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Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York 

On July 4-5, 2010, at the invitation of His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, currently undergoing treatment at Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, made a visit to the Bavarian capital, Munich. Anatoly Kholodyuk, correspondent of Sedmitsa.ru, met with the Primate of ROCOR, who talked about some of the current issues facing church life of the Russian Diaspora.

- Your Eminence, your two-day visit to Munich ends today. His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany invited you to visit during your stay at Karlovy Vary, where you have been undergoing treatment. What is your opinion of the state of affairs in this diocese?  

- I was very happy to observe and ascertain that our diocese in Germany is in fact flourishing. I have been acquainted with it since 1971, when I briefly visited the German land as a student of the Orthodox seminary in New York. Then, as part of a youth group, I visited the men’s Monastery of St Job of Pochaev, where Bishop Nathaniel was the abbot at the time. I remember the impression this poor monastery made on us seminarians.  

But thank God, with the appointment of Archbishop Mark, everything in the monastery drastically changed for the better. In fact, at the present time, the Diocese of Berlin and Germany is truly blossoming. In this country, as a result of the mass wave of immigrants, new parishes are being founded. New churches are being built by them, premises are being secured to conduct divine services, and the beauty of the Orthodox churches is being noticeably enhanced. 

- What is your prognosis for full unity of the Russian Orthodox Church, and does this mean the merging of the two dioceses in Germany, those of the Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate? 

- Spiritual unity within our Church already exists--structural unity is a matter of time, and for this, certain circumstances and conditions must first mature. I think that potentially, a merger can occur, for instance, of two parishes in a single city, as has already happened in Australia, in the city of Newcastle, New South Wales. The believers of the already-united St Nicholas Parish live together, and, I should note, live amicably. As far as the proposed unification of separate parishes in Germany, I believe that this decision is entirely in the hands of the ecclesiastical authorities. With time, of course, discussions can be held on this matter. At the same time, it is my opinion that there is no need to hurry in this direction. Such complicated matters must be decided upon peacefully, cautiously, and most of all, with love.  

- Why is Bishop Agapit of Stuttgard being sent from Germany to Australia?  

- Although I am still the Ruling Bishop of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, I don’t have a Vicar, so I invited Vladyka Agapit to come to Australia for a few months and help me in the administration of the diocese. But apparently because of the car accident in Bavaria on July 4, Vladyka Agapit will be forced to delay his departure for the Australian continent. He still has to recover from the crash.

- All sorts of talk is heard among the believers of the Munich parish about the meaning of the accident, which occurred on the very eve of Vladyka’s departure, and all sorts of predictions. Would you care to comment on this?  

- Of course, we all walk under God, and everything is in His hands. After the victory of Germany over Argentina in South Africa, many German fans were drunk from celebrating, including people who got behind the wheel of their cars. The driver of the car which rammed Vladyka Mark’s and Vladyka Agapit’s vehicle was also drunk. As always, the enemy of mankind, who is always ready to do damage, took advantage of mortal weakness. 

- In a few days, you will return to New York from Karlovy Vary, where you will be busy preparing for a regular session of the Synod of ROCOR. When is it going to be held?  

- The next meeting of the Synod is scheduled for July 13. However, considering the fact that its members live in different countries and are far from each other, we are forced to turn to modern technologies, video and teleconferencing, though of course they cannot replace essential personal meetings and face-to-face contact in discussing ongoing Church matters.  

- What would you consider to be the most important of the “ongoing matters” for the Church Abroad? 

- One of the main problems is the chronic lack of personnel, particularly clergymen, who are needed to minister to the multitude of parishioners. We have an acute need for people for full-time work in the growing number of communities and parishes located on three enormous expanses of the Russian Church Abroad. 

- I recently returned from Jerusalem, where the monastics of ROCOR are wondering: who will finally be appointed Chief of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission at the forthcoming Synod meeting?  

- This matter has not yet been decided. We will discuss this matter at the Synod, of course, and we will seek an appropriate candidate for this important position, the Chief of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission of our Church in the Holy Land.  

- And how, in the very same Holy Land, do you intend to resolve the matter of restoring the historic unity of Jerusalem’s Orthodox Palestine Society? I mean the “Alexander Podvorie,” which once belonged to Russia, which is now in fact not under ROCOR nor the Moscow Patriarchate, but is a “private enterprise or organization” headed not by a “count” but by a regular resident of Munich, the former or current parishioner of ROCOR, Nikolai Hoffman-Vorontsov? 

- I cannot say anything about this matter now, because I am not current on the problems in Jerusalem. I think Archbishop Mark knows better about these matters. However, I hope for a positive and peaceful resolution to this conflict. We should all work together for the benefit of Holy Orthodoxy in the Holy Land. 

- If we leave the cares of Jerusalem, New York and Munich behind, and mentally return to Karlovy Vary, where you will be receiving treatment next week, how would you characterize your feelings as you stay here on the European continent?  

- I am amazed and elated by the beauties of the Czech land, and especially its renowned resort town of Karlovy Vary. There is a magnificent Russian church here dedicated to the Chief Apostles, SS Peter and Paul, where I was able to serve together with Protopriest Nikolai Lishcheniuk. I visited the convent of SS Wenceslas [Vyacheslav] and Ludmilla of Czechia at the town of Levda, not far from Karlovy Vary. It was an unforgettable experience to meet and jointly conduct divine services with His Beatitude Archbishop Christopher of Prague, Metropolitan of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. In general, I feel wonderful here in Europe. Here are our roots, and bordering the Czech Republic is Ukraine, where my parents are from.  

- Having become the Primate of ROCOR, you must now more than before travel to various dioceses of the world, meet with clergymen and the faithful in different corners of the world. Are you able to garner more knowledge of Orthodoxy on the continents and in the different countries?  

- Of course, and Moscow’s Orthodox Encyclopedia provides crucial help! For this is a remarkable and unique work, compiled by an enormous collaboration of authors. I personally don’t only study its interesting articles, but fully support the publication of the multi-volumed Orthodox Encyclopedia. I consider it a wonderful scholarly and practical reference book which can help everyone, from an experienced metropolitan to a fledgling priest, discover necessary information on Orthodoxy and Orthodox life, and also find the answers to many, many questions relating to the life and work of our Russian Orthodox Church. I invoke God’s blessings on all those who are now working on the preparation and publication of this titanic theological effort.