With Ural cross: what background new Orthodox pastor bringing to Tatarstan

“A crisis has arose in his diocese”: experts on new Metropolitan Kirill

In the Middle Urals, a peculiar tradition is developing: the Yekaterinburg department becomes the forge of archbishops for Muslim regions. This is how well-known theologians and religious figures interviewed by Realnoe Vremya commented on the appointment of the new metropolitan in Tatarstan. The Kazan and Tatarstan Metropolitanate was headed by Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursky (Mikhail Vasilyevich Nakonechny) — the decision was made on the eve of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church under the chairmanship of Patriarch Kirill. Fifty-nine-year-old Metropolitan Kirill, having “upgraded skills” in Sverdlovsk Oblast, now goes to Kazan to carry the banner of Bishop Feofan who left this world. Experts are sure that he will quickly find a common language with Tatarstan elites and Muslims. Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

From Urals with cross

In the republic, the name of the successor of Metropolitan Feofan (Ashurkov) of Kazan and Tatarstan, who died in November from complications caused by coronavirus, became known on 8 December. Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursk is moving to Kazan — Patriarch Kirill appointed him head of the Tatarstan metropolis.

Kirill (among people — Mikhail Vasilyevich Nakonechny) was born in May 1961 in the Chusovsky district of Perm Oblast. From October 1980, he was rector of the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir. In 1998, he became Bishop of Bogoroditsky. In October 2011, he became the primate of the newly formed Yekaterinburg Archdiocese, and in December 2020, he was transferred to Tatarstan.

Bishop Yevgeny Bronnitsky (in the world Alexey kulberg), vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, became the head of the Yekaterinburg metropolis. Previously, he served in the Urals and was subordinate to Metropolitan Kirill. He held the title of Bishop of Sredneuralsky, he was vicar of the Yekaterinburg diocese. In 2018, he headed the Nizhny Tagil cathedra.

Bishop Yevgeny Bronnitsy became the head of the Ekaterinburg Archdiocese. Photo: ekaterinburg-eparhia.ru

..or on the cross?

With regard to Bishop Kirill, his background is very impressive. As Realnoe Vremya reported, in the Yekaterinburg department, he had to “resolve” several conflicts, and not always successfully for the leadership of the ROC. All this was not ignored by the federal press. Some experts do not rule out that the scandals that have accumulated in recent years just became the reason for the transfer of Kirill to another region for a similar position.

When military operations began in the Donbas, the flag of Novorossiya was hung in the Yekaterinburg Church in the name of Saint Innocent. Humanitarian aid was also collected here for residents of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic. The metropolitan forbade Abbot Vladimir Zaytsev to serve in the church, sending him to repent in the monastery on Ganina Yama. Later, after actions in defense of Father Vladimir, Kirill returned him to his former place.

Vladyka planned to build the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in the centre of Yekaterinburg. Moreover, the religious building was supposed to be located on the bank of the Iset River, in the square near the drama theatre. However, the townspeople opposed the plans of the bishop. In 2019, it came to direct clashes with law enforcement agencies and athletes, which were accompanied by detentions of activists. The bishop initially took an irreconcilable position towards the participants of the protest actions, continuing to insist on the construction of the church. But under pressure from the public and the authorities, he was forced to back down.

“Believers hope that this concession is the last," Kirill warned menacingly.

In 2019, it came to direct clashes with law enforcement agencies and athletes, which were accompanied by detentions of activists. Photo: Leonid Makarov/wikipedia. org

Besides, Confessor of the Sredneuralsky convent schema-hegumen Sergiy (Romanov) was active in the diocese. The cleric shocked the public with his conspiracy statements, including about “digital slavery”. And in 2020, when the whole world went to quarantine, Sergius resisted such preventive measures. Also, another interesting information about the past of the schema-hegumen and orders in the monastery began to arise. As a result, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill expelled him from the rank. But Sergius and his supporters took up the defense and did not leave the monastery.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the metropolitan had a falling out with the Governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast, Yevgeny Kuyvashev. Secular authorities demanded that churches be closed in order to prevent coronavirus. Kirill replied that the governor infringes on the feelings of believers and drew attention to the working shops where there are clusters of people. In the end, it was signed by regional ordinance to ban the holding of religious ceremonies.

