Interview with His Grace Bishop Lukian of Budim
the Editors: Bishop Lukian of Budim is a friend of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia. In the following interview, His Grace
talks about himself, of the life of the Serbian Orthodox Church,
the sufferings of the Serbian people and his meetings with representatives
of the Russian Church Abroad:
Fifteen kilometers from Budapest, up the Danube River, is the small
town of Sent Andrej, the town of Saint Andrei. This ancient village,
founded by Serb merchants and tradesmen, is known not only for being
a cultural and architectural heritage center of UNESCO, but also
for being the residence of the Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Budim
of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Bishop Lukian. With His Grace’s
permission, on the sunny morning of August 7, 2004, the editor of
NITA, Andrei Prasolov, visited the Residence for an interview.
Vladyka, I would like to begin my interview for our magazine by
asking Your Grace to tell us about yourself.
My biography can be described in one sentence, but I can go on and
on, too. I wish to begin with my home, the town of Mol, in northern
Serbia, where Serbs and Hungarians live side by side. Our house
was across the street from an Orthodox church, where every day they
conducted matins and vespers, and on holidays and Sundays, a liturgy.
From my early childhood, I attended church with my grandmother and
my parents, who were teachers in elementary school. First I was
just brought to services, then I began to ring the bells, sing in
the choir and help the priest. After elementary school I enrolled
in high school, which was located 20 kilometers north of our town,
in the city of Senta, where many Hungarians also lived. Next to
the high school was an Orthodox church with a very good priest,
Fr Stevan Opanchar. His son taught me Russian. So if I speak any
Russian, it is thanks to him. But I was not a very good student
Grace, you said earlier that your grandmother was Russian?
Yes, she was from the Kherson guberniya.
How did she end up in Serbia?
- This is how it happened: During World War I, my grandfather served
as a volunteer and ended up in Russia. There, in one country town,
he found himself at a big church celebration with a great number
of people--including girls. They met there—Babushka Klava and Deda
Nikolai. They met a few times after that, and he decided to get
married. Babushka also fell in love with her Serbian soldier, and
though she knew nothing about him (who knew—maybe he was already
married?), she left with him to Serbia. Babushka was very religious,
and whenever there were pilgrimages, she always went, on foot. We
children would join her, even though sometimes we really did not
wish to. She died in 1974, and since then I have no one to speak
Russian with. Once we went with our mother to Russia and met with
some surviving relatives on my grandmother’s side. This was my first
meeting with Russian Orthodoxy. I already saw how people lived there.
It was very, very difficult for them.
But let’s go back to my childhood. After finishing high school,
I chose to major in judicial law in Belgrade University. Beginning
my studies there, I began to attend a Russian church I found nearby.
There were always many people in attendance, and it had a very good
rector, the late Mitred Protopriest Vitaly (Tarasov). I think that
at that time he was the best spiritual father in Belgrade. The rank
of ÒmitredÓ is the highest award for a married priest. They wear
a mitre, like a bishop, only without a cross. That church was founded
by the White ÎmigrÎs. In that church, where you enter on the right,
on the south side, is the tomb of Vrangel, who died somewhere in
the West, I think in Brussels, but he wished to be laid to rest
there. Fr Vitaly and his son, Father Vasily, conducted liturgy there
every morning, Matushka Liudmila sang in the choir. During vigils
and on Sundays, a choir sang, and the little grandson Vitaly, too,
who is now a priest at this church. I remember that at the time,
the church was often looted, and so students took turns guarding
our church every night. I would also spend the night in one of the
rooms, but fortunately, nothing happened. That is the path the Lord
chose for me.
Then the time came to enlist in the army. This was 1974-1975. I
served in Ljubljana in what is now Slovenia. In the center of town,
in Tivoli Park, there is a beautiful church dedicated to SS Cyril
and Methodius. There was a good priest there at the time. On Saturdays
I was given leave to go to town and attended vigil, and on Sundays,
the priest would send the warden to pick me up, and I would sing
in the choir. The Lord preserved me.
After military service I returned to Belgrade, and I already knew
that I would not study law but theology. In 1975, I enrolled in
the Theological Department of Belgrade University. I graduated in
1979 and went to the monastery. And so from my childhood on, throughout
my entire life, I sensed the presence of God.
