Selected questions from the Interview on the ROCOR-H’s website at http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/synod/engdocuments/enart_mhextremism.html. Wonder how long this interview will stay up?
…What are the defining features of the relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church with the state in today’s Russia?
We are very happy that full religious freedom has come to Russia, and that Orthodoxy is the faith of most Russians and plays an important part in the life of society. It is a joy that a good, benevolent relationship has been established between the Church and state. When His Holiness the Patriarch was elected, he correctly said: “There is a symphony in which the Church and state help each other for the good of the people. We welcome this.”
Today, when the media often takes an aggressively negative attitude towards the institution of the Church, when in the interests of international corporations, the foundations of lawfulness and good order, people are deprived of the opportunity to defend their human rights, the tendency for religious extremism to grow is cause for alarm. How real is this for ROCOR, and in your opinion, what position should the Church take in this regard?
You must be referring to what is written in the newspapers and internet about those who did not accept the unification of the Russian Church Abroad and the Orthodox Church in Russia, those who attempt to besmirch His Holiness the Patriarch, the hierarchy and everything the comprises the Russian Orthodox Church. Of course, this is unavoidable, since we have the freedom of speech. But, as Holy Scripture says, we must discern: is this from God or not, we must examine, and not naively accept, words of derision. That is why extremism is always a source of evil, when not used for the positive but for the negative.
On May 17, 2007, the Act of Canonical Communion between ROCOR and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) was signed at Christ the Savior Cathedral was not accepted by a part of the clergy and flock of ROCOR, and also by some “zealots” within the MP. What is your opinion of the reunification of the two parts of the Local Russian Orthodox Church?
This was a necessary, unavoidable and holy deed. All the obstacles and difficulties had fallen away which before did not give the opportunity for Russian Orthodox Christians abroad to have full mutual Eucharistic communion. Unity existed in the one faith, but in the matter of divine services, in personal service, the forces of evil, for a time, did not allow for unity. But thank God, this has passed. This greatly strengthens the Church. Christ called upon all to be as one, and now, in the spirit of unity, of brotherly love and piety, we can labor together to the glory of God and for the benefit of all believers not only in Russia, but in all the parishes of the Russian Church Abroad. We feel ourselves to be a part of a Great Church, having the joy of communion and mutual support—both in prayer and personally—and the power of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The main stumbling block in the matter of the reunification of the two branches of the Russian Church was the so-called “spirit of Sergianism.” The gist of this is the relegation of the Orthodox Church to the level of a government bureau which serves the interest of the state and is fully dependent upon it. What changed in principle in the ROC since the 1990’s?
Russian today is a multi-confessional country. But two religions hold a special place here—Orthodoxy and Islam. What sort of cooperation between religious figures and believers of these two major faiths do you see that can benefit Russia?
They can cooperate in the sphere of morality. Today in Russia, alcoholism and drug abuse are rampant. I think that to root out these maladies, Islam and Orthodoxy could find common ground for good work. This would help elevate moral standards and would aid the elimination of inter-confessional and inter-national conflicts. All believers—Orthodox Christians and Muslims—must respect each other and try to restrain extremist forces which try to violate the peace.
Ekonomicheskije strategii, No. 8 (74) 2010, Russia