Press Conference on the Visit to Russian of the Relics of SS Elizaveta
Komsomolskaya Pravda greets His Grace Bishop Alexander of Dmitrov
and Vicar of the Moscow Diocese; His Grace Bishop Michael of Boston,
representing the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; and
President of the St Andrew the First-Called Fund, Alexander Vladimirovich
Melnik. The topic of today's press conference is "The First
Joint Project of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia is Complete. The Relics of Holy Martyrs
Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna and Nun Varvara Return to Jerusalem."
Your Grace, dear Vladyka Michael, honorable Alexander Vladimirovich
Melnik, President of the St Andrew the First-called Fund, dear friends,
I think that the seven-month-long visit of the holy relics of SS
Elizaveta and Nun Varvara to Russia is a divine miracle, for indeed,
the Lord has granted wisdom to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy, the
head of our Church, and the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, to arrange
this first joint event, and helped the Center of the National Glory
of Russia, in the person of Vladimir Ivanovich Yakunin, and the
Fund of St Andrew the First-called in the person of Alexander Vladimirovich
Melnik to manifest this great deed.
Seven months is a long period of time. I accompanied the relics
to the Far East and saw with my own eyes what a great task had been
accomplished before and during the trip. Over this period of time,
the relics visited 71 dioceses, over 140 cities. Over 10 million
people had the joy and elation of praying before the fateful relics
of these pleasers of God. I think that this was a great sermon of
sorts of the Orthodox Church, of the Faith, for different sorts
of people came to see them. People with great faith came, people
who have recently come into the church, and those who are only now
coming to know the Church, those who, like little children, made
their first halting steps towards God. And I think that their prayers
before the relics of God's saints helped open the spiritual eyes
for many people, who maybe saw themselves from the inside, they
saw their lives, they were able to grasp the meaning of life.
That is why I feel that the procession of the cross with the relics
of these saints is also a reminder to those who consider that the
sacrifice our people made in the 20th century was only an invention,
a fantasy; the century of horrible, unheard-of persecution, when
hundreds of millions of people suffered. No, this was reality! Both
I and the President of the Fund of St Andrew the First-called, Alexander
Vladimirovich Melnik, were at Kolyma, where the ground was literally
sown with bones, soaked with tears, sweat and blood of our finest
And among these victims were representatives of the House of the
Romanovs who were thrown down a mineshaft, Nun Varvara and Holy
Martyr Elizaveta, who, already at the threshold of death, helped
those in need. And I think that this sermon is also about mercy,
for St Elizaveta invites all of us to make acts of love, of mercy,
of empathy, to be helpful to our neighbor, to understand people,
to condescend to them, for sometimes were are intolerant. I refer
to those who, learning a bit of the Gospel, reading some prayers,
consider themselves churchly enough, educated enough, and sometimes
they prove to be intolerant—they are very strict with those around
them, incredibly demanding. This must be avoided, and St Elizaveta
herself teaches us this merciful, empathetic, kind attitude towards
I wish to take this opportunity to express on behalf of His Holiness
Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia (who yesterday, February
23, celebrated his 76th birthday, and today will officiate at all-night
vigil at Epiphany Cathedral on the eve of his namesday, and tomorrow,
February 25, will serve liturgy at Christ the Savior Church), on
behalf of the angel of our church, to thank both Vladimir Ivanovich
Yakunin, President of the Benevolent Fund of the Center for the
National Glory of Russia, and the President of the Fund of St Andrew
the First-called, Alexander Vladimirovich Melnik, for their great
work they perform.
I think that the rapprochement of the two branches of the Russian
Orthodox Church—in Russia and abroad—is also their great deed. They
did a great deal of organizational work, and of course, assumed
enormous material costs, for this seven-month-long visit of the
relics of these saints to Russia was not an inexpensive endeavor:
airfare, carfare, all had to be paid forÉ All this lay on the shoulders
of these two social organizations.
