[ditty_news_ticker id="27897"] Why is the Moscow Patriarchate prosecuting Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun? - Orthodox Christian Laity

Why is the Moscow Patriarchate prosecuting Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun?


Source: Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun

On Sunday, September 25, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’ issued a decree initiating canonical proceedings in the diocesan court of the Moscow Diocese against Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun.  Pending a canonical trial, the decree imposed severe limitations on the priestly service of Archimandrite Cyril.  The full text of the decree is posted at (link). A Google translation of the full decree is as follows: 

Decree No. U-02/152 of 25 September 2023 // to Archimandrite Kirill (Hovorun)

The written commitment of fidelity to the Russian Orthodox Church given by you was repeatedly violated, which was expressed, among other things, in your concelebration with the bishops and clergy of the Church of Constantinople, with which the Eucharistic communion was interrupted by the decision of the Holy Synod due to a gross invasion of the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  In this regard, you, as having violated the priestly oath given by you, in accordance with the 25th rule of the Holy Apostles, are hereby prohibited from serving in the priesthood without the right to wear a cassock and a priestly cross and give a priestly blessing during the consideration of your case in the diocesan court of the Moscow diocese.


The decree does not suspend the priesthood of the Archimandrite, but it does prohibit his priestly ministry pending trial.  Presumably, the diocesan court of the Moscow diocese has the power to recommend the removal of Archimandrite Cyril from the priesthood.

Who is Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun?  He is an Ukrainian and was born with the name Sergii in the town of Zolotonosha, Ukraine (southeast of Kyiv).  He first studied theoretical physics at the Kyiv National University and then graduated from the Kyiv Theological Seminary (1994) and Academy (1998).  He was a brilliant student.  After graduation from the Academy, he went to Greece and obtained a bachelor’s degree in theology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in 2000.  He also became fluent in modern Greek.  He joined the DECR in Moscow in 2001 and remained in the DECR until 2007.  He studied at the University of Durham (UK) and received a MA and PhD in theology in 2003.  There he also became fluent in English.  From 2002 to 2005 he taught at the Sretensky Seminary in Moscow, and from 2003 to 2007 at the Moscow Theological Academy.

In 2007 he was assigned to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kyiv, and in 2008 he became the head of the DECR of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  While in this assignment, he became a monk with the name Cyril (Kirill) and was then made an archimandrite.  One of his subordinates was Father Mykola Danylevych, who is now deputy head of the DECR of the UOC and a primary spokesperson for the UOC.  Archimandrite Cyril also became a friend of Father Georgy Kovalenko, who in 2008 had become the press secretary for Metropolitan Volodymyr, then primate of the UOC.  Father Georgy Kovalenko is now one of the leading priests of the OCU and is rector of the Open Orthodox University in Kyiv.

In 2009 Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) became the chairman of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate.  At that time, Archimandrite Cyril was assigned back to Moscow with the very extremely important task under Metropolitan Hilarion of reconfiguring the entire Russian Orthodox educational system to make it compatible with the western educational standards, particularly the ‘Bologna process’ in the European Union.   In connection with this important role, Archimandrite Cyril was made vice rector of the Graduate School of the Russian Orthodox Church and First Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Education of the Russian Orthodox Church.  In September 2010, Metropolitan Hilarion and Archimandrite Cyril were the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate at the plenary meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in Vienna, Austria.

The year 2012 marked an important turning point in the career of Archimandrite Cyril.  He decided to pursue an academic and teaching career in the West.  This began in July 2012 with a research fellowship at Yale University in New Haven, USA.  It appears that the year 2012 marked the end of his assignments with the Moscow Patriarchate and that Archimandrite Cyril has since 2012 pursued his academic career independently as “his own boss.”  Archimandrite Cyril’s subsequent academic career in the West has been extremely active in teaching, speaking, writing, and traveling.  This is very clear from the following curriculum vitae(link);  (link).  At the present time, he has a modest home in Southern California and has been Director of Huffington Ecumenical Institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.  The Institute seeks to bring Orthodox, Catholics, and Anglicans closer together.  See (link) He is now spending substantial time at Sankt Ignatios College in Stockholm as well as time in his native Ukraine.  For his various speaking engagements, he travels almost continually.  Earlier this year, he was an invited professor at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Archimandrite Cyril has been a very vocal advocate for the complete independence of his native Ukraine.  Although he has never joined the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), he has been a strong advocate for an autocephalous Orthodox Church for his country.  Archimandrite Cyril did not participate in the “Unity Council,” which was held in Kyiv in December 2018, but he was probably “on the sidelines.”  Two months earlier, the name of Archimandrite Cyril was raised by Metropolitan Sofrony of Cherkassy, an important hierarch of the UOC, in an interview.  Sofrony was also a strong supporter of an autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine, but never joined the OCU.  In the interview, he stated:  My candidate [for head of the new church]is Archimandrite Cyril (Hovorun).   He is a man of knowledge, enlightened, learned in the works of the holy fathers.  He is far from any vices,  he is clean and not spoiled.”  Archimandrite Cyril never sought the position.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Archimandrite Cyril became very critical of Patriarch Kirill’s and the Moscow Patriarchate’s support of the war effort against Ukraine.  This criticism greatly irritated the “hawks” within the Russian Church.  They wanted Archimandrite Cyril punished.  Although Archimandrite Cyril had not been involved with the Moscow Patriarchate for over ten years, he had not resigned from the Patriarchate and is still technically a member.  Among the Russian hierarchs, Metropolitan Leonid of Klin has been probably the strongest hawk.  He now holds the title of Exarch of Africa and is responsible for the entire current major campaign of the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa.  He had personally served in the Russian Armed Forces from 1986 to 1988.  In 1997 as a young priest, he was transferred to Moscow to be an employee of the Synodal Department for Interaction with the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement Agencies. (link) Since the invasion of Ukraine, Metropolitan Leonid has used his Telegram channel to advocate support of Russia’s war effort. (link) In April 2022 I reported in my newsletter one of the remarks of Metropolitan Leonid in his Telegram channel.  The Metropolitan criticized Igumen Arseny (Sokolov), representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to the Patriarchate of Antioch, for calling the war in Ukraine “fratricidal.”  Metropolitan Leonid stated:  “And who, then, does he consider a brother when he speaks of a fratricidal war.  I have no brothers among the brown scum [“коричневого отребья”]! 