That is, you chose a path of the "black," or monastic
priesthood. How does this happen; must one decide this upon finishing
- When I began studying theology, I did not yet know what I was
going to be—a priest or a monk. I just loved the Church and wished
to serve in the altar. But in 1978, I visited Mt Athos, and met
many spiritual fathers, monks, especially in Hilandar Monastery.
For this reason, when I returned, I definitely knew that I would
become a monk. I told Vladyka Savva this, and he replied: "No,
no. Wait until you finish school." I could not wait. That spring
I became a monk, and, already in the monastery, I took my final
exams. I received a diploma for Candidate of Theology. I studied
- Our highest grade was 10, I earned a 9.5. But no one ever asks
What monastery did you join?
- This was a small monastery near the town of Kragujevec, which
is a branch of a very old monastery called Draca. You probably heard
that during World War II in Kragujevec, some five thousand Serbs
were shot, among them several hundred children. The cemetery with
their graves is near this monastery in Sumarica. I had a small parish
and a good spiritual father at the monastery—Fr Nikolai. One could
say a great deal about him. He was a man of prayer, part of the
movement of the now-glorified Saint Nikolai (Velimirovic) of Ohrid.
When Fr Nikolai’s wife died, he told his son and daughter-in-law
that he was going to a monastery. They replied that they would also
go to a monastery: his son to a men’s monastery, his wife to a convent.
His other two children heard about this and said: ÒWe will also
go,Ó and his grandson said: ÒI will go to seminary.Ó And I found
myself among these people—this old man, his children and grandson.
Fr Nikolai was a very spiritual person. He was very authoritative.
Despite the fact that he had only finished two or three grades of
elementary school, he read very well. His whole life was like the
Live of the Saints. For me it was a great joy to live alongside
such a person. But four years later, he died.
In 1984, he was made a bishop. The late Patriarch German, who by
that time was an old man, needed another vicar bishop. Vladyka Savva
recommended me. The Patriarch already had one vicar bishop, Vladyka
Danilo Krstic, who later headed the Budim Diocese. So I moved to
Belgrade and for one whole year I lived with Patriarch German and
Vladyka Danilo. They were very different people. Patriarch German
was a father to everyone. Before leaving for the monastery to become
a bishop, and later Patriarch, he was married and widowed, so he
was finely attuned to family problems. Vladyka Danilo was a student
of the Russian ÎmigrÎ fathers. While studying in Paris, he bacame
acquainted with Vladyka John of Shanghai, and he underwent a spiritual
renewal. He returned a monk. Vladyka Danilo had an encyclopedic
education. He knew everything, he could speak many languages. He
had a good library, yet he was a simple monk. He was a Vicar Bishop
and a Doctor of Sciences. He lived very austerely, as the Holy Fathers
recommend. He always ate only half portions. For instance, during
lunch he would give a poor professor who would come to us to eat
half of what was on his plate. And another thing. Oftimes, we bishops
become angry. He would say that one cannot remain angry after sunset.
If, for example, he would utter a harsh word to the porter who sat
at the entrance to the Patriarchal Residence, he would always come
back that evening and ask forgiveness, of him or anyone else, for
I learned a great deal from these people--from the Patriarch and
the Bishop. Unfortunately, I did not remain with them for long.
A year later, in 1985, I was elected Bishop of Slavonia, the northern
part of Croatia, between Zagreb and the Hungarian border.
War later broke out in this region?
- Yes. The war came later. When I arrived, it was peaceful. You
know, when I got there, there were only some forty surviving churches
in that Diocese, three monasteries and ten priests of the ninety
who had served there before World War II. Many churches were half-ruined.
But the people there were good, and the priests were good. The Slavonian
Diocese, restored in the 16th century under Patriarch Macarius (Sokolovich)
had rich traditions. The Serbs living there suffered a great deal,
they were always involved in conflict, either for the Turks or against
them. During World War II they would be executed. Not far from the
city of Pacrac, where my residence was, is the town of Kukunevac.
During the Second World War, a Russian ÎmigrÎ priest, Fr Andrei
(Sivolutsky) served there with his matushka, Bojana. Once some Croats
stormed into the town, gathered all the men, women and children,
led them to the woods and shot them, leaving the priest for last.