I also wish to thank Bishop Michael, with whom we have become friends,
and thank the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside
of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, for his blessing, for
providing the opportunity to us by entrusting the relics of these
saints to us. Please pass along my genuine gratitude to His Eminence
Escorting the relics of SS Elizaveta and Varvara throughout all
of Russia was a great joy for me. The right hand of Holy Martyr
Elizaveta blessed the entire Russian people on its path, it is the
only surviving holy relic of the Holy Royal New Martyrs. The fact
that for almost a century (for three generations), these relics
were found in the Holy Land, in the Church of St Mary Magdalene
Equal-to-the-Apostles, a few paces from the site where the Lord
prayed, was all a sign that was at the time impossible to foresee.
After this trip I can see all the expanses of the Russian land.
Everywhere we were greeted by hosts of clergymen and the Russian
people, we discovered that in fact, Holy Martyr Elizaveta had already
been there. Everywhere we went there were signs of here presence
even before the Lord crowned her with martyrdom.
The great Mother appeared to Russia as an image of mercy, and she
has not been forgotten to this day. She lives in the hearts of the
Russian people, and her right hand, visiting Russia, seemed to unite
with all those sacrifices which had glorified the Russian land.
We saw a great number of skulls and bones in the construction of
churches, all bearing witness to those times. Today the prayers
of the Holy New Martyrs illuminate our future existence. If the
entire world is indeed moving away from Christ, if the whole world
turns away from Him, Russia was saved from this by her New Martyrs.
This feeling came upon me during my trip with the relics.
In all 70 dioceses, in all territories we visited, the relics were
met with such joy and hope! Maybe not everyone came to see them
the first day, but later they would emerge from their homes and
come to the churches. It was very difficult to bid farewell to those
who stood on the platforms of the train stations and airports terminals.
This was a great joy for us, and a consolation, that, in coming
from abroad, Elizaveta Feodorovna drew together, with one thread,
in one burst and in one prayer, all Russian people who always prayed
to God and pray to Him to this day. Despite the difficulties the
Russian people are experiencing, this trip with the relics of SS
Elizaveta and Varvara inspired many. I wish to thank His Holiness
Patriarch Alexy II that everywhere the circumstances for greeting
these relics were prepared in advance, so that these meetings would
be fruitful wherever they were. Usually, the large reliquary with
the right hand of Elizaveta Feodorovna was taken to the cathedral
of the diocese we visited. The smaller reliquary with the remains
of the two saints would visit hospices, hospitals, orphanages, sometimes
military installations, sometimes cadet schools, high schools, remote
parishes. Thanks to this we were given the opportunity to cover
large areas, and draw as many people as we did to the relics. I
will not repeat the words of gratitude which I have often repeated
to the Fund of St Andrew the First-called, and which I hold in my
heart. The organization of an event on such a grand scale, so far-ranging,
is a great accomplishment. To travel throughout all of Russia is,
of course, difficult. Participating in all the legs of the trip,
I saw how everything was prepared in advance. Vladyka Alexander,
thank you for your love, for your trust, for our contact. We rarely
quarreled, having found a common tongue, which was also the case
with other bishops in all the other dioceses. Although we were separated
for long periods, it seemed, that being in church, we have known
each other for a long time; it turned out that we are much closer
to one another than we thought. I was born in Paris, and as a 15-year-old
boy, I did not think that I could ever visit Russia. And suddenly,
the Lord granted me the opportunity to see this great expanse, which
it is impossible to embrace in its entirety, and all this love which
exists in the Russian people. They said that 10 million people venerated
the relics. We were able to judge by the number of printed icons
we distributed, which were always lacking in sufficient number.
But the statistics don't matter, it is the fact that this was an
nation-wide movement! The people who came represented every class
of Russian society. Sometimes we were met by governors who walked
with us on the processions of the cross. Mayors came, we were invited
by representatives of their administrations, we met with them. That
is, it was a general reception by all. Sensing the power of the
grace of the holy relics of SS Elizaveta and Varvara, everyone began
to realize the significance of bringing them to Russia.
