The Russian Orthodox Church sends its second most powerful figure on a low-ranking foreign assignment

Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s foreign relations department and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, speaks during a news conference in Minsk, Belarus October 15, 2018. REUTERS /Vasily Fedosenko/File Photo

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  • Second-in-Command directed Church External Relations
  • The synod decrees that he should instead be sent to Budapest
  • Conflict in Ukraine deepened split within Slavic Orthodoxy

LONDON, June 8 (Reuters) – The Russian Orthodox Church has ousted its second most powerful bishop from his role as head of foreign relations and sent him to Budapest, an abrupt move indicating discord at the top of the Moscow Patriarchate in about the war in Ukraine.

The Holy Synod, which met Tuesday at the 13th-century white-walled Danilovsky Monastery in Moscow, decreed the removal of Metropolitan Hilarion as chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external relations with the Church.

The synod had discussed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is challenged as the leader of Slavic Orthodoxy by the rival autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Metropolitan of Kyiv.

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More than 700 words into the minutes of the meeting, the Synod decreed that Hilarion would be relieved of his duties as head of external relations, permanent member of the Synod, and rector of the Saints Cyril and Saints Graduate Institute. Method.

“It is decreed that Bishop Hilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, will be the Administrator of the Diocese of Budapest-Hungary, Metropolitan of Budapest and Hungary,” the minutes read.

The Church did not respond to a Reuters request for an explanation of the abrupt departure of Hilarion, who holds a doctorate from Oxford University and is seen as a potential successor to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia.

At the synod meeting, Hilarion, 55, made a presentation on a visit he and Patriarch Kirill had made to Hungary, including discussions with the Roman Catholic Church, according to the minutes.

Hilarion, 55 and head of external relations for 13 years, will be replaced by Metropolitan Anthony, 37.

“The chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, with the title of Volokolamsk, will be Bishop Anthony,” the minutes read.


The Russian Orthodox Church is by far the largest of the churches in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which split from Western Christianity in the Great Schism of 1054. Today it has around 100 million followers in Russia and more outside.

But the February 24 invasion of Ukraine split the two largest Slavic congregations and aggravated a growing dispute within Slavic Orthodox Christianity that dates back more than a thousand years to the very roots of Russia and Europe. Ukraine.

The Kremlin says it is carrying out a ‘special military operation’ to defend Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine and presents it as a conflict with an ‘absolutist’ US-led West that wants to destroy Russia and its culture.

Kyiv and its Western supporters note that many Russian speakers have fled the Russian invasion, which they say is an imperial-style land grab that has given Ukrainian nationalism the biggest boost in a century.

Kirill, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, sees the war as a bulwark against a West he describes as decadent although he has spoken of the pain of conflict as his flock is on both sides.

As many Ukrainians sought to rid themselves of Russian rule after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kyiv Orthodox Church of Ukraine was granted autocephaly by Constantinople, which oversees most modern Orthodox churches, causing discord with Moscow which considers it a usurper.

After Christianity came to Slavic lands in the 9th and 10th centuries, Kyiv had its own metropolitan, but it was subordinated to the Russian Church in 1685 under Tsar Peter the Great.

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Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; edited by Philippa Fletcher

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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