Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

Kirill I
Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus'

Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus', at his enthronement on 1 February 2009
Church Russian Orthodox Church
See Moscow
Installed 1 February 2009
Term ended Incumbent
Predecessor Alexy II
Ordination 7 April 1969
Consecration 14 March 1976
by Nikodim (Rotov)
Personal details
Birth name Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev
Born (1946-11-20) 20 November 1946
Leningrad, Soviet Union

Kirill or Cyril (Russian: Кирилл, secular name Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev, Russian: Владимир Михайлович Гундяев; born 20 November 1946) is a Russian Orthodox bishop. He became Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church on 1 February 2009.

Prior to becoming Patriarch, Kirill was Archbishop (later Metropolitan) of Smolensk and Kaliningrad beginning on 26 December 1984; and also Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church's Department for External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod beginning in 1989.

Early life


Kirill was born in Leningrad (present day Saint Petersburg) on 20 November 1946. His father, Rev. Mikhail Gundyaev, died in 1974. His mother, Raisa Gundyaeva, a teacher of German, died in 1984. His elder brother, Archpriest Nikolay Gundyaev, is a professor at Leningrad Theological Academy and rector of the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in St. Petersburg. His grandfather, Rev. Vasily Gundyaev, a Solovki prisoner, was imprisoned and exiled in the '20s, '30s and '40s for his church activity and struggle against Renovationism.[1][2]


After finishing the eighth grade, Vladimir Gundyaev got a job in the Leningrad Geological Expedition and worked for it from 1962 to 1965 as cartographer, combining work with studies at secondary school.[1] After graduation from school, he entered the Leningrad Seminary and later the Leningrad Theological Academy, from which he graduated cum laude in 1970.[2]

Life in the Church

On 3 April 1969, Metropolitan Nicodemus (Rotov) of Leningrad and Novgorod tonsured him with the name of Kirill after saint Cyril the Philosopher and on 7 April ordained him as hierodeacon and on 1 June as hieromonk.[1]

From 1970 to 1971 Father Kirill taught Dogmatic Theology and acted as rector's assistant for students’ affairs at the Leningrad Theological Schools and at the same time worked as personal secretary to Metropolitan Nicodem and supervising instructor of the first-grade seminarians.[1]

Episcopal Ministry


On 12 September 1971, Kirill was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and was posted as a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva. On 26 December 1974, he was appointed rector of the Leningrad Academy and Seminary. Since December 1975, he has been a member of the WCC Central Committee and Executive Committee.[1]

In 1971 he was appointed representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the World Council of Churches and has been actively involved in the ecumenical activity of the Russian Orthodox Church since then.[1]


Kirill I at a conference on nuclear weapons and disarmament in Amsterdam in 1981
Vladimir Putin, Metropolitan Kirill and Xenia Sheremetyeva-Yusupova, October 2001

The Supreme Authority of the Church charged Kirill with the following functions:

Education and charity


Since 1994 Kirill has hosted a weekly Orthodox television program "Слово пастыря" on ORT/Channel One.[1]

Patriarch of Moscow

Kirill being presented with the patriarchal koukoulion during his enthronement.

On 6 December 2008, the day after the death of Patriarch Alexy II, the Russian Holy Synod elected him locum tenens of the Patriarchal throne. On 9 December, during the funeral service for Alexey II in Christ the Saviour Cathedral (which was broadcast live by Russia's state TV channels), he was seen and reported to have fainted at one point.[3][4] On 29 December, when talking to journalists, he said he was opposed to any reforms of a liturgical or doctrinal nature in the Church.[5] On 27 January 2009, the ROC Local Council (the 2009 Pomestny Sobor) elected Kirill I of Moscow as Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus;[6][7] with 508 votes out of 700.[8]) He was enthroned on 1 February 2009.