I will begin with the words of gratitude to our journalistic colleagues,
because this topic probably became a record-breaking topic in publications
throughout the whole country. The competition we sponsored for essays
on this visit of the relics to Russia garnered 1,400 submissions
from the entire country. There are some very interesting, professionally-written,
heartfelt items. It is very significant that there were practically
no negative items submitted. Everyone understands and recognizes
the importance of this event. The entire country, the entire people
were shown an example of service in the work of the Great Mother
Elizaveta, the service of a colossal number of people who participated
in this action. For example, no one expected that in Alma-Ata, in
temperatures of ten degrees below zero Celsius, for two nights,
a colossal line stretching a kilometer long would form, but people
kept coming and coming. The Kazakh officials who helped us came
in astonishment at this miracle, this line, then they got in line
themselves and approached the relics, because if so many Russians
were in line, it must be that something good was happening here.
The winners of our competition, for example, were the Lithuanian
National Television station, the Dnepropetrovsky Center of Orthodox
Culture Lestvitsa, the GTRK "Omsk," which produced the
most interesting reports. Though the relics did not visit Ukraine,
very interesting television news items were produced and aired in
Dnepropetrovsk on the visit of the relics to Russia. That is, in
a country that these relics did not even visit because of the political
situation, they wrote about it, talked about it, spread the news!
I wish to say that all the winners will participate in our missionary
pilgrimages this year. Unfortunately, the visit of the relics to
the territory of Russia and the canonical territory of the Russian
Orthodox Church is ending. On Monday, February 28, we fly to Jerusalem
to return the relics, where they were and will remain. Maybe the
dream that Vladyka talked about will be fulfilled. There is a preliminary
decision by the Synod that when the work on the restoration of Marfo-Mariinsky
convent is completed, it may be possible to bring part of the relics
to Russia—to the Convent, which is located on Bolshaya Ordynka,
across the street from our Fund. This would be wonderful! I would
also welcome this. Concluding the wide-ranging and for us very important
program, which I think had a very benevolent influence on us (it
brought good to our organization), we are preparing by the end of
the year to publish an album on the relics' visit Russia. We will
probably prepare a documentary on it. We will ask our partners abroad
to distribute the film around the world. I hope BBC will be interested
in it. Work is now complete on a script for a movie titled "Elizaveta."
Reading it, I was incredibly moved by the dramatic and artistic
situation. All this began with an outline written by Metropolitan
Vladimir of Tashkent, who is acting as our consultant. I hope that
we will create a great, serious piece of work. Once again I wish
to express an enormous debt of gratitude towards those who participated
in this program, because most of these people invested a great deal
of spiritual energies to make this happen.
Political Observer "KP," N. Andrushchenko:
Thank you on behalf of all the journalists for the opportunity to
venerate the relics!
This first joint action by the two branches of the Russian Orthodox
Church has contributed towards their rapprochement. Are there proposals
to continue this type of project? Will practical works accompany
the negotiating process? If so, what concrete ideas are there? Maybe
practical cooperation by the two churches?
Periodic meetings are even now taking place. But I think that the
visit of the relics did much more than these talks. I have not yet
heard of any measures planned for the future. But I think that they
can happen, they are possible. In any case, one would hope there
would be more of them.
We must create new joint actions. When the relics were brought to
the Church of Christ the Savior, Vladyka Michael looked at me, and
I saw the question in his eyes: "What shall we do together
We must continue our relationship. Because in each others eyes there
is already a new dynamic with an entirely different character, which
is more important in order to understand what we have from the church
and what we understand as sobornost [conciliarity—transl.]. Church
relations are manifested not only in canonical decisions, but in
joint prayer. For this it is very important, alongside discussions
and reaching decisions, to also come to know what is happening in
peoples' hearts. To understand that the grace of God is expressed
in love, it is impossible to avoid contact with bishops, with priests,
with the people. We sensed this from the first day of our visit
to the dioceses. This is impossible to sense from a distance. Each
of us knows this. But when people live far apart, they lose a certain
connection, even if they are of one mind, for contact must be maintained
so that they become more of one spirit. And there is a need for
this. I think that opportunities will arise, meetings will take
place, and not only formal ones. Indeed, we can do something together,
simple things like this.
