Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal continues to recover in Moscow this week. I took a trip out to Suzdal and Vladimir last weekend amidst rumors from “Russian Church media folk” that Metropolitan Valentine may be near death and suffering from dementia and that our Church was in the throes of schism. I wanted to see for myself what was happening. However, while his foot ailments are in fact a large problem, he was quite lucid in an hour-long conversation I had with him last Sunday and ROAC is doing well.
My trip first landed me in Vladimir, where I took the usual microbus to Suzdal, as it has no trains.
First arriving in Suzdal for Divine Liturgy at Tsar-Constantine Cathedral, it was a bit of a surprise to see how strangely typical it looked. Listening to people talk on the Internet would make it sound as if Suzdal had exploded, the Bishops were up in arms not knowing what to do, and that old grandmothers were preparing a casket for Metropolitan Valentine’s impending repose in the Lord. The reality was somewhat different. The liturgy was celebrated by Archbishop Theodore, secretary to the Synod, and Church attendance appeared to be at the same level it always was. Contrary to rumors that one of the Suzdal convents had been sold, the convent was still there as were the nuns. After service, I went to go see if I could find Archbishop Seraphim of Sukhimi if he was in Suzdal.
This I managed, and Archbishop Seraphim was friendly as he always was, albeit with a very nasty cold that had kept him from travelling great distances. I stayed for lunch and we talked about current events in Church. The rumors about the Archbishop having multiple strokes that made it impossible for him to communicate were patently false. Vladika Seraphim was exactly as he always was, and wished a blessing upon me and the parish of St Mary of Gatchina where I attend on Sundays.
I then went to the Synodal offices where I was greeted by Archbishop Theodore, who was busy with a great deal of paperwork as well as offering hospitality to visitors. Bishop Irinarch was also apparently visiting. After a short talk with Vladika Theodore (who had told me earlier that in fact no convent or building had been sold by the Church) I took off to Moscow to find Vladika.
After a bit of confusion at the hospital where Vladika was staying, I was allowed entrance to see the patient. My first impression was that if he did repose anytime soon, it would not be because of illness. His foot looked awful- but appeared to cause him pain. But he could in fact move, speak and react normally, save for the foot itself.
Given the opportunity to speak to him, I was able to ask the Metropolitan about a few different topics. The first was that of the question of Nathaniel Kapner, a former subdeacon of our Church who had asked to be received back from the schism of Gregory of Colorado he participated in back in 2004. The Metropolitan simply confirmed that there was no official reception to his knowledge of the former subdeacon and that it was best to “ignore him and concentrate on our own spiritual life”.
When asked about what do amidst rumors of different possibilities of schism, the Metropolitan did not want to hear any of it. He simply said with a certainty and determination that put me to silence, “there will be no schism.”
He asked about the St Petersburg situation, and was satisfied with the current course of events.
After that, we had a private discussion on my own sins and spiritual issues, which is outside the scope of this online journal.
In the end, I informed him that Suzdal simply wasn’t the same without him and wished him a speedy recovery. I then took my leave, and he blessed me for a safe journey (“May the Archangel guide you”) and I left, realizing that I had misread my ticket and had in fact missed my train.
The events of the resulting twenty-four hours, however, are also outside the scope of this journal, and is– of course– the stuff rumors are made of. 😉
Joseph Suaiden, NFTU