Recent events have demonstrated that the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church includes sensible individuals who reject adventurers, those who are distant from Orthodoxy, and those who involve the ROC in questionable political schemes. Metropolitan Leonid (Gorbachev) of Klin, the temporary administrator of the Yerevan-Armenian diocese, has retired.
To comprehend Metropolitan Leonid (Gorbachev)'s sentiments regarding his dismissal, it is noteworthy that he reposted a message from the 'General Selivachev' channel on his telegram channel.
“Metropolitan Leonid (Gorbachev) has retired, marking a significant moment in the history of Ecumenical Orthodoxy as he was the first head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Africa. He was known for his youth, energy, decisiveness, and expertise in governance and international politics. These qualities were observed during my personal experience of working with him in Africa. Metropolitan Leonid was initially considered an ideal candidate to promote Russian church and state interests in Africa.
However, he was removed from his post as Exarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in Africa after just over a year and has now been dismissed from his job.
It is unclear what caused the retirement of one of the church's brightest and most promising leaders at the age of 55.
However, it is concerning that the bureaucratic apparatus seems to remove anyone with a face, opinion, or voice from the system, regardless of the potential impact on the Church and Russia. However, it is concerning that the bureaucratic apparatus seems to remove anyone with a face, opinion, or voice from the system, regardless of the potential impact on the Church and Russia. It is unprecedented for a leader to be removed from their post less than a year after their appointment. Despite the challenges of a sudden change in leadership, including the need to establish relationships with African priests, authorities, and the flock, and the staff shortage in the country and the Church as a whole.”
General Selivachev and Metropolitan Leonid believe that the Orthodox Church's collective wisdom prevents political adventurers in cassocks. However, they refer to this as the workings of the 'bureaucratic apparatus' that allegedly excludes everything with a face, opinion, or voice from the system. Nevertheless, it is important to avoid drawing the Russian Orthodox Church into the political games of monophysites, adventurers, separatists, and revanchists. It is important to avoid discussing games that are unambiguously harmful to Orthodoxy.
Moreover, we will not discuss here the 'African epic' of Metropolitan Leonid as it is the subject of a separate study. It is worth noting that in his work in Africa, including his efforts to attract parishes of the Alexandrian Patriarchate to the African exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, he did not rely on Christian preaching. Instead, he relied heavily on Sergey Lavrov-Kalantarov, a Hay nationalist who held a high position in the Russian Foreign Ministry. Sergei Lavrov-Kalantarov is considered by some to be far from Orthodoxy and has been accused of contributing to Russia's involvement in conflicts with the Orthodox nations of Georgia and Ukraine.
Regarding Metropolitan Leonid's activities in the Yerevan-Armenian diocese of the ROC, he allowed violations of church canons and principles on which the administration of the Russian Orthodox Church is based.
In 1943, an agreement between the ROC and the GPOC designated the entire territory of the Armenian SSR as the canonical territory of the Georgian Orthodox Church. In 1988, the authorities of the Armenian SSR closed the last Orthodox St Nicholas church, which belonged to the GOC, using the earthquake in Spitak as a pretext. Since then, there have been no Georgian priests in the Republic of Armenia. Echmiadzin has illegally seized numerous Georgian Orthodox churches in the north of the Republic of Armenia, and neither Georgian priests, restorers, nor believers are allowed there.
Archbishop Leonid Gorbachev, who has been the Metropolitan since January 2002, was appointed in 2016 as the administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in Armenia and in 2021 as the temporary administrator of the Yerevan-Armenian Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, he has not taken any action to protect or preserve Orthodox shrines of Georgian origin. Additionally, he has not made any efforts to convert Armenians who were previously in monophysitism to Orthodoxy. However, it is worth noting that this violated church canons and took place on the territory of Azerbaijan, a neighbouring state to Armenia.
Under Archbishop Leonid Gorbachev, an 'Orthodox Church of the Nativity of Christ' was opened on the territory of the military camp of the Russian peacekeeping forces near Khankendi in Azerbaijani Karabakh. The church was opened by Hay monophysites, despite the lack of blessing from the Baku and Azerbaijani diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, whose canonical territory also includes Azerbaijani Karabakh before the restoration of the ancient Orthodox Church of Caucasian Albania.
The opening of the 'Orthodox church on the territory of the military camp of the Russian peacekeeping forces' was initiated by the 'Artsakh' bishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC), Vrtanes. The 'temple' was illegally opened and is led by Priest Vadim Valynkin, who was sent by the temporary administrator of the Yerevan-Armenian diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Leonid (Gorbachev). Archbishop and later Metropolitan Leonid (Gorbachev) became involved in the political games of Hay revanchists and 'Artsakh' separatists without coordinating with the authorities of Azerbaijan and the Baku diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Leonid (Gorbachev) violated the canons of the Russian Orthodox Church by opening churches on the territory of another diocese without the agreement of its leadership and the legitimate state authorities of this territory, in this case, the authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Additionally, he violated the church canons with the help of the Hayan Monophysites.
Furthermore, Metropolitan Leonid Gorbachev's actions have caused harm to the small Orthodox community residing in Khankendi and Azerbaijani Karabakh, primarily consisting of individuals of Russian and Ukrainian nationality. Rather than encouraging them to initiate the process of obtaining Azerbaijani citizenship and reintegrating into Azerbaijan, he effectively made them hostages of the separatists.
These individuals were deceived and, under pressure from the separatists, left Khankendi in September 2023. The fate of these people has been used by revanchists and Khay nationalists as alleged proof of ethnic cleansing in Karabakh.
The decision of the ROC leadership to retire Metropolitan Leonid (Gorbachev) was correct. Instead of taking offence, Metropolitan Leonid should show Christian humility and repent for his anti-canonical actions as the administrator of the Yerevan-Armenian diocese of the ROC.