Staunton, May 7 – Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov, sometimes identified as Putin’s “confessor” and known to be close to the Kremlin leader, may soon become metropolitan of the far more important see of St. Petersburg and thus be positioned to replace the current head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.
Rumors that Tikhon will replace Kirill have swirled among the religious and political elites of Russia for some time, Stanislav Volkov of the northern capital’s Gorod 812 portal says. But they have gained new credibility given reports that the city’s governor, Aleksandr Beglov, is now lobbying for that (gorod-812.ru/mozhet-li-tihon-shevkunov-stat-mitropolitom-peterburgskim/).
According to the Tserkvach telegram channel, the St. Petersburg journalist says, Beglov and Tikhon speak to each other informally and “always find a common language” on projects in the Central Federal District. Moreover, the current metropolitan of the northern capital, Varsonofiy (Sudakov), has not proved all that effective or popular with the political elite.
Is such a change possible? And would Tikhon actually welcome it? Those are the questions which need to be addressed.
“Although Petersburg is the city of the Anti-Christ” in the opinion of many “or in any case a not very favored one” in church eyes, “Petersburg has for the Russian Orthodox Church particular political significance,” Volkov says. It is not only bigger and richer than others; it has the Spiritual Academy that produces leading churchmen, including the last two patriarchs.
In a word, it can be “a powerful place des armes for a march on Moscow.”
Because the Moscow Patriarchate has always understood that, it has appointed men to head the St. Petersburg metropolitanate who are too old or otherwise handicapped to present a serious challenge to Moscow. Certainly, Kirill would never agree to appoint Tikhon, who is only 62 and very well-connected, to such a position.
But could this happen against Kirill’s will? Clearly Kirill will do everything to prevent it, but his recent failures and the scandals surrounding his leadership may mean that he will have to give up this “last defensive line,” Volkov continues. His biggest advantage besides supposed lifetime tenure as patriarch is that Tikhon may not want to move.
“The small, poor but ancient Pskov metropolitanate for Tikhon may be better than the Petersburg one. It is more favored: respected people come to the Pskov-Pechora monastery to speak about the eternal” and other things, as Putin has routinely; they do not go to St. Petersburg in the same way to visit St. Isaak’s.
To be sure, Pskov has “less glory” than does St. Petersburg, “but Tikhon has his own. And he also has his own money” even at this time of crisis. “And all ordinary priests in the fatherland understand that if the time comes to see a new patriarch, it will be Tikhon.” Thus, it is far from clear whether he would gain as much by moving as some appear to think.