The appointment of Metropolitan Pavel (Ponomarev) to the post of head of the Krutitsy and Kolomna Metropolis (Moscow Regional) dramatically changes the alignment in the leadership of the ROC. The last year has passed in disputes about who will be the successor of Patriarch Kirill – whether Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) or Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) – this dichotomy seemed artificial to me, since Tikhon did not have regalia in order to apply for a place, and Hilarion did not have real support in the episcopate to receive it.
Now everything fell into place. The patriarch appointed to the informal fourth place in the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church (but the second in the Moscow Patriarchate in terms of real influence) a person of a distinguished, moderate, experienced administrator (behind the shoulders of the leadership of the Belarusian Exarchate), quite far from all church “parties”. Moreover, at the same time, deeply “ecclesiastical”, from the community known in the Church (but not to the public), with the elder Archimandrite Sevastian of Karaganda. Pavel went through both Moscow theological schools and the DECR. Experienced in relations with the authorities, but not alien, at times, and human actions, exactly what the majority in the Church needs now.
All other applicants for the patriarchal post can now cool off and relax. The race ended before it started.
None of the above means that the next patriarch will be 100% Pavel. The point here is only that the official place of the “successor” is occupied, the situation is stable and predictable, and therefore discussions about “succession” (itchy brains of some citizens from among the writing fraternity) can be stopped for now.