The 16th Patriarch

Patriarch Kirill

Patriarch Kirill

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is out to make Russia truly Orthodox.
The "quiet man of prayer" has made way for the "efficient manager": Kirill is expected to preside over an impressive and fruitful Patriarchate.

Barely two months after the death of Patriarch Aleksiy II, its former head, the Russian Orthodox Church has a new Patriarch: Kirill.

The Holy Synod met five days after the Patriarch's death and scheduled meetings of the Church's Council of Bishops and the Local Council for the end of January. It also elected Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad interim leader of the Church. He was one of the most outstanding and active archbishops, an author, organiser of key institutional events in the life of the Church, and presenter of the weekly TV programme "The Word of the Shepherd".
Before the elections Metropolitan Kirill was well known to the secular public through his appearances on the popular TV programme "Name of Russia", in which viewers voted for the most significant figures in history. Fortunately, the winning "Name of Russia" turned out to be not Stalin, the terror of the intelligentsia, but the 13th century holy prince Aleksandr Nevskiy, who coined a phrase that transformed the Russian worldview: "God is not found in strength, but in truth." The holy prince's champion in the programme was Metropolitan Kirill.

However, neither the high public profile of the interim leader nor the finely tuned procedures of the Church promised an automatic result. For example, despite considerable efforts on his part, the previous interim leader, Metropolitan Filaret (Denisenko) did not become Patriarch. And in 1990, at the height of "perestroika", to the surprise of almost all pundits the Council elected Metropolitan Aleksiy of Saint Petersburg and Ladoga.

So the interim leader would not necessarily become Patriarch. Only the non-churchgoing public, accustomed to weighing up the chances of candidates vying for power on the modern political scene and to believing only in PR, would expect this to be the obvious result.

But this was about the Church - a much more conservative institution, enshrining something more than just a purely social body. The coming process of electing a Patriarch would include a sense of the absolute in its spiritual and moral values, ideas and choices.

Soon there was talk of a second candidate, with many people suggesting this should be Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk. A possible third candidate was expected to emerge too, as there were suitably worthy figures among the archbishops and members of the Holy Synod.

The "profile" of the future Patriarch was of enormous significance in defining the preferences not just of a curious public but also of the Church flock. What kind of person would he be? Did he display the necessary amount of humility, so important for the Orthodox? Was he doctrinally correct? Did he sin against the truth? The Metropolitans' words were subjected to intense and frank discussion on the internet, with clergy and theological college students joining in. Even some not very well substantiated suspicions of "secret Catholicism" were expressed. The internet also revealed the first signs of public dissatisfaction with the electoral methods.

But the most striking thing in the run-up to the election was the emergence of two types of candidate for the Patriarchate - the "efficient manager", able to respond to the "challenges of the time", and the "quiet man of prayer". The latter was not destined to make much progress, but the "efficient manager" type was put forward repeatedly, and with unusual clarity, in statements by Deacon Andrey Kurayev, a well known commentator on Church affairs, and the young Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria. The clear implication was that Metropolitan Kirill was this "efficient manager".

In his own interviews a little later, however, he was much more calm and convincing, correcting the impression of tending towards a management "type" by emphasising both in words and lifestyle his love of prayer.
Metropolitan Kliment, meanwhile, only gave an interview devoted to the memory of the late Patriarch Aleksiy.

So this is how the forces were deployed as the Church approached its two Councils. The Council of Bishops had to nominate three candidates for the Patriarch's throne, and the Local Council would vote on them. Metropolitan Kirill received 97 votes, Metropolitan Kliment 32 votes, and the secret ballot put another respected and experienced senior clergyman - Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Belarus - in third place with 16 votes.

A proposal was made in the Local Council to amend the rules for electing a Patriarch by adding a provision for casting lots, but this was rejected.
Before the final vote took place Metropolitan Filaret withdrew his candidacy, leaving two candidates, and Metropolitan Kirill was elected in a secret ballot. He received 508 votes, against Metropolitan Kliment's 169.

