Posted: 17.05.2024 16:20:02

Heroes of Belarus. Metropolitan Filaret. Apostle of the Belarusian land

History knew no leaders of the Orthodox Church awarded a Hero Star before. The exception is the Hero of Belarus, an Orthodox Church figure and an amazingly pure-hearted man — the first Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus Filaret, secular name Kirill Vakhromeyev. He went through all the stages of church service — from a seminarian to an archpastor. He is the theologian who received the Hero of Belarus title, the deputy who appeared everywhere dressed only in priestly vestments, the monk who loved white roses. May 20th marks the miraculous appearance of the Zhirovichi Icon of the Mother of God, one of the most revered shrines of Belarus. The icon is located in the Holy Dormition Stavropegic Monastery in Zhirovichi, where Metropolitan Filaret was Archimandrite and where he was buried.

The Minsk Times new project is dedicated to people awarded the highest Hero of Belarus title

Metropolitan Filaret, Hero of Belarus   BELTA
Kirill Vakhromeyev was born on March 21st, 1935 in Moscow. He began his church service in 1954 as a sub-deacon of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia. In April 1959, he took monastic vows in the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, received the name in honour of St. Philaret the Merciful and was ordained a hieromonk. In 1978, Filaret was appointed Metropolitan of Minsk and Belarus, Patriarchal Exarch of Western Europe, and in 1989 he became Metropolitan of Minsk and Grodno, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, a permanent member of the Holy Synod. Since February 1992, he held the title of Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, Honorary Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Stavropegic Monastery in Zhirovichi.

Spiritual mentor of people

The beginning of Metropolitan Filaret’s church service in Belarus took place during a difficult historical period. He stood at the origins of the revival of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, the restoration of its authority and role in society. Reviving the Christian culture of the Belarusian people, preserving and strengthening its spiritual traditions, Metropolitan Filaret became a good pastor and wise mentor for several generations of clergymen and Orthodox believers.
As is known, the Head of State had a warm attitude to the Patriarchal Exarch. Metropolitan Filaret was a spiritual mentor and a good friend for Aleksandr Lukashenko. They traditionally met at Easter holidays to communicate warmly while drinking tea, and to exchange gifts. Based on the footage from previous years, one can see that their communication was truly sincere and heartwarming. The Belarusian leader invariably noted the knowledge, wisdom and moral authority of Metropolitan Filaret, which helped unite people with different opinions and aspirations, find the right solutions in difficult situations, and helped strengthen the authority of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.    
Over 35 years at the helm of the Belarusian Exarchate, Metropolitan Filaret accomplished a lot. It seems that there was not a single deanery in the country where they did not know him personally. Through the efforts of the Patriarchal Exarch, historical dioceses were revived and new Orthodox dioceses were established, as well as 24 women’s and 10 men’s monasteries were opened. The Minsk Spiritual Seminary was reopened, the Minsk Spiritual Academy was set up, schools of theology were established in Minsk, Slonim and Orsha, as well as a religious seminary in Vitebsk. Furthermore, a theological faculty was formed, which was eventually transformed into Saints Methodius and Cyrill Institute of Theology of the Belarusian State University. 
With the blessing of the Patriarchal Exarch, the relic of Belarus — the Cross of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk — was recreated, which became a symbol of Belarus’ spiritual rebirth. A unique social project of the Belarusian Orthodox Church — the House of Charity — was launched. The canonisation of local saints was actively underway. 
On the initiative of Metropolitan Filaret, a new holiday — the Council of Belarusian Saints — was introduced into the church calendar. In addition, there were established general church celebrations of all Belarusian saints, including the names of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk, St. Cyril of Turov, St. George Konissky and others. Metropolitan Filaret initiated the project to translate the books of Holy Scriptures into the modern Belarusian language.


Vitaly Pivovarchik
The selfless devotion and educational activities of the Honorary Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus Filaret, his colossal personal contribution to the spiritual revival of the Belarusian and Russian peoples were marked with high state awards — the Order of the Fatherland III Class, the Order of Friendship of Peoples, the Order of Honour, the Order of Francysk Skaryna, the Russian Order for Service to the Fatherland IV Class, and more. Metropolitan Filaret is an honorary citizen of the city of Minsk and the city of Polotsk. 
By Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus No. 137 dated March 1st, 2006, Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, was awarded the Hero of Belarus title for his long-term personal contribution to the spiritual revival of the Belarusian people, strengthening friendship and fraternal ties between peoples, and the development of interfaith dialogue. 


Metropolitan Filaret passed away on January 12th, 2021, but the bright memory of him continues to live in the hearts of Belarusians. The funeral of the Honorary Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus took place on January 15th, 2021 at the Holy Dormition Zhirovichi Monastery. On that day, white birds were circling over the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk as a symbol of farewell to the one who undoubtedly became the heavenly intercessor of Belarus. In 2021, a part of Gorky Street in Grodno was renamed in honour of Metropolitan Filaret.
In 2022, a monument to Metropolitan Filaret was unveiled in Minsk. A bronze sculpture installed near the entrance to the Holy Spirit Cathedral depicts Metropolitan Filaret greeting and blessing Minsk residents with the Cross of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk. It was here in 1989 that Metropolitan Filaret began his church service in the Belarusian land. 
A team of authors led by sculptor Andrei Khotyanovsky worked on the creation of the monument.     


As a deputy of the Supreme Council, Metropolitan Filaret participated in the formation of independent Belarus.
Vladimir Garkun, deputy of the Supreme Council of the BSSR of the 12th convocation, shared his memories of working together with the Patriarchal Exarch in the 1990s, “Metropolitan Filaret was a calm and well-balanced person, always open to communication. He had some kind of special attractive energy, he radiated kindness and warmth. It is not surprising that Metropolitan Filaret united people — they wanted to approach him, to be around him at least for a while. He rarely spoke in the Supreme Council, but every word he said was succinct and to the point, worth its weight in gold. He possessed the gift of providence and reassurance. My colleagues and I always listened to him with interest, asked for his advice and guidance. Metropolitan Filaret was a patriot of Belarus and always worried about the future of our country.”   
Mother Superior Gavriila, abbess of the Holy Nativity of the Mother of God Stavropegic Convent in Grodno, “The contribution of Metropolitan Filaret to the spiritual revival of Belarusian society, the cultivation of charity and Christian values in people is difficult to overestimate. He is not just a man with the Hero of Belarus title. He is really a hero in every sense. He had charisma, and although he was descended from a noble family, he was humble in communication and talked to anyone on equal terms. The Patriarchal Exarch was highly spiritual, yet gentle. Metropolitan Filaret will forever remain our role model of mercy and love for our neighbour.”   
‘To get to heaven, you have to perform a feat. The feat should be the whole earthly life of a person.’
‘In today’s Belarus, the main life orientations of society, which are equally important for the high leadership of the country and for ordinary workers, are social harmony, interfaith peace and the possibility of fruitful creative work. Our main task is to preserve and multiply the greatest achievement, the gift of God — peace on the Belarusian land.’ — Metropolitan Filaret