Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow

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Alexy II
Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus'
Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow.png
Church Russian Orthodox Church
SeeMoscow
Installed10 June 1990
Term ended5 December 2008
Predecessor Pimen I
Successor Kirill I
Orders
Ordination17 April 1950
Consecration3 September 1961
by  Nikodim of Leningrad
Personal details
Birth nameAleksei Mikhailovich Ridiger
Born23 February 1929
Tallinn, Estonia
Died5 December 2008(2008-12-05) (aged 79)
Peredelkino, Moscow, Russia
Buried Epiphany Cathedral at Elokhovo
Nationality Estonian-Russian
Denomination Russian Orthodox
SpouseVera Alekseeva (1950–1951)
Coat of arms Monogram Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II.svg

Patriarch Alexy II (or Alexius II, Russian: Патриарх Алексий II; secular name Aleksei Mikhailovich Ridiger [1] Russian: Алексе́й Миха́йлович Ри́дигер; 23 February 1929 – 5 December 2008) was the 15th Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus', the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Contents

Elected Patriarch of Moscow eighteen months prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, he became the first Russian Patriarch of the post-Soviet period.

Family history [2]

Alexey Mikhailovich Ridiger's father Mikhail Aleksandrovich Ridiger (1900–1960), born in Saint Petersburg, was a descendant of a Baltic German noble family. His ancestor Captain Heinrich Nikolaus (Nils) Rüdinger, the commander of a Swedish fortification in Dünamünde, Swedish Livonia, was knighted by Charles XI of Sweden in 1695. After Swedish Estonia and Swedish Livonia became part of the Russian Empire in the aftermath of the Great Northern War in the beginning of the 18th century, another forefather of Alexy II, Friedrich Wilhelm von Rüdiger (1780–1840), adopted Orthodox Christianity during the reign of Catherine II of Russia. From the marriage with a Polish woman Sophie Dorothea Jerzębska [3] was born the future Patriarch's great-grandfather, Yegor (Georgi) von Rüdiger (1811–1848). [4]

After the Russian October Revolution in 1917, Alexey Ridiger's father Mikhail became a refugee and the family settled in Estonia, first in Haapsalu where a shelter was provided by priest Ralph von zur Mühlen. [5] Later Mikhail moved to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where he met and married in 1928 to Yelena Iosifovna Pisareva (1902–1955), [4] who was born and later died there. [1]

Alexey Ridiger's father graduated from the theological seminary in Tallinn in 1940 and was ordained a deacon and later a priest and served as the rector of the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Tallinn. Later, he was a member and the chairman of the Diocesan Council in Estonia.

Patrilineal family tree [4]

Heinrich Nikolaus (Nils) Rüdinger
(died 1711)
Peter von RüdingerKarl Magnus von Rüdinger
(1753–1821)
Friedrich Wilhelm (Fyodor Ivanovich) von Rüdiger
(1780–1840)
Yegor (Georgi) Fyodorovich Ridiger
(1811–1848)
Aleksandr Yegorovich Ridiger
(1844–1877)
Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Ridiger
(1870–1928)
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Ridiger
(1900–1960)
Aleksei Mikhailovich Ridiger
(1929–2008)
Christine Elisabeth von Wickede
(1680–1721)
Elisabeth WiesnerCharlotte Margarethe von Maltitz
(1758 – 1786)
Sophie Dorothea JerzębskaMargarethe HamburgerYevgenia Germanovna Gizetti
(died 1905)
Aglaida Yulievna Balts
(1870–1950)
Yelena Iosifovna Pisareva
(1902–1955)

Early life

Alexey Ridiger was born and spent his childhood in the Republic of Estonia that had become a Russian Orthodox spiritual center and a home to many Russian émigrés after the Russian October Revolution in 1917. [6] He was baptised to Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church. [7]

From his early childhood Alexey Ridiger served in the Orthodox Church under the guidance of his spiritual father: Archpriest Ioann Bogoyavlensky.

Alexey Ridiger attended Tallinn's Russian Gymnasium.