I think that the foundations have been laid for may new joint actions,
and neither Vladimir Ivanovich Yakunin nor the Center of the National
Glory of Russia, nor the Fund of St Andrew the First-called will
remain uninvolved. I think that this rapprochement has begun, and
together, or course, we will manifest these new projects and will
come closer together.
Against the background of the dissolution of what had once been
a single whole, what is happening in Ukraine, in Georgia, etc.,
one would very much hope that in the spiritual sense, the unification
would continue wherever people live.
Vladyka Michael, can you say with confidence that the procession
of the cross with the relics of Elizaveta Feodorovna and Nun Varvara
throughout the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church truly hastened
the nascent process of rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate?
Maybe the question was formulated too rigidly. "Rapprochement"
is maybe not the right word for the church, because the Church for
us has always been one. That is, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside
of Russia has always considered itself an indissoluble part of the
Russian Orthodox Church. We belong to one body—that of the Church.
If one is to talk about coming closer together, this is coming together
of people and of the spirit. A great many people did not even know
of the existence of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia--but
of course, I do not mean the clergy. But for instance, when someone
went abroad from Russia, he could cross himself in one of our churches,
he could take Communion...
In light of the complex political situation in Latvia, with the
harsh statements made by the Latvian president, I would like to
pause for a moment at the visit of the relics to that country. Were
there any obstacles, difficulties or problems with bringing the
relics to Latvia?
We noticed nothing during our visit to Latvia. After services, the
Russian Consul came to venerate the relics with his family. The
"special status" of the representatives of the country
in the "near abroad," which was once part of a single
nation, was not clear. In Riga, the people came to the relics. The
ruling bishop handled all situations splendidly when certain topics
had to be addressed with caution, so that these expressions would
be acceptable in Riga, for Latvia, where even the government includes
people of various faiths. Thanks to these skills of the metropolitan,
we had no tensions in this regard.
Vladyka Michael, please tell us which diocese did you like the most?
You know, I was often asked this question. Unfortunately, I am unable
to answer it, because each diocese breathes its own breath. They
are all different. Yet they are all the same. That is, there is
a difference in their situations. For instance, in Anadyr, in the
Far East, they exist under certain conditions, but when you go,
let us say, to Ryazan, to Vladimir, the situation is completely
different. But what is the same everywhere is that people were drawn
to the relics, they rose up, went, both those who know the church,
and those who are not very close to the church. There were those
who came to church for the first time in their lives. They came
to these holy relics. This spirit was sensed most of all. The main
joy was seeing these people coming to visit the relics. At least
I speak for myself. Each diocese has its own position. Of course,
in Vladimir you have ancient cathedrals, in Ryazan, the main cathedral
has not yet been transferred to the church, and it is still a museum.
In Siberia they declared at one time that it was a land of atheism,
and there was practically nothing there, no church presence, now
everyone is building [churches]. In Khabarovsk, for instance, five
new cathedrals are being built! That is to say that it is different
I don't doubt that the arrival of the relics was accompanied by
healings and conversions. Have church institutions recorded this,
has this reached the media, publications that Mr Melnik mentioned?
Yes, of course, they write about them, they talk about them. But
it is early to speak of this, because as I understand it, there
is a certain procedure of establishing these kinds of miracles.
That is why we will not say anything now. Each person has his own
attitude towards miracles. There are those who invent miracles for
themselves. But there are also factual instances. After some time,
when we finish preparing the final documents, we will try to publish
whatever we are given a blessing to.
I think that all the genuine miracles will, of course, be recorded.
