Staunton, April 20 – Roman Silantyev, a religious affairs expert reputed to have ties with the Russian security services, says that some hierarchs in the Moscow Patriarchate are opposed to Metropolitan Tikhon not just because he is a competitor to the current patriarch but because he too nationalistic and close to Vladimir Putin.
“Tikhon is a clear defender of the powers that be,” the specialist says, “but there are in the church supporters of opposition views. A century ago, the same thing was the case: certain priests welcomed the revolution,” but those churchmen “didn’t survive for long” (ura.news/articles/1036282171).
Whether Silantyev’s words are a warning of an approaching government-led purge of the Patriarchate and a threat to Patriarch Kirill or simply an effort to stir the pot remains unclear, but his comments come in response to widespread reports that Kirill has tried to sideline Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov lest he gain more support to replace the current church leader.
URA journalist Igor Sergeyev says that “the Yekaterinburg metropolitan see has unexpectedly landed in the center of an internal struggle of the Russian Orthodox Church” because there was talk of shifting Tikhon from Pskov to the Urals city where its problems might be beyond his capacity to cope (ura.news/articles/1036282171).
Instead, Moscow installed Yevgeny in that position largely because of his decade-long experience in the see. But Yevgeny himself has “publicly acknowledged” that his elevation was completely unexpected. Now, Sergeyev continues, the reason is clear: Yevgeny like many others expected Tikhon to be installed instead.
Had that happened, Tikhon, who is close to Putin and noted for his nationalistic statements, would have likely faced difficulties far greater than those in his Pskov see, a place in which he served before and knows the lay of the land. In Yekaterinburg, he would have had to learn from scratch, and both dissidents in the church and activists outside would have challenged him.
Indeed, one church insider in the Urals city says, “After peaceful Pskov, this would have been hell for him.”
Larisa Astakhov, a theologian at the Moscow State Linguistics University, confirms that rumors were circulating about moving Tikhon to Yekaterinburg. But ultimately, public objections to the cathedral site in that city and radical schismatic Orthodox leaders in the region convinced even Kirill that things could get out of hand without a more experienced manager.
Embattled Orthodox deacon Andrey Kurayev, however, doubts there was any conspiracy against Tikhon. According to him, decisions about who goes where and why are taken on the basis of things “cruder, simpler and more primitive.” A spokesman for Tikhon also denies that there was any effort to send him to Yekaterinburg.
Nonetheless, the appearance of this story suggests that tensions both between Kirill and Tikhon and between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kremlin are heating up and that there may soon be some fundamental shifts in the hierarchy of the Russian church in the coming months.