The election of a new Russian Patriarch was over. The enthronement of Patriarch Kirill took place in the presence of the President of the Russian Federation, the prime minister, heads and representatives of Orthodox and other churches, and distinguished lay guests.

The views expressed by the majority of committed believers in Russia could be summarised thus: the Patriarch is a figure who comes to maturity deep within the heart of Church life, who is prepared for his role over many years by the entire experience of the Church, and who is part of an ancient tradition. Patriarch Kirill fits that description.
The Patriarch's enthronement was broadcast live on Russian national television for the first time.

Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, where the enthronement took place, has a troubled history. It was built in 1812 to mark the defeat of Napoleon. The Soviet authorities demolished it in 1931 and replaced it with a swimming pool, but in the 1990s the cathedral was rebuilt to the original design.
In recent years increasing numbers of young people and urban residents have started going to church.

The History of Russian Patriarchal Elections

The position of Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has been held by fifteen successive people since it was established in the 16th century, but the election procedure changed several times. The first Patriarch of Moscow, Job, was appointed on 26 January 1589 by Tsar Fyodor I. Job was chosen thanks to strong support from Boris Godunov, a powerful statesman who wielded the real power behind the throne.

Subsequent patriarchs were also handpicked by the Tsar from among candidates proposed by senior clergy, but there were exceptions. In 1619, for example, Tsar Mikhail Romanov agreed with the secular Assembly of the Land (Zemskiy Sobor), instead of the Church (Holy Sobor), to install his father Philaret as the Moscow Patriarch. In 1642, the same Tsar nominated six patriarchal candidates. Then lots were cast and Patriarch Josef was chosen. In 1652, Tsar Alexey Romanov chose not to appoint the patriarch, at least officially, but the bishops eagerly settled on his closest ecclesiastical ally, Metropolitan Nikon.

Sometimes, patriarchs were elected against the will of the sovereign. In 1690, a Holy Assembly including both high and middle-level clergy elected Patriarch Adrian, counter to the wish of Peter the Great who did not then enjoy the full power of the Russian Throne. After Adrian's death in 1700, Peter retaliated by abolishing the patriarchate of Moscow altogether and replacing it with the Holy Governing Synod.

Following the February Revolution of 1917, the Holy Synod reestablished the patriarchate. A congress of 364 members of the clergy and lay people was convened to elect the primate. Three candidates were short-listed through preferential voting and Tikhon, even though he received the lowest number of primary votes, was finally elected by lot. After his death in 1925, the Russian Orthodox Church remained without a patriarch for 18 years, because the Soviet authorities prohibited ecclesiastical assemblies.

During the Second World War, the relations between the Church and the State improved. On 4 September 1943, Stalin had a conversation with Metropolitan Sergiy, the acting patriarch, about organising elections of the Russian Orthodox patriarch. The Metropolitan asked for a month to make the arrangements, but Stalin suggested he "demonstrate true Bolshevik performance" and, just four days later, a congress of top clergy (hierarchs) met to elect Sergiy as Patriarch. The primates that followed him - Alexiy I and Pimen - were also elected by hierarchs.

The elections of Alexiy II in 1990 were based on a more `democratic' process, the same as that applied to elect the new Patriarch Kirill. In 1990, the hierarchs selected three candidates, from whom 317 delegates of the National Congress of the Russian Orthodox Church elected the Patriarch. Metropolitan Antoniy of Surozh, one of the candidates proposed by the congress, was removed from the list because he was a British citizen and only citizens of the USSR could become patriarchs under the church statute.

The Sixteenth Patriarch of All Russia. Who is He?

As a child, Vladimir once stepped by chance through the Holy Sanctuary doors of a church, walked around for some time and then left. His mother led him by the hand to the senior priest. "Father, something unthinkable has happened. My son walked into the sanctuary". The priest looked at the embarrassed mother and waved his hand dismissively: "Never mind, it's all right. He'll be an Archbishop".

Metropolitan Kirill was born on 20 November 1946 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). His secular name was Vladimir Gundyaev. Both his father and grandfather were priests. "I wanted to be a priest even when I was a child" he said in one interview. "By the age of six or seven, I could go through a prayer service without a slip." Vladimir was tonsured on 3 April 1969 by Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) of Leningrad. It was he who had advised the young man to go to a theological seminary after finishing school. "You know, Vladimir, there are plenty of scholars in our country, but very few priests."

