The Russian Orthodox Church is sending its second strongest determine, a decrease rank, overseas.

The Holy Synod, which met on Tuesday in the Danilovsky Monastery, a white-walled monastery in Moscow from the 13th century, decided to remove Metropolitan Hilarion from the position of chairman of the Foreign Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Synod discussed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which, as the leader of the Slavic Orthodoxy, is questioned by the rival autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Kiev.

With more than 700 words in the minutes of the Synod’s meeting, it decided to remove Hilarion from the position of Head of Foreign Relations, Permanent Member of the Synod and Rector of the Institute of Postgraduate Studies of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

“It is decided that Bishop Hilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, will be the administrator of the Diocese of Budapest, Metropolitan of Budapest and Hungary,” the minutes said.

The church has not responded to a request from Reuters to explain the sudden departure of Hilarion, who has a doctorate from Oxford University and was considered a potential successor to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and throughout Russia.

During a meeting of the Synod of Hilarion (55), he gave a presentation on a visit he and Patriarch Kirill had to Hungary, including discussions with the Roman Catholic Church, according to the minutes.

Hilarion, who is 55 years old and has been head of external relations for 13 years, will be replaced by Metropolitan Antoine (37).

“Bishop Anton is the chairman of the Church’s External Relations Department and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, Volokolamsk,” the minutes said.

WAR INCREASES DISTRIBUTION

The Russian Orthodox Church is by far the largest of the Eastern Orthodox Churches that separated from Western Christianity in the Great Schism of 1054. Today, it has about 100 million followers and more in Russia.

However, the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 divided the two largest Slavic congregations and added a growing conflict within Slavic Orthodox Christianity that dates back more than a thousand years to the very roots of Russia and Ukraine.

The Kremlin claims to be conducting a “special military operation” to defend Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine, portraying it as a conflict with a “absolutist” US-led West that wants to destroy Russia and its culture.

Kiev and its Western supporters are forced to note that many Russian-speaking people have fled the Russian invasion, which they see as imperial-style land grabbing, which has given Ukrainian nationalism the most support in the last century.

Kirill, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, sees the war as a bulwark against the West, which he describes as decadent; however, he spoke of the pains of the conflict, his flock on both sides.

As many Ukrainians sought to rid themselves of Russian domination after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine’s Kiev Orthodox Church, Constantinople, which oversees most churches, gave the modern Orthodox Church a self-confession, causing disagreements with Moscow, which it considers usurper.

After the arrival of Christianity in the Slavic territories in the 9th and 10th centuries, Kiev had its own metropolitan, but in 1685, under Tsar Peter the Great, it was subordinated to the Church of Russia.

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