“Current socio-political situation” dictated Hilarion’s demotion

Source: Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” on Bolshaya Ordynka on June 12, 2022

Today, June 12, Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” on Bolshaya Ordynka where he has been rector for 13 years.  It was his farewell to the parish.  On the Orthodox calendar, it is Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Trinity.  The service was filmed by Portal “Jesus,” a website that was founded by Metropolitan Hilarion in 2018.  https://jesus-portal.ru/   Today’s entire service can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=6nZSKtCC22g&f .  As far as I could see, none of the key people from the Department of External Church Relations (DECR) were present.  At the end of the service, Metropolitan Hilarion spoke about the decision of the Holy Synod on Tuesday, June 7, to remove him from his position as head of the DECR, which he had held since 2009.  TASS has described these remarks in an article at https://n.tass.ru/obschestvo/14891597.  A Google translation of the entire TASS article is set forth below:

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) of Budapest and Hungary, previously relieved by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of his duties as head of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR), linked his resignation from the post of head of the DECR with “the requirements of the current socio-political situation.”  This decision of the church leadership is not associated with any shortcomings in the activities of the DECR or other church institutions headed by Metropolitan Hilarion, the bishop himself said on Sunday after the liturgy in the church on Bolshaya Ordynka. 

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on Tuesday dismissed Metropolitan Hilarion from the post of chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, which he had headed since 2009, and appointed him Metropolitan of Budapest and Hungary.  Metropolitan Hilarion was replaced as head of the DECR by Metropolitan Anthony (Sevryuk) of Korsun and Western Europe.  Since 2009, Metropolitan Hilarion has also been the rector of the church in honor of the icon of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” on Bolshaya Ordynka.  On Sunday, he served the last liturgy there on the occasion of the feast of the Holy Trinity, after which he said goodbye to the parishioners. 

“Many people ask me these days – why, for what?  I will not go into details now, in fact, I myself do not know many details.  I was told that this decision was not connected with any shortcomings in the activity Department of External Church Relations, nor [with shortcomings]in the General Church Postgraduate School or this holy temple, or the Chernigov Patriarchal Metochion, or other church institutions that I headed.  And it was said only that this is required by the current socio-political situation.  That the road made a very sharp turn, I didn’t fit into it and ended up on the side of the road.  But it’s better than if I drove into a ditch, my car would roll over and explode,” said Metropolitan Hilarion. 

He noted that life goes on and there is no need to dramatize these events, because “in the life of every clergyman there can be ups and downs, and promotions in the so-called career, and demotions.”  “All this is temporary, and this is not why we serve the church.  I have never sought high appointments, or membership in the Synod, or any privileges, and I will never grieve that I have lost them,” the hierarch said. 

According to him, he sincerely and heartily thanks everyone with whom he communicated during these 13 years of joint service and fellowship in the temple.  Metropolitan Hilarion thanked the clergy for “impeccable service,” noting that the community of the church on Bolshaya Ordynka lived “like one family.”  During his address to the believers, he stopped several times and was silent, trying to contain his feelings. 

Metropolitan Hilarion wished the clergy and parishioners to “always remain faithful to the Church and be devoted to the hierarchy, keep peace in your heart and love each other.”  The bishop also expressed the hope that he and the members of his community “do not lose each other for good,” but “part for a while.” 

It appears that Metropolitan Hilarion was not present at the meeting of the Holy Synod on June 7.  He is not visible in any of the photos of the meeting.  Andrei Kuraev on his website, https://diak-kuraev.livejournal.com/?skip=10, conveyed the following account from a supposed reliable source:

Hilarion was summoned yesterday before the start of the meeting and confronted with the fact that he was removed.  After that, he flew out of the building like a cork, no one could understand where he had gone so quickly just before the meeting.  He presented his report on the trip [to Hungary]to Kirill, who then spoke about his removal and transfer.  In response, no one [at the Synod meeting]even asked anything, did not say a word, since they understand what it entails [т.к. понимают, чем это чревато].  The only thing that His Holiness said: “So it is necessary” [“Так надо”]. 

Metropolitan Hilarion subsequently met with Patriarch Kirill on June 10 (https://mospat.ru/ru/news/89371/).  According to the report of the meeting, they discussed topical issues of the life of the Budapest-Hungarian diocese.  Presumably, the little information that Metropolitan Hilarion has concerning his removal came from this meeting.

The precipitous nature of the decision relating to a new head of the DECR is also indicated by the fact that Metropolitan Anthony, who became the new head of DECR on Tuesday, had celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Russian Orthodox church of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Rome two days earlier.  https://stcaterina.com/mitropolit-antonij-sovershil-bozhestvennuyu-liturgiyu-v-ekaterininskom-hrame/   According to the website of the parish, he had arrived the previous evening for a pastoral visit to Italy.  It is doubtful that Metropolitan Anthony would have undertaken this trip to Italy if he had any foreknowledge of his future promotion.

In evaluating the decision to send Metropolitan Hilarion to Budapest, it should be noted that he will be the first Russian Orthodox bishop in recent times to have the Budapest diocese as his only responsibility.  When then-Bishop Hilarion left Vienna in March 2009, he was administrator of both the Vienna-Austrian and Hungarian dioceses.  The three bishops (Mark, Tikhon, and Anthony) who followed him also had responsibility for both dioceses.  The fourth bishop, Metropolitan Ioann (Roshchin), was likewise given both dioceses, but in August 2019 the Budapest-Hungarian diocese was given to Metropolitan Mark of Ryazan.  For the next three years, Metropolitan Mark continued to head the major Ryazan Metropolia (158 churches) while at the same time being responsible for the Hungarian diocese (10 churches).  The Hungarian diocese has now been given to Metropolitan Hilarion, and Metropolitan Mark remains the head of the Ryazan Metropolia.

Although Metropolitan Hilarion perhaps enjoys Budapest and has a close friendship with Cardinal Péter Erdő, the transfer can only be considered a humiliating demotion in terms of responsibility.  The diocese only has a total of 11 active priests and 4 deacons.   http://hungary.orthodoxia.org/papsag/  It is difficult to believe that such a fall had its origin in the mind of Patriarch Kirill.  Metropolitan Hilarion has been extremely loyal to the Patriarch.  He authored the Patriarch’s biography.  He has promoted the Patriarch’s books.  He has done so much for the Patriarch.  In the official minutes relating to the demotion, “gratitude” was expressed to Metropolitan Mark of Ryazan for his service in Budapest, but not a word of gratitude is found in the minutes for the services performed by Metropolitan Hilarion.   Personally, I find it difficult to believe that Patriarch Kirill is so hard-hearted that he would do this on his own accord.

When one considers the reason given to Metropolitan Hilarion for his demotion, namely “required by the current socio-political situation,”  the only likely “situation” relates to events in Ukraine.  The reference to “a very sharp turn” in the road likely refers to Ukraine which has had a huge impact on the Russian Federation and the Moscow Patriarchate.  The fact that the demotion does not relate to the activities of the DECR or other institutions headed by Metropolitan Hilarion indicates that the demotion relates to the personal conduct of Metropolitan Hilarion with respect to Ukraine.  As many have observed, Metropolitan Hilarion has been very quiet with respect to Ukraine and has in no way endorsed the war there.   The sudden and surprising nature of the decision to demote him supports the theory that the decision was dictated by an authority outside the Moscow Patriarchate.

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

Source: ocl.org

“Current socio-political situation” dictated Hilarion’s demotion