Staunton, Mar. 21 – The Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has a long history of viewing Rasputin in a positive light, regularly arguing that he was a genuine Orthodox Christian who deserves respect and even veneration for his role at the end of the Russian Empire.
But such views are most often confined to priests and lower-ranking clergy and are typically uttered when no one would be likely to view them as a commentary on current events. Now, however, that appears to have changed; and the consequences for the church may prove monumental.
Metropolitan Ilarion, head of the Patriarchate’s foreign relations department and generally considered as ranking second only to Patriarch Kirill in the hierarchy, has chosen to declare even as Russia is engaged in a war that Russia could have avoided the catastrophe of 1917 if only Nicholas II had listened to Rasputin who urged the tsar not to go to war (interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=78780).
Some in the Kremlin and many ordinary believers are likely to view his words as criticism of Putin’s decision to go to war in Ukraine and even a prediction of disaster in the future as a result. And many more will see Illarion’s words as a sign that the Patriarchate is divided, given that Kirill has been entirely supportive of Putin’s campaign.