After the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940 Alexey Ridiger's family was listed for arrest in order to be deported from Estonia according to the Serov Instructions but were not found by the NKVD because instead of staying in their home they were hiding in a nearby hovel. [8]

During Occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany (1941–1944) Alexey Ridiger attended with his father Mikhail, who had become an Orthodox priest on 20 December 1942, the German prison camps in Estonia offering salvation to the Russian prisoners of war. Such activities were tolerated by the German occupation authorities because it was seen as an effective anti Soviet propaganda. After Soviet forces returned to Estonia in the autumn of 1944, unlike the most of the people with Baltic German roots, the Ridiger family chose to stay in Estonia and didn't evacuate to the west. [8]

During the war Joseph Stalin had revived the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union. [9] Having been closed during the war time, after the Soviet annexation of Estonia the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn was reopened in 1945. Alexey Ridiger who had become a Soviet citizen [10] served as an altar boy in the cathedral from May to October 1946. He was made a psalm-reader in St. Simeon's Church later that year; in 1947, he officiated in the same office in the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in Tallinn. [1]

Career

Alexy, in the Kremlin Cathedral of the Annunciation, presents Vladimir Putin with an icon of Saint Alexander Nevsky at the latter's presidential inauguration on 7 May 2000. Inauguration of Vladimir Putin 7 May 2000-10.jpg
Alexy, in the Kremlin Cathedral of the Annunciation, presents Vladimir Putin with an icon of Saint Alexander Nevsky at the latter's presidential inauguration on 7 May 2000.

He entered Leningrad Theological Seminary in 1947, and graduated in 1949. He then entered the Leningrad Theological Academy, and graduated in 1953. [11] [12]

On 15 April 1950, he was ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Gregory (Chukov) of Leningrad, and on 17 April 1950, he was ordained a priest and appointed rector of the Theophany church in city of Jõhvi, Estonia, in the Tallinn Diocese. On 15 July 1957, Fr. Alexiy was appointed Rector of the Cathedral of the Dormition in Tallinn and Dean of the Tartu district. He was elevated to the rank of Archpriest on 17 August 1958, and on 30 March 1959 he was appointed Dean of the united Tartu-Viljandi deanery of the Tallinn diocese. On 3 March 1961 he was tonsured a monk in the Trinity Cathedral of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. [11]

His name (secular Алексей, clerical Алексий) was not changed when he became a monk, but his patron saint changed from Alexius of Rome to Alexius, Metropolitan of Moscow whose relics repose in the Theophany Cathedral in Moscow.

On 14 August 1961, he was chosen to be the Orthodox Church Bishop of Tallinn and Estonia. On 23 June 1964, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop; and, on 25 February 1968, when he just turned 40 years old, he was elevated to metropolitan. [12]

In 1986 he was released from the post of the Chancellor, which he had held since 1961 and which allowed him to be based in the Moscow Patriarchy's headquarters, and transferred to Leningrad; the decision was effectively made by the Council for Religious Affairs and was later presented by Alexy as punishment for his letter in December 1985 to Mikhail Gorbachev with proposals of reforms to church-state relations. Shortly after Alexy's death, the then Chairman of the Council Kharchev strongly denied that and said the decision was aimed at "defusing the tense emotional atmosphere within Patriarch Pimen's inner circle". [13] In an earlier interview Kharchev suggested the removal had been requested by Patriarch Pimen "for a year". [14]

After the death of Patriarch Pimen in 1990 Alexiy was chosen to become the new Patriarch of The Russian Orthodox Church. He was chosen on Local Council on the basis of his administrative experience, and was considered "intelligent, energetic, hardworking, systematic, perceptive, and businesslike." [15] He also "had a reputation as a conciliator, a person who could find common ground with various groups in the episcopate." [16] Archbishop Chrysostom (Martishkin) remarked "With his peaceful and tolerant disposition Patriarch Aleksi will be able to unite us all." [17]

Patriarch Alexy II was "the first patriarch in Soviet history to be chosen without government pressure; candidates were nominated from the floor, and the election was conducted by secret ballot." [12]

Upon taking on the role of Patriarch, Patriarch Alexy became a vocal advocate of the rights of the church, calling for the Soviet government to allow religious education in the state schools and for a "freedom of conscience" law. [12] During the attempted coup in August 1991, he denounced the arrest of Mikhail Gorbachev, and anathematized the plotters. [12] He publicly questioned the junta's legitimacy, called for restraint by the military, and demanded that Gorbachev be allowed to address the people. [18] He issued a second appeal against violence and fratricide, which was amplified over loudspeakers to the troops outside the Russian "White House" half an hour before they attacked. [16] Ultimately, the coup failed, which eventually resulted in the breakup of the Soviet Union. [19]

Alexy II speaking to orthodox believers in Pereslavl (1997) Pn-alexiy-1997-profile.jpg
Alexy II speaking to orthodox believers in Pereslavl (1997)

