Moscow, August 26, 2020
Meeting under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Moscow yesterday, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church made a number of decisions concerning the Belarusian Church and the current situation in the country.
Among those decisions, the Synod resolved to release His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Zaslavl from his post as Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus.
In his place, His Grace Bishop Benjamin of Borisov and Marinogorsk was appointed as the new Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, reports the official site of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Vladyka Benjamin is the first Belarusian in recent memory to head the Belarusian Church.
Met. Pavel was released at his own request and sent to head the Kuban Metropolia.
Addressing the change, Alexander Schipkov, First Deputy Head of the Russian Synodal Department for Relations Between the Church and Society and the Media, emphasized that Bp. Benjamin is “a man of very clear and strict canonical Church consciousness, and an obvious opponent of autocephalous moods, which, unfortunately, in recent decades have been artificially inspired and provoked in Belarus according to the Ukrainian model.”
He also noted that Bp. Benjamin enjoys great authority as a hierarch of true monastic lifestyle and openness to his people. He also has an extensive educational background and is likely to head the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Institute of Theologian at Belarusian State University, which Met. Pavel previously headed, Schipkov added.
The Synod also heard a report from Met. Pavel on the present situation in Belarus in which he emphasized the Church’s peacemaking position in response to the public unrest following the announcement of the results of the presidential election held on August 9.
On August 12, Met. Pavel held a press conference in which he called upon the people to give up their enmity and hatred in favor or preserving peace and harmony. Many other hierarchs and clergy also called for an end to the violence on both sides and visited the victims in temporary detention and in hospitals, offering them spiritual care. Special prayers and petitions were also offered for peace in Belarus during the Divine Liturgy in all churches and monasteries of the Belarusian Exarchate.
On August 15, the Belarusian Synod issued an appeal to the people to end the popular confrontation in which it “categorically condemn[ed] violence, torture, humiliation, groundless detentions, extremism in all its forms and manifestations, and lies and treachery.” God forbid that passions should rule the people and authorities, the hierarchs wrote.
On August 21, the Belarusian Synodal Department for Relations of Church and Society again condemned all violence and reminded the clergy of the oath they gave before God not to participate in the political life of society so as not to tempt and divide the people.
Upon hearing Met. Pavel’s report, the members of the Russian Holy Synod resolved to:
- To express pastoral concern about the social conflict in the Republic of Belarus, entailing human sacrifice and human suffering;
- To approve the “Appeal of the Synod of the Belarusian Orthodox Church to the people of the Republic of Belarus to end the popular opposition”;
- To welcome and support the efforts of the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Zaslavl and the episcopate and clergy of the Belarusian Exarchate aimed at restoring peace and social peace;
- To consider it important that the authorities of the Republic of Belarus thoroughly investigate all cases of violence both against citizens and against law enforcement officers, and to punish those guilty of violating the law;
- To note the special importance of preserving and strengthening the ecclesiastical unity of the peoples of historical Rus’ in the context of worsening socio-political conflicts.