By Devin Watkins
Metropolitan Philaret (born Kirill Varfolomeyevich Vakhromeev) died Tuesday in a Minsk hospital at the age of 85.
The Russian Orthodox former Patriarchal Exarch of Belarus had been hospitalized with Covid-19 for nearly a month.
Following his death, Cardinal Kurt Koch sent a letter to the current Patriarchal Exarch of all Belarus, Metropolitan Veniamin, to express his condolences.
He assured the entire Belarusian Orthodox Church of his closeness in prayer.
“I take this opportunity to offer thanksgiving to God for his many years of faithful service to the Lord, during which time our departed Metropolitan offered all of us a luminous example of faith,” said Cardinal Koch.
Rebirth of Belarusian Church
The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity also praised his notable contribution to “the rebirth of ecclesial life, to the renewal and construction of new churches and monasteries, and to the development of religious instruction and educational programs in the Church of Belarus.”
Metropolitan Philaret maintained excellent relationships with representatives of other faiths. In the final years of his ministry, he worked closely with Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk.
Cardinal Koch praised the Archbishop's contribution to promoting reconciliation among Christians.
The late Metropolitan made great strides, he said, to strengthen the “fraternal bonds between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church by building up a fruitful network of spiritual friendships with many Catholic brethren.”
On Friday, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz will celebrate Mass for Metropolitan Philaret in the Minsk Cathedral.
Born in 1935, Metropolitan Philaret entered the seminary in 1953, and was ordained a priest in 1961.
He was consecrated Bishop only four years later, in 1965, and became a liaison between the Orthodox hierarchy and the Soviet Union, serving in Berlin.
Metropolitan Philaret served as the Patriarchal Exarch of Belarus for 35 years, emerging as one of the nation’s spiritual guides until his retirement in 2013.