“We educate bishops, who are then sent to Muslim regions”

Given that Kirill now has to work in a “Muslim” region, many people are interested in how his relations with adherents of Islam were built. As Nail Shaymardanov, the chairperson of the Yekaterinburg 'Memory of Defenders of the Fatherland' MMRO, who in the past worked as vice-speaker of the Sverdlovsk regional duma and deputy chairperson of the accounts chamber of the region, assures the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya, Vladyka always got along with Muslims.

“The Ural Mukhtasibat (Spiritual Board of Muslims of Sverdlovsk Oblast — editor's note) fruitfully interacts with the diocese," says Nail Zalilovich. “We find a common opinion on a number of issues. We must pay tribute to Artur khazrat [Mukhutdinov], the head of the MSB of Sverdlovsk Oblast: he visited the diocese and synagogue with a delegation and held warm meetings. I have not seen any negative information about Muslims from the metropolitan and the diocese. We don't have any confrontation.”

Our interlocutor notes that Orthodox and Muslims had similar problems in the Urals.

“Our region is considered to be Orthodox. And it would seem that the bishop had no problems with state authorities. But when there were events in the square, when the people refused to provide a place for the construction of the Church of St. Catherine, a difficult period came for the diocese [in relations with the regional authorities]. Although in this regard, the diocese had passed all the formalities over the years. The situation was similar for Muslims: it was planned to build a cathedral mosque on the Peace and Concord square, the documents had all the signatures from the governor and mayor, but now an ice arena is being built on the piles of this mosque.

At the same time, Shaymardanov drew attention to a curious detail. Kirill and his predecessor Vikenty (Morar) were transferred to places with a predominantly Muslim population after working in Yekaterinburg.

“Bishop Vikenty, with whom we worked very closely, was sent to Uzbekistan in 2011 (now he is the Metropolitan of Tashkent and Uzbekistan, head of the Central Asian Metropolitan district — editor's note). And Uzbekistan is a Muslim country. Now Kirill is also heading to Tatarstan. For Sverdlovsk Oblast, it is becoming a tradition that we bring up bishops, who are then sent to Muslim regions. I don't know what exactly the Russian Orthodox Church is guided by," he laughs.

According to the Muslim figure, the new bishop will be “up to scratch” in Kazan.

“How many times we have come to Tatarstan with official delegations of Sverdlovsk Oblast since the time of Shaymiev, we, including Russians, have listened with open mouths about the relations between the ROC and the Muslims of the republic. And now Tatarstan remains an example. Thank God you live like this. I hope that the new bishop will develop and support this line of good neighbourliness," Nail Shaymardanov concluded.

“A crisis arose in his diocese”

Maksim Shevchenko, a journalist and politician, is also in solidarity with Shaymardanov.

“I very much hope that Kirill will continue the course of Bishop Feofan, who was an exceptional person and understood the Tatar people and Muslims. I would like to wish Biahop Kirill to carry the banner that Feofan raised high," Shevchenko said.

In turn, religious scholar, head of the sector of the apologetic mission of the Synodal missionary department of the ROC Yury (Georgy) Maksimov assures that all the clergy who worked with Kirill (Nakonechny) speak only well of him. And the only spot in the biography of the bishop — the unresolved conflict with the rebellious schema-hegumen Sergius.

“Recently, in his diocese there was a crisis in connection with the igneous activity of the rank of schema-hegumen Sergius Romanov. Besides, I have not heard any complaints or questions to Bishop Kirill," Father Georgy comments to Realnoe Vremya.

At the same time, the expert is sure that Kirill has accumulated enough experience to ensure that his relations with the authorities and believers (both Orthodox and adherents of other religions) are productive.

“I don't think that he will have any problems in Tatarstan. Contacts with Muslims and others are working moments that do not take much time and do not require exceptional skills. He has many years of experience as a bishop, so he has experience of contacts with Orthodox people and a wide variety of people. Its main task remains the same — to take care of the Orthodox. He will have enough diplomatic skills that his post implies," Maksimov believes.

By Timur Rakhmatullin