From Metropolitan Nikodim also came the most important guidance on how to fulfill his mission successfully. "He would say to me, "Even crows do not fly straight. So never bang your head against the wall, look for ways to get round it without losing sight of your purpose. I saw many times how my teacher bypassed unassailable barriers while remaining absolutely true to the Russian Orthodox Church". Perhaps this guidance helped the newly elected Patriarch to earn his reputation as a skillful diplomat. In December 1974, Kirill was appointed Rector of the Leningrad Theological Academy and Seminary. Under his leadership the number of students trebled.

In 1989, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad became Head of Department for External Church Relations. Starting from 1995-1997, the Moscow Patriarchate becomes increasingly involved in politics, with the results that the External Relations Department acquire broader recognition and influence and its leader came to be called the foreign minister or even the prime minister of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Among Metropolitan Kirill's major successes are the unification of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Orthodox Church in the neighbouring countries and extensive growth of ROC parishes far beyond Russia from a few dozen to 330.

While being a proponent of interdenominational dialogue, Kirill has not failed to protect the interests of the ROC. He was responsible for stopping Ukraine from establishing an independent Orthodox Church separate from the Moscow Patriarchate and for maintaining close ties with the Georgian Orthodox Church throughout the conflict in South Ossetia. Metropolitan Kirill knows many Catholic prelates personally and his efforts have led to more stable relations with the Vatican.

In Church circles in Russia and abroad, Kirill is known as a man of broad erudition, profound knowledge and intellectual prowess. He has published and presented over six hundred papers and written several books. He remains the only senior clergyman to have hosted, for many years, the television programme entitled The Word of the Shepherd. Although he is rightly regarded as a powerful speaker, Kirill once confessed that he had been painfully self-conscious all his life until he was about fifty, and only then did he learn to control this feeling.

Somewhat unexpectedly for a top cleric, His Eminence has a penchant for sports. After work, Kirill dons a tracksuit and walks his dogs. On vacation, he swims a couple of miles non-stop every day. In winter, he enjoys downhill skiing. The Patriarch says this has been his passion for the last forty-three years.

The Eastern Orthodox diaspora outside Russia totals 30 million people.
The number of monasteries under the Moscow Patriarchate has increased 36.5-fold since the 1988 Church Council, growing from 22 to 804.
The number of active Moscow churches has soared from 40 to 872.
The number of parishes has quadrupled globally, from 6,893 to 29,263.


On Vladimir Putin:
"I not only trust that Vladimir Putin is a true believer, I can actually sense it. As for his KGB past, I think everyone has the right to make their own choice in life."

On relations with other religions:
"Only by hearing out Muslims can we make out the sense of modern Islam. Yet understanding others does not mean betrayal of one's own identity."

On the financial crisis:
"This is God's judgment on human wickedness and greed for money at any cost."

On the fiscal system:
"Our Church insists on progressive income taxation and we have been ahead of all political parties in this. We strongly advocate imposing a luxury tax."
On NATO: "Our instinct for self-preservation compels us to remonstrate against NATO's expansion to the East."

On oligarchs:
"The modern capitalist system run by monopolies and oligarchs is doomed. It would inevitably collapse under the enormous pressure of the internal conflicts and massive social protests it has been generating worldwide. Over the past twenty years alone, the gap between the rich and poor has widened dramatically, the global economy has been constantly teetering on the brink of financial crisis and millions of people still have no access to the benefits of civilisation. Simply speaking, this economic policy is anything but ethical."

On relations with the Vatican:
"The Russian Orthodox Church takes the same stand as before on the issue of a meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope. Our position ensues from the specific context of relations between the two Churches and that has nothing to do with the personalities of their respective leaders. The meeting between head of our Church and the Pope will only be possible when we see some real progress in resolving those issues that have upset our relations for a long time."