We will read about them and see them. But it is true that people
invent miracles. I judge from what I hear in confessions. I have
been a priest for 27 years, and heard all about miracles during
confessions. One person says he sees a little flame when he prays,
another feels some kind of warmth, someone else claims to have been
dragged around by their clothing. This all depends on the person's
psyche. Maybe it is true, maybe not. People who are not completely
well, especially those who recently came to the church, yearn for
such miracles, and they "see" something: the evil one
will immediately conjure up some kind of "miracle." And
if the evil one involves himself in this process, there will definitely
be some kind of "miracle." These are false miracles. But
there are, of course, authentic miracles! I think there have been
many of them, and we must write about them. And then, you know,
a miracle is a very personal thing. If one really happens, not everyone
will speak out. Also, bear in mind another factor: people are a
bit frightened, they fear discussing what they experience. That
is why in order to encourage someone to speak, to find out what
really happened, you must first make him comfortable. Many have
witnessed miracles, but fear speaking of them.
I am a witness of the following: A woman came with two small children
under her arms. She ran over after work and asked: "Where are
the relics?" When she was led up to them, she said: "What
do I need to do?" She was told that she had to cross herself.
"How do I do that?" "You must venerate the relics."
"What does that mean?" "Kiss the relics." So
she had the children kiss the relics, and, joyfully, explained:
"I came home after work, fed the kids and heard the broadcast
that a holy relic came, that people are going. I didn't even know
where the church was, but I dressed the children, turned off the
lights, the gas, and we ran out...and found ourselves here!"
There you are: even something this minor deserves attention.
In general, there is much that people don't understand in church.
For instance, what does it mean to "prilozhitsya" ["venerate"]?
Some people think of the other meaning of the word, "to drink
alcohol." Someone takes Communion, and they are told "Go,
drink" [e.g. the thinned warm wine with prosphoras offered
after Communion—transl.]. He thinks that means go get drunk for
three months. Everything has to be explained. I always tell my priests
that one must explain the most elementary things during confession,
because often these priests finish theological academy and begin
to have lofty thoughts, they think that everyone understands things
on their level. One must speak simply to people, as though they
are children. Many are simply infants in matters of the faith. Indeed,
one person admitted to me: "I was told to 'go, drink,' but
I don't drink, I can't, I'm an addict. I drank my whole life, for
some twenty years, and now I have to drink again! It turned out
this was just a few gulps of water." They think that to "prilozhitsya"
means to have a shot of vodka. But it means to kiss an icon, to
make a prostration. That is, everyone understands things differently.
For this reason, people must be led into the church life. That is
why we must write more in simple books. Because the newspapers contain
a great number of astute essays, but we must write about the simplest
There were many miracles connected with the relics, but not everyone
spoke of them. Why? Because there is this aspect, plain as day—the
action of the Holy Spirit, manifested in what we call a miracle.
There is no discerning it, no understanding it, no human conception
of it, because this is an act of the Holy Spirit, inexplicable by
any physiological or physical laws.
I think that miracles are accessible by deeply humble and pure-hearted
people. You remember how in church there were a thousand people,
but only two saw the Mother of God. For "the pure of heart
will behold God!" But they will not talk about it. That is
the crux of the matter.
Can you tell us more about this special decision made by the Synod
of the ROCOR?
In order to bring this plan to life, the ROCOR Synod made this decision.
Vladyka passed our request to the Synod in New York asking that
the relics be brought to Russia, and they decided for what period
of time and so forth.
The Fund of St Andrew the First-called made a request to bring the
relics of SS Elizaveta and Varvara to Moscow as part of the renovation
of Marfo-Mariinsky Convent at the end of 2003 and early 2004, and
asked that time be given first to prepare a reliquary for portions
of the relics. The Synod of the ROCOR decided that if the relics
are to go to Russia, they should be here not for a few days, but
for a longer period of time, beginning on July 17, 2004, the feast
day of the Royal New Martyrs, until February 13, 2005, when the
feast day of the Host of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia is
celebrated. And so it happened. They took the appropriate steps
in Moscow in order to have the relics travel to all the dioceses.
Will ROCOR evaluate the travels of the relics on the territory of
the Russian Orthodox Church?
It already has, during the visit, and afterwards. The participation
of the Church Abroad in this event was uninterrupted for the duration
of these seven months. ROCOR sees it with great joy. Last evening
I spoke with Metropolitan Laurus, who unerringly kept track of all
the movements of the relics, and watched the broadcast of the arrival
of the relics to the Church of Christ the Savior.