The conservative wing in the Russian Orthodox Church criticized Kirill for practicing ecumenism throughout the 1990s. In 2008, breakaway Bishop Diomid of Anadyr and Chukotka criticized him for associating himself with the Catholic Church.[9] However, in a recent statement, Kirill stated that there could be no doctrinal compromise with the Catholic Church, and that discussions with them did not have the goal of seeking unification.[10]

Still, contact with Benedict XVI was characterized as greatly warm and with mutual respect with relations between the churches following. In 2012, Kirill's visit to Poland advanced greatly relations with the Roman Catholic hierarchy of Poland. Visits and encounters with Roman Catholics in Russia and abroad continue to enjoy support, if tacit, from many Orthodox clergy and lay people.

On 12 February 2016, Kirill and Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, met at José Martí International Airport near Havana, Cuba, and signed a thirty point joint declaration, prepared in advance, addressing global issues including their hope for re–establishment of full unity, the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the Syrian Civil War and church organisation in Ukraine.[11][12] This was the first meeting between a pope and a Russian Orthodox patriarch.[13]

Administrative reform

Patriarch Kirill introduced significant changes in the administrative structure of the Church: On July 27, 2011 the Holy Synod of the Church established the Central Asian Metropolitan District, reorganizing the structure of the Church in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.[14] In addition on October 6, 2011, at the request of the Patriarch, the Holy Synod introduced the mitropoliya (Russian: Митрополия), administrative structure bringing together neighboring eparchies.[15]

Foreign relations

Kirill and archbishop Józef Michalik signing a joint declaration to the Polish and Russian people at the Royal Castle in Warsaw (2012).

On 20 October 2008, while on a tour of Latin America, he had a meeting with First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Fidel Castro. Castro commended Metropolitan Kirill as his ally in combating "American imperialism".[16][17][18] Kirill awarded Fidel and Raúl Castro the Order of St. Daniel of Moscow on behalf of Patriarch Alexy II in recognition of their decision to build the first Russian Orthodox Church in Havana, to serve the Russian expatriates living there.[19]

He was criticised by some for the ROC's failures in the Diocese of Sourozh and Ukraine.[20][21][22]

Kirill "heartily congratulated"[23] Alexander Lukashenko for winning the Belarusian presidency in 2010[24][25][26] by an apparent 80% majority, in elections marred by violence[27] and accusations of intimidation and vote rigging.[28]

Relations with the State

When Kirill was elected Patriarch on 27 January 2009, by the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church by secret vote he gained 508 out of 702 votes and enthroned during liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow on 1 February 2009 the service was attended, among others, by President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin.[29]

The following day, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hosted a reception (a formal banquet[30][31]) for the ROC bishops in the Grand Kremlin Palace, whereat Patriarch Kirill held forth about the Byzantine concept of symphonia as his vision of the ideal of church-state relations, though acknowledging that it was not possible to fully attain to it in Russia today.[32][33][34]

On 8 February 2012 at a meeting of religious leaders in Moscow, Kirill described the Putin era as "a miracle of God" and criticised his opponents. He said that those who were demonstrating for democratic reform and the rule of law were emitting "ear piercing shrieks"[35]

Public controversies

Importation of cigarettes

Patriarch Kirill at Easter 2011

Journalists of the newspapers Kommersant and Moskovskij Komsomolets accused Kirill of profiteering and abuse of the privilege of duty-free importation of cigarettes granted to the Church in the mid-1990s and dubbed him "Tobacco Metropolitan".[36] The Department for External Church Relations was alleged to have acted as the largest supplier of foreign cigarettes in Russia.[37] The profits of this operation allegedly under Kirill's direction were estimated to have totaled $1.5 billion by sociologist Nikolai Mitrokhin in 2004, and at $4 billion by The Moscow News in 2006.[38][39] However, Nathaniel Davis noted that "...There is no evidence that Metropolitan Kirill has actually embezzled funds. What is more likely is that profits from the importation of tobacco and cigarettes have been used for urgent, pressing Church expenses."[37] The duty-free importation of cigarettes ended in 1997.[37] In his 2002 interview with Izvestia, Metropolitan Kirill called the allegations about his profiteering a political campaign against him.[40]

Alexander Pochinok who was the minister of taxes and levies (1999-2000), claimed in 2009 that Kirill had no involvement in the violations.[41][42]

