01/13/2021, 09.44
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Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk, protagonist of the Orthodox rebirth, HAS died

by Stefano Caprio

He was 85 years old. He had been hospitalized for a month, suffering from Covid-19. He was in the group of "Brezhnevian hierarchs". As bishop he had been an agent of the KGB, with the code name of "Ostrovskij". He revived theological studies, catechesis, the formation of the clergy, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. The last years of his ministry saw him in close collaboration with the Catholic archbishop Msgr. Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Metropolitan Filaret (Vakhromeev), 85, one of the most authoritative hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church in the last 50 years, died yesterday in hospital in Minsk due to the coronavirus. The Orthodox spokesman, protoierej Aleksandr Shimbalev, recalled that the elderly prelate had been hospitalized for almost a month after contracting Covid-19, which he initially seemed to be able to overcome.

Filaret was born in Moscow in 1935 and entered the seminary in 1953, the year of Stalin's death. He was ordained a priest in 1961 by the then patriarch Aleksei I. Only four years later, in 1965, was he consecrated bishop and joined the group of "Brezhnevian hierarchs", who were asked to represent political interests in the internal and international ecclesiastical world Soviet. The young bishop carried out his service in Berlin, also becoming patriarchal exarch for Central Europe and therefore for Western Europe. He also chaired the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Ecclesiastical Affairs for eight years. Like all high-ranking Orthodox clergy of that period, he was counted among the active members of the KGB, codenamed "Ostrovsky".

In 1978 Filaret arrived in Belarus and became metropolitan, remaining at the head of the exarchate of Minsk for 35 years. He was the nation’s spiritual guide through the years of independence after the end of the USSR, emerging as the main protagonist of its religious rebirth, reopening the seminary in Minsk as early as 1989. In the past, he supported President Aleksandr Lukashenko in defending the interests of Belarus, and in 2006 he was also awarded the title of "hero of Belarus".

Twice his name entered the triad of candidates for patriarch of Moscow, the last time in 2009, as opposed to the current patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev), for whom he renounced his candidacy before the last vote. He retired in 2013, and has not spoken in public since, not even in the last troubled year of protests in the country.

Since the 1990s, Filaret has been the head of the Synodal Biblical Commission and of numerous other institutions of the Russian Church for the revival of catechesis, theological studies, the formation of the clergy, and cultural and ecumenical dialogue. Author of numerous publications and interventions in international fora, he was undoubtedly one of the most charismatic figures of Russian Orthodoxy.

He was loved not only by his faithful and by Belarusians, but also maintained excellent relations with Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Muslims. The last years of his ministry saw him in close collaboration with the Catholic Archbishop Msgr. Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz.

Filaret's favorite motto was "remain steadfast in the faith" and he often repeated it in homilies and interviews. Referring to his own experience in the difficult Soviet years, he taught to "form spiritual foundation for the soul, from which to nurture one’s personality, character and personal tastes in order to attain an understanding of events and to always be ready to respond from one’s faith".

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