09/14/2020, 11.09
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Metropolitan Mark of Vyat'ka challenges the patriarch of Moscow

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Tensions within the Russian Church in aftermath of Covid-19 . Tužikov refused an honor bestowed on him by Kirill. Mark's position is perhaps linked to the controversial pilgrimage to Velikoretskoe, which in June caused many coronavirus infections, and took place in the metropolis of Vyat'ka.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Last September 11 Mark Tuzhikov, Metropolitan of Vyat'ka, refused an ecclesiastical honor conferred on him by the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev). He explained his refusal in a letter sent to the head of the Russian Church. The letter never reached the patriarchal chancellery, but was disseminated by social media.

The metropolitan has been compared to Solženitsyn, who returned a state award to President Boris Yeltsyn. Mark's gesture reveals the particularly turbulent period of relations within the Russian patriarchate, as was intuited at the recent Synod of Bishops, which decided an impressive whirlwind of removals and appointments in the dioceses.

On 7 September the patriarch had already congratulated Metropolitan Mark on 25th anniversary of his episcopal consecration, and had communicated the proposal to raise him to the dignity of the order of the Holy Sergius of Radonezh of the III level. The metropolitan had thanked for the good wishes, but had categorically refused to withdraw the honor.

The reason for the refusal has not been made public: perhaps the metropolitan expected a higher recognition, given that he already holds the order of St. Sergius of the II level, higher than that currently proposed. The director of the European Institute’s Religion Research Center, Roman Lunkin, commented that "the real conflicts between the leading hierarchs of the Russian Church today are shrouded by mysteries, and one can only speculate about their motivations. The refusal of Metropolitan Mark shows for the first time that such conflicts really exist ”.

The Metropolitan of Vyat'ka is a very independent man, with a strong character, known for his love of motorcycle rides and very strict in relations with the clergy of his diocese. He has been criticized several times for conflicts with parishes, for the abrupt removal of various parish priests, which even led to a heart attack and suicide among them. Yet he has not expressed radical positions of Covid-dissent or support for the excommunicated skhiigumen Sergij of the Urals, whose position has been dividing the entire Russian Church in recent months.

Mark's position is perhaps linked to the controversial pilgrimage to Velikoretskoe, which in June caused many coronavirus infections, and took place in the metropolis of Vyat'ka, without him being able to stop it. The patriarchate did not help the metropolitan to resolve the delicate situation, and this is probably the reason for the grudge. The metropolitan is known for his impulsive character, and for having dealt in 2008 with the delicate case of the diocese of Anadyr, whose bishop Diomid (Dzjuban) had opposed the then patriarch Aleksij II, until he was excommunicated by the Russian Church.

The case of Metropolitan Mark risks opening Pandora's box, given the many tensions within the Russian Church after the months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many bishops believe that they were abandoned by the patriarchate to cope with the health and social emergency, and now it seems that a showdown among the Orthodox hierarchs is on the horizon.

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