06/24/2022, 10.12
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Moscow patriarchate's new 'foreign minister' takes office

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Metropolitan Antonij replaces Ilarion, who was removed by Patriarch Kirill and sent to the Budapest See. "Geopolitical challenges and the order of world Orthodoxy" are the patriarchate's priorities. Shadow of war in Ukraine. Fight against those who want to impose an "ecclesiology foreign to Orthodoxy."



Moscow (AsiaNews) - The new head of the Department for External Ecclesiastical Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate (Ovcs), Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Antonij (Sevrjuk), convened for the first time the plenary session of the body, chaired until his recent removal by Metropolitan Ilarion (Alfeev), who was sent to the Budapest See.

The priorities indicated by the patriarch's new assistant for the "foreign policy" of the Russian Orthodox Church are first of all "geopolitical challenges and the order of world Orthodoxy." Antonij recalled when he started very young working with the Ovcs in 2007, when he was only 21 years old. He was an intern in the communications service, soon after becoming the personal secretary of then-director Kirill (Gundjaev). Chosen as patriarch two years later, Kirill took him with him to the patriarchal residence, "determining the whole course" of his life. Antonij then "practiced" in Rome and Paris, always remaining in close contact with members of the Ovcs, "like family."

Personal memories are intertwined with the basic directives of "inter-Orthodox and interconfessional relations," but also with authorities and political and social organizations in Russia and other countries, especially "in aid of our compatriots around the world," Antonij recalls. Today these relations are subjected to the strains of "not simple circumstances," as a result of which "the universal unity of the Church is facing serious threats, because they are trying to impose on us a new order of the very existence of the Church, destroying the previous one in which she lived for so many centuries. They want to impose on us an ecclesiology foreign to Orthodoxy."

Despite the difficulties, the Metropolitan called on all Ovcs collaborators to look optimistically to the future: "We know that the Lord has founded the Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The Church over the millennia has accumulated colossal experience and has always repelled threats, internal and external." The Department is "at the forefront of this struggle" to defend the Russian Church's interests, structure and canonical order, thanks in part to the sacrifice and "high professionalism" of its staff.

Antonij himself promises that for the first days of his term he will "absorb like a sponge" the great qualities of the staff he is called to lead: "I will need your advice" to try to fulfill the great commitments "that our primate wanted to load on my shoulders." The vice president of the Ovcs, protoierej Nikolaj Balashov, expressed the support of the entire group of staff members to "continue to increase the glory and honor of this, which is the oldest of synodal bodies, always led by outstanding personalities, brilliant and distinguished men, each of whom has always left an important mark in the history of our Church."

The meeting concluded by raising prayers to the "holy defenders of the Orthodox faith," from Mark of Ephesus (who rejected the Union of Florence in 1439) to Prince Daniil of Moscow, the son of Aleksandr Nevsky who originated the history of Moscow's "Third Rome." Invocation also for all the saints of the Russian Land who "support us with their prayers and intercessions for the defense of the rights and interests of our Church, its dignity and its possibilities to perform unchallenged service for the salvation of mankind, as entrusted to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ," Metropolitan Antonij concluded.

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