On human rights:
"The view of abortion as a woman's right makes international organisations ignore the unborn baby's right to life. Ethics are out of the picture when experiments are carried out on the human embryo. Even more astounding is that some people propose to include euthanasia as a human right. Human rights, which begin with the fundamental right to life, might soon be supporting death."

On clergy:
"Becoming lukewarm and fixated on formal rites are the two greatest dangers for a clergyman. Spiritual leaders must not turn into ritualists, considering it their primary, if not only, duty to recite public prayers, perform funeral services, bless around people's cars and apartments. Likewise, they must not be bogged down in administrative or economic activities... A good shepherd does not carry this burden alone but shares it with the flock, without losing any of his authority or the final word as leader of the church community."

Lyubov Sliska, Deputy Speaker of the Russian State Duma
God has made His choice and I believe that the election of Metropolitan Kirill is good news not only for our Church, but for all Russia. Metropolitan Kirill comes from a family in which several generations have served God, and this is very important. He is a brilliant preacher, renowned across Russia; his sermons have won the hearts of his audience. Metropolitan Kirill was voted in by a sweeping majority at the National Congress of the Russian Orthodox Church, a signal that there is readiness to rally around this leader.

Sergey Mironov, Speaker of the Federation Council
With all due tribute to the era associated with the late Patriarch Alexiy II, we, as a nation, place big hopes on the elected Patriarch Kirill and trust that he will be a faithful partner of the Russian Government in promoting spiritual and moral values in Russian society, as well as an exemplary virtuous shepherd.

Alexey Makarkin, Deputy Director of the Centre for Political Technologies
Metropolitan Kirill is very active publicly and this is going to enhance the partnership between the Church and the Government. In his Christmas speech, Metropolitan Kirill found room for the global financial crisis, which I think means that the Church will not be content merely to pursue a spiritual and moral agenda, but will also go further, to address social and even political issues.

Berl Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia
We have very special feelings about Metropolitan Kirill being elected Patriarch. We have cooperated with him for many years and we can say with confidence that this is a man who listens — and make others listen when he speaks. As a Metropolitan, Kirill, together with the late Patriarch Alexiy II, was instrumental in reasserting moral values in Russian society, which we see as a paramount goal. We have felt his support on several occasions and have always found a common language to resolve any differences. It is clear to us that the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church has a broader concept of developing Russian fundamental traditions, beyond the limits of Orthodoxy.

Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions
This is not merely the victory of a single person or a church faction, it is a resounding victory of the whole Church, which has proved capable of joining rianks behind a single candidate, one individual. Both the Assembly of Hierarchs and the entire Church Congress demonstrated the breadth of support Kirill enjoys among the episcopate. The common clergy, monastic and lay communities and the broader public are equally supportive. Notably, the elections of the Patriarch aroused strong interest among the public at large, as well as the Church itself.
Back in mid-December, online voting was set up on the Patriarch 2009 website: 72% of visitors voted for Metropolitan Kirill. The 700 members of the Church Congress returned the same 72% for the acting patriarch. This coincidence means that the votes of the Congress precisely reflect the choice and attitude of the ecclesiastical community. Public support for Metropolitan Kirill has been very strong and it translated into the voting results at the Church Congress.

Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation
In recent years, I have had an opportunity to get to know you as a profound theologian striving to revive the Russian Orthodox tradition following the hardships experienced by the Church in the 20th century, and as a visionary spiritual shepherd working zealously for the benefit of God's people and full of the desire to fulfil Christ's commandment, "Ut Unum Sint" (Let there be unity).

Roman Silantyev, Professor of Religious Studies at Moscow State Linguistic University
I believe that Patriarch Kirill will give a new impetus to the revival of the Orthodox Church in Russia and will make this Church, the second biggest in the world in terms of membership, a leading force in the Christian Renaissance. The new Primate will have to complete the quantity-to-quality transformation initiated by Alexiy II and to elevate the opened parishes and monasteries to the quality of Church life. It is critical to keep up the effort and momentum of the ecclesiastical recovery. There is obviously no more persecution and many people of the cloth are no longer under strained circumstances, but this does not mean the Church can rest on its laurels and withdraw from active missionary work.

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