From the News Archives: What’s the Patriarch’s bottom line look like now?

Hat tip to Nik Stanosheck for putting this up on We might never have found it. Translated from Russian.

Metropolitan Kirill assailed by old nemesis
“Tobacco metropolitan” struggles for the throne.
by Sergei Bychkov
Moskovskii komsomolets, 8 May 2003

Despite His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II’s being still healthy and full of energy, the struggle for the throne has entered a decisive phase. My friend, a person who is extremely knowledgeable in church life,–once complained that unfortunately there is no Orthodox betting pool. (Editor: We doubt he would have called it as close as NFTU, short of a call by 58 votes.) I was interested: “On whom would you place your bet?” To my amazement, although he had suffered a great deal from Master Gundiaev, he answered without hesitation: “On Metropolitan Kirill.” And he spun out for me a number of weighty arguments.

First, “tobacco metropolitan” is the only billionaire among the Orthodox episcopate. There is the hope that after he becomes patriarch he will not steal. Second, he is administratively talented and energetic. He is the only one who knows how to put together a strong team. And this is not just in the Department for External Church Relations. His people completely surround and successfully serve the current patriarch. The patriarch’s speechwriter, Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, is completely devoted to “tobacco metropolitan.” The chief of protocol, Deacon Vladimir Nazarkin, is also his man.

Third, “tobacco metropolitan” knows how to handle relations with the presidential administration, the government, and among duma leaders. And finally, lastly, Master Gundiaev holds solidly in his hands a mass of compromising information about the Orthodox episcopate. Many bishops know this and tremble.

One can envy the business capacity of “tobacco metropolitan.” He successfully has accomplished the strategy worked out by his team that he himself calls a “permanent battle.” In August 2000, at the jubilee bishops’ council, he imposed on the gathering the 300-page text of the “Bases of the social doctrine of the Russian Orthodox church.” The council lasted less than three days. Naturally, none of the bishops could master even 100 pages. The more so since the council had to canonize 500 new confessors and martyrs. And finally “tobacco metropolitan” insisted on introducing amendments into the charter. Even his old friend and mentor, Master Poiarkov, began to groan and called the assembly not to introduce innovations but to live with the old charter. Master Gundiaev inserted a point into the amended draft of the charter: if a bishop has not “served” in his diocese for two years, then he does not have the right to aspire to the patriarchal throne. Who has the real aspirations for the patriarchal throne? The only pity is that he is too anxious.

Recently in the Union of Writers he presided over a presentation of a book by the president of the All-Russian Sambo Federation, Khlopetsky, “And the permanent battle.” One might wonder what an Orthodox bishop has to do with self-defence (sambo) and its creator, Vasily Oshchepkov. The first book of a trilogy, “Formation,” was co-authored by the “tobacco metropolitan” with Khlopetsky. It describes the years that Vasily Oshchepkov spent in Japan studying in the ecclesiastical seminary and about the influence of the prominent missionary, Archbishop Nikolai Kasatkin. He brought Orthodoxy to Japan and was canonized by the church. In the first part of the trilogy, “tobacco metropolitan” presented a contemporary version of a hagiography of Nikolai of Japan. Athletes were so enthralled that they granted Master Kirill two medals. One for service in the development of sports and the Olympic movement and the second, a gold medal of the World Sambo Federation.

Nevertheless, the “tobacco metropolitan” does not consist in some achievements only. Among his serious shortcomings one should mention his enormous miserliness. This is not about his life style or those cases involving personal needs. There is no shortage of money to build a lavish dacha or villa in the West. In the fifteen years he spent in Smolensk and Kaliningrad, only one church was built in Smolensk. In Kaliningrad “tobacco metropolitan” promoted the construction of the church of Christ the Savior, which, according to his proud design, was not supposed to yield place to the Moscow church. However he did not grant any money for the construction. In ten years the only thing that had been built on the site was the foundation. And only after the arrival of Governor Admiral Vladimir Egorov was the construction of the church begun. Of course, without the participation of the diocese. Recently “tobacco metropolitan” visited the site and stated: “Despite certain difficulties in construction, shortage of needed scaffolds and of financing, we are satisfied with the course and amount of work. The cathedral church of Christ the Savior that is being built is not just a church where divine services will be conducted but it also is a symbol of the city and province and thus it should be constructed by the whole world.” The last phrase is very deceptive. Why by the whole world? The city includes Catholics, protestants, and atheists. Why should they pay for the construction?

As our sources at the OVTsS have informed us, “tobacco metropolitan” prepared a real intrigue for yesterday’s session of the synod. He wants to transfer the elderly Metropolitan Vladimir Kotliarov of St. Petersburg and Ladoga to the Stavropol see, since Metropolitan Gedeon of Stavropol died in March. Next year Metropolitan Vladimir will turn seventy-five. According to the charter he should submit his resignation and retire. “Tobacco metropolitan” himself plans to occupy his place, since the capital city should have a prominent and significant metropolitan! Especially on the eve of the 300th anniversary of Petersburg. And he wants to install his deputy, Archbishop Kliment Kapalin of Kaluga and Borovsk as head of OVTsS. The chancellor of RPTs, Metropolitan Sergius, he wants to send to Kazakhstan and replace with Archbishop Arseny of Istrinsk. This combination will clear the way for “tobacco metropolitan” to the patriarchal throne.

One should not forget that the elections for patriarch are secret. And the upcoming local council will most likely not be devoted only to the election of a patriarch. Most likely the council will take up the reform of the divine liturgy that was begun long ago, the problem of the participation of clergy and laity in church administration, and the problems of social service. Then the election of the patriarch will include everybody. In such an event the “tobacco billionaire” can hardly aspire to the patriarchal throne. (tr. by PDS, posted 8 May 2003)