Saturday, December 26, 2015

Chaplin, Ousted, Threatens Both Kirill and the Kremlin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 26 – Vsevolod Chaplin, the longtime protégé of Patriarch Kirill who was fired two days ago from his post as head of the synod’s department for relations with society, says that the patriarch will be driven into retirement and that those who try as now to suppress “glasnost” and the free flow of information are leading Russia to a catastrophe.

            In the 48 hours since his dismissal was announced, the archpriest has been an even more prominent figure in the Moscow media scene than he was while in his position, speaking to various outlets and provoking widespread discussion about what his removal means for church and state. But in contrast to others similarly fixed, Chaplin is unlikely to fade quickly.

            That is not only because he has made his career as a media-savvy church hierarch-politician but also because he speaks to the resentments many Russian Orthodox feel about Kirill’s authoritarianism and subservience to the Kremlin and many more Russians feel about Vladimir Putin’s increasingly heavy hand in Russian public life.

            Yesterday, Chaplin spoke to the first of these groups, arguing that with his departure, Kirill’s own future is anything but bright especially given the firing a week ago of another Chaplin for expressing his views about the inner life of the church (,

            He predicted that Kirill would not hold out for long because “the contradiction between faith in his personal charisma and the surrounding reality will only intensify.” If Kirill goes, that could open the way for Putin to install his apparent favorite as the new head of the Russian church, a step that would make it even more subservient to the Kremlin than now.

            Given those prospects, many will expect Chaplin, whom some had tipped to succeed Kirill -- he occupied the same position Kirill did before being elevated to the top job – to try to seek to organize a opposition fronde in the Church, one that might demand the church take a more independent line and become more open.

            Today, Chaplin extended his critique to the Russian state. “Certain people consider,” he said, “that it is necessary to minimize public discussion and not to take note what is occurring in the minds of people [in order that] we may more peacefully survive until 2017 or 2018.” That “will not be” the case, he argued.

            “If we try to suppress such problem, we might put off the catastrophe for a year or two, but we will then make it inevitable.” He added that “we must actively propose models of a peaceful reconstruction of the country, including a moral one,” given the moral shortcomings of those in power now.

            And then he declared in words that some will see as a real threat: “Power no longer is in the hands of the force structures” be they government or religious hierarchies or businesses.  Instead, “power today is formed in the world of ideas. Whoever is the first to formulate and express ideas which most adequately shape the future will have power.”

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