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Interview of Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Hilarion to the Greek TV

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  • jonbrian chorus.net
    08 November 2010, 16:08 Media review: Interview of Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Hilarion to the Greek TV - Your Eminence, I should first welcome you to Greece.
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 8, 2010
      08 November 2010, 16:08
      Media review: Interview of Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Hilarion to the Greek TV

      - Your Eminence, I should first welcome you to Greece. It is very big
      honor for all of us that you are on Rhodes Island although it is not
      an official visit. What brings you here?

      - Here, in Rhodes currently there is an Orthodox - Catholic Forum
      which brings together participants from all European Orthodox Churches
      as well as from various Churches and Organizations in Europe. The idea
      of the creation of this Forum initially belongs to Cardinal Erdo of
      Budapest and to me. The idea is that we should informally discuss
      various questions of common interest. The first Forum, which took
      place in Trento (Italy) two years ago, discussed family issues such as
      marriage, procreation, abortion, the value of human life and so on.
      This meeting is dedicated to the relations between the church and the
      state in various European countries.

      - In Greece there are still problems in these relations. Certainly,
      things are different in your country. Do you think that a constructive
      relation is necessary for both sides to coexist?

      - In Russia over the last 20 years we have developed very good and
      constructive relations between the church and the state. They are
      based on two principles. One is the mutual non-interference of either
      the church in state affairs or the state in internal church affairs.
      And another principle is collaboration in all fields in which such
      collaboration is necessary and welcome. And we believe that the
      harmonious application of these two principles will secure good
      relations between the church and the state and will help to solve many
      problems that exist currently.

      - How do you think that this model of a good collaboration between the
      church and the state can work in European countries?

      - I think collaboration between the church and the state is essential
      for the benefit of the people. But in every country there is a
      different situation -and also every country has a different history
      from the histories of other countries. And I think the legislation
      regarding the relationship between churches and states should be
      peculiar to every country. There can be no universal model because all
      models have to take into account history and also the percentage of
      the faithful of the particular church.

      - Your Eminence, in Europe we are watching in recent years an 'attack'
      on the churches and the religious factor from the atheists. We saw
      that people wanted Christian symbols to be removed from public areas
      such as the courts or even schools. What is your opinion about it?

      - I think it is a crime to remove Christian symbols from the public
      spheres in Europe. Europe has been and will remain a Christian
      continent. With all respect to all other faiths which exist and have
      existed for centuries in Europe, this continent is indeed a Christian
      continent where the majority of the population belong to various
      Christian churches. The removal of the Christian symbols from the
      public spheres is a great offence to Christianity and to each
      Christian in particular. We Christians do not mind when we come to a
      Muslim country where they have Muslim symbols exhibited in all public
      corners. And if we want to respect our Muslim brothers and sisters as
      well as representatives of other religions we have to do it on a
      mutual basis. When we speak about the building of the mosques in
      Europe for example, or minarets in Switzerland, we must also discuss
      such issues as the building of churches in Saudi Arabia or the
      situation of the Christian population in Iraq or in Afghanistan. We
      can not only go forward in further respecting Muslims in Europe
      without asking them to respect the rights of Christians in other parts
      of the world. Another thing is that when people say that because
      public spheres are open to anybody therefore there should be no
      symbols of any religion this should be regarded as a false argument
      because atheism is not a common eliminator of all religions. On the
      contrary, religions can coexist peacefully with one another as the
      experience of Russia shows for many centuries. We had a Muslim
      population for many centuries and we had no problems, no religious
      wars and Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists lived peacefully in
      one country. And nobody demanded from the others that they remove
      their religious symbols. For me a Muslim religious symbol present in
      social services is not an offence. And I believe that for Muslims or
      Jews or Buddhists, Christian symbols are not a matter of concern. They
      are only a matter of concern to atheists and agnostics. But they also
      have the wrong symbols and let them exhibit theses symbols if they
      wish in the public sphere. Christianity was not created only for
      private use. Christianity was created by Jesus Christ himself so that
      it can be felt in the public sphere. The Christian Church has a
      missionary imperative to go and teach the people and to baptize them
      in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And
      for this mission it needs the public arena.

      - But the atheists and the agnostics are still a minority in most of
      the European countries as well as countries like yours and mine where
      the official religion is the Orthodox Christianity. How will the
      churches and the faithful tolerate these 'minorities' who try to
      impose their will on the majority?