When the mass grave was opened after the war, there was the priest,
lying on top, holding a cross. The Croats committed much evil.
What happened later, during the war?
- In 1991, during the democratic elections in Croatia, the neo-fascists
won. They had developed a program before the elections which most
Croats approved, which consisted of expelling the Serbs from their
state, separate from Yugoslavia and become independent. For they
had only possessed independence during Hitler's time, when he set
up the puppet state of Croatia.
That is why this neo-fascist government won, and the Serbs lost
their jobs--they were teachers, doctors, engineers, the intelligentsia.
The thinking was this: as a result of losing their jobs, they had
no means of subsistence, and would be forced to move to Serbia.
Then they began killing young Serbs, teenagers living in the country.
First the sons of rich, powerful landowners who lived off their
land were targeted. Then the sons of those who were less well-off.
They wished to frighten them. After the children were killed, few
could remain on their land, and they left. This is how it all started.
I lived in my diocese from 1985 to 1995, for ten years. But I lived
in my residence only until 1991, until we were expelled.
How were you driven out? Were these military actions?
- Yes. Territories where Serbs lived were seized. I was thrown out
this way: On August 18, 1991, I was telephoned by Fr Leontij from
Orahovica Monastery--he had a large parish. It was the Transfiguration
of the Lord, and the monks asked that I come and participate in
the divine services and showed the people some moral support. On
the 18th, I arrived at the monastery for service, and on the 19th,
after liturgy, I wished to return home, but war had already broken
out there. I could not return to my city of Pacrac. I waited in
one of the towns for two or three days, thinking that I could return.
But it went on. We were surrounded by Croats and all the roads were
closed. We lived in the forest there for some time and waitedÉbut
for what? Once we heard on the radio that a meeting was to be held
between Patriarch Pavle and Cardinal Kuharic, and that I was expected
there. We got into a car and went. We had to travel through Croatian
territory. It was fairly easy to get access to the Slavonian town
of Broda, where the talks were being held. At the end of the meeting,
as the youngest, I asked to say a few words and said: "Let
us come to an agreement so that the churches, no matter whose they
are—be they Orthodox or Catholic, would become sanctuaries for unarmed
people, especially for women and children. And that the bell towers
would not be used as sniper nests." Then Kuharic said: "It
is time for lunch, let us talk about this later." But not a
word was said about this anymore. And that's how it all ended in
the autumn of 1991.
And when the priest who drove me and I returned from the meeting,
Croatian soldiers were there at a checkpoint in Pleternica and we
were arrested. I knew one of the soldiers well, he lived on my street.
We were placed in a house and locked in. My chauffer-priest was
able to escape when our guards disappeared during an attack of by
our Serbs. He was a married man, had three daughters, and I felt
very sorry for him. So I remained alone and spent 64 days under
arrest there. During all this time, every Wednesday and Friday,
a Croatian woman, a Catholic, would bring me lenten food. She was
married to a Serb and knew Orthodox traditions. Yes, there were
people like this, too. Unfortunately, I cannot name her, because
she would suffer for it greatly.
Did anyone else know that you were under arrest?
- No. No one knew. I tried to establish contact with the warden
of our parish, Dr Nikitin, but I was not allowed to. I sought an
attorney, I tried through the Red Cross, but I was allowed nothing.
Neither the Synod nor the Patriarch knew what had happened to me.
Still, some time later I was able to send a letter through this
woman to a priest of mine, a former classmate, Fr Slavko Cirin.
I wrote that everything was alright, that I was here, but that I
had to go somewhere else, and if that was not possible, then I would
go to my grandmother's house. Fr Slavko, as soon as he received
this letter, rushed to the Patriarchate. There a deacon said to
him: "We cannot allow just any priest to see the Patriarch.
What do you need?" "I have a letter for Vladyka."
Finally, they let me in. The Patriarch said: "Well, he is alright
there. We should send him a package, some bread or candy."
"But he writes that he wants to go to his grandmother's house.
Yet I buried her a few years ago."
Was it a coded message?!
- Yes, yes. Then the Patriarch told everything to Fr Vasilij (Tarasov)
from the Russian podvorie in Yugoslavia. They reported this to Moscow,
where they in turn put pressure on the Croatians, and on the 64th
day I was let go.
How were you freed?
