March 4, 2010

Metropolitan Hilarion Shouted Down as ‘Heretic’

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) shouted down as ‘heretic’ by members of the Patriarchate of Moscow

On the evening of Saturday 13 February, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk was greeted by shouts of ‘heretic’, as he came out at the polyeleios at matins. The disturbance took place in the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God of All those who Sorrow, which is on the Ordynka in Moscow. Metropolitan Hilarion serves regularly in this church.

The young Metropolitan Hilarion, who possesses a doctorate from the University of Oxford, has shocked many members of the Patriarchate (and other Local Orthodox Churches) in recent weeks with various of his private opinions. These all appear to challenge Russian Orthodox values, for example concerning traditional Orthodox dress in church, preparation before communion and relations with Roman Catholicism.

The situation has not been helped by the leaking of a discussion document which resulted from ecumenical talks about papal primacy. These talks were held last year in Crete among academics from the Orthodox Church and from the Vatican. The discussion document has been dubbed the ‘Cretan Unia’ by its opponents. The situation thus resembles that in Greece in the 60s and 70s, where Greek ecumenists of that generation were also regularly shouted down during services as heretics.

All this serves to show just how broad a spectrum of opinion is represented within the Patriarchate of Moscow. These are far broader than within the Tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, where views are much more consistent. Presumably, this must result from the fact that there are so many recently baptised in the Patriarchate, who do not always know or understand the Tradition.