of Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan in Nezavisimaya Gazeta
Your Grace, in early October you made a pilgrimage to the holy
sites of Russia, met with the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate
and became acquainted with the life of Russian monasteries and parishes.
Has your perception of church life in Russia changed?
It did not change, it has been enhanced. I learned and saw over
this short time a good deal of new things compared with what I saw
ten years ago. I was moved, seeing the rebirth of our Russian holy
sites, the spiritual foundation of the history of the Russian Church:
Optina Hermitage, Valaam, Solovki. In St Petersburg, the Savior-on-the-Blood
Church is gradually becoming an active church with divine services
being performed. My interaction with clergymen was open, earnest
Do you think that the time for the unification of the ROCOR
and ROC/MP has indeed come?
We are not talking about unification if by that you mean the merging
or even interaction on an administrative level. Today we think that
the time has come for Eucharistic communion; that is, allowing our
clergymen and flock to partake of communion in each other's churches.
We are trying to overcome our ecclesiastical differences. For this
we must together examine our views concerning the current church
That is why we should call what is happening between the Churches
a gradual reconciliation. This, in my view, is the most apt characterization.
A correctly-believing Orthodox person can only welcome such rapprochement.
But we can only see the fruits of reconciliation when we overcome
everything that divides us now, so that we can say with a pure heart
during Divine Liturgy: "Christ is among us."
So reconciliation comes through the overcoming of differences. It's
easy to say, but how hard it is to do… It is the need for this overcoming
that I discussed with journalists, but for some strange coincidence
this word was dropped in all the published versions of my interviews.
"Reconciliation" was left in, "overcoming" was
left out. People often hear only what they wish to.
Alas, Russians abroad and the Orthodox people in Russia will
always be divided in their views of the historical fate of the Russia
people… For example, we have different perceptions of the actions
of General Vlasov during the War of the Fatherland of 1941-45, or
of the role of the Communist state in the internal policies of the
Moscow Patriarchate. There are other examples, too. Aren't these
viewpoints the basis for the division of the Russian Church, and
not at all the stated terms "Sergianism" and "ecumenism"
that are little understood by the people of the Church?
If the main reason of our differences was only the historical-political
divide, then your whole question could be answered with a simple
"yes." For earthly history and politics are not justifications
for ecclesiastical divisions. Church unity is immeasurably more
important and higher than any politics. If one side or the other
involved in the church dialog referred to historical or political
viewpoints as a reason to reject unity, one could almost accuse
them of heresy.
You are right in the sense that the various historical-cultural
backgrounds hinder our ability to understand each other. But this
is a much more important matter. The problem is not, for example,
what you called the role of the CPSU [Communist Party of the Soviet
Union] in the internal policies of the ROC/MP. If the temporal powers
tries to "pressure" the Church, if it persecutes her,
tries to enslave her, this, as strange as it may seem, may seem
almost "normal" to you. But when we speak of "Sergianism,"
we are not discussing state policy but ecclesiastical actions.
Did not Metropolitan Sergius and his followers, in their attempts
to find some common tongue with the state, which was absolutely
hostile to Christ, cross the unseen but well-known Church boundary
beyond which the very teaching of the Church of Christ is compromised?
Ecumenism is not an pretext—it is a false teaching of the faith
and the Church. We are trying to understand; did not contact and
cooperation with the heterodox Churches and other religious organizations
in certain cases in fact turn into de facto agreement with the concept
that there could be several Divine Revelations and that each of
them holds some part of the truth? "Oh, this is alright, and
this isn't that bad…"
In one of my interviews, very recently appearing in the Russia media,
by the way, I was not quoted accurately; I expressed the opinion
that the ROC/MP, somewhat surprisingly for me, made a great deal
of progress in its evaluation of the "Declaration" of
But I must say that for practically all the people I spoke with
in the Fatherland—and our conversations were frank—the admission
of any untruth in the actions of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky)
is out of the question. This is also the case with the participation
of the ROC/MP in the World Council of Churches (WCC). They do not
see in such participation any of the dangers of ecumenism. And we
are bound to take this into consideration.
But even with different viewpoints of the role of General Vlasov
during the war, Orthodox Christians can easily pray together in
one church and commune from one Chalice. That is already the case
Why is ROCOR then seeking autonomy from the MP? Why not have normal
friendly and prayerful relations? Look at the Greeks. They have
the Ecumenical [Constantinople—trans.], Alexandrian, Jerusalem Patriarchates,
the Hellenic and Cyprus Archbishoprics. Five independent (autocephalous)
Orthodox Churches. This does not prevent them from being Orthodox,
no matter where they live.
The autonomy of the Russian Church Abroad, that is, its current
existence on an independent basis, is founded upon the famous Ukase
No 362, issued by Patriarch Tikhon in the fall of 1920. The independent
(self-governing) internal administrative and structural existence
of ROCOR in all forms is not even discussed in the process of negotiations.
In the foreseeable future, for example, until an All-Russian Local
Council, where some sort of changes in principle may be adopted,
it will remain unchanged.
Don't you think that the time for the unification of ROCOR with
the ROC/MP will come when the bishops of the ROCOR will submit their
activities to the judgment of an All-Russian Local Council, and
not when they ask and receive some degree of inviolability from
the MP? For now the Patriarch and Synod can simply send, for example,
a bishop from Kaluga out to Chita somewhere…
In fact, there is no discussion of anything like what you termed
"asking for and receiving inviolability". You were led
astray… In fact, your ignorance is partly the fault of our Church.
Maybe we are too silent, we do not disseminate the facts of the
negotiations we are holding.
So there is no need to panic: our bishops abroad will continue to
occupy our cathedras abroad by appointment of the Councils of ROCOR.
This is stated quite clearly in the draft Act on Canonical Relations
prepared by the Commissions.
The practice of transferring bishops from one cathedra to another
was common and universal in the Russian Empire. This sometimes even
contradicted ecclesiastical canons. By the way, when the time comes—through
Divine Will—to convene an All-Russian Local Council, all the parts
of the once-united Russian Church will submit their actions to its
judgment, not only ROCOR.