In July 1998 Alexy II decided not to officiate in the Peter and Paul Cathedral of Saint Petersburg at the burial of the royal family executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918, a ceremony attended by president Boris Yeltsin, citing doubts about the authenticity of the remains. [20]

Under his leadership, the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia who suffered under Communism were glorified, beginning with the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Metropolitan Vladimir, and Metropolitan Benjamin (Kazansky) of Petrograd in 1992. [21] In 2000, after much debate, the All-Russian Council glorified Tsar Nicholas II and his family (see Romanov sainthood), as well as many other New Martyrs. [22] More names continue to be added to list of New Martyrs, after the Synodal Canonization Commission completes its investigation of each case. [23]

Alexy II had complicated relations with John Paul II and the Roman Catholic Church. He had a dispute with Rome over the property rights of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine, which had emerged from Soviet control after the Gorbachev's liberalisation of Russia. [24] He nevertheless had good relations with Latin-rite Christians in France and was friends with Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who invited him to the country shortly before his death. [25]

Patriarch Alexy II (right) and Metropolitan Laurus (left) in the residence of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in Peredelkino. Metropolitan Laurus and Patriarch Alexius II.jpg
Patriarch Alexy II (right) and Metropolitan Laurus (left) in the residence of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in Peredelkino.

Patriarch Alexy II repeatedly affirmed the traditional stand of the Orthodox Church and opposed the display of homosexuality in Russia, and in particular, opposed gay parades in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Church, according to the Patriarch, "has invariably supported the institution of the family and condemns untraditional relations, seeing them as a vicious deviation from God-given human nature". He also said, "I am convinced that gays' desire to organize a parade in Moscow will not help strengthen the family as the foundation of a strong state". [26] He also said that homosexuality is an illness, and a distortion of the human personality like kleptomania. [27] [28]

Patriarch Alexy has also issued statements condemning anti-Semitism. [12]

On 27 April 2007, he was reported by some Russian media to be in grave condition and even dead, [29] [30] though this was later shown to have been a hoax. [31] [32] [33] [34] Patriarch Alexiy has stated that the motivation behind these rumors were to scuttle the upcoming reconciliation between the Russian Church inside of Russia with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. [35] "As you can see, I'm healthy, I'm serving, I'm alive," he is quoted as saying. [35] Despite his age, he appeared healthy, and had been leading an active pastoral life. He was frequently seen on Russian TV, conducting Church services, and meeting with various government officials.

In February 2007 a controversy erupted when Diomid, Bishop of Chukotka, condemned the ROC's hierarchy and personally Patrirch Alexy II for ecumenism, supporting democracy and misguided loyalty to the Russian secular authorities. [36] [37] Bishop Diomid also took the position that taxpayer IDs, cell phones, passports, vaccination and globalisation were tools of the antichrist,[ citation needed ] and that the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have "departed from the purity of the Orthodoxal dogma" [38] in its support of the Russian government and of democracy, as well as its ecumenism with other confessions. After a decision of the All-Russian Council, and Bishop Diomid's refusal to appear, he was defrocked in July 2008, [39]

Personal life

Danilov Monastery, the residence of the Patriarch and the Holy Synod Danilov monastery 16.jpg
Danilov Monastery, the residence of the Patriarch and the Holy Synod

He married Vera Alekseeva, [40] the daughter of a priest from Tallinn Georgi Alekseev, later Bishop of Tallinn and Archbishop of Gorki, on 11 April 1950, [41] [42] [43] on the Tuesday of Bright Week when marriages are normally prohibited according to Church tradition; however, permission was granted by Metropolitan Gregory of Leningrad, at the request of Bishop Roman of Tallinn and the fathers of both the bride and groom (both of whom were priests, and who concelebrated the marriage together). Moskovskie Novosti has alleged that according to a denunciation written by a priest-inspector Pariysky to the Leningrad Council of Religious Affairs, the marriage had been expedited in order for Ridiger to become a deacon and avoid being drafted into the Soviet Military (marriage is impossible after ordination in Orthodoxy). Up until 1950, seminarians were given a deferment from the draft, but in 1950 this was changed, and only clergy were exempt. For reasons which have remained private, they divorced less than a year later. [41] [43]

The Patriarch's private residence was located in the village of Lukino (near Peredelkino), now a western suburb of Moscow; it includes a 17th-century church, a museum, and a spacious three-storey house built in the late 1990s. According to the Patriarch's May 2005 interview on the residence's compound, nuns drawn from the Pühtitsa Convent take care of all the household chores. [44]

There was also a working residence in central Moscow—a 19th-century town mansion, which had been turned over to the Patriarchate by Stalin's order in September 1943. Both residences acted as living quarters and Patriarch's office at the same time. He commuted in an armored car and was under the protection of federal agents (FSO) since January 2000. [45]

The formal residence (infrequently used for some official functions) is located in the Moscow Danilov Monastery  – a two-storey Soviet building erected in the 1980s.

