The Church Abroad was very lucky with the last protohierarchs, Laurus and Hilarion. They were people of astonishing piety, kind, attentive and patient. Not at all politicians, administrators or diplomats. Moving the ROCOR away from sectarian self-isolation, Laurus took a firm course toward reunification with the ROC, believing that by doing so he would fulfill God’s will. Hilarion, also seeking to obey God’s will, didn’t take any drastic steps and simply kept the ROCOR in the condition in which he found it after the reunification.
But the problems multiplied. About seven years ago I asked Metropolitan Hilarion:
- Your Grace, more and more often the Church Abroad is copying the Moscow Patriarchate. It turned out stronger – you’re not influencing it, it’s influencing you. Clearly, in Russia there is money, which you lack. But how cheaply they buy you. You must remain yourself! Have you given up? If things go on like this, then there will be no point in the existence of the ROCOR – you can just go on and dissolve into the ROC.
He replied briefly:
- Yes, it is so… - and he looked at me very expressively, sadly.
It was obvious that he generally agreed with my assessment, but he didn’t know what to do, and there was no one on whose support he could count.Candidates: What names are being mentioned?
The upcoming protohierarch election represents a choice of the ROCOR’s future path. There are only three options: 1) follow the same path and prepare for full integration into the ROC; 2) follow the same path while defending the ROCOR’s autonomy by all means; 3) \try to conceive a new role for the ROCOR and preserve the heritage of Russian emigration, realizing that for modern Russia that heritage is of no interest.
The war in Ukraine, combined with the toxicity around everything that is directly related to Putin's Russia, should push the ROCOR toward the second option. The third would demand enormous efforts, of which the "comfy" Russian emigration seems incapable.
At first glance, the most obvious contender is Metropolitan Mark (Arndt) of Berlin and Germany. As the oldest hierarch in the ROCOR, he has served as the deputy protohierarch after the death of Hilarion and enjoys great authority. However, Mark is already 81 years old, and the management of the Church, which includes parishes and monasteries spanning four continents, is an unbearable burden for a man of his age. Gerontocracy in the West is not encouraged. Metropolitan Mark, being a German both by upbringing and by culture, understands this very well.
Nevertheless, until the very last moment , and the chances of him being elected are very high.
Archbishop of Montreal and Canada Gabriel (Chemodakov) is not without ambition. He is 20 years younger than Metropolitan Mark and has been an ROCOR hierarch for more than a quarter of a century; however, there are several problems with him as a candidate. Firstly, he doesn’t like his Canadian diocese and hasn’t appeared there since 2020. He lives in New York and serves wherever he wants. More problematic, though, is his scandalously pro-Russia stance. In Gabriel’s rhetoric
the cliches of Kremlin propaganda clearly sound: