Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Interview of “Der Spiegel” with Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, the head of the MP DECR 15 December 2009 (from the Russian text)

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev (1966- ), Head of the MP DECR. He cuts a pretty picture… shall he turn out to be nothing but a Denisenko in the end?

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Editor’s Foreword:

Attend well to what HA is saying. Often, he’s NOT speaking the mind of the Church; he’s speaking his private opinion… and that private opinion is scary in the extreme. “We recognise the sacraments of the Catholic church”… trust me; his factional opponents are going to fasten on THAT. Read this with CARE… be aware there is much GIGO in it. Caveat lector.

BMD

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Der Spiegel

How do you explain the difference between Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

The Orthodox and Catholic Churches share much in theology and in models of church life, with some differences. That is, we don’t recognise the supreme authority of the Pope over other Churches. However, the differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism aren’t of a fundamental nature. We recognise the sacraments of the Catholic church. If a Catholic priest converts to Orthodoxy, we accept him as a priest. As for the Protestant churches, we don’t recognise their churches and see them only as communities of Christians. We have fundamental differences of opinion on theological and moral questions.

Der Spiegel

What are they?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

Many Protestant churches have liberalised their views on moral theology to the point that they justify homosexuality and bless same-sex couples. Some refuse to consider abortion a sin. We don’t have a common understanding of the Church and of Church life. In particular, unlike us, and unlike the Catholics, Protestants allow female ordination.

Der Spiegel

Because a woman, Margot Kässmann, was elected the President of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) you terminated your dialogue…

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

That’s the situation that some in the media reported. I only said that we couldn’t continue the theological dialogue using our previous concepts.

Der Spiegel

Ultimately, that’s the same thing. You don’t want to negotiate with Frau Kässmann?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

Up to the present, we’ve had meetings between the heads of our churches, that is, between the Patriarch and Chairman of the Council of the EKD. Now, such a meeting is impossible.

Der Spiegel

In Germany and Western society, this causes much misunderstanding. Many present your church as being representative of ultra-conservative forces.

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

That’s as it is. The election of the chairman is an internal affair of the EKD; we respect the right of choice of those who voted for Frau Kässmann. However, we also have our rights, in particular, in defining the format of our participation in a dialogue in the light of changed circumstances. The Patriarch can’t meet with a female “bishop”.

Der Spiegel

The question of sex is so important?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

It’s not a question of sex, but, rather, a question of one’s attitude towards the Christian tradition. We believe that a woman can’t continue the line of apostolic succession, as do the Orthodox and Catholic bishops. Moreover, a meeting of Patriarch Kirill with Frau Kässmann would appear as recognition by us of female ordination. Our faithful wouldn’t understand this. You see, in our understanding, the people in the Church are the custodians of the Orthodox faith.

Der Spiegel

Frau Kässmann insists that the purpose of ecumenical dialogue lies precisely in the recognition of differences in the understanding of church life and the mission of the clergy in the church. However, are you saying that you want to remove women from participation in this dialogue?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

No, women were involved in our dialogue between our Churches, but, they were priests, not bishops. In November and December, celebrations in both Berlin and Moscow were to mark the 50th anniversary of our dialogue. After the election of Frau Kässmann, I proposed that we hold the celebrations in Moscow as we’d planned, so, Bishop Wolfgang Huber came to Moscow for them. However, for me, personally, to come to a celebration in Berlin in view of the present situation was problematical, so, I suggested that we’d send a delegation to the celebrations in Berlin, headed by my deputy. In response, the EKD, without even bothering to contact me personally, cancelled the event. I regret this; I don’t think that we should act this way.

Der Spiegel

Obviously, they considered that your proposal to send your deputy was offensive.

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

It’s possible. However, such an impulsive reaction isn’t consistent with the level of our existing relations. I’m ready to meet with representatives of the EKD in either Germany or in Moscow.

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Frau Dr Margot Kässmann (1958- ), President of the Council of the EKD. Her election provoked a crisis in MP/EKD relations. Why does the OCA cosy up to the TEC, which is also headed by a woman? This is from a book cover… the title is In the Midst of Life.

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Der Spiegel

With Frau Kässmann?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

I think I’d meet with my opposite number in the EKD.

Der Spiegel

Is he male?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

Fortunately, yes… Bishop Martin Schindehütte.

Der Spiegel

In a letter, Frau Kässmann and Bishop Schindehütte appealed to the Patriarch with a request to clarify his position. Has there been a response yet?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

We’ll answer the writers of the letter with a signed response either from the Patriarch or from me.

