MOSCOW: 15 May 2004

Meeting of the Delegation of ROCOR with Students and Teachers of the Moscow Theological Academy
(An abridged transcript.)


His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus:

Christ is Risen!

I am happy that our Delegation visited the Lavra today. During today's service, we prayed together with the residents and worshipers here. This gave us a great deal of joy. I also thank Vladyka Evgenii, Rector of the Moscow Theological Academy, for his warm greeting and for organizing the meeting with the faculty and student body.

I thank Vladyka Evgenii also that in his greeting he emphasized the mutual desire of our Churches to find a path for rapprochement, so that we who are abroad could participate in church life in Russia. In connection with this, we met with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy and discussed important topics regarding our relationship.

I greet all the members of the Moscow Theological schools, wishing you success in the study of the theological disciplines, so that you could become worthy servants of the Church of Christ. May the Lord save you. Today's meeting with you, I hope, will also bring benefit to our Orthodox Churches.

Vladimir Burega, 4th year, MTA: Vladyka, what is the current situation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia? How many dioceses does it have, how many bishops and monasteries, in what countries is it found?

Metropolitan Laurus: the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia today is multi-faceted, since we are scattered throughout the whole world, in various countries. Parishes in dioceses in America or Australia are much different from the parishes of Europe. There are not so many of us, but the traditions of different parishes leave a mark on all of us. We need to adapt to local legal conditions, and some problems arise as a result, but in general we are united in one faith. The one wellspring we all come from is the Russian Church. As a result of individual problems faced by each parish, we have difficulties, but, still, we are like one closely-knit family. And of course, this makes our life different than yours. There are monasteries that have ten monks, there are printing shops, where we earnestly carry on our work, there are several monasteries in the Holy Land.

Sergei Zvonarev, 4th year, Moscow Theological Seminary: The matter of the imminent discussions: this will not be a one-day affair, this is a process which will take some time. How does the Church Abroad see this process? In your opinion, how much time is needed for the resolution of this question, and what matters have already been resolved today?

Protopriest Peter Perekrestov (Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow," San Francisco, where the relics of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco are found): The Lord placed us in such historical circumstances which have a real possibility to heal the wound of the Russian Church, the wound of division. Among our parishioners and clergymen there are various opinions: some are more emotional, others even have a fanatical bent. We can understand all of them: for 80 years there was one kind of church life, and now, all of a sudden, it seems, it is changing, they are afraid to betray the legacy they received, so I think that we must take this into account, but we should not tarry. Everyone knows that any kind of unity does not just consist of signatures and stamps on documents, organic unity is needed. It is not quite right to set deadlines, so as not to introduce man's wishes, man's program, into God's plans, but it must be done with common good will and prayer. The Lord will show us the way, and the Body of Christ will gradually be healed. This can be done much sooner than we think, but on the other hand, it may not be.

Reader Vyacheslav, 3rd year, MTA: What are the actual problems faced by the Russian Church Abroad which demand theological resolution?

Protopriest Peter Perekrestov: Our part of the Russian Church has tried to preserve all that we were given. When in the West some fairly liberal views developed, we did not accept them, and for this reason we do not have these particular problems. I can speak on a problem in our city. Everyone knows that in San Francisco, same-sex marriages are allowed. This means that our parishioners and their children will live in a world which has as yet never existed. In connection with this, we are convening many symposia and are trying to address this type of matter.

Archbishop Evgenii, Rector of the MTA: Is there a practice of sending your seminary students to heterodox educational institutions for higher theological learning?

Protopriest Peter Perekrestov: As far as I know, some seminary graduates who wish to obtain higher degrees do enroll in educational institutions of other countries.

Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain: The situation of our pastors today is such that they need to spend more time doing specifically pastoral work. Our parishes are different than those of Russia. Our clergymen visit people scattered over hundreds of kilometers; one is often shocked at the distances that must be traveled by a priest in order to visit a sick person or someone who needs their ministry. This leaves very little time for other activity.

Boris Ryedkin, 3rd year, MTS: You Eminence, this question concerns the contradictions between our Churches. At the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000, a series of documents were adopted which touched upon these contradictions, and certain statements were made concerning the matter of church-state relations and the matter of ecumenism. How do you evaluate the degree to which these contradictions were eliminated, and what else is not reflected in the documents of the Russian Orthodox Church in order to remove these contradictions?

Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain: In regard to the relations between the state and the Church, the document you mentioned assumes a position that is fully acceptable. The question can only be of some details in order that such things never happen again. In regard to ecumenism, much that is correct is put down on paper, but, unfortunately, in practice it is a different matter: our confession of Orthodoxy and heterodoxy is in many ways put into question. When an Orthodox bishop blesses the people along with a Protestant woman bishop--I feel that no one needs such theatrics, there is no good to come of this. That is why it would be good to make certain clarifications about how we must bear witness within the heterodox world. For us this is a real problem, since we are in direct contact with the heterodox world, and so for this we need precise delineation in these matters.

Hegumen Vsevolod, Librarian of the MTA: Your Eminence, in the 1950's, Fr. Konstantin Zaitsev said that the danger will arise in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia of dissolution of the generations into those of different languages and different faiths. How urgent is this problem? And a second question: what is your opinion on the translation of divine services into the Russian language?

Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff, Rector of Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Los Angeles: The matter of the reevaluation of the use of Church Slavonic in divine services or the adaptation of it into the more accessible Russian language does not stand before us in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia at all. Our Church, as a result of various circumstances, is very conservative, we are against all liberal tendencies. We live in the Western world and are perpetually surrounded not only by the heterodox, but by representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches which have embarked upon the path of liberalism: almost every church of theirs has pews, some have organs, the services are translated into contemporary everyday language, the appearance of clergymen is that of Protestant pastors. We firmly struggle against this, we try to rear our parishioners in the spirit of strict Orthodoxy.