Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Window on Eurasia: New Russian Orthodox Hierarchs More Likely to be from the Diocese They Now Head Than Were Their Predecessors

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 30 – Over the last two years, Patriarch Kirill has enthroned 69 new bishops for the Russian Orthodox Church, a group quite different from its predecessors not only in terms of education – more have secular degrees – but also origins – most of them come from the dioceses they now head instead of being outsiders imposed from the center.

            Those changes and their age – most are in their 40s – mean that Kirill will be able to control the direction of the Russian church not only during his patriarchate but well beyond, according to a survey of their biographies by the Orthodox weekly, “Neskuchny sad” (

            Approximately a third of those taking part in the church council in Moscow will be doing so for the first time, the magazine says. At the last one, on February 4, 2011, 206 of the 221 hierarchs then serving did so. Since that time, Kirill has enthroned 69 bishops, most for bishoprics created since that time. (There were 35 new sees established in 2011 alone.)

            The average age of the new class of bishops is only 40. That means that most of them were born in the early and mid-1970s, finished their training during perestroika, and began serving as priests in the 1990s. Thirty-four of the 69 completed their theological training by correspondence, a remarkably high figure compared to the past.

            The magazine notes that “the majority of hierarchs, who were elevated in the 1960s and 1970s” -- that is, the class before this one -- “studied at the Leningrad Spiritual Academy,” where they were trained by Metropolitan Nikodim who trained Patriarch Kirill. But under the late Aleksii II, “practically all the hierarchs … were graduates of the Moscow” one and “began their monastic life in the Trinity-Sergeyev lavra.”

            But the background of the new class means that the Lavra group is being replaced by those from the regions. Yet another way the new class is different, “Neskuchny sad” points out,is that “the greater part” of the new hierarchs have secular university training as well as theological studies. “This picture is not typical for the Russian Church.”

            After finishing school, 35 of the 69 members of the new class studied in secular institutions and universities and received training in medicine, physics or “even music.” Two of the new bishops were even trained as “military specialists,” and some of them even received their candidate degrees.

            Twenty-two of the 69 served for a significant period of time as instructors at the spiritual seminaries or “worked as instructors at government faculties of theology.” But perhaps the most interesting thing that sets this group of bishops apart is the following: 34 of them come from the eparchates or regions where they will now be serving as bishops. In the past, that was a rarity.


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