What is the schedule for the planned films? Is the script for the
movie ready? When will it be released? Who is in charge of this?
We have a film production company called "Andreevsky flag,"
which is preparing a whole series of projects. Next week we will
have an announcement on the project called "Mongol." This
is a big, serious commercial film covering our history. A press
conference will be held on March 4, 2005. Now we launched a multi-faceted
project called "The Storm of Berlin" and will try in the
near future to provide more details. Using movies and radio, we
will try to tell the whole world about the situation connected with
the final days of the war, that Berlin was not taken by "Private
Ryan," but by the Soviet Army and all the people who occupied
the former Soviet Union. Leonid Nekhoroshev led the group that prepared
the project. His surname is renowned among cineastes. For many years
he was Chief Editor of Mosfilm. I think that we have achieved something
that absolutely must be presented as a commercial film, that is,
we have moved away from documentary films and created some very
dramatic material. The movie company "Andreevsky flag"
will begin work on this project immediately after the completion
of the preparatory phase which is in full steam. I think that shooting
will not likely begin this year, but probably next year.
Everyone knows that the seven-month-long visit of the relics to
Russia was a titanic project. Did your project enjoy the support
of the local governments of the seven states the relics traveled
If one is to speak of governments, then, mostly, yes. For instance,
I personally participated in the trip to Central Asia, to our former
republics, Today these are the states of Kyrghizia and Kazakhstan.
I also went to the Caucasus, to Baku. Practically everywhere we
met with people who represented these governments, or their parliaments.
There was no resistance anywhere to this event, on the contrary,
there was a great deal of interest, including on the part of the
local media and the government television stations. People were
talking about it everywhere. In Baku, we were met by the Vice Speaker
of the Mejlis—Azerbaijan's parliament. In her words, she had come
to love Elizaveta Feodorovna from reading articles about her in
Komsomolskaya Pravda 15-20 years ago, and when she heard that her
relics were being brought to Azerbaijan, she volunteered to participate
in their welcome. In Kazakhstan we met Nazarbaev, a local television
station aired the program "Dialog of Civilizations," which
we directed. That is, their attitudes were completely normal. In
Belarus everything went well, too! We operated in the Baltics, too,
relying most of all on the Russian Orthodox Church. But we were
helped by entrepreneurs and deputies who represented Russian interests
in these states.
Did the hierarchy bless the film projects?
We discussed it with Metropolitan Vladimir of Tashkent and Central
Asia, since he has a very serious paper dedicated to the Grand Duchess
Elizaveta, which inspired me to appeal to Vladyka with the request
to make a movie based on it. Vladyka is now ill. Unfortunately,
he was involved in an accident, but he is recovering now, and we
hope that when he can return to work, we will receive his blessing.
I have a questions for Vladyka Michael. You said that it was possible
that the Church Abroad will give a portion of the relics and one
of the reliquaries to Marfo-Mariinskiy Convent after the restoration
project is complete. When will this occur?
As soon as the renovation of Marfo-Mariinsky Convent is announced,
we will hand over the smaller reliquary, which in and of itself
represents a holy item, for it was made from boards of the coffins
in which the bodies of Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna and Nun
Varvara were brought from Peking to Gethsemane. These were new coffins
made of Chinese teak wood. In the middle of the reliquary is a silver
cross, under that earth from Darmstadt, where Grand Duchess Elizaveta
was born, from the Holy Land, specifically, from Gethsemane, where
her relics now lie, and earth from Alapaevsk, where she was crowned
with martyrdom. On the lid is an enameled medallion depicting the
Icon of the Savior Not-made-by-hands, which they found with the
remains of St Elizaveta. This had been a gift from Emperor Nicholas
II on the day of her conversion to Orthodoxy. That is why it is
not only the ribs which lie on either side of the cross, but the
reliquary itself is a holy item.
