Metropolitan Pavel is replaced by Venjamin. In recent weeks, Pavel had first congratulated Lukashenko, then corrected himself, then supported the Catholics requests of the government. The Orthodox Church has prohibited the faithful from participating in public demonstrations and meddling in politics. Kirill fears a conclusion similar to the Ukrainian one.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow has made a shocking decision: in the days of the great mass protests in Belarus, the Patriarchal Exarch in Minsk, head of the Orthodox in Belarus, has been replaced.
Metropolitan Pavel (Ponomarev, see photo), has been ousted and replaced by Metropolitan Venjamin (Tupeko, photo 2), former bishop of Borisov, in the province of Minsk. Venjamin, 52, a bishop for a decade, is at the helm of the publishing and catechetical sector of the Belarusian exarchate, and is also the first bishop of Belarusian nationality to occupy the Minsk See, where bishops from Russia have so far been sent, as was Pavel.
In the press release from the spokesman of the Russian patriarchate, Vladimir Legojda, we read that "the Synod accepted Metropolitan Pavel's request to be relieved of his post, and thanks him for his commitment over the years".
Pavel, former bishop of Ryazan in central Russia, was appointed in 2013, after the resignation due to advanced age of the historian Metropolitan Filaret (Vakhromeev), one of the most important Orthodox hierarchs of the Soviet period, a great theologian and proponent of the renewal of ecclesiastical life. The exarch is the "patriarchal lieutenant", autonomous guide of the local Church, but subject to the authority of the patriarch of Moscow, and participates in the patriarchal synod as a permanent member.
The decision to replace Pavel with Venjamin is linked to the events of the past few days, where the former head of the local Orthodox appeared very confused: at first he congratulated Lukashenko on his electoral victory; then he withdrew his congratulations, further correcting his statements several times. Pavel then partially aligned himself with the line of the Catholic Archbishop Msgr. Kondrusiewicz, appealing to the president to stop the violence against the demonstrators, and to the citizens to pursue moderation and wisdom; the metropolitan had also visited some wounded in a hospital. Later, a statement from the Belarusian Orthodox Church banned its faithful from participating in any public demonstration, and urged them not to meddle in the country's political life, as President Lukashenko himself clamoured in a rally on August 23.
The replacement of Pavel indicates a distancing of the Orthodox from the activism of the Catholics, in order to support President Lukashenko. The memory of the dramatic Ukrainian events, which led to the establishment of the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with the rupture between Moscow and Constantinople, plays in the memory of Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev). There are currently no claims of autonomy from Moscow in Belarus, but the appointment of a local metropolitan loyal to the established order aims to prevent future surprises.