Pussy Riot

Three female members of the feminist group Pussy Riot were arrested in March 2012 for performing a brief song in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow during which they called on the Virgin Mary to "chase Putin out".[43] The women were arrested for hooliganism[43] and were later sentenced to two years.[44] Commenting on the case, Kirill said they were "doing the work of Satan" and should be punished.[43] This sparked criticism of the Orthodox Church on the Runet for not showing mercy, while Amnesty International described the women as "prisoners of conscience".[43] In their closing statements, members of Pussy Riot claimed that Patriarch Kirill had used the church to support the cultural position of Putin's government.[45]

Pope Benedict XVI, who was the leader of the Catholic Church at the time, has supported the position of the Russian Orthodox Church on this issue.[46]

Dust of the patriarch flat

Patriarch Kirill and Svetlana Medvedeva at the church ceremony in Sestroretsk

In March 2012, the former Russian Health Minister (1999–2004) Yury Shevchenko, pursuant to a court ruling, paid about 20 million rubles ($676,000) in compensation for the dust resultant from the renovation work that had settled in a flat upstairs in the prestigious House on the Embankment privately owned by Patriarch Kirill and occupied by the Patriarch's long-time friend businesswoman (variously described as Kirill's "sister", "second cousin", or "wife") Lidia Leonova.[47][48][49] According to the media reports, the former minister is personally acquainted with the then RF prime-minister Vladimir Putin.[50]

"I sold my apartment in St. Petersburg, and we paid the required sum", said Shevchenko's son, also Yury, in early April 2012.[51]

According to the lawsuit, renovation works in Shevchenko's apartment stirred up a lot of dust, which settled on a collection of valuable books owned by Kirill. The Patriarch confirmed his ownership of the dusty apartment in a private conversation with journalist Vladimir Solovyov.[52]

Most of the reports in the media tended to be critical of Patriarch Kirill and laughing at the claims that the dust was harmful, pointing out that it was just sand and it would have been far more efficient to just hire a maid to vacuum it up.[48] The Patriarch himself then said he thought it to be inappropriate to forgive Shevchenko.[53]

The Breguet watch

Patriarch Kirill holds a Christmas service at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, 6 January 2011

When accused of wearing a Swiss Breguet watch worth over £20,000, Kirill denied having worn it, saying that any photographs showing him wearing it must be fakes. However, photographs on his official website showed it on his wrist[54][55] and one even showed it airbrushed out, but with a reflection of it still visible on a table surface.[56] Kirill responded by saying that "the guilty ones [for the image manipulation] will be punished severely".[56] A spokesperson added that it was "unethical" to discuss Kirill's private life, and the Russian Orthodox Church said on 4 April 2012 that foreign forces were taking revenge on it for supporting Putin: "The attacks have become more prominent during the pre-election and post-election period [... This] shows their political and also anti-Russian motives."[57] In June 2012, Kirill was given the Silver Shoe Award (given in Russia each year “for the most dubious achievements in show business") for "immaculate disappearance of a watch” in the category "Miracles up to the elbows”. The award found a pained reaction from representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church.[58]

Honours and awards

Church awards

Russian Orthodox Church
Awards of local orthodox churches
Awards of other churches and denominations

Awards of the Russian Federation

Foreign awards

Honorary citizenships

Lukoyanovsky District of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast (2000), Smolensk Oblast (5 February 2009), Kaliningrad Oblast (5 March 2009), Kemerovo Oblast (2010), Smolensk (2003), the selo of Rizskoye of Smolensk Oblast (2004), Neman of Kaliningrad Oblast (2006), Vyazemsky District of Smolensk Oblast (2006), Kaliningrad (2006), Khoroshevo-Mnevniki District of Moscow (2006), Republic of Mordovia (2011 – for outstanding contribution to the preservation and development of domestic spiritual and moral traditions, strengthening of interaction of church and state).

