Tikhon, widely known as Vladimir Putin’s favorite churchman because of the metropolitan’s conservative and anti-ecumenical views, has thus launched a populist attack on the hierarchy led by Kirill with the kind of demand that the church leadership will find difficult to respond to given the church’s nods to and Russian interest in seeing justice prevail.
The church must be so organized, the metropolitan says, that priests and retired religious receive adequate pay and to do that will require effective bookkeeping. No priest should be starving although many are, something that gives him a sense of “horror,” Tikhon told his bishops at a recent meeting.
Because of the holidays, Tikhon’s remarks have not circulated widely yet. Indeed, they have been the subject of reporting only by a narrow swath of Orthodox publications not controlled by Kirill. (For an example, see ).
But when the long winter holiday is over, it is likely that Tikhon’s words will spread, especially as criticism of Kirill is certain to intensify once the Universal Patriarch formally grants the tomos of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine three days from now. And if they do, they may come to be seen as the opening salvo of a campaign to force Kirill out.
In terms of canon law, no one can be compelled to resign as patriarch, but the interests of the Kremlin and the anger of many about Kirill’s failings with respect to Ukraine and other issues almost certainly means that in this case as so many others in Russia, the text of the law is not what will determine outcomes.
And consequently, by launching an appeal that will attract many believers and even more priests, Tikhon (and presumably Putin behind him) is putting pressure on Orthodox bishops and other hierarchs to reconsider their loyalty to the current patriarch who not only has not defended the position of the church effectively but has not shared the wealth he has amassed for himself.