03/02/2019, 09.34
RUSSIA
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St. Petersburg, the heads of Kirill's enemies fall

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Resignation for Varsonofij, metropolitan of the "imperial city", who was head of the administration of the patriarchate of Moscow. The metropolitan of Ryazan, Mark, replaced the presidency of the finance department of the patriarchate. Kirill is surrounding himself with very young bishops, in a pyramidal structure, very similar to that of Putin in political management.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On February 26, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church accepted the resignation of the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg Varsonofij (Sudakov) from the post of head of the administration of the Patriarchate of Moscow. 

It is the third highest post in the hierarchy, after that of the patriarch and that of the head of the Department for external relations (held by the metropolitan Ilarion Alfeev), for some even superior to the latter. Varsonofij has held this position in the last decade, practically throughout the period of Kirill (Gundjaev) as a patriarch. The 74-year-old metropolitan was replaced by the 38-year-old metropolitan of Tver Savva (Mikheev, see picture 2, left).

Together with other appointments, this change highlights the patriarch's desire to rejuvenate the leadership of the patriarchal administration. This is a method followed by Kirill on several occasions, suddenly raising young or very young clerics  to high posts. Moreover, he himself became a bishop at the age of 29 in 1976, in the middle of the Soviet era, and immediately began a vertiginous career.

In these years Kirill has wanted to radically change the face of the patriarchal Church. Dividing the great metropolises and dioceses into smaller structures, the patriarch has gradually built a team of very young bishops closely linked to his personality, building under him a pyramid very similar to the "vertical of power" formed by President Putin in the management of Russian politics.

The same Varsonofij was elevated at the beginning of Kirill's patriarchate to replace the metropolitan Kliment (Kapalin), his main opponent in 2009 election, a very conservative and rigid bishop in administrative management, sent to the provincial headquarters of Kaluga.  Kliment has remained highly critical of Kirill, but his influence has been very limited. The metropolitan of St. Petersburg has managed the general affairs of the patriarchate resolving all the thorniest problems for the patriarch, but now evidently the patriarch needs an even more direct control over the administration.

All figures who exhibited a certain charisma and public awareness have been removed from top administration posts, above all the current metropolitan of Pskov Tikhon (Ševkunov), until a few months ago vicar of Kirill, and advocate of an "agreed peace" with the Ukrainians to avoid the schism that occurred last December. Even Varsonofij, although not in public, seems to be dissatisfied with the management of the Ukrainian crisis. Now there is also talk of his resignation from the metropolitan leadership of St. Petersburg.

Ilarion himself and other candidates like the bishop of Vyborg Ignatij (Punin) aspire to the headquarters of the "imperial capital", very close to the Petersburg politician Vitalij Milonov, a man in sight of Putin's party and one of his possible successors. The appointments and the resignations are thus inserted in a very determined picture by the possible games of succession of the Orthodox Church and of Russian politics.

Another clamorous appointment was the change of presidency of the finance department of the patriarchate: the 55-year-old metropolitan of Ryazan Mark (Golovkov), another member of the "old guard", was replaced by the 42-year-old metropolitan of Vologda Ignatij (Deputatov) once a faithful follower of the patriarch. The 41-year-old Archimandrite Savva (Tutunov), named after the "inquisitor" who was soon to be consecrated bishop, was elevated to the patriarch's vicar, a role that remained empty after the transfer of Tikhon. Patriarch Kirill has therefore decided to "close the ranks" at a delicate moment in the life of the Orthodox Church, to face every challenge with every available forces.

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