Did everyone know your itinerary? And did you have to do any educational
work among the members of the administrations of the various oblasts
Of course, not everyone knew, but this is natural. There were a
great many questions on the part of even those people who already
came to venerate the relics and those who stood in these lines.
On the eve, we would try to talk about the relics, explain what
is happening, in the local media.
I can only add that during the trip, the Fund of St Andrew the First-called
was constantly occupied with this. Local journalists and diocesan
representatives were given information ahead of time. Besides, in
each diocese, information was broadcast on television, radio, during
sermons, when priests prepared their flocks while speaking to them
from the ambo. So in most cases, people already knew of the arrival
of the relics. A great many people met us at train stations with
photographs of Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna, or with icons.
If we came at night, they would hold candles. There were places
where people knew little, and we would tell them about the relics.
In each diocese we gave television interviews, during which we answered
questions. Both I and the local bishops told of the holy martyrs
from the ambo. That is, information was disseminated through the
mass media everywhere.
During service, our Patriarch cited the words of Grand Duchess Elizaveta
Feodorovna, who had said that Russia no longer exists, but that
Holy Rus could not die. Making this grand excursion throughout the
country, what conclusion did you come to? Does Russia exist or not?
You know, where the people and the clergy meet—that is Russia! But
there were also people who could not come for personal reasons (whether
they lived far away, or did not have time). People would come up
and say that they had not seen the relics themselves, they could
not come, but they knew about them and they would pray. And of course,
they happily took the printed icons we tried to distribute everywhere.
That is, Russia never died! Sometimes, living abroad, we would be
told that she no longer exists. My father would tell me that if
anyone says that, don't believe them! Today one can state that Russia
is the Orthodox Church and the people who are within her confines,
which the Church that was sanctified through the centuries. It is
for good reason that the Russian people are so different from others,
whether they have more faith or less faith, whether they live by
the laws or not. I do not doubt this, personally. In any case, we
remain Russians as long as we have our faith. This is the most important
I think about the Russia that I saw. I traveled not throughout the
entire country, but only in the Far East. I saw the poverty of the
people, but I also saw the faith, signs of the rebirth of Russia.
Indeed, sorrow, suffering and the loss of those dear to us draws
us closer to God, they force one to think of the meaning of life.
Under such conditions, people become more religious. In Europe I
saw people who were complacent, and at peace. They have no time
for God, they enjoy sitting near the fireplace with a glass of wine.
We have people who live under very difficult circumstances. This
is no fable, it is true! People are poor. Only 10 percent of our
population lives well, 30 percent, more or less comfortable. And
30 percent live in horrible need! Others just barely make ends meet.
That is why that the Russia which Elizaveta Feodorovna saw, the
Russia in which she lived, I think, has not yet returned. But Holy
Russia exists, we see her, we see the renascence of monasteries
and churches. This is Holy Russia indeed! But that is another topic
One of the most difficult and complicated things is that people
come to the relics with an internal expectation that something will
change in their lives, materially, that they feel part of something
that is called the people and the government. Because, unfortunately,
very many people feel lost in that world which has appeared on the
territory of our nation. This must be stated openly, we should not
fool ourselves. In Baku, a delegation of the Georgian Orthodox Church,
headed by Metropolitan Sergii of Nekres and Eret, came to pray before
the relics. We understood that we are representatives of a great
nation, a great sovereignty, the Russian Orthodox Church. We had
to see the Georgians, who came with tears in their eyes to pray
at the relics for Georgia to preserve an Orthodox government, to
pray that the Georgian people remain Orthodox. There is colossal
pressure by Protestants, a great deal of pressure from American
ideology and incredible pressure on the part of the administrative
structures of Georgia upon the Georgian Orthodox Church. Everything
is clearer in comparison. When in many places you see poverty, which,
unfortunately, exists, then you understand that it is in part accompanied
by our spiritual poverty. We do not know where to find support,
we have lost that which was once called state ideology. We tried
to replace it with faith, but we cannot do this, probably, and we
should not do this in the future, because the state must have a
clear, well-defined position with regard to that which is good and
what is bad. How are the people supposed to live, and on the basis
of what values must a people feel themselves one? I feel that for
all of us (for those who came to the relics, those who brought them
and those who followed all of this) there is a very important inner
question: what will happen to our country in the future, how will
it develop, will it preserve that one main thing that always defined
Russia, not only Holy Russia, but Russia as a state? This is the
Orthodox faith, Orthodox tradition, these are the foundations of
the Orthodox Russian state. This is a very important moment for
all of us. It is not a question of numbers, it is not that ten million
persons venerated the relics. The fact of the matter is that for
a majority of these people, there is one common question: how will
we live going forward?
