One wonders whether the transfer of Metropolitan Hilarion to Budapest is related in any way to the position taken by Patriarch Kirill on Ukraine. Aside from advocating peace and help for refugees, Metropolitan Hilarion has been relatively quiet on the subject of Ukraine. He has not echoed the more controversial statements made by the Patriarch.” —Peter Anderson, expert on Orthodox affairs, in a June 7 article on the decision of the Russian Orthodox Church to remove Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev from his post as the “foreign minister” of the Church — often considered the Church’s #2 post — to become the bishop of the Russian Orthodox in Budapest, Hungary, a much less prominent post. Below, Anderson’s report on this decision

    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… 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.” —Metropolitan Hilarion, commenting yesterday, June 12, on the decision to transfer him from his prominent post in Moscow to a less prominent post in Budapest

    During his address to the believers, he stopped several times and was silent, trying to contain his feelings.” —from a June 12 Russian report on Metropolitan Hilarion’s demeanor as he said goodbye to the parishioners of his church in Moscow after celebrating his last liturgy there yesterday

    ***

    Letter #74, 2022, Monday, June 13: Hilarion

    Two reports below, one from June 7, six days ago, and one from yesterday, June 12, by Peter Anderson, a retired Catholic lawyer from Seattle, Washington, offer insight into the transfer of Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, 55, from an important Church post in Moscow to a less important post in Budapest, Hungary, seemed important to share.

    Anderson has closely followed events in the Orthodox world for most of his adult life.

    These latest two reports explore in detail the sudden decision last week to remove Metropolitan Alfeyev as the Head of the Department of External Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church — a post that made him the equivalent of the Church’s “foreign minister,” with global responsibilities and travels — assigning him instead to be the bishop of the rather small Russian Orthodox diocese in Budapest, Hungary.

    There is some speculation that this decision was taken because Hilarion has been “relatively quiet” on the subject of Ukraine, and that the decision was desired by the Russian government, which (it is speculated) may have put pressure on the Church leadership to take this decision.

    Still, Anderson freely admits that the true reason for the transfer is not yet publicly known. —RM    

    P.S. We will be holding a Zoom call in nine days on Wednesday, June 22, to discuss recent developments in Catholic-Orthodox relations, including this recent decision. The call will also touch on recent meetings in Lebanon and Rome related to these questions. The call is at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time and is free to join. If you would like to join it would be helpful to us if you would click here to register. Thank you.

    P.P.S. We are also announcing a return to going on pilgrimage in Rome and central Italy with our Easter in Rome Signature Pilgrimage in the spring of 2023. Click here for more information.

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Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, 55

    June 7, 2022

    By Peter Anderson

    Today, June 7, there was startling news from the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    Metropolitan Hilarion has been transferred from his position as Chairman of the Department of External Relations to head the relatively small diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Budapest. The official entry in the minutes of the Moscow Patriarchate relating to this change, Entry No. 61, can be read at (link).

    The following is a Google translation of the entry:

    HAVE JUDGMENT about the administration of the Budapest-Hungarian Diocese.

    RESOLVED:

    1. To release Metropolitan Mark of Budapest and Hungary from the administration of the Budapest-Hungarian Diocese with gratitude for the work done.

    2. His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, to be the Administrator of the Budapest-Hungarian Diocese, Metropolitan of Budapest and Hungary, with his release from the duties of Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, Permanent Member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Rector of the General Church Postgraduate and Doctoral Studies named after Saints Cyril and Methodius Equal to the Apostles.

    3. Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations and Permanent Member of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, with the title of Volokolamsk, to be His Eminence Anthony, Metropolitan of Korsun, with the temporary retention of the management of the Exarchate of Western Europe and the position of head of the Office of the Moscow Patriarchate for foreign institutions, with release from management of the Korsun diocese.

    4. Entrust the provisional administration of the Korsun diocese to His Grace Nestor, Archbishop of Madrid and Lisbon.

    5. Archpriest Maxim Kozlov, chairman of the Educational Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church, to be the rector of the General Church Postgraduate and Doctoral Studies named after Saints Cyril and Methodius, with the preservation of his previous positions.

    Interestingly, there is nothing in the minutes stating that Metropolitan Hilarion had requested this transfer.

    There is nothing in the minutes thanking him for his many years of service as chairman of the DECR, although “gratitude” is expressed to Metropolitan Mark for his service in Budapest.

    According to the minutes, Metropolitan Hilarion is also relieved of his extremely important position as a permanent member of the Holy Synod and also his position as head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s postgraduate and doctoral studies program. In the photos of today’s meeting of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Hilarion does not appear. (link)

    The only advanced clue that this would happen is that Metropolitan Hilarion was in Hungary from June 1-5. His report on this visit is summarized in Journal Entry 57 of the minutes as follows:

    From June 1 to June 5, 2022, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, visited Hungary.

    During the trip, the DECR Chairman met with Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest Cardinal Péter Erdő at his working residence in Budapest. The conversation touched upon a wide range of issues concerning the interaction between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church at the present stage.

