Monday, June 22, 2020

Patriarch Kirill’s Problems Exacerbated by His Own Weak Appointees

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 – Shiigumen Sergiy’s seizure of a women’s monastery near Yekaterinburg and his sharp attacks on the Moscow Patriarchate’s policies of cooperation with the Kremlin and ecumenism are directed in the first instance against Patriarch Kirill, but they would not have been possible had Kirill’s man in Yekaterinburg not been so mired in scandal.

            (For background on Sergiy and his impact on the Moscow Patriarchate and Kirill personally, see and

            Since being named metropolitan of the Siberian city, Kirill (not to be confused with the patriarch) has constantly been mired in scandals, some that others created and that he made worse and some that he bears complete responsibility for because he has taken a hard line and then caved, so that no one is sure what the outcomes will be, Sergey Belyayev says.

            Indeed the current crisis with Elder Sergiy may reflect that churchman’s belief that Metropolitan Kirill will behave the same way again allowing Sergiy to get away with what he is doing not because church officials in Moscow want that because their local representative isn’t capable of managing (

            The Politsovet journalist recounts five major scandals that preceded this one, all of which highlight problems with the metropolitan’s rule.

            First, Metropolitan Kirill denied he was behind the prosecution of a Pokemon hunter only to have it exposed during the man’s trial that the church leader had orchestrated the entire business.  “That turn of events,” Belyayev says, “discredited not only the bishopric but the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate.”

            Second, the metropolitan first demanded and then retreated from his own demand about the construction of a church in one part of Yekaterinburg instead of another, a collapse that led to a third and more major scandal, the wave of protests about his plans for a cathedral in the city’s main park, a plan that ultimately he had to back away from as well. 

            Fourth, the churchman got involved in a conflict over a piece of street art, only to have his tough position vitiated by an agreement between the artist and the population without his having any role except to attract ridicule.  And fifth, he refused to close the churches during the pandemic but then acted as if he had by holding Easter services out of doors.

            Sergiy’s seizure of the monastery is the sixth and perhaps greatest scandal in Metropolitan Kirill’s period in office. Kirill blocked any use of force against Sergiy and those who had illegally seized the monastery, and then he disappeared from public view, leaving it to others to try to cope apparently counting on a church court decision next week to solve things.

            Unfortunately for the metropolitan, it remains unclear what will happen if the church court strips Sergiy of his rights as an Orthodox priest but then Sergiy and his followers fail to leave the monastery and hand it over to the church authorities.  Many apparently fear that there won’t be a clear decision again, and more such problems will arise.

            Patriarch Kirill cannot be blamed for all of Metropolitan Kirill’s missteps, but the latter’s approach, taking a tough line, then hiding, and then compromising, has proven counterproductive again and again; and according to Belyayev, such an approach is not rare in the regional leadership of the ROC MP and is undermining its leader as well as the support of the faithful.

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