-If we are to build Russia with God, then, of course, this cannot
but bring us joy. Many say: "Everything depends on the economy;
that is the crux of the problem." I was in Magadan, where there
is gold, rubies, but the people are poor. They don't understand
it themselves, why do they not have an extra loaf of bread? They
cannot understand what the problem is. What a mystery! The leaders,
upon whom everything rests, those who decide the fates of individuals,
who took it upon themselves to decide, they cannot understand themselves.
They have all this, but they cannot bring it to cohesiveness. I
spoke with different types of people, but I did not see deeply faithful
leaders. They hope for something else: someone will let them know,
someone will help. There is no trust in God, yet God must be trusted.
If we appeal to Him, it must be with trust, earnestly, with a simple
heart. This has not yet come. They say: "Thank God!" That
is, they learned five or six words, but there is no faith. There
are directives from Moscow: "Have contact with the clergy!"
But is this faith?
For them this is the Supreme authority.
And so they follow their leader: Vladimir Vladimirovich prayed on
the Nativity and on Pascha, and so they should pray, too. This is
wrong, they must reach this by themselves.
Was the entire plan carried out? Was everything you hoped accomplished?
Unfortunately, because of the political situation in Ukraine, we
could not visit that nation, where, naturally, the relics could
have been used for political purposes. Imagine: we walk together
with one flag, and then immediately the people will cry out, or
something will happen. So it was decided that we could not visit
Ukraine. Otherwise, the schedule was followed to the very last day.
It was quite a surprise when we were denied permission to enter
Uzbekistan. Without any explanation, state officials informed Metropolitan
Vladimir of Tashkent and Central Asia of this, and he was surprised
that "the Uzbek side is not able to ensure the security of
the visit of the relics on the territory of Uzbekistan and is concerned
that this might provoke attacks by radical Islamic organizations."
These are two countries, which of course we very much wished to
visit but could not. All the other promises we were able to fulfill.
Maybe we did not make it to a few places, but for practical reasons
only, because this depended on train schedules, scheduling, etc.
We must express a great debt of gratitude to the Russian railroad
workers! Despite the fact that we paid for all the services (which
I must stress), that is, we paid for all the rail cars, the transfers,
the trips, etc, but logistically, they helped a great deal! Imagine
what it means to connect a colossal number of separate movements
through different branches, transfers, stopovers. For the relics
were kept in a rail-car chapel. Connected to this was the car where
the delegation lived. We must greatly thank the railroad services!
If anyone else writes about this, I will be very happy, because
we will continue to work with them.
But sometimes I would be admonished by some bishop, who would even
call me late at night: "We expected the relics at such-and-such
a time, and you're sending them somewhere else!" As though
I own my own rail line, cars, ships, electric locomotives or planes!
How can I bring them? I am also subject to the schedule. So some
metropolitan calls me at three o'clock in the morning and demands
that I change something... There were some errors, but small ones.
Will your event change anything within educational institutions?
I think that we should pray for this, and fight for it. If we simply
express dissatisfaction and criticize, nothing will happen. We must
speak out, raise our voices! We must struggle for education, for
history and literature, we must fight for this!
The first event of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox
Church Outside of Russia has successfully come to an end. We thank
you for your efforts, Vladyka Alexander, and you, Vladyka Michael,
and of course the Fund of St Andrew the First-called and the Center
for the National Glory of Russia, for a great many people came into
contact with these great holy relics. Thank you for this opportunity!