On August 16, 2023, Metropolitan Leonid turned his attack directly on Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun.  The Metropolitan’s entry in his Telegram channel on this date reads as follows:

“Today I sent an appeal addressed to His Holiness the Patriarch with a request to consider in the Church Court of the Russian Orthodox Church the case of a supernumerary clergyman of the Moscow Diocese, Archimandrite Kirill (Govorun).  It is unacceptable for anyone to denigrate the Church, the Patriarch, our Fatherland, bishops and clergy.  You will have to answer for destructive activities to undermine Orthodoxy and Russian statehood, concelebration with schismatics, lies and slander.” 

As can be seen above, one month and nine days later, Patriarch Kirill did just that.  He referred Archimandrite Cyril’s case to the diocesan court of the Moscow diocese.  The decree of the Patriarch accuses Archimandrite Cyril as follows:  “ The written commitment of fidelity to the Russian Orthodox Church given by you was repeatedly violated, which was expressed, among other things, in your concelebration with the bishops and clergy of the Church of Constantinople….”  The phrase “among other things” is broad enough to encompass all of the matters of which Metropolitan Leonid complained in this appeal.  The specific reference of the Decree to concelebration with “bishops and clergy of the Church of Constantinople” is presumably a reference to the fact that Archimandrite Cyril celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Church of St. Andrew on August 13, 2023, with  Bishop Mykhailo (Anishchenko) of Komansky, the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Exarch to Ukraine. (link) (entry for August 13, 2023).

The timing of the Decree on September 25 and the specific reference to concelebrating with bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate could also have a secondary purpose in addition to punishing Archimandrite Cyril.   On September 24, three priests of the UOC (Archimandrite Gabriel Antsimov, Archpriest Alexander, Kolb and Archpriest Andriy Gerasimenko) concelebrated with Bishop Mykhailo  in St. Andrew’s Church. (link) (entry for September 24, 2023).  The institution of canonical proceedings against Archimandrite Cyril on the following day also constitutes a threat with respect to the three priests as to what may happen to them as well in the future for concelebrating with Bishop Mykhailo.  As a practical matter, Patriarch Kirill cannot at the present time institute proceedings against the three.  The UOC would not carry out the decree as it would be conclusive proof that the UOC is still under the control of Patriarch Kirill.  Therefore, an implied threat is used against the three.

On September 28, Sister Vassa Larin of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) wrote a reflection that includes Archimandrite Cyril. (link) Sister Vassa is the host of the very popular Orthodox blog, Coffee with Sister Vassa,  She is an American, but now lives in Vienna.  She has written:

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!  For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.” (Lk 6:22-23)

I am so grateful this morning to read our Lord’s words, quoted above from today’s Gospel-reading, because lately, in my Russian Orthodox Church, quite the opposite message is being preached.  Our Lord Jesus Christ promises that we will be “blessed,” and greatly rewarded, and should even rejoice and leap for joy, when excluded, reviled, and our names “cast out as evil,” for the sake of Christ.  But in my church, both in Russia and abroad, priests and laypeople are being intimidated into silence, on the issue of the great war-crime of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for fear of being cast out of their ministry, of losing their “name” and place in the church.

Just this past week, one young priest in the village of Gorodische in the Tverskaya region was publicly shamed by his superior, Bishop Adrian Ulianov (see the picture above), because the priest prayed for “peace” instead of “victory” when he said Patriarch Kirill’s war-prayer during the Liturgy, and because he had signed an anti-war petition.  Bishop Adrian says in the video of this public shaming (see the link in the comments below), right before he demands that the priest “repent” before his parishioners: “Do you know what happens (to a priest) for such actions? …Who were you? Fr. Ilya?  Now you’ll just be Ilyushka…”  That is, the bishop is pointing out, you will lose your priestly title; you will no longer be “Father,” and will “just” be a nobody.  This is what one is supposed to fear, according to Bishop Adrian: the loss of your church-name, even while our Lord Jesus Christ says, “Blessed are you when men…cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake…” In another such incident this past week, the brilliant theologian Fr. Cyril Hovorun was suspended from priestly ministry by Patriarch Kirill, for speaking out against the Patriarch’s sanctioning of the war through manipulations of Scripture and Orthodox tradition.

But let us take heart, my friends, embracing faith and not fear, and re-affirming our dedication to Christ and His word, to which we as Church owe our obedience.  “We ought to obey God rather than men,” as the Apostles say in Acts 5:29.  Thank You, God, for blessing us at this time, with Your word, Your Church, and Your witnesses, against which the gates of hell will not prevail. 

Peter Anderson, Seattle USA


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