- I was given a small piece of paper stating that I was allowed
to go. They returned my car, and I drove off.
Wasn't it dangerous?
- Very dangerous. That very same priest-chauffer who had escaped
drove me across the border between Bosnia and Croatia. On the Slavonian
Samac bridge we were forced out of the car and wanted us to cross
the bridge on foot. But my priest argued with them, and we were
ultimately allowed to drive across.
Your Grace, were you tortured while under arrest?
- I will say nothing about myself. But I heard and saw what they
did to my people, the Serbs, how they tortured the men and women
they arrested, the aftereffects of beatings and torture. To see
and hear this was horrible, horrible.
What were they trying to achieve, what did they want?
- Once, while in captivity, I saw placards on the street. I asked
that Croatian woman to bring one to me, which I kept. When I was
freed, I brought this placard to the Patriarchate. On it was written
that within 24 hours the people had to empty 20 Serbian villages.
This was ethnic cleansing. Europe knew all about this and said nothing.
It was a difficult time. They would shoot columns of refugees from
airplanes. All this happened right under the nose of the United
Nations. In 1991, 200 Serbian villages were emptied.
Later, one old man told me: "My Vladyka, this was revenge from
those who had lost to the Serbs in World Wars I and II." That
seemed to be the case. Vladyka Amphilochius of Montenegro said:
"I was a child in Montenegro, and once I quarreled with my
best friend, also a child, and he broke my nose. To this day, I
do not forget this, though this was fifty years ago. Do you think,
Lukian, that our enemies have forgotten the two World Wars? No.
They still remember how we Serbs 'broke their noses.' And now it
is time for payback."
What happened after you were freed?
- I spent a month in the monastery in Zici. I rested and then went
to Slavonia, to the western part bordering Bosnia, which was freed
by the Bosnian Serbs. There were still 60 Serbian towns there. In
one of them, Okucana on the Savva River, I spent four years, until
I lived with the family of a priest. Poor man! He, his wife, four
children, his son-in-law, another monk and I all lived on one room
and a kitchen. He suffered a great deal. You know what it is like
to spend one hour with a bishop? What about four years, morning
until night? That was his cross to bear. We served vespers and matins
every day, and liturgy. I also ministered to three parishes. We
formed a children's choir. One of the priest's sons, he was seventeen
then, left with the volunteers to Bosnia, and the other was still
a little boy, he sang in the choir. Now he is a student of theology,
he wants to become a priest.
Early in the morning on May 1, 1995, the Croatians began an assault
on the last part of the Serbian Republic of Krajne. The UN forces
ceded their positions to the Croats, and in two or three days, they
finished off the Serbs. We were ejected. It is difficult to find
the words to describe the horror, the nightmare that we experienced.
The road we traveled to the Bosnian border went through a forest.
From both sides, Croats shot at us. Columns of people walked from
daybreak. It was about 10 kilometers to Bosnia. On the road, and
on either side, there were corpses, some still alive, wounded men,
women and children. It was horrible! Then they showed on television
how the Croatians washed the road with well water to remove our
blood. Ten kilometers of blood. Horrible! Some 1,500 Serbs were
killed on that road. The priest whose house I lived in for four
years received ten gunshot wounds while helping his own children,
and those of others. He survived, but he is very ill to this day.
The Croats just stood in the forest and shot peaceful civilians?
- Yes. Yes. Yes.
- What were the "peacekeeping" UN forces doing?
- They watched on the side and waited for the Croatian takeover
to be complete. This was satanic evil! This was a nightmare! Then
I wrote to the Holy Synod that I would die rather than have seen
this. This was terrible!
When we were in Bosnia already, one Serbian commander approached
us and said: "There will be no more of us only wounded. You,
Vladyka, can leave. We will remain until the end." And they
We went to Belgrade, to the Patriarchate. Together with the Patriarch
and Vladyka of Novy Sad we went to see President Milosevic, and
I asked him to tell someone what was going on in that region. But
he could do nothing. Then the Patriarch sent me and Vladyka Irenej
to Rome, to a Conference of European Churches being held at the
time in Italy, where I was to tell them from the ambo what was happening.
When we arrived, the people who represented the religions of Western
European churches said: "You are not part of our program. But
since you are here, we will form a committee of two or three people,
tell them about your problems." We saw that they did not want
Europe to know what was happening in Slavonia. So we went home.
