10/29/2015, 00.00
RUSSIA – VATICAN
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For Bishop Tikhon, "something concrete" will come with respect to a meeting between the pope and the Russian patriarch

A well-established figure in the Orthodox Church, Tikhon was recently appointed vicar bishop of Moscow, a move seen as political by some. The new bishop has been described as Putin’s spiritual adviser. The relationship between the Russian president and Patriarch Kirill seems to have cooled after the latter's refusal to take a stand on the Ukrainian crisis.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Tikhon (Shevkunov), Bishop of Yegorevsk, told Tass that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church "are engaged in talks" on a possible meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. The prelate, who spoke yesterday in Rome where he was presenting a book he authored, went on to say that “It is very likely that something concrete will come in the near future.”

In the last 20-30 years, “relations between the two churches have been varied, sometimes tense, but now times have changed,” he explained. “It is time for mutual benevolent attention”.

Indicated by many as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spiritual guide, Tikhon was recently appointed bishop, and is touted as a possible successor to the current Russian Orthodox primate.

In Moscow, Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), secretary for Inter-Christian Relations at the Department for External Church Relations, was quick to tell Interfax that whilst such a meeting is on the agenda, it would be premature go into details.

Tikhon’s remarks follow his recent episcopal appointment, which officially marks his rise within the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church after an already influential career of many years.

The archimandrite (senior abbot) had captured the attention of the international media with an article in the Financial Times, which in January 2013 presented him as Vladimir Putin’s “dukhovnik, or godfather”.

For several years, Tikhon has been the executive secretary of the patriarchal Council on Culture, and vicar abbot at the Sretensky Monastery, which is not far from the headquarters of the secret services in the Russian capital.

Since the early 200s, he has earned a reputation for himself. Nikolai Leonov, a former general in the KGB, the Soviet Union’s main security agency (now called FSB), is believed to have introduced Tikhon, 57, to Russian intelligence circles.

Since then, persistent rumours have followed the monk, and few were surprised to hear about his consecration. In reality, despite his influence, Tikhon remained an archimandrite until recently.

His appointment as Bishop of Yegoryevsk, Vicar Bishop of the Moscow Diocese, was swift. The Synod decided in favour of his appointment on 22 October and two days later, Patriarch Kirill consecrated him in Kaluga.

Formally, the patriarch is the bishop of Moscow, but his administrative functions are performed by Metropolitan Juvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna. However, the latter is close to retirement and his departure would leave a coveted position open.

For many observers, Tikhon is associated with Kirill’s critics within the Church. The latter’s relations with the Kremlin cooled after the annexation of the Crimea and the Ukrainian crisis.

Hence, for Russian media, his 'promotion' as Moscow’s newest bishop with close links to those in power, is thus a political move. Bishop Tikhon can now aspire to the office of Patriarch, although for now the idea of ​​ succession is not yet in the cards.

Hegumen Paramon Golubka, 38, vicar abbot of the Donskoy Monastery in Moscow, was also appointed as bishop vicar of the Moscow diocese, with the title of bishop of Bronnitsy. He too appears to have a bright future. (M.A.)

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