Pitirim (Nechayev) of Volokolamsk

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Metropolitan Pitirim (Nechaev) of Volokolamsk and Yuryev was Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and Yuryev during the late twentieth century. He was one of three senior bishops of the Church of Russia during the latter part of the Soviet era. Having been enlisted as a KGB agent, he followed faithfully the political aims of the Soviet authorities.


Constantine Vladimirovich Nechaev was born in the Russian city of Kozlov, now Michurinsk, in the Tambov region on January 8, 1926, the youngest of eleven children. His father was a priest at the time of the drive to atheism by the Bolsheviks. Constantine was the only child to enter the clergy, with most of his siblings becoming engineers. One sister became an architect.

He was just old enough to take advantage of the limited opens for theological training that came after the end of World War II and prepared himself, like many of his contemporaries, to fill the vacancies in the episcopacies left after the purges of the 1930s. He became a subdeacon to Patriarch Alexei I, in 1945. In 1947, he graduated from the Moscow Theological Seminary followed in 1951 as the first doctoral graduate from the Moscow Theological Academy, where he had presented his thesis on Simeon the New Theologian.

He was ordained a deacon in 1952, and then a priest in 1956. He entered one of the few monasteries that reopened after the war and took his monastic tonsure as a monk with the name Pitirim in 1959, in honor of St. Pitirim of Tambov. In 1959, he was also appointed inspector of the Moscow Theological Schools. He taught at the Moscow Theological Seminary and Academy for nearly 30 years, initially teaching History of Western Confessions, then from 1957 the New Testament.

He was consecrated bishop of Volokolamsk, a vicar of the Moscow diocese, in May 1963, and was raised to the dignity of archbishop in 1971. He was appointed Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and Yuryev in 1986.

Beginning with the position of editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1962, Pitirim was made head of the publishing department of the patriarchate the following year. He also was chairman of the editorial board of the Bogoslovskiye Trudy ("The Theological Works") for several years. As the head of the only publishing house of the Church of Russia, he came under much criticism for only printing a few thousand bibles and few theological books in over thirty years. During the celebration of 1000 years of Christianity in 1988, when the Church could finally express its views in public, Metr. Pitirim came into open criticism for his lack of publishing activity at the Moscow sobor that marked the anniversary in June 1988. Thereafter his control over publishing for the Church began to fade although he continued to hold the position until December 1994.

Having been enlisted as a KGB agent with the code name "Abbot", Bp. Pitirim was known widely to be a reliable conformist of Soviet political aims promoting aboard the official line, such as denying that the 1980 arrest of the priest Dmitri Dudko and other activists was part of any "wave of arrests" of church members. He often criticized, on the record, church and human rights individuals. His criticism also included the martyred Patr. Tikhon and Andrei Sakharov for their opposition to socialism and creating conflict with the Soviet state.

He became a very visible public figure after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev opened up Soviet society in the late 1980s. He was one of three senior bishops appointed to the Congress of People's Deputies, the first semi-free Soviet parliament. During the suppression of nationalist groups, he publicly supported the Soviet army despite the killing of innocent civilians in Riga and Vilnius. He gave "de facto recognition" to the Bolshevik hardliners during the August 1991 coup attempt.

Metr. Pitirim lived modestly, was companionable, and took care of his invalid sister. During the last decade of the twentieth century, he was the leading clergyman promoting ecological concerns in Russia. After the devastated Joseph-Volokolamsk Monastery was returned to the Church in 1989, Metr. Pitirim led the program that restored it to its former glory.

Metr. Pitirim reposed on November 4, 2003 in Moscow.

Succession box:
Pitirim (Nechayev) of Volokolamsk
Preceded by:
Basil (Krivoshein)
Metropolitan of Volokolamsk
Vicar of Moscow Diocese

1963 - 2003
Succeeded by:
Hilarion (Alfeyev)
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