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Биография Святейшего Патриарха Московского и всея Руси Кирилла". Official Website of the Moscow Patriarchate. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  2. 1 2 "Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia". Official Website of the Department of External Church Relations. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  3. "Russians bid farewell to Patriarch at grand funeral". Moscow: Reuters. 9 December 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  4. Упокоился с миром (in Russian). Moscow: 9 December 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  5. Russia’s prospective church leader says opposed to reforms RIA Novosti 29 December 2008.
  6. На Московский Патриарший Престол избран митрополит Смоленский и Калининградский Кирилл MP official web site, 27 January 2009.
  7. (Russian) Имя нового Патриарха названо: Кирилл NEWSru 27 January 2009.
  8. Незнакомый патриарх, или Чему нас учит история храма Христа Спасителя Izvestia 26 January 2009.
  9. Dzyuban, Diomid (2008-06-19). Problems should be solved Проблемы надо решать [Problemy nado reshat]. (in Russian). (Interview) ([s.l.]: Дух христианина). Archived from the original on 2008-12-11.
  10. "Russian Church against compromise on belief-preaching with Catholics - Metropolitan Kirill". (Moscow). Interfax. 2009-01-21. Archived from the original on 2009-02-02.
  11. Erasmus (pseud.) (13 February 2016). "From the New World, a pope and a patriarch address old-world fights". (blog) (London: The Economist). Archived from the original on 2016-02-14. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  12. "Historic encounter between the Pope and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia: Orthodox and Catholics are brothers, not competitors". (Vatican City: Vatican Information Service). 2016-02-13. Archived from the original on 2016-02-13. Retrieved 2016-02-13. Includes full text of the Joint Declaration.
  13. "Unity call as Pope Francis holds historic talks with Russian Orthodox Patriarch". (BBC). 2016-02-12. Archived from the original on 2016-02-13. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
  14. Решением Священного Синода образован Среднеазиатский митрополичий округ
  15. ЖУРНАЛЫ заседания Священного Синода от 5-6 октября 2011 года
  16. Fidel Castro considers Metropolitan Kirill his ally in opposing American imperialism Interfax 23 October 2008.
  17. Митрополит Кирилл встретился с Фиделем Кастро ROC official web site, 21 October 2008
  18. Фидель Кастро считает митрополита Кирилла своим союзником в противостоянии американскому империализму ROC official web site, 21 October 2008
  19. The Russian Orthodox Church awards the Castro brothers Interfax 20 October 2008.
  20. "Игрок глобального масштаба. 60-летие митрополита Кирилла через призму украинских церковных проблем". 27 February 2007. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  21. Митрополит Кирилл после Украины. В минуты «триумфа» не грех вспомнить и о неудачах нынешнего председателя ОВЦС МП Oleg Vladimirov, 1 August 2008
  22. Первые киевские итоги: методы церковной внешней политики РПЦ МП и роль одной личности в одной истории 24 July 2008
  23. Патриаршее поздравление А.Г. Лукашенко с переизбранием на пост Президента Республики Беларусь / Патриарх / Патриархия.ru. (22 December 2010). Retrieved on 1 November 2013.
  24. Patriarch Kirill wishes Lukashenko to invariably develop fraternal relations with Russia. Interfax-Religion. 23 December 201.
  25. Official Site of the Patriarch of Moscow Патриаршее поздравление А.Г. Лукашенко с переизбранием на пост Президента Республики Беларусь (Patriarchal congratulations to AG Lukashenko on being re-elected as President of the Republic of Belarus), 22 December 2010.
  26. Interfax. Patriarch Kirill wishes Lukashenko to invariably develop fraternal relations with Russia, 22 December 2010.
  27. "A nasty surprise in Belarus". The Economist. 29 December 2010.
  28. "Protesters try to storm government HQ in Belarus". BBC News. 20 December 2010.
  29. "Orthodox Church enthrones leader". BBC. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  30. Патриарх Кирилл призвал Церковь и государство к взаимодействию NEWSru 2 February 2009.