Der Spiegel

Your relationship with the Catholics seems more harmonious, in spite of the fact that, in the past, there was much disagreement between you.

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

Our relations weren’t only controversial, but remain so. After the collapse of the USSR in the Western Ukraine, Uniate mobs seized hundreds of Orthodox churches and they drove thousands of Orthodox believers into the street. They tell us that the Greek-Catholic church is autonomous. However, since the Greek-Catholic church is part of the Catholic church, we believe that Rome must find a way to influence the situation there. I don’t doubt that your next question is about the possibility of a meeting Pope between Benedict XVI and the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

Der Spiegel

When will a “summit” of the heads of the two churches occur?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

We don’t rule out such a meeting and very much hope that it’ll occur. Pope Benedict XVI understands the existing difficulties, and, therefore, doesn’t force the issue of a meeting with the Patriarch and of visiting Russia, as he did under his predecessor. We’re grateful to him for that. Furthermore, we follow his statements and support him when he defends traditional Christian moral values. However, a meeting that is just a formality and handshakes in front of the cameras doesn’t interest us.

Der Spiegel

What are you interested in, then?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

We want a breakthrough in our relationship. Once the situation in the Western Ukraine sees a fundamental improvement, when we, Orthodox and Catholics, finally agree that we aren’t rivals, proselytising each other’s flocks, then, a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow will be possible. We’re allies; we face a common challenge… the challenge of militant secularism.

Der Spiegel

From your point of view, is the locus of this militant secularism primarily in Russia or is it in the West?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

The West. In Russia, it isn’t a state ideology. It’s present, but believers confront its manifestations, advocating traditional values such as family, childbearing, and the value of human life.

Der Spiegel

What’s the situation in the West?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

In particular, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg wishes to ban crucifixes in Italian schools. This is a denial of traditional Christian values.

Der Spiegel

Then, if that’s so, we should allow Muslim schoolgirls to come to school wearing a headscarf.

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

Why not? In this, there is another factor, the religion of the majority. In Saudi Arabia, it’s Islam, and in Russia, it’s Orthodox Christianity. In Kursk, more than 60,000 people came out to venerate the wonder-working Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign”, the holiest object of the Russian Orthodox abroad. On 4 November, when Russia celebrated the Day of National Unity, we, together with representatives of other religions marched on Red Square. The patriarch was in the front row, the Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist leaders were in the next one. This was a visible symbol. We have a multi-religious society, but the Patriarch is head of the “Church of the majority”. It unites our faithful and promotes the effective functioning of the mechanism of inter-religious cooperation. In a sense, the Patriarch must be the spiritual leader of all our people, not only the Orthodox believers.

Der Spiegel

Today, the new Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, Kirill, along with President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, is one of the most influential people in Russia. Does this not jeopardise the separation of church and state?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

Not at all. We don’t interfere in politics and we don’t tell people whom they should vote for. The church is open to people of all political beliefs.

Der Spiegel

What do you think of the contemporary intra-Russian debate about Stalin’s personality?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

We have to face the historical truth. There’s irrefutable evidence that mass repressions occurred under Stalin’s rule. We may never know the exact number of the repressed, but millions were murdered, dispossessed, and uprooted from their native homeland. It was a repressive system… it ravaged its own people for decades.

Der Spiegel

However, in contemporary Russia, there are those who claim that Stalin was praiseworthy.

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

Nothing can justify the crimes that I’ve mentioned, nor can our victory in the Second World War justify them. The people won that victory, not Stalin.

Der Spiegel

Your Eminence, thank you for consenting to this interview.

15 December 2009

Martin Dörr

Christian Neef

Matthias Schöpp

Der Spiegel (The Mirror) (nr 51, 15 December 2009)

As quoted on Interfax-Religion

http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=print&div=10755

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Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias (1946- ). Has he torpedoed a meeting between himself and Benedict Ratzinger? It appears so… the sticking point is the Uniates… now, that has been made explicit, yet again.

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Editor’s Note:

This is ENLIGHTENING. Firstly, it is not softball fluff from Mark Stokoe, SVS, oca.org, or Joseph Honeycutt. The guys from Der Spiegel are pressing HA to the mat and they provoked him to say some interesting things. One thing is evident… HA does NOT like being questioned, and when he is under fire, he is apt to “open mouth, insert foot”. Note the following exchange:

Der Spiegel

Because a woman, Margot Kässmann, was elected the President of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) you terminated your dialogue…

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

That’s the situation that some in the media reported. I only said that we couldn’t continue the theological dialogue using our previous concepts.