And so Slavonia was lost.
In the middle of May a regular session of the Council of Bishops
of the Serbian Church was held, in which all the bishops participated.
It was decided at the Council that Slavonia exists no longer, that
my Diocese is no more, and I had to go to America to help the elderly
Metropolitan Irinej and teach in our theological seminary in Chicago.
That is how I found myself in America, where I spent one year.
In May, 1996, I returned from Chicago to the regular Council of
Bishops in Belgrade and was appointed Administrator of the Romanian
Diocese in the city of Temisvar.
What do you mean by administrator?
- When a bishop dies in a diocese, then until the next elections,
a chief or administrator is appointed from a nearby diocese. But
I continue to be Administrator of the Temisvar Diocese to this day,
How was life in America?
- In America it is very difficult to remain Orthodox without attending
church. That is why Serbs always have homes for the young and the
old near a church. Helping Metropolitan Irinej's ministry, I often
flew throughout America and saw that the role of the Church in America
is great. For example, in the worst, most unfortunate city of America,
maybe the whole world, San Francisco, there is such a holy place:
an Orthodox church containing the relics of Holy Vladyka John of
Shanghai. I was there. And when one Russian bishop, I believe it
was Anthony, heard that some Serbian bishop arrived, he immediately
invited me to read a service, read canons and pray over the relics,
at the very sarcophagus of the Saint.
My Vladyka Savva (Vukovic), who tonsured and ordained me, knew Vladyka
John of Shanghai personally. As Vicar Bishop of Patriarch German,
he traveled to Paris to meet with representatives of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to discuss some matters pertaining
to our Churches. He made the trip to Paris via train and thought:
"So I will begin the discussion. I will say this, then thisÉ"
When he arrived, he entered the foyer of the house, and met a person
on the steps wearing light-colored clothing: "Come on in, Vladyka,
come in." This was Vladyka John of Shanghai. He immediately
knew that this was a Serbian bishop before him. When they sat down
at the table and began to talk, it proceeded exactly how Vladyka
Savva had imagined. This person spoke exactly in the order he had
thought about. It was apparent that this was a man of God talking,
a holy bishop. Oh, how often Vladyka would tell me about him.
And in Slavonia, in Pacrac, I had an elderly priest, Fr Dusan (Subanovic),
who studied theology at one time in Bitola under John of Shanghai.
He would talk a great deal about him as a spiritual teacher, how
he would care for his students. One simply had to hear him talk
about Vladyka John.
- Where was this?
- In Bitola, in what is now Macedonia, in the south. This was the
so-called Bitola school of theology. Here Saints John of Shanghai
and Nikolai Ohridskij (Velimirovic) taught. They were fine teachers.
Between the two wars, we had Russian professors teaching in our
seminarians. I knew a few of them who survived to my time. But after
World War II many left for the West, for Yugoslavia also became
In 2002 you were appointed Bishop of Budim. Tell us about your diocese.
- As I said, before me the Diocese was headed by Vladyka Danilo.
From the last Bishop of Budim until Vladyka Danilo, Hungary had
no bishop for over thirty years. It was not possible to have one,
because relations between Yugoslavia and the Eastern states were
not very good. Vladyka Danilo had a difficult time there. He was
an elderly man, but he fulfilled all his obediences. If he were
sent to Mars, he would set off, without asking why he and not someone
younger. In the spring of 2002, Vladyka Danilo died. He had an intelligent,
bright mind. In May, at the Council of Bishops, I was assigned to
This is a glorious old diocese with its own traditions dating back
to the 9th century, from the time of SS Cyril and Methodius, when
the Hungarians had not yet arrived in Europe, and only Slavs lived
on what is Hungary today.
At the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries, Serbs
began to establish churches here, and in 1219, St Savva obtained
autocephaly for the Serbian Church on this territory, and Orthodox
parishes and monasteries fell under his jurisdiction.
The second settlement by Serbs in these lands began during the Turkish
occupation of Serbia. Most of the churches and monasteries surviving
until today were built at that time. For example, the monastery
in Rackev was even granted royal privileges, freeing them from taxes
After the defeat of Serbia and the battle of Mohac in 1526, the
Turks invaded Hungary. Then the Grand Vizier of Sultan Mehmed Pasha
Sokolovic appointed his brother Macarius Sokolovic as Patriarch
of the reorganized diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church here.
