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Patriarch Kirill’s external relations man sacked over Ukraine differences


©Viacheslav Lopatin

I.Media - published on 06/07/22

Metropolitan Hilarion is still expected to have an important role in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate since 2009, has been dismissed by the Russian Synod, confirms the Orthodox Times, June 7, 2022. The right-hand man of Patriarch Kirill on external affairs had in recent weeks differed from the positions taken by the Patriarchate following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

However, Hilarion becomes Metropolitan of Budapest and Hungary, a territory he knows well because he was its administrator in the 2000s. From June 1 to 3, Hilarion visited Hungary and met with Cardinal Archbishop Peter Erdö of Budapest.

A former Oxford scholar, Hilarion was one of the great architects of the opening of the Russian Orthodox Church in recent years, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Involved in interreligious dialogue, he also distinguished himself in the rapprochement between Moscow and Rome, manifested in particular by the historic meeting of Pope Francis and Kirill in Cuba in 2016.

On December 22, he was received for the third time in 2021 by Pope Francis, while a second meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and the Bishop of Rome was under consideration.

Hilarion and Benedict XVI also had a relationship, in part because of their shared love of music. Hilarion is a composer and his Passion According to Matthew was presented in Rome after it debuted in Moscow.

The invasion of Ukraine last February upset the balance in the Russian Orthodox Church, with Patriarch Kirill siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “In this new situation, Metropolitan Hilarion distanced himself from Kirill’s declarations, either because he had a mandate from the patriarch to show this openness – but then went too far – or because he assumed this position himself,” analyzes Carol Saba, a specialist in Orthodoxy and a lawyer at the Paris Bar.

According to him, this sidelining does not mean that Hilarion will not play an important role in the Russian Orthodox Church in the future.

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