Vicar Bishop Kirill Pavlovsky of Pavlovo-Posad (1963- ), Abbot of the stavropegial Donskoi Monastery in Moscow
One of the decisions of the last session of the Holy Synod was the appointment of a new abbot for the stavropegial Donskoi Monastery in Moscow. The newly consecrated Vicar Bishop Kirill Pavlovsky of Pavlovo-Posad became the new abbot. He had a reputation as a zealous priest, being especially keen on spiritual formation (at the time he headed the seminary in Nizhny Novgorod). In an interview for Interfax-Religion conducted by Kirill Frolov, Vladyki Kirill shared his plans for transforming his monastery into a missionary and educational centre.
Your Grace, what are your plans for the development of the Donskoi Monastery?
Ivan Shmelyov (1873-1950), writer of the White emigration, who worked in France after 1920. His grave was originally at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery in France, but he and his wife were reburied at the Donskoi Monastery Cemetery in 2000.
Bishop Kirill Pavlovksy:
For me, the appointment as the abbot of the Donskoi Monastery is a tremendous responsibility; this is a shrine of national importance. Firstly, this was a historic centre of resistance to militant atheism and political anti-Christianity, for it was the “headquarters” of the Patriarch St Tikhon, in which this great hierarch fought for the future of the Church, he fought against the Red policy of destruction, including their escalation of schisms and divisions. It is significant that, in these most difficult times for the Church, despite persecution, St Tikhon organised missionary life. There was the famous Moscow inter-parish fraternity, and one saw the pastoral activities of such Russian New Martyrs Russian as Frs Sergei and Aleksei Mechev, the student clubs established by New Martyr Fr Vladimir Ambartsumov, and the polemical debates with the atheists by the great associate of Patriarch St Tikhon, the Martyr and Confessor Archbishop St Hilarion Troitsky. I believe that it is important for us to understand this history; we must experience the life and mission of the Church in terms of the hardship they suffered and comprehend their struggle against atheism. Therefore, the Donskoi Monastery should be a museum of Patriarch St Tikhon and the Russian New Martyrs, a museum of the confession of Orthodoxy. It should be not only a museum highlighting the exploits (подвига) of the New Martyrs and missionaries, who preached under such extremely adverse conditions, but it should also be a museum where we could display documents using modern technology, showing the methods used to combat the Church. We must learn these lessons and never forget them.
Furthermore, outstanding historical and public figures of Russia are buried in the Donskoi Monastery Cemetery, such as the writers Ivan Shmelyov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the prominent Russian political philosopher Ivan Ilyin, and the White leaders Anton Denikin and Vladimir Kappel. It’s a memorial to Russian national glory, culture, and historical memory! Therefore, it’s logical to create missionary and educational centre in the Donskoi Monastery, then, we could offer missionary tours. In general, it’s high time that we started Orthodox travel agencies. At the graves of Generals Denikin and Kappel, it would be logical to hold ceremonies giving the military oath; at the graves of Ilyin and Solzhenitsyn, we could teach lessons from history. Our monastery should be, thus, a place of pilgrimage for pupils, students, and intellectuals.
General Anton Denikin (1872-1947), prominent leader of the White movement
Today, the heritage of the prominent Russian thinkers buried in the Donskoi Monastery Cemetery is more urgent than ever. For example, the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Second Great Patriotic War is very important in the legacy of General Anton Ivanovich Denikin. Yes, he was a White General, who rightly condemned the godless communist regime, yet, he was a man who, during the Great Patriotic War, took an unequivocal stance as a patriot, on the assumption that, if the only alternative was Nazi occupation, there was only one Russian army that could face them (at that time, it was Soviet). Thus, the figure of Anton Denikin is an alternative figure to the traitor Vlasov, and a rebuke to the attempts to rehabilitate totalitarian Bolshevism, for the victory of our people in the Great Patriotic War was won not because of the Bolsheviks, rather, it was in spite of them. From Solzhenitsyn’s works we are learn that the lessons of life do not lie; the Christian responsibility of Russian literature and Orthodoxy is based on the moral law and the philosophy of history. Ivan Shmelev was a writer and missionary, a singer of the Orthodox Russian culture. Ivan Ilyin articulated the Orthodox ideology, being a member of the intellectual élite and the political class. Today, in Russia, we need such an élite and such a class.
