An interview with Fr. German Ivanov-Trinadtsatiy, Secretary of the Western European diocese of the ROCA: “Our émigrés carried on the apostolic tradition, calling a multitude of Christians in the West to Orthodoxy.”
“Portal-Credo.Ru”: Fr. German, it has been 90 years since the founding of the Russian Church Abroad. It existed for many years as a powerful force, but then various upsets occurred and the Church fell apart to a great extent due to various reasons. How would you describe the current state of what can be called the Russian Church Abroad?
Protodeacon German Ivanov-Trinadtsatiy: For me, there are two anniversaries that are inseparable – the 90th anniversary of the Church Abroad and the 90th anniversary of the Great Russian Exodus. When the White Army, headed by Baron Peter Nikolayevich Wrangel, left the shores of the Crimean, sadly forever, it laid the foundation for a unique phenomenon, the Russian Diaspora. As some have said, “Russia outside of Russia.” From that arose another, no less unique phenomenon, our Russian Church Abroad, which became the best and most noteworthy fruit of the White movement.
Through the Church Abroad, the White movement brought the treasure of Orthodoxy to the world. This was a historic process, which must be remembered. Orthodoxy spread throughout the West for the first thousand years, but was then forgotten, remaining only in the hearts of the people. Our émigrés carried on the apostolic tradition, calling a multitude of Christians in the West to Orthodoxy. Regardless of where the waves caused by the Revolution deposited Russians, they built churches everywhere, which became islands of Holy Russia in the foreign seas. These churches were not rich or elaborate, as those built today, but they radiated a special spirit of Russian Orthodoxy. To this day, our parishes abroad include the French, English, Americans and many others, who freely accept the principles of the Russian Church Abroad and are its rightful members. As you know, Orthodoxy does not include the false Western teaching of a division of the Church into participants and acolytes. The flock and the clergy is one body.
The White movement gave the world a living example of being trustworthy, ethical and principled. All the while, I must note, while being in a state of social displacement. Those who were someone, suddenly became no one. Exemplary officers and generals worked as taxi drivers, that is, frankly, like drivers, ordinary workers among the proletariat. They had to answer to bosses who were not always worthy. Nevertheless, these conditions did not depress them and passed right by them. To the end of their lives, they remained White officers, which is remarkable. Everyone should be reminded of this regularly.
The Church Abroad and the White movement is one body, in which everything is intertwined. You cannot speak of one without the other. I am grateful in this regard to Bishop Dionisiy Alferov, who writes forcefully of this interrelationship in his articles.
Many in Russia find a home in the Church Abroad and adopt its high principles. They value it greatly, despite not being born into it or being familiar with the White esprit de corps, or its people, or its religious leaders.
There are also many people who loudly declare themselves part of the Church Abroad, but discredit it by their actions. Being part of the Church Abroad obligates you to many things and many do not understand this.
The current situation is certainly distressing, but we can only continue to build the Church on our past and keep it going.
What do you think can be done to build the Church in the future, to restore it? One can say it is currently in ruins… I believe deeply that this process is not completed. The diaspora spirit still lives on, it can be found in many places, some quite unexpected. I am certain you can even find people with it in the Moscow Patriarchate. Even among our turncoat brothers, who followed Bishops Laurus and Hilarion, I know that there are many who agree with us completely. There are many certainly among the fragments which arose from the catastrophe befalling our diaspora. I believe that the most sober minded part of the Church Abroad is now collecting around Metropolitan Agafangel. It is becoming apparent and being sensed that people will understand with time that the diaspora spirit can be found here, but the process will take some time.
How do you believe the fragments can be united, when some are so reluctant to understand other people’s point of view? People often do not behave or act in the émigré tradition, but I am increasingly certain that the true path exists now with Metropolitan Agafangel. There was some bitterness and I fought against it myself, but it is now dissipating.
So you believe there is a future for the Church.
Definitely. It will be as God commands, but we are not at all ready to surrender our position. In my recent article devoted to the 90thanniversary of the ROCA, I recalled the words of Yesenin in his poem, “Disappearing Russia.”
That is why, having hitched up my pants,
I also want to run after the Komsomol.
It may not be polite to quote such a line in a religious publication, but after I read those lines, I immediately thought Yesenin was writing about Laurus, Mark, Hilarion and all those turncoats who in just such a manner, “hitched up their pants” and shamelessly ran after the sergianists. You could not say it better. They ran trying to outdo each other, having forgotten any shame or conscience, and concerned only with who could serve the MP people better. Everything that was professed over the decades disappeared, the wickedness suddenly became goodness. As if sergianstvo and ecumenism never existed.
Metropolitan Agafangel correctly noted in his “Live Journal,” that they now embody all the falsehood which the Moscow Patriarchate has contained and continues to contain. And why? Because there was no repentance and there is still none. And waiting for it now makes no sense.
Metropolitan Agafangel aptly recalled the words of Metropolitan Philaret from 40 years ago, about the dead rat at the bottom of the Patriarchate barrel of honey. This dead rat at the bottom of the barrel exists. It is not possible for our former brothers not to see it or not understand it. As a result, they have completely lost, willingly mind you, all claims on the legacy of the diaspora. When they claim to represent the Church Abroad, it is an outright, brazen usurpation of the title.
It is worthwhile to note that Patriarch Tikhon’s ukase was not only far-sighted, but also prescient. In fact, he foresaw the situation which he certainly did not expect when signing the ukase. The Patriarch could not anticipate that the conditions would continue to this very day. The ukase became a timeless guide, though it was considered a temporary measure. The Church Abroad in a way has outgrown its own purpose. It was the Church of the émigrés, the Church of those who had been forced out by war, by military campaigns and was cut off from its center. Now it has taken on a completely different status.
Once again one hears, even among the fragments, that it is about time to understand that the ukase is outdated, that it has outlived its purpose and so on. That is the same song I first heard at the Bishops Council in 1994, when Bishop Mark spoke. He said the Soviet regime had fallen and the ukase was not applicable in the given circumstances. Many were at a loss for words and did not know how to answer such a deceitful idea. Afterwards, slowly but surely, the more sound and powerful émigrés were pushed out and broken. Then the scandalous affair of the forcing out of Metropolitan Vitaliy occurred, which opened the way for betrayal and the betrayers. But it was not possible to fool and corrupt the entire Church. It was not possible to destroy the Church Abroad. And it is not possible to this day.
Interview by Vladimir Oyvin, “Portal-Credo.Ru”