Like politics, like the church?

Like politics, like the church?

Just as Russia's President Putin is increasingly appointing well-adjusted top officials to leadership positions, Patriarch Cyril I is securing his. is using young loyal subordinates to secure his power at the top of the Russian Orthodox Church.

When Russia's Patriarch Cyril recently dismissed his longtime confidant, Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga, dismissed from his position as chief administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate, the surprise was great. Cyril, hardly had he become patriarch, had brought Warsonofi from the province to the post in 2009. Now he has been removed from office in a hastily summoned synod.

The 63-year-old Warsonofi took care of organizing meetings and trips of Kyrill and was also responsible for the audit. He had Cyril's back. His post is now taken over by Metropolitan Savva of Tver, who is only 38 years old.

Reason for dismissal remains unknown

This process is symptomatic of recent personnel strategy in the Russian Orthodox Church. Thus, Cyril has created his own "vertical of power" by reorganizing the church administration. It is thus oriented to the central element of the political system under Russian President Vladimir Putin. "The key role in Kyrill's pyramid is hardly played by experienced charismatics anymore, but rather by competent managerial types," Russian religious scholar Konstantin Mikhailov told Russian media.

The processes in the Russian Orthodox Church (ROK) – with its more than 100 million believers the largest of all Orthodox churches – are often very intransparent. The reason for Warsonofi's dismissal is not known. His previous role is considered promising for the highest office within the Russian Orthodox Church. Cyril and his predecessors Alexy and Pimen also held them.

Prere because of new Orthodox Church

Metropolitan Savva of Tver is not the only younger one on the team. Metropolitan Mark of Ryazan, who is responsible for finances, is leaving his post for 42-year-old Metropolitan Ignati of Vologda. On the other hand, the 34-year-old Archbishop Antoni, responsible for the administration of foreign churches in the Moscow Patriarchate, is still waiting for his assignment.

Observers see in him the successor to the smart string-puller, Metropolitan Hilarion. Strictly conservative Cyril accuses the 52-year-old head of the ROK's foreign office of "defeat in Ukraine". By creating an independent Orthodox Church in the neighboring country, the Russian Orthodox Church risks losing many believers and places of worship in Ukraine. In addition, they have also ended their cooperation with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and are becoming increasingly isolated.

Personnel tragedy should secure power for Kyrill

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is the informal head of the Orthodox churches and is among Cyril's counterparts within Orthodoxy. Russia's patriarch cares little for ecumenism. Cyril also vehemently advocates traditional values and norms in dealing with homosexuality and equal rights for women. Liberal positions are alien to him.

Like Putin, who is appointing more and more conformist top officials to leadership positions, Cyril secures his power with young loyal subordinates. "The patriarch has set up his system in such a way that he can change church administrators of different levels at his leisure at any time, without having to take into account any groups of influence within the structure," said religious scholar Michajlow.

Cyril holds largest church congregation in Russia

One, however, opposes Cyril. The 83-year-old Juwenali has held high posts in the Russian Orthodox Church since Brezhnev times. Since 1977, he has also held the position of metropolitan of Krutizy and Kolomna, Russia's largest parish. For almost ten years, the clergyman has refused to implement parts of the church reform initiated by Cyril. Among other things, he plans to create small administrative units out of the formerly large dioceses.

Moscow region, under juwenali, is now the only one in Russia that is not subdivided.

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Christina Cherry
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