The Budim Diocese at that time was the strongest one.
At the end of the 17th and early 18th centuries, Patriach of Pec
Arsenius Carnojevic was here, who organized and integrated the church
even more. During his reign, there were four dioceses in Hungary:
Budim, Mohac, Duna-Sec and Eger. How he ended up here was interesting,
too. At the end of the 17th century, Austrian forces wished to emancipate
the entire Balkan peninsula from the Turks, and reached Pec (in
what is now southern Hungary), but an epidemic of leprosy broke
out. Many people died, the remaining forces went home. But the Patriarch,
wishing to remain with his people during the war, came here and
awaited the emancipation of the Balkans. But since the war had ended,
the Patriarch stayed in Sent Andrej. Later he received Sremskije
Karlovci (in what is now Serbia), where he established his residence.
So the Serbian Church has been well established here during the
time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—the Metropolia of Karlovci,
which included seven dioceses: those of Budim, Temisvar, Novy Sad,
Vrzac (Serbian Vojevodina), Pacrac in Slavonia, Arhidia in Karlovci
and Gornije Karlovci, between Zagreb and the Adriatic Sea.
After World War I, the two Churches united—Itek and Karlovci, and
since then the Diocese of Budim is included in it. After World War
II, a reorganization of the churches occurred. The border of the
Budim Diocese was now the border of Hungary. That is why some parishes
earlier under the Novy Sad Diocese (Seged, for example), passed
into the Diocese of Budim, and such parishes in the north of Croatia
as Baranja, Bely Monastery and some other churches were given to
the Novy Sad Diocese from that of Budim.
Vladyka Georgij Zubkovic led the Budim Diocese until 1951. He was
an intelligent but tragic figure. He experience two wars here and
was here when the communists came to power, who, after the Second
World War, blew up his residence in Buda, near the Erzibet bridge
on Gellert Mountain.
The Residence of the Serbian bishop and the Cathedral were there?
- Yes, yes. The enormous Cathedral and Residence on 4th Street.
A four-storey building. At the end of World War II, there was a
battle on the bridge, and one grenade landed in the Residence, and
another in the church. The damage was insignificant, and the buildings
could be restored, but in the early 1950's, the Hungarian communists
blew everything up. Since then, the Bishop of Budim no longer has
either a residence or a cathedral in Budapest. Only here in Sent
Andrej did the former summer residence survive.
Who are the parishioners of the Budim Diocese?
- One must admit that according to government statistics, very few
Serbs live in Hungary, some 3,000 people. This means that a terrible
assimilation is taking place. But our parishioners are not only
Serbs. Our churches are attended by Hungarian men with their Orthodox
wives and children, and Orthodox people of other nationalities living
here: Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks, RussiansÉFor instance, tomorrow
there will be a liturgy in our church in memory of St Moses Ugrin.
This Orthodox Hungarian saint of the 13th century is venerated by
the entire Orthodox world. We understand that it is very difficult
to preserve Orthodoxy while living here. There is not a single Orthodox
village on the territory of Hungary anymore, and Serbian families
are scattered throughout the whole country. But we are not trying
to unite the Serbs, we organized our church in order to easily work
with people. The Diocese is divided into three localities: Budim,
Seged and Mohac. In the summer we operate an Orthodox camp for Serbian
children, where they come to know each other and learn about their
- Holy Vladyka, you know that with the permission of Archbishop
Mark of Berlin and Germany, our journal is distributed throughout
the German Diocese. Have you met Archbishop Mark during your lifetime,
and can you tell us about it?
- The first time I met Vladyka Mark, he was an archimandrite and
was working on his post-doctoral degree in Belgrade. He moved to
that city. And there was a spiritual thirst in our lives, in the
lives of our entire nation, at that time. We lived in Belgrade,
and in order to sate our thirst, we would travel to the monastery
in Vaveden, where this slimly-built archimandrite once appeared
from the Russian Orthodox Church, and served liturgies. After liturgy
we got to talking and learned that this was a German man—Mark Arndt.
We were very happy to hear from this intelligent person who knew
about life and told us of the situation in Germany at that time.