  31. Miedwiediew: Państwo będzie wspierało Cerkiew Gazeta Wyborcza 2 February 2009.
  32. Архипастыри — участники Поместного Собора присутствовали на приеме в Георгиевском зале Большого кремлевского дворца 2 February 2009.
  33. Приём от имени Президента России в честь архиереев – участников Поместного собора Русской православной церкви. 2 February 2009.
  34. Слово Святейшего Патриарха Московского и всея Руси Кирилла после интронизации 1 февраля 2009 года в соборном Храме Христа Спасителя. 1 February 2009
  35. "Russian patriarch calls Putin era "miracle of God"". Reuters. 8 February 2012.
  36. Митрополит Смоленский и Калининградский Кирилл
  37. 1 2 3 Nathaniel Davis (2000). Tribulations, trials and Troubles for the Russian Orthodox Church. Religion in Eastern Europe 20 (6): 39–50.
  38. (Russian) Божественные голоса The New Times № 50, 15 December 2008.
  39. (Russian) Уходящий год ознаменовался историческим событием: две разделенные части Православной Церкви — Русская Православная Церковь (РПЦ) и Русская Православная Церковь Заграницей (РПЦЗ) — подписали Акт о каноническом общении The New Times № 46, 24 December 2007
  40. Митрополит Кирилл: «Пусть благословенье Божье пребывает со всеми нами» Izvestia, 24 December 2002.
  41. Бывший глава налоговой службы России опровергает слухи о причастности митрополита Кирилла к торговле алкоголем и табаком (2009-01-22)
  42. РПЦ и табачные акцизы: как это было? (21 января 2009)
  43. 1 2 3 4 Walker, Shaun (5 April 2012). "Plight of punk rockers turns Russians against the Church". London: The Independent. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  44. Elder, Miriam (17 August 2012) Pussy Riot sentenced to two years in prison colony for hooliganism | Music. Retrieved on 1 November 2013.
  45. Pussy Riot closing statements (translated into English), n+1 magazine, accessed 19 August 2012.
  46. Alessandro Speciale (October 17, 2012). "Pope backs Orthodox Church against Pussy Riot desecration". La Stampa. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  47. Unorthodox behaviour rattles Russian church Financial Times, 14 April 2012 (paper edition).
  48. 1 2 The strange case of the Patriarch, some sand, and 20 million rouble lawsuit. 19 April 2012.
  49. Ex-Minister Made to Pay Over 'Toxic Dust' Moscow Times, 9 April 2012
  50. Думали, что однофамилец. 5 May 2012.
  51. Сын хирурга Шевченко рассказал о конфликте вокруг «квартиры патриарха». (27 March 2012). Retrieved on 1 November 2013.
  52. Piatakov, Sergei (6 April 2012) Former Minister Pays For 'Dusting' Patriarch's Flat. RIA Novosti.
  53. Патриарх Кирилл прокомментировал суд за соседскую квартиру: простить обидчика было бы "некорректно" NEWSru, 30 March 2012.
  54. "Patriarch’s disappearing watch act: Now you see it, now you don’t". RT. Autonomous Nonprofit Organization “TV-Novosti”. 5 April 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  55. Schwirtz, Michael (5 April 2012). "$30,000 Watch Vanishes Up Church Leader’s Sleeve". The New York Times Co. Retrieved 9 February 2016. Editors doctored a photograph on the church’s Web site of the leader, Patriarch Kirill I, extending a black sleeve where there once appeared to be a Breguet timepiece worth at least $30,000. The church might have gotten away with the ruse if it had not failed to also erase the watch’s reflection, which appeared in the photo on the highly glossed table where the patriarch was seated.
  56. 1 2 "Russia's Patriarch Kirill in furore over luxury watch". BBC. 5 April 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  57. Walker, Shaun (4 April 2012). "Plight of punk rockers turns Russians against the Church". Retrieved 9 February 2016. The attacks have become more prominent during the pre-election and post-election period," said the Supreme Church Council in a statement yesterday, apparently referring to both the performance by Pussy Riot and the scandals. "[This] shows their political and also anti-Russian motives.
  58. Patriarch Awarded Shoe], Saint-Petersburg Times, 21 June 2012.

External links

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Eastern Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Alexy II
Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
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