06/22/2020, 13.40
RUSSIA
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Kirill and Putin and Victory Day. Sr Feodora, the 'gray eminence' of the Patriarchate, has died

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The great celebrations of 75 years of victory over Nazism begin. The patriarch and the president on a joint visit to Victory Cathedral, temple of the Armed Forces, which combines holiness and belligerence. A priest called it a "pagan temple" and was suspended by his bishop. Mother Feodora, 65, has died from coronavirus. She managed all of the international relations of the Patriarchate for years.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - After multiple delays and a lot of suffering due to the pandemic, Putin's Russia has finally reached the days of the great celebration of the 75 years of Victory over Nazism at the end of the Second World War. The event combines the Soviet memory with that of the new Russia, which proposes itself as a synthesis of all its sufferings and victories over the course of a millennium of history.

Today the "two swords" of power, civil and religious, also meet: the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev) together with President Vladimir Putin visits the much discussed patriarchal Victory Cathedral, church of the Resurrection and temple of the Armed Forces. Kirill had consecrated it  on June 14, perhaps to assert its spiritual authority over that of the "new tsar".

The patriarch reserved for himself the title of "pastor of the cathedral", as is the case for other churches called stavropighiali, that is, dependent directly on the head of the national Orthodox Church. In this way Kirill effectively silenced those who accused him of not giving due honor to this imposing and bleak monument to national power. At the same time, he protected himself from excesses of "Orthodox patriotism" by not handing over the management of the Cathedral to anyone else.

The edifice has provoked heated debate particularly for the images of holiness associated stridently with war violence and absolutism of all colors and saliencies. On 15 June, a priest of the Novosibirsk eparchy, the hieromonk Ioann (Kurmojarov), was suspended from the faculty of celebrating by his bishop, the metropolitan Nikodim (Chibisov). The reason? He had written that that military church is a "pagan temple" on social media.

Many people were also perplexed by the imprudence to convene mass demonstrations, in church and outdoors, to celebrate Victory while the Covid-19 epidemic is still raging. It is true that in recent days the positive cases have started to diminish: from around 8-9 thousand a day, with 200 deaths, to 7-8 thousand with 100-150 deaths. But nobody thinks that the virus has been eradicated.

On 18 June, the Russian Orthodox Church suffered another serious loss due to the coronavirus: The religious sister Feodora (Lapkovskaya), 65, one of the most influential consecrated women in the patriarchate of Moscow, died (photo 1). Already the wife of a priest of the Russian Church abroad, who later became a bishop, and she was consecrated in the monastery, she had for decades been one of the main collaborators of the then Metropolitan Kirill, the current patriarch. At the Church's Department of External Affairs, where Kirill worked, the nun was referred to as "the gray eminence."

Always staying away from the spotlight, Mother Feodora weaved the canvas of the Church's relations with the most powerful men in Russia, the so-called "oligarchs" of the Etsinian period, helping them solve many problems thanks to the influence of the ecclesiastical structure. When needed, she knew how to be tough and everyone feared her straightforward language. He knew the bureaucratic protocols like no other, and managed from Moscow almost all the structures of the Russian Church in various foreign countries.

Patriarch Kirill has always trusted Mother Feodora, who has also been able to procure a succession: another almost invisible nun, Mother Fotinja (Bratchenko), is now included in the top ranks of the patriarchate, who in turn enjoys the total trust of the patriarch. In 2016 Kirill awarded the two "mother eminences" with the highest patriarchal awards. One of the heads of the Department, the protoierej Nikolaj Balashov, who escaped the grip of the virus by a hair’s breath, remembered Mother Feodora as "a loss that many mourn today in our Church: those who knew her, will not be able to forget her".

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