will open a new and bright page in the history of the Church, with an accent on missionary and educational work, not only a quantitative growth in the number of churches, monasteries, spiritual seminaries, and other church establishments.


Metropolitan Onufry Berezovsky of Chernovitsy and Bukovina, serving Divine Liturgy in Sea Cliff NY

In all likelihood, the second candidate is likely to be a bishop from the Ukraine. It is unlikely that it will be His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan (the current First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church (MP): KM.ru), whose state of health does not allow him to accept the advancement of his name to stand for election to the patriarchal office. Obviously, the Ukrainian hierarchy will name another figure, for example, Metropolitan Onufry Berezovsky of Chernovitsy and Bukovina or Metropolitan Agafangel Savvin of Odessa and Izmailsk (this proposal has been floated by some in the administration of Ukrainian President Yushchenko).


Metropolitan Agafangel Savvin of Odessa and Izmailsk

Despite all his well-known positive qualities, Metropolitan Onufry is unlikely to be able to rally around him the entire Ukrainian episcopate. It will be all the more difficult for him to gather a majority of votes in the Local Council, for the prospect of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia being a man with a Ukrainian passport will certainly scare away a large number of delegates from Russia. Metropolitan Agafangel will be even less likely to rally the electors around him, since his supporters are convinced that he is irreplaceable in Odessa as the ruling archpastor, as he has defeated all attempts to form a so-called “Autocephalous  Local Church” in the Ukraine.


Metropolitan Yuvenaly Poyarkov of Krutitsa and Kolomna (1935- ), the Patriarchal Vicar for the Moscow region

The third candidate could be one of three members of the MP Holy Synod, Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk and Slutsk (the Exarch of all Byelorussia), Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsa and Kolomna (the Patriarchal Vicar for the Moscow region), or Metropolitan Kliment Kapalin of Kaluga and Borovsk (the Chancellor of the MP). Both Philaret and Yuvenaly are experienced and venerable bishops, as they have both sat on the MP Holy Synod for over 30 years. Both are 73-years-old. Philaret’s state of health leaves much to be desired, he recently underwent a serious operation and walks with a cane. However, the Byelorussian bishops and a number of bishops from Russia may vote for him. Metropolitan Yuvenaly possesses great authority in Moscow and in the region surrounding the capital, as well as in other regions of Russia. During his long years of service to the Church, he has managed to garner respect as an experienced and active archpastor. One assumes that those who favour one of these “veterans” anticipate and hope for a relatively short patriarchal rule.


Metropolitan Kliment Kapalin of Kaluga and Borovsk (1949- ), Chancellor of the MP

A special place in the list of potential candidates is occupied by Metropolitan Kliment. In particular, many journalists believe that he is most viable opponent of Kirill in the patriarchal election. Kliment is not a public figure, he rarely appears in media reports, and even if he does speak, then, for the most part, he is faceless and vague. He is 59-years-old, and has been a member of the MP Holy Synod for about five years, well below the experience of all the other permanent members. During his five years in office he has not done anything noticeable, for the most part, his projects have not come to fruition (he even failed to obtain recognition of the Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture as a part of the school curriculum). But, he is conducting a fairly aggressive campaign, in which an active role played by his brother, Archbishop Dmitri Kapalin of Tobolsk and Tyumen.


Archbishop Dmitri Kapalin of Tobolsk

Here, we should note that, in electing Kliment to the patriarchate, the delegates of the Council would simultaneously elect his brother to the role of the éminence grise of the MP. Of course, if his brother becomes patriarch, he will take one of the key posts in the MP Holy Synod. He will become the patriarchal vicar or the Metropolitan of St Petersburg. This tandem diarchy of the two brothers would have its advantages, but, also, its weaknesses. Its strength lies in the fact that, in the pre-election period, when the bishops are seriously considering the various candidates, Brother-2 can gather votes in favour of Brother-1, which he does very diligently, for he is not shy with the media (as the recent election of the delegates from the spiritual seminaries demonstrated). However, its weakness lies in the fact that the prospect of having two brothers at the head of the Church (although they each use a different approach, both favour a very rigid application of control) would, certainly, scare away many voters.


Archbishop Yevgeni Reshetnikov of Vereisk, head of the MP Educational Committee

The existence of this diarchy of the two brothers is no invention of journalists, it is a demonstrated fact. Shortly after Metropolitan Kliment was promoted to the MP Holy Synod, he attempted to take over the Educational Committee by ousting Archbishop Yevgeni Reshetnikov of Vereisk from the position of its chairman. Kliment’s programme was to create an “Educational and Theological Consortium”, which would include the Educational Committee, the Department of Religious Education, and the Theological Commission. This consortium would be headed by Archbishop Dmitri, with the status of permanent member of the MP Holy Synod. To promote this project, he established, a “Commission to Assess the Reform of the Spiritual Seminaries”, which for three years tormented and terrorised the rectors of the spiritual academies and seminaries.


Archbishop Feofan Ashurkov of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz

One of the results of the activities of this commission is the fact that the Russian government has not yet recognised religious school diplomas, although such recognition was in the works. Even though he had championed Metropolitan Kirill in the past, Archbishop Feofan Ashurkov of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz played an active role in the commission. Currently, he is a wholehearted supporter of Kliment and actively promotes his interests. In time, the late Patriarch Aleksei recognised the plan of the two brothers, and the MP Holy Synod vetoed the work of the Commission. Archbishop Yevgeni retained his post, and Brother-2, already having collected his belongings in Moscow, continued in his post in Tobolsk. The project fell through, but, as the saying goes, “there was a bad taste in everyone’s mouth”.

So, the most likely outcome of the Archpastoral Council is the naming of a combination of three candidates: Kirill, Onufry, and Kliment, or Kirill, Metropolitan X from the Ukraine, and Yuvenaly. It is possible that Metropolitan Kirill will win over 50 percent of the votes in the first round, sealing his election. If this does not occur, the outcome of the second round will depend on the votes cast by delegates from the Ukraine. It is difficult to imagine that they would cast their votes for Metropolitan Kliment, who practically unknown in the Ukraine. Therefore, most likely, most of them will vote in favour of Metropolitan Kirill.

What shall be end result of all this? Metropolitan Kirill will win the vote in the Local Council either in the first or second round. Today, there is no other real alternative available. No other candidate has the sufficient authority or has obtained the necessary number of votes to become the patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

11 January 2009

Dmitri Logachyov


As quoted in Interfax-Religion


Editor’s Afterword:


Metropolitan Mefody Nemtsov of Astanai and Alma-Ata, one of the fiercest opponents of Kirill Gundyaev (he was sent to Kazakhstan due to Kirill’s machinations… a great way to win friends and influence people, wot?)

My, my, my… Mr Logachyov is truly one of Kirill’s hack flacks and must be treated accordingly. Kirill has many enemies, not least Metropolitan Sergei Fomin of Voronezh and Borisogleb and Metropolitan Mefody Nemtsov of Astanai and Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan). Both hate his guts (but, of course, do not say so in public, they are bishops, after all). The tone of this piece bespeaks desperation in the Kirill faction. It is clear that he has NO support in the Ukrainian delegation. They shall not vote for a Russian candidate based in Moscow, that much is clear. They hold the key to this election (Mr Logachyov is correct in pointing this up). I expect the next patriarch may well be a hierarch of non-Russian background… as Patriarch Aleksei was, don’t forget! Hmm… I wonder who it shall be? Does anyone have a working crystal ball? Mine is on the fritz…


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