Remembering our conversations, I think of how what he told me reminds
me of our society today. For us this was a great experience in human
contact. We later met at the funeral of Justin Popovic, the renowned
theologian of the Serbian Orthodox Church. There all the students
of the theological department gathered, Fr Mark came from Germany.
Later, I think in 1981, I found myself in Germany, in Regensburg.
From there I went to Munich to visit one very famous priest of ours,
Alexi Todorovic, whom the communists exiled from Serbia. He served
at the cappella church of St Vladimir of Kiev, and he told me that
Vladyka Mark lives in the Munich Monastery of St Job of Pochaev
in Munich. And so I went there. I liked how the monks lived and
served there, in the ancient apostolic tradition of the Church.
For instance, for the first time, I saw that after the words "As
many as are catechumens, depart; catechumens, departÉ" the
non-Orthodox exit into the hallway and only listen to the rest of
the liturgy. At the time, a holy bishop from Vienna, [Archbishop
Nafanail (Lvov)—ed.] lived near Vladyka Mark, whose legs were suffered
from chronic pain. He could not stand, but would sit during services,
and near him on one side were a censer and a fireplace, and on the
other, small notebooks with the names of the departed. And he would
read them, commemorating the dead and placing thyme into the censer.
My Lord! It became clear to me what spiritual strength was needed
to lead an Orthodox mission so far from the center of Orthodoxy,
Russia. Whoever has a chance to visit Munich, must go the Monastery
of St Job of Pochaev.
Holy Vladyka, I ask that you answer one more question. As you know,
the process of rapprochement has begun between the two parts of
the Russian Orthodox Church; how do you view this?
- One must say that the reason for this division is the tragedy
of the entire Russian people and Orthodoxy as a whole. We Serbs
never noticed the difference between these two parts of the Russian
Orthodox Church, for us they were both Russian Orthodox. And when
we visited churches in Russia, and when we saw the Russian Orthodox
Church in the West, we didn't ask who conducts the services. It
was enough for us that this is a Russian Orthodox Church. We prayed
in these churches, we were baptized in them, we took communion in
them, we served in them. Thank God, as I read in your journal, a
serious movement towards pacification has begun. This important
step had to be taken. To us has come the joy of observing this process.
I think that the Holy Spirit is leading the process of unification
of the two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church. The church that
remained and that which fled abroad each have their great spiritual
accomplishments. There are saints both in one church and the other,
and these are the visible products of the life of Orthodoxy. I also
wish to say that the enemy wished to destroy Orthodoxy, but through
the Mission of the Russian Church Abroad, Orthodoxy has spread throughout
all corners of the globe. Maybe the first old post-revolutionary
ÎmigrÎs have all passed away, yet Orthodoxy was preserved. Maybe
not even in the Russian language, but still there are cathedrals
and churches, and these are the leavening, the malt for Orthodoxy.
Thank God that you write about this, that you raise this question.
We also had a tragic history. But Russians are wiser than Serbs.
Your Grace, to conclude our interview, I would like to ask you to
say a few words for the readers of "NITA."
- What do I need, what does any person today need? Water from a
pure spring, we need food without poison. All this exists in the
pages of "NITA." Here one can read of the life and experience
of the Holy Fathers, not only those who lived in the distant past,
but our contemporaries, such holy persons as John of Shanghai, for
example. He I found an article by an intelligent woman—Natalia Narochnitskaya.
She said everything we need to hear. Here you can find history.
One needs this. It is our obligation today to drink from this fresh
wellspring and nourish ourselves with spiritual food. This is our
daily bread. I congratulate you who work there, labor to create
this magazine. I also wish success and Divine blessings to those
who hold this magazine in their hands. I know that everyone who
takes it in hand will find an answer to their questions. One can
later come back to the magazine and find yet another item that went
unnoticed the first time. Your publication is needed for all of
We spoke for some time longer with Bishop Lukian, then he led me
to the gates of his residence, where a large stream of people speaking
different languages met us, wishing to view the Orthodox Museum
and see the Cathedral. In bidding farewell, I bow low before Vladyka,
before his courage, his kindness, his humility and his strength,
and I ask: "Bless me, Holy Vladyka!"
taken by Andrei and Irina Prasolov.
Russian Journal abroad "NITA," No. 4, 2004