Der Spiegel

Ultimately, that’s the same thing. You don’t want to negotiate with Frau Kässmann?

Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev

Up to the present, we’ve had meetings between the heads of our churches, that is, between the Patriarch and Chairman of the Council of the EKD. Now, such a meeting is impossible.

In the original, the first Spiegel quote ended as though HA broke into the interviewer’s question… and Der Spiegel wanted its readers to know that. Spiegel didn’t accept HA’s mealy-mouthed rationalisation and pressed him. It forced him to say, “Now, such a meeting is impossible”. Obviously, this isn’t what HA prefers. He knows that KMG is watching him, or, rather, Fr Vsevolod Chaplin (VC) is watching him… don’t forget that VC was one of KMG’s deputies in the old uncut DECR and that KMG removed VC from the Boy Wonder’s authority. Do note the slippery answer that HA gave to the straightforward question of whether the MP had sent an answer to the EKD in response to a direct request. “We ‘ll answer the writers of the letter with a signed response either from the Patriarch or from me”.  Utter and complete GIGO… diplomatese of the most noxious sort.

Note this sentence well… “Moreover, a meeting of Patriarch Kirill with Frau Kässmann would appear as recognition by us of female ordination”. If one applies the logic of this to the Nashotah House abomination inked by JP and Hatfield… one can see where I’m going, can’t you? If one signs an agreement with a body headed by a female bishop (as Nashotah House is a part of the TEC), then, one accepts the principle of female ordination, that’s all there is to be said, and no amount of spinning can conceal it. In short, JP and SVS spat on the Church in general and spat on the MP in particular… one notes well that HA defends them tooth and nail. That is, I believe that female ordination doesn’t bother HA in the least. However, his ambition forces him to moderate his views. Is “Paris worth a mass?” Many tout him as the next patriarch. Remember… in 1990, everyone thought that Philaret Denisenko was going to be the next patriarch… Aleksei Rediger got it instead. If this same scenario were to play itself out after the inevitable death of Patriarch Kirill, Bishop Mark Golovkov would become patriarch, for, just as Denisenko and Aleksei were in the DECR under Nikodim Rotov, HA and Bishop Mark both served under KMG in the DECR (and they’re of an age, HA was born in 1966, and Bishop Mark in 1964).

He stuck his foot in it with, “However, the differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism aren’t of a fundamental nature. We recognise the sacraments of the Catholic church”. We don’t “recognise the sacraments of the Catholic church”. We receive Catholics via chrismation, but that’s due to pastoral oikonomia. HA shall regret saying that, for his opponents shall fasten upon it and bring it to KMG’s attention. HA’s an ambitious little rapscallion, but he isn’t the bureaucratic infighter that VC is in spades. However, he had to accommodate the MP official line, as much as obviously didn’t care to.

Nevertheless, the jewel in the crown is his statement on a meeting between His Holiness and the Pope of Rome. “Pope Benedict XVI understands the existing difficulties, and, therefore, doesn’t force the issue of a meeting with the Patriarch and of visiting Russia, as he did under his predecessor. We’re grateful to him for that”. The second sentence is obviously personal… it isn’t anything other than HA’s gratitude to Benedict Ratzinger for not embarrassing him further (shall Asia News and Zenit shut up though? “The Franks DO talk out of both sides of their mouths”, as a Greek friend said). However, it’s an admission that Ratzinger has abandoned hope of a meeting in Moscow, for it’s clear that KMG has issued a blunt, “non licit”. The sticking point is the Galician Uniates. Rome refuses to bring them to heel. If so… you’ve made your choice. Don’t forget that one of the “kingmakers” at the Local Council that elected Kirill was Vladimir Sabodan, the First Hierarch of the UOC/MP. If Rome refuses to roll up the Unia… well, they’re not going to get their “sound bite” on CNN or Sky News in Moscow. It’s that simple and HA was forced to toe the party line.

Overall, an interesting read, no? The more that I see of HA, the more that I find myself reminded of Philaret Denisenko. He’s written tons of books, that impresses the pseudo-intellectuals. KMG radically pared down the DECR and didn’t make him a ruling bishop… that’s what impresses me and should impress any person of good sense. Is HA only a jackass laden with a cargo of books? Only time shall tell us…

BMD

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