He died on 5 December 2008, from heart failure, aged 79. He died 80 days short of his 80th birthday( February 23, 1929 – December 5, 2008), just being 1 single day older at death than the previous Russian Patriarch, who had died 81 days short of his 80th birthday( July 23, 1910 – May 3, 1990)

Awards and honors

Patriarch Alexy II was an honorary member of the Theological Academies in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Crete, Greece. He was made Doctor of Theology honoris causa at the Debrecen Reformed Theological University in Debrecen, Hungary. He also was honored by St. Vladimir's Seminary and St. Tikhon's Seminary an at the Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage in the USA. He was given the title of honorary professor by the Omsk State University and the Moscow State University. He was given an honorary Doctorate of Philology by St. Petersburg University. He was given an honorary Doctorate of Theology by the Theological Faculty of the University of Belgrade. He was given an honorary Doctorate of Theology by the Tbilisi Theological Academy in Georgia. He received a Golden Medal from the Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the Kosice University in Kosice, Slovakia, and was an honorary member of the International Charity and Health Foundation. [50]

Awards of the Russian Orthodox Church and other local churches
Other orders Metropolitan Patriarch of Antioch
State awards of the Russian Federation
State awards of the USSR
Awards of the Russian Federation
Departmental awards
Foreign awards
Community Awards
Honorary degrees

Controversies

Apology to Germany

During Alexy II's first official visit to Germany in 1995, the Patriarch publicly apologized for the "Communist tyranny that had been imposed upon the German nation by the USSR". The apology resulted in accusations by Russian Communists and the Russian National Bolshevik Party of insulting the Russian nation and treason. [51]

Opposition in the Russian Orthodox Church

Some activities, views and policies of Alexy II such as engaging in ecumenical dialogue (when Metropolitan, Alexy had been one of the presidents of the Conference of European Churches since 1964; in March 1987 he was elected President of the CEC Presidium and Advisory Committee, in which post he remained until November 1990) [52] with representatives of other religious groups [53] and publicly condemning antisemitism [54] were met with opposition by some in the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Alexy II responded by saying that such people do not represent the opinions of the church but expressed their own private views as free citizens instead. [55]

Work for the KGB

Modern fresco of the Donskoi Monastery, representing Alexy II bringing the relics of Patriarch Tikhon into the monastery. Donskoi3.jpg
Modern fresco of the Donskoi Monastery, representing Alexy II bringing the relics of Patriarch Tikhon into the monastery.

Patriarch Alexy II was a KGB agent according to multiple sources, [56] [57] [58] [59] [60] [61] including Gleb Yakunin and Yevgenia Albats, who both were given access to the KGB archives. [58] [62] [63] [64] The Patriarch was also named as a KGB collaborator in a 2015 interview with Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB general who defected. [65]

It is alleged that the Estonian KGB recruited Alexy as an agent on 28 February 1958, just days after his 29th birthday, assigning him the codename "Drozdov" (he had completed his dissertation on Metropolitan Filaret Drozdov). The report detailing his recruitment makes clear that the KGB viewed Alexy, then still a priest, as a high-flier. It had already earmarked him as a future Bishop of the Russian Orthodox diocese of Tallinn and Estonia. He was appointed to this post less than three years later. [66] Among his KGB assignments was one in 1983, when he was sent to the Pskov-Caves Monastery to "pacify" rebellious monks. [67]

In February 1988, exactly 30 years after his recruitment, the KGB chairman awarded him the Certificate of Honour. [63]

Alexander Grigoryev, a KGB officer in Leningrad under cover as Orthodox priest Fr Alexander was his case officer for a while. [68] According to Oleg Gordievsky, Alexy worked for the KGB for forty years, and his case officer was Nikolai Patrushev.[ citation needed ]

The Moscow Patriarchate has, however, consistently denied that Patriarch Alexy was a KGB agent. [69]

Konstantin Kharchev, former chairman of the Soviet Council for Religious Affairs, explained: "Not a single candidate for the office of bishop or any other high-ranking office, much less a member of Holy Synod, went through without confirmation by the Central Committee of the CPSU and the KGB". [63] Professor Nathaniel Davis points out: "If the bishops wished to defend their people and survive in office, they had to collaborate to some degree with the KGB, with the commissioners of the Council for Religious Affairs, and with other party and governmental authorities." [70]