    Metropolitan Hilarion met with the Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of Hungary, Z. Semjén, in the building of the Prime Minister’s Office in Budapest. On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church, the DECR chairman expressed gratitude to Hungary for its firm position regarding the inadmissibility of including His Holiness Patriarch Kirillof Moscow and All Russia on the EU sanctions list.

    As part of a working trip to Hungary, the DECR chairman visited Szentendre, where he met with Bishop Lukijan of Budim (Serbian Orthodox Church).

    Reports on the trip in English can be found at (link) and (link).

    Metropolitan Hilarion has had a close friendship with Cardinal Erdő since the time that Metropolitan Hilarion was appointed Bishop of Vienna and Austria and charged with temporary administration over the diocese of Budapest and Hungary in 2003.

    In September 2021, Metropolitan Hilarion was invited by the Cardinal to speak at the 52nd Eucharistic Congress in Budapest. (link)

    The fact that Metropolitan Hilarion made the trip to Hungary immediately before today’s Synod meeting may be an indication that Metropolitan Hilarion was not completely surprised by today’s decision.

    Metropolitan Hilarion is replaced by Metropolitan Anthony of Korsun, Exarch of Western Europe. However, Metropolitan Anthony is only 37 years old. He moves into what is often considered the Number Two position in the Moscow Patriarchate.

    Although Metropolitan Anthony is well-regarded, he has not been considered in my opinion a rising star that everyone has been watching.

    Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Relations between the Church and Society and the Media, has already given an explanation to the media as to why Metropolitan Anthony was chosen for this important position. (link)

    The justification primarily relates to Anthony’s experience with the foreign institutions of the Moscow Patriarchate. However, Patriarch Kirill may believe that the DECR will be in good hands because of the presence of Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the DECR. It is reported that Patriarch Kirill has great confidence in Father Nikolai. Father Nikolai is married with a family and is thus not eligible to be a bishop.

    Of course, one wonders whether the transfer of Metropolitan Hilarion to Budapest is related in any way to the position taken by Patriarch Kirill on Ukraine.

    Aside from advocating peace and help for refugees, Metropolitan Hilarion has been relatively quiet on the subject of Ukraine.

    He has not echoed the more controversial statements made by the Patriarch.

    It is possible that Metropolitan Hilarion wishes to disassociate himself from the current position of the Moscow Patriarchate on Ukraine and decided to move to Budapest where he could have more time to pursue his scholarly and musical talents.

    It is possible that Metropolitan Hilarion has been removed by the Patriarch because of a disagreement between the two of them on the subject of Ukraine.

    As a loyal hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate, I doubt that Metropolitan Hilarion would ever say that the transfer was a result of his disagreement with respect to Ukraine.

    We may never know the answer to this question.

    I am reminded of the conduct of Metropolitan Hilarion when he was a young priest in Kaunas, Lithuania.

    On January 13, 1991, known in Lithuania as “Bloody Sunday,” the Soviets attempted to suppress by force the new independence movement in Lithuania.

    The events culminated in the Soviet forces (members of the Pskov Division and the KGB Alpha Special Forces) taking control of the Vilnius TV tower and the Radio and Television Committee Building at approximately 2 a.m., Sunday morning.

    A large crowd had gathered to protect the TV tower.

    Soviet tanks and troops attacked the crowd, and 14 persons were killed either by gunfire or by being crushed by tanks. Hundreds were injured. The TV broadcast abruptly ended.

    The last TV images were of a Soviet soldier rushing towards the TV camera. However, a half-hour later, transmission unexpectedly began from a small TV studio in Kaunas where appeals were made for help.

    The appeals were picked up by a Swedish TV station and relayed from Sweden to the world.

    One of the persons who spoke on the Kaunas station that day was the young rector of the Russian Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral in Kaunas. He spoke in Russian and urged Soviet troops not to fire on unarmed persons. On the twentieth anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the mayor of Kaunas, Andrius Kupcinskas, recognized the actions of Metropolitan Hilarion on that day and awarded him the “Order of Jonas Vileisis” for his courageous actions.

    On January 12, 1991, Metropolitan Hilarion met with the speaker of the Lithuanian parliament (Seimas), Irena Degutiene, who also thanked the Metropolitan for his actions in January 1991.

    In other news from the Holy Synod, the Moscow Patriarchate today assumed direct jurisdiction over the parishes of the UOC in Crimea. (link)

    —Peter Anderson, Seattle USA 

    Article #2 from Peter Anderson

    Sunday, June 12, 2022

    By Peter Anderson

    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.  (link)

    Today’s entire service can be viewed at (link).

    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 (link).

    A Google translation of the entire TASS article is set forth below:

    TASS article:

    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 (link), 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”].”

    [End citation from Andrei Kuraev; Anderson continues his report]

    Metropolitan Hilarion subsequently met with Patriarch Kirill on June 10.  (link)

    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.  (link)

    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.  (link)

    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

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