Tikhon, widely reputed to be Putin’s spiritual guide and publicly close to the Kremlin leader, clearly doesn’t need to curry favor with the Russian president. The metropolitan, on the outs with Patriarch Kirill, is already the favorite to succeed the current head of the church when the time comes.
What this latest Tikhon action does point to is an effort by him that is undoubtedly supported by his friend Putin to make the church more popular and accessible by adopting populist methods and messages. One can hardly imagine any previous patriarch writing a play about such a political subject.
And that may pay the Pskov metropolitan big dividends; but it is certain to have negative consequences as well, offending many more traditional believers who despite their caesaro-papist values won’t want to see their church as nothing more than an echo chamber for whatever the Kremlin is saying now.
And that in turn opens the way not only to splits within the ROC MP but also to having some of its believers fall away into the catacomb church or to Protestantism or Catholicism. Tikhon and Putin may assume they can block this; but the experience of other faiths whose leadership has become overly populist suggests they will not succeed.