05/30/2020, 14.03
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Innokenty Pavlov, a great Russian theologian, has died

by Stefano Caprio

A great ecumenical soul, he approached the Catholic Church through the "true Ukrainian Orthodox Church". A disciple of Metropolitan Nikodim, he was ordained by the current patriarch, Kirill. In 1992 he decided to take part in ongoing changes by getting involved in social and political activities, joining the many disciples of Father Aleksandr Men, the "spiritual father of dissent," murdered in 1990. At the end of the 1990s, he took a critical position vis-à-vis patriarchal leaders, quitting every position, whilst remaining deeply involved in scholarship. Most recently he was working on an essay about the relationship between the Saint Pope John Paul II and Russia.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Hegumen Innokenty Pavlov was found dead on Thursday in his flat in Vyborg, a city in northern Russia. He was 68 years old. His death probably occurred a few days earlier.

Father Innokenty had been living alone for some time. He had moved away from academic and ecclesiastical commitments, to write and meditate on the many topics that attracted him and engaged his great skills. Lately, he was working on an essay about the relationship between the Saint Pope John Paul II and Russia.

Hegumen Innokenty was a great scholar of ancient Christianity, a translator of the New Testament in Russian, author of many books and monographs (his How they lived and what early Christians believed in. On the Didache was very well known), a doctor of theology and a teacher at many secular and ecclesiastical universities and institutions.

Born in Moscow in 1952 as Sergey, he received an atheistic education. He converted to the Orthodox faith at the age of 12. As a youth he was not afraid to serve during the liturgies in various parishes, trying several times to get into the Moscow Theological Seminary, but always thwarted by the KGB.

In 1977 the Metropolitan of the Antiochian Church in Moscow presented him to Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) of Leningrad, ​​a great figure in the ecumenical dialogue of the time. After becoming one of his disciples at the Leningrad seminary, he took monastic vows and the new name of Innokenty.

He was ordained deacon in 1983 by a young bishop, Kirill (Gundyayev), the current Patriarch of Moscow, with whom he collaborated, teaching at the Leningrad Theological Academy, and later, as theological representative at the Department for External Church Relations of the Patriarchate.

At the start of Russia’s religious revival, in the late 1980s, he took part in the drafting of the new statute of the Russian Orthodox Church and in the preparations for the Millennium Council for the Baptism of Rus' in 1988.

In the early 1990s he was secretary of the Patriarchate’s Biblical Commission, helping to spread the knowledge about the Sacred Scriptures among the people. In 1992 he decided to take part in the ongoing changes, getting involved in social and political activities, joining the many disciples of Father Alexander Men, the "spiritual father of dissent", murdered in 1990.

The various transformations of Russian society, and the role played in it by the Orthodox Church, led Father Innokenty to adopt very critical positions vis-à-vis patriarchal Church leaders. Eventually, he resigned from all official positions, whilst remaining a very active and well-known religious intellectual across Russia.

In 2002 he began to celebrate liturgies for a community of Russian Greek Catholics, who met informally in a Moscow flat, joining a Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdiction (the true Orthodox Church), which recognises the primacy of the Pope of Rome.

His ecumenical spirit was inspired by the great Russian theologian Vladimir Solovyov, who had personally reunited with the Catholic Church in the late 1800s, describing himself as an ‘Orthodox-Catholic’.

Believers who gathered around Father Innokenty also wanted to "breathe with two lungs," to quote the successful expression of another disciple of Solovyov, Russian thinker Vyacheslav Ivanov, who became a Catholic in Rome in 1926. The expression later became the great watchword of Saint John Paul II.

This writer was fortunate enough to meet Father Innokenty for the first time during a distant trip to Soviet Russia in 1984.

During a visit to the great church of Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra (Monastery) in Leningrad, his radiant figure met me, welcoming me like a brother in faith, as he was throughout his life, and as he shall continue to be, inspiring many people, in Russia and beyond.

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