Thus, we could conduct a history lesson, or, if you please, a lesson in Orthodox culture, for students in the Donskoi Monastery, a tour for people who have not yet been “churched”, a tour that could open to people a whole new world of meaning and life goals, it could change a person for the better. We have spoken of Orthodox tours for secular people. Besides that, for example, there are open chapels at the Moscow railway stations. You can maintain exhibits there, too. A man arrived from Vladivostok, and during a few hours in Moscow, he discovered relics of the heritage of the great people of Russia.
Your past obedience was also not simple; you were the deputy abbot of the Sarov Hermitage, which is located in the Federal Nuclear Centre. Could you, please, tell us more about it?
Yes, indeed, I had a responsible obedience in the monastery founded by St Seraphim. Whilst there, one must agree with those who see Divine Providence in the fact that the Federal Nuclear Centre is where the great saint laboured. We seek for the unity of faith and knowledge. After all, essentially, in whose hands are the fruits of scientific discoveries that can either help humanity or destroy it? Fundamentally, the moral condition of the scientist enables him to penetrate the heart of scientific achievements, he, like no one else, can comprehend the impact of his work. It is very important that the church support and understand the critical processes involved in the modernisation of Russia. Our country must preserve and increase its expertise in advanced science; it must create a competitive and innovative “knowledge economy”. However, this knowledge, these technologies, should serve truth and goodness. Even such “evil” and terrible things such as nuclear weapons, can, and should, serve as a good. They deter those trespassers who would “guarantee” the whole world, terrorists, political adventurers of all stripes, senior media figures that propagate hateful ideologies, and so on. Therefore, the dialogue between the Church and science is fundamentally important, and Sarov, as a centre of both monastic life and scientific research, of course, must be one of the centres of such a dialogue.
Donskoi Monastery is located in the centre of Moscow. How does this affect its life?
Donskoi Monastery in Moscow
We must be aware that the monastery’s central Moscow location demands that we must focus ourselves on our mission to the outside world. We must testify to the truth of Orthodoxy, not only with our words, but also with our lives, so that we could explain to everybody the true meaning of the Church’s sacraments and worship, and of our monastic ascetic ideals. We should do this, both within the walls of the monastery and outside, in the secular world, as well. Therefore, one of the churches of the Donskoi Monastery complex must have a focus on catechesis, where we could conduct baptisms and weddings for the laity, because we are at the centre of a large residential area. Many schools, universities, hospitals, kindergartens, and the telecentre on Shabolovka are in the same neighbourhood as the Donskoi Monastery. This past Sunday, 10 January, we opened an adult catechism class in the monastery school. Sixty people came to the first session. I, personally, led the first meeting and, if possible, I will conduct follow-ups. The brotherhood of the monastery shall also participate in this effort. On 11 January, I had a meeting with leading officers at the Leadership Academy of the RF MVD. We reached an agreement during this meeting for me to meet with the students of the Academy to speak on the Orthodox Church, the basic dogma of the Orthodox Faith, and the relationship of the Orthodox Church and its clergy to other religions and faiths in Russia. The words of St Hilarion Troitsky, “We should not sit behind the walls of our monasteries and theological schools”, directly relate to the monasteries in Moscow, including our own.
What would you wish for the readers of the Interfax-Religion website?
Firstly, I would like to give the staff of Interfax-Religion my congratulations for five years of good work. They are always at the forefront of the struggle for the Church in Russia; they enhance its missionary and social service. I wish all of the staff at the website and all of its readers a “Merry Christmas”, and I wish that all of you should experience the true joy of Christmas, as the Church celebrates it, through participation in its miraculous, salvific, and transformative sacraments. Moreover, of course, we at the Donskoi Monastery invite you to come and visit us, to venerate our most holy relics.
13 January 2010