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  • » 04/02/2009, 00.00

    RUSSIA

    The Moscow revolution: Kirill and the Curia



    The main changes include the gutting of the Department for External Relations, which is losing many of its powers. New dicasteries are being created and entrusted to the new patriarch's trusted men. Metropolitan Kliment, the former Chancellor and Kirill's main competitor to succeed Alexy II, heads to the publishing advisory board. The new appointments also include a layman, as head of the newly created Information Department.

    Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The first Holy Synod under the direction of newly elected Patriarch Kirill has concluded with a revolution in the Curia of the Russian Orthodox Church. In practice, the powerful Department for External Relations (DECR) is being dismantled. Kirill himself had led the department until his election as successor to Alexy II.

    The DECR will be headed by Ilarion Alfeev, who until now was bishop of Vienna, and was a proponent of Kirill's election. But the department is being gutted, and the management of relations with dioceses, branches, monasteries, and parishes is passing directly under the patriarch's supervision. For this purpose, the Synod has instituted a secretariat for institutions abroad, which will answer directly to Kirill, while the DECR - according to the minutes of the Synod - will retain only "the oversight of institutes that conduct ecclesiastical diplomacy."

    In the wake of the dismantling of the DECR, the meeting last March 31 instituted new dicasteries and offices. Above all, there is the synodal Department for Relations between the Church and Society, which is entrusted with the "relationship with the organisms of legislative power, with the political parties, with the labor unions, cultural organizations, and the other institutions of civil society in the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Moscow." The new dicastery will be led by Fr. Vsevolod Chaplin, one of the patriarch's trusted men, and will also have the possibility of establishing contacts with the governments in the CSI and Baltic countries.

    The radical reshaping of the DECR is interpreted by many as a clear break with the most recent past of the Moscow Church - the department had been created during the Soviet era - and, together with the structural reforms introduced by the Holy Synod, it appears to be a maneuver to concentrate the powers of governance into the hands of the new patriarch.

    The other new developments include the creation of a synodal Information Department, which is being entrusted to a layman: Vladimir Legojda, director of the monthly Forma, the main Orthodox periodical, with a circulation of about 40,000 copies sent to churches and newsstands all over the Federation.

    Finally, a doctoral branch of the Theological Academy of Moscow has been created at the DECR, "for the purpose of improving," the minutes state, "the level of formation and specific preparation of personnel capable of managerial and diplomatic work within the Church."

    The Holy Synod also accepted the resignation of Metropolitan Kliment, Kirill's main competitor in the elections for the office of patriarch. The former Chancellor of the patriarchate of Moscow, one of the most important posts in the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy, he has been appointed president of the publishing advisory board, and has been replaced by archbishop of Saransk and of Mordovia Varsonofij.

    There have also been changes in the leadership of the synodal Department for Religious Instruction and Catechesis: Ioann Ekonomcev, rector of the Orthodox Institute of Saint John, has been replaced as president by Bishop Zarajsk, former Chancellor of the patriarchate's parishes in the United States.

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    See also

    26/06/2008 RUSSIA
    Positive relations with Catholics, but proselytism remains a problem, says Aleksij II
    In his address to the Synod of the Orthodox Church the patriarch of Moscow stresses progress on issues of common interest like the role of religion, family and ethics, but he continues to complain about Catholic missionary activity and the “oppression” they are said to suffer at the hands of Uniates in Ukraine.

    18/10/2005 VATICAN – SYNOD ON THE EUCHARIST
    Pope to write letter to Chinese bishops invited to Synod
    Pope will personally answer the letter send by Mgr Luke Li Jingfeng to express his regrets for not being able to come to the Synod. Mgr Kondrusiewicz, Bishop of Moscow, speaks about the situation of Russian Catholics, expressing hope Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Aleksij II can meet each other.

    10/12/2008 RUSSIA
    Synod to elect new Moscow patriarch set for late January
    Synod will take place on 28 and 29 January. On 1 February the new head of the Russian Orthodox Church will be announced. Kirill and Kliment are among the candidates. The latter is seen favourably by Russia’s political elites.

    24/06/2008 TURKEY
    Moscow patriarchate abandons work for preparation of pan-Orthodox synod
    Withdrawal motivated by the presence of the Estonian Church. Strong ecumenical characterisation around the awarding of the Klauss Hemerle prize to Bartholomew, around whom calls for a Nobel nomination are intensifying.

    28/11/2007 CHINA – RUSSIA
    Russian patriarchate ready to train Chinese priests
    Metropolitan Kirill, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, confirmed Moscow’s willingness to provide theological training to priests from China’s 15,000-strong Orthodox community.



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