It is not uncommon for a religious leader, but the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the spiritual leader of the 150 million Orthodox believers around the world, has an ironic nickname. He is called the “high priest of tobacco”.
His fortune, this religious leader who loves skiing and beautiful watches, writes the French newspaper “Liberation”, created it in the 1990s, based on the advice specialists.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church since 2009 had cared for years before investing in the tobacco industry, with the blessing of the Russian authorities and taking advantage of the tax breaks that the Church benefits in Russia. Now, as he belongs to the inner circle of those who surround and support Russian President Vladimir Putin, the great fortune of 75-year-old Cyril is threatened by the sanctions announced by the European Union.
Wealth that he had hitherto denied or concealed was estimated at $ 4 billion, according to Forbes magazine in 2006. The estimates of the Russian newspaper “Novaya Gazeta” are much higher – they amount to 8 billion dollars. As it turns out, from the most profitable cigarette trade, he has acquired, among other things, a luxury residence in Moscow and a chalet in the Swiss Alps, in the canton of Zurich. Ten years ago he was photographed at a formal meeting wearing a $ 30,000 watch on his wrist. They tried to erase it with photoshop but you could see its reflection on the table. Later, the Patriarchate apologized for the retouch.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the religious leader, whose real name is Vladimir Mikhailovich Gudiaev, has multiplied statements of support for the “special operation”, the term used by the Russian authorities to invade Ukraine. On February 27, Cyril spoke of a battle against the “forces of evil” that are “fighting for historical unity” between Russia and Ukraine.
On Sunday, March 6, when the passage of the Gospel of Matthew is read in the churches, which mentions the value of forgiveness and marks the beginning of Lent, he delivered a sermon in which he justified the war, at the same time attacking homosexuals and gay pride. , a symbol in his eyes of the decline of the West. “What is happening today is not just a matter of politics but of human salvation,” he said.
Unlike his grandfather, an orthodox priest who suffered from Stalin's persecution, Cyril is a pure product of the Soviet religious nomenclature. At the age of 19, he entered the Theological Academy of his hometown of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), a school of which he later became rector. He became a monk four years later and then bishop of Vyborg, then Smolensk and Kaliningrad and in 1991 metropolitan.
A little earlier, in 1989, the then Patriarch Alexy II elected him president of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Patriarchate of Moscow and representative of the Russian Church at the Ecumenical Council of Churches based in Geneva, the most important world organization of Christian Churches. He is said to have opposed the annexation of Crimea and in 2014 avoided attending the celebrations.
Was Cyril the agent of the KBG? wonders the international press in recent days. Reports are circulating in the Russian press in the 1990s that he was recruited by the KGB when he was still a bishop, code-named “Mikhailov”. He remains a staunch supporter of Putin, whom he has called a “miracle of God.”