By Efi Efthimiou
The stance taken by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, regarding the war in Ukraine and the relations with the other Churches, has not gone unnoticed lately.
First was his meeting with Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus that took place in Cyprus, in the framework of the Orthodox Assembly of the World Council of Churches, despite the fact that the Church of Russia has interrupted the Eucharistic communion with the Archbishop of Cyprus, after the latter’s recognition of the Autocephalous Church of Ukraine.
This was followed by the World Council of Churches (WCC) pre-conference and the conclusion text issued at the end of the proceedings, which spoke of a unanimous condemnation of the war raging in Ukraine.
Metropolitan of Volokolamsk was present at the meeting, as head of the mission of the Russian Church, as he was also present at the discussions that led to the final text of conclusions, which was adopted unanimously.
Yesterday, statements of the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk on the relations with the “Orthodox Churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Cyprus, and Greece” were made known through the website of the Department for External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, which are characteristically reported to be “complicated” after the recognition of the Ukrainian Autocephaly.
“I don’t think we should consider them enemies,” said Metropolitan Hilarion on the television network “Russia 24”.
Hilarion also spoke of “temporary difficulties” in the Orthodox Church, which will be overcome “definitely”, and that “a pan-Orthodox or inter-Orthodox solution will be found, which will allow the healing of the wounds inflicted on the body of world Orthodoxy and will restore full communion between the Churches.”
At a time when Patriarch Kirill of Moscow continues his logic of identification with the Kremlin’s policy, justifying and supporting the war in Ukraine, Metropolitan Hilarion seems to be trying to differentiate.
For a long time after the invasion, he had made no statement on the issue of war.
This “turnaround” occurs mainly in the period following the WCC’s Pre-Assemblies.
Sources at orthodoxtimes.com report that Metropolitan Hilarion took a very mild stance in Paralimni, showing unprecedented conciliancy in discussions with the delegations of all the Churches.
The current statements on relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, and the Churches of Greece and Cyprus further strengthen the view of many in the Church that the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk does not want full identification with Patriarch Kirill, especially after the intense criticism he has been receiving since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
He remains a high-ranking hierarch of the Russian Church, and in many respects the number two. On the other hand, the full alignment of Patriarch Kirill with the line of the Moscow government does not seem to have favored the Russian Patriarch.
Perhaps the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk will emerge as a beneficiary of the present situation, especially when hundreds of clergymen in Ukraine who belong to the Patriarchate of Moscow ask for the condemnation of Patriarch Kirill.