Interview with Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Aug 30 / Sep 12 2009 14th Saturday after Pentecost
The following are excerpts from the recent interview our Metropolitan gave. The entire interview is fascinating and important, and I recommend that the reader go to the end of this post for links to it in Russian and English.
A few comments first. I thank God for our bishops and particularly, for Metropolitan Hilarion. He is a true monk, and a humble man. I trust him. He does not speak out publicly extremely often, but when he does so, he speaks with sobriety and charity.
We need more of this in all bishops. There is a huge breakdown of trust of the people for many of their bishops in America, and rightfully so. There are some good ones, but many have shown themselves to be indifferent, unreliable, capricious, cruel and unspiritual. There are very few who live as monastics. Many are “bachelors” who eat meat and do not inspire by the way they live, worship and speak.
We in ROCOR have many difficulties, caused no doubt by our own sins, but mistrust of our bishops is and scandal in our church is not one of them. There is no price or value that be ascribed to this.
Again, the entire interview is fantastic. These excerpts are particularly relevant to us living in the Americas.
The Editors-in-Chief of the magazine Tribuna russkoj mysli [Tribune of Russian Thought], Alexander Bondarev, and of the information agency Russkaja linija [Russian Line], Anataly Stepanov, interviewed His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
- Vladyka, over two years have passed since the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion. As we know, the process of reunification was complicated. A whole series of parishes of the Russian Church Abroad departed, refusing to accept this Act. Of course, you often travel throughout the parishes and dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. What has changed over this time? Are there any positive tendencies towards healing this schism, is their hope that those who fled will return?
- In some parishes they are noticing that those who had left are gradually coming back.
True, these are generally not clergymen—it is more difficult for them to return—but the parishioners. They saw that no radical changes occurred in the Church, except for the joy stemming from the sense that we are a part of the great Russian Orthodox Church. I think that we must have a loving and understanding attitude towards those who left. They did not leave because they disagreed with Orthodox teaching, but because they had an erroneous concept of the danger of reconciliation today. They say that they are not opposed to, but in fact support, the unity of the Russian Church, but they have little trust right now. That is why I think we must treat them with patience and without condemnation. Of course, we must have canonical order. Maybe some left for personal reasons. But most of the people who left were simply confused. Especially the laypersons who for decades held certain beliefs, and the process of reconciliation happened fairly quickly, and so many were not prepared. But I would like to note that the number of people who left is not that significant. Of course, for the Church, every soul is a treasure, that is why we pray that the Lord grant them wisdom, that He give them the understanding that a unified Russian Church is a powerful spiritual force, that being together benefits us all. This work pleases God.
- Vladyka, we know that you exert a great deal of effort towards returning those who left. You often meet with them, spend time with them. In your experience, what is the formal reason for leaving? What do they consider the main reason for leaving?
- Those who spoke out in opposition mostly pointed to the membership of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council of Churches. This is the main reason. One priest in Australia said “what they call ‘Sergianism’ has long died out” but what worries him is the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the WCC, he is even troubled by its mere formal membership. Now we see that the participation of the Russian Church in the WCC is almost non-existent today, it is almost meaningless. But many are still genuinely troubled by this.
Another reason is that these are not very educated people, they are isolated, they know little of life in Russia and they think that communism might return. They are motivated not by any long-term views, but some sort of fear.
- Vladyka, we know that there are conversations with the Orthodox Church in America now. What is the direction they will be taking? What decisions might we expect with regard to the relationship between ROCOR and the OCA?
- Upon reconciliation between the Russian Church Abroad and the Russian Orthodox Church in the Fatherland, the question arose about our relationship with the Orthodox Church in America, which had received autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate.
At one time we were together, but divisions occurred twice. In 1924, Metropolitan Platon separated from the Russian bishops who were abroad, but in 1935, Metropolitan Theophilus, with the intercession of Patriarch Varnava of Serbia, made peace with ROCOR, and there was again one Russian Church in America. This continued until 1946, when there was not only a break with the Church Abroad, but with the Moscow Patriarchate. The Orthodox Metropoliate of America became, de facto, independent.
We would like to improve relations with the Orthodox Church in America, so our Synod of Bishops appointed a commission comprised of several clergymen who, we hope, will meet with a similar commission representing the OCA in order to study our common history. We must determine why divisions occurred, how we can restore Eucharistic communion.
Nonetheless, we do not intend on merging with the Orthodox Church in America, only establish brotherly, prayerful relations. For many in our Church Abroad, the new calendar, which the OCA adopted, is unacceptable. This is a painful question, because many of our clergymen and laypersons would not wish to participate in a service where ecclesio-liturgical order is violated. So there are things that need to be discussed.
We welcome the election of the new head of the OCA, Metropolitan Jonah, who is known for his piety, he loves the old calendar, he loves order in the Church. So we hope that good relations with the Orthodox Church in America can be established.
- Vladyka, many are now discussing the need for convening a Pan-Orthodox conference. For a great many unresolved problems have developed between the Orthodox Churches, which should be discussed together. At the same time, there are rumors among the people of the Church that this must be something like an 8th Ecumenical Council, that such an assembly would make decisions of a renovationist character: moving to the new calendar, etc. What is your view on the idea of convening a Pan-Orthodox conference, and the fears surrounding it?
- There are many questions of a general nature in the life of the Local Orthodox Churches which need mutual resolutions, and the Churches must have such means of communication. We sometimes have controversies with the Constantinople Patriarchate, which views the diaspora differently than the Russian Orthodox Church does. The Ecumenical Patriarch, of course, must be honored for his historical place in the hierarchy of the Local Churches as first among equals, but there cannot be universal authority with only one bishop in the Orthodox Church.
The universal character of the council is determined by the fullness of the Church only afterwards. As far as an 8th Ecumenical Council is concerned, I feel that one is necessary. Ecumenical Councils were always convened to defend the Church against all sorts of heresies which arose at one time or another. We must have a great deal of spiritual strength to preserve the pureness of the faith. In this regard, there can be no political reasons to gather such a council.
The Church is where there is a bishop, divine services can only be performed by clergymen, but the Church is composed of the laity, upon whom much depends. What would you wish for our Orthodox laity, Orthodox journalists? We ask, Vladyka, to lend your guidance with us and our readers.
- The most important thing in our faith is our inner life. If we pay attention only to the external, the “cover of the book,” and do not bring order to our souls, if we do not have a close relationship with the Lord, then all that is external will be of no use.
Our goal is the salvation of souls, and everyone must tend to this first and foremost. If we pray more, if we struggle to obey the laws, then not only will we work towards our salvation and approach God, but our Church and our people will become stronger, will regain health. Everyone who comes to Christ cannot do this because it is fashionable, for appearance’s sake. If we conduct our spiritual podvig and prepare our souls for the grace of God, for communion with the Lord, if we pray together, then the entire country will heal. Every one of us must tend to our souls first of all.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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