Patriarch Alexy acknowledged that compromises were made with the Soviet government by bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, himself included, and publicly repented of these compromises:

"Defending one thing, it was necessary to give somewhere else. Were there any other organizations, or any other people among those who had to carry responsibility not only for themselves but for thousands of other fates, who in those years in the Soviet Union were not compelled to act likewise? Before those people, however, to whom the compromises, silence, forced passivity or expressions of loyalty permitted by the leaders of the church in those years caused pain, before these people, and not only before God, I ask forgiveness, understanding and prayers." [71]

According to Nathaniel Davis, when asked by the Russian press about claims that he was a "compliant" bishop, "Aleksi defended his record, noting that while he was bishop of Tallinn in 1961, he resisted the communist authorities' efforts to make the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the city a planetarium (which, in truth, they did do elsewhere in the Baltic states) and to convert the Pühtitsa Dormition nunnery to a rest home for miners." [72] Official records show that the Tallinn diocese had a lower number of forced Church closings than was typical in the rest of the USSR during Patriarch Alexy's tenure as bishop there. [73] Timothy Ware notes, "Opinions differ over the past collaboration or otherwise between the Communist authorities, but on the whole he is thought to have shown firmness and independence in his dealings as a diocesan bishop with the Soviet State." [74]

Death and burial

Funeral of Alexy II at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on 9 December 2008. Funeral of Patriarch Alexy II-15.jpg
Funeral of Alexy II at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on 9 December 2008.
Mourners at the funeral of Alexy II including Serzh Sargsyan, Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Voronin. Funeral of Patriarch Alexy II-13.jpg
Mourners at the funeral of Alexy II including Serzh Sargsyan, Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Voronin.

Alexy died at his home at his Peredelkino residence on 5 December 2008, reportedly of heart failure. [75]

On 7 December 2008, Russian President Medvedev issued a decree which "enjoined" that on the day of the Patriarch's burial Russia's cultural establishments and broadcasters should cancel entertaining programs and assistance be furnished to the Patriarchate on the part of the federal and city governments for organization of the burial. [76] However, the order did not amount to a formal national mourning. [77]

On 9 December 2008, the Order for the Burial (funeral service) of the deceased Patriarch was presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, [78] whereafter he was interred in the southern chapel of the Epiphany Cathedral at Elokhovo in Moscow. [79]

During the service in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, which was broadcast live by Russia's state TV channels, after Kathisma XVII had been chanted and Metropolitan Kirill set about doing the incensing round the coffin, he appeared to teeter and, being propped up by two bishops, [80] was ushered into the sanctuary and was absent for about an hour. Reuters reported: "Kirill was helped away by aides at one point and a Kremlin official said he had apparently fainted. The metropolitan later rejoined the funeral." [81] [82] The ROC official spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin lashed out at the news media that had reported the incident "incorrectly" insisting that Kirill had not fainted, but merely had "felt unwell". [83]

Opinions about Alexy II

Prime Minister Putin at the coffin of Patriarch Alexy. Funeral of Patriarch Alexy II-3.jpg
Prime Minister Putin at the coffin of Patriarch Alexy.

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References

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  2. Otto Magnus von Stackelberg (1930). Baltisches Wappenbuch. Starke Verlag, Görlitz. pp. 376–377. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  3. The spelling of the names here is transliteration from Russian in the Patriarch's official biography – АЛЕКСИЙ II Orthodox Encyclopaedia (2000)
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  5. "Chronology" (in Estonian). Museum of Laanemaa. Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2008.
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  70. Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p .96 Davis quotes one bishop as saying: "Yes, we – I, at least, and I say this first about myself – I worked together with the KGB. I cooperated, I made signed statements, I had regular meetings, I made reports. I was given a pseudonym – a code name as they say there... I knowingly cooperated with them – but in such a way that I undeviatingly tried to maintain the position of my Church, and, yes, also to act as a patriot, insofar as I understood, in collaboration with these organs. I was never a stool pigeon, nor an informer."
  71. From an interview of Patriarch Alexy II, given to "Izvestia" No 137, 10 June 1991, entitled "Patriarch Alexy II: – I Take upon Myself Responsibility for All that Happened", English translation from Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p 89. See also History of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, by St. John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco, 31 December 2007
  72. Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p. 89f
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Eastern Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Pimen
Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
1990–2008
Succeeded by
Kirill