      - We do not want to impose our religious world view on anybody. But we
      do not accept that atheism or the atheist approach should be imposed
      on religious people worldwide. We believe that the presence of
      religious symbols in the social services is an important feature of
      democracy and of the freedom of conscience. For example you are
      wearing a cross and you are free to do so in Greece. But if you come
      to Great Britain you might be asked to hide it. I remember the
      situation when in Soviet times school children were not allowed to
      wear crosses - even under a T-shirt. I don't think we should return to
      such situation in contemporary Europe. If we speak about the freedom
      of conscience, it also includes the freedom of publicly expressing
      faith. And the public expression of faith means that you may wear the
      cross if you wish and that you may put the cross in your school class
      if you are a school teacher and so on. And there should be no way to
      remove Christian symbols from the public schools or any other public
      spaces. This is part of the notion of tolerance.

      - Let's talk about the relations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate
      and the Moscow Patriarchate. We see that they have improved
      considerably in recent years. Do you find it essential not only for
      the relations between the Patriarchates but also for the Orthodox
      people - especially in Balkans?

      - The relations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow
      Patriarchate have improved quite considerably in recent years and even
      months. This was due to the efforts of both Patriarch Kirill of Moscow
      and the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. They simply decided
      that we should move from a situation of competition and confrontation
      to a situation of trust and mutual collaboration. This does not mean
      that all the problems have been solved. We for example have not yet
      come to an agreement on the situation in Estonia which provoked a deep
      crisis between the two Patriarchates in 1996. But we are commonly
      working towards solving this problem. And I think in any event the
      collaboration between the first Orthodox Patriarchate and the largest
      Orthodox Patriarchate is essential for the benefit of the entire
      Orthodox Church. Therefore we are glad to note that there has been
      this considerable improvement in the situation and we are also glad to
      work together for the preparation of the Great and Holy Council of the
      Orthodox Church which, following what Patriarch Bartholomew has said,
      will take place within two or three years.

      - In Constantinople the Orthodox element is eliminated. What should
      the two Patriarchates do to protect the Orthodox flock? As we all
      know, Constantinople is not Christian anymore, it belongs to Turkey
      and the problems are still on for the minorities. What is your

      - First of all I think we should express solidarity, and not only in
      words but also in deeds, with Christian minorities worldwide. And then
      particular with Orthodox minorities who live in the Middle East, who
      live in Turkey and who live in other places where historically they
      constitute the majority but for various reasons - including
      demographic reasons- they are becoming a minority. I was recently in
      Kosovo and I saw how difficult the situation is there for the
      remaining Christian population. Speaking about Turkey, we should be
      aware of the fact that apart from a rather tiny Greek minority there
      is also quite a large number of people from Russia and from other
      republics of the Soviet Union who belong to the Orthodox Church. All
      of them who are practicing believers are the new flock of the
      Ecumenical Patriarchate. Therefore I think that measures should be
      taken to extend pastoral care to these people. And I know that they
      are already priests in the Ecumenical Patriarchate who speak Russian
      and who work pastorally with these people. So, I think the situation,
      though difficult, is not without hope. And the flock of the Ecumenical
      Patriarchate in Turkey is constantly growing. And this is a good sign
      and of course we are ready to assist the Ecumenical Patriarchate in
      every way in creating conditions for the pastoral care of all this
      Orthodox population regardless of their ethnic origin.

      - Your Eminence, what do you think about the fact that there is still
      a problem to the succession of the Ecumenical Patriarch? What is the
      position of the Moscow Patriarchate about this? We still do not know
      what will be done 'the day after' for the succession of Ecumenical
      Patriarch Bartholomew.

      - I think that this is a problem which has to be discussed between the
      Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Turkish authorities. I understand that
      in recent years a sort of number of hierarchs living outside of Turkey
      have been given Turkish passports. And I think this will allow them to
      participate fully in the work of the Holy Synod. Of course with
      regards to the succession it is a very delicate issue and I don't
      think we can discuss it publicly but I can assure you that if the
      Russian Orthodox Church is asked to help in one way or another it will
      do so.

      - We are watching you travelling a lot all around the world and we see
      that Russian Churches are being built in other continents too. Is it
      essential for your flock worldwide?

      - There have been many waves of immigration from Russia and from other
      countries of the former Soviet Union and now millions of
      Russian-speaking people are living all over the world. We do not build
      churches on our own initiative. But usually groups of Russian Orthodox
      believers write to the Patriarch or they write to me asking that a
      parish should be established. And then we begin to work for the
      establishment of this parish. Usually it starts as a very modest group
      of people who rent a building from the Catholics or from the civil
      authorities. But then if the flock is growing and if the parish
      becomes larger they are able to build the church for themselves. And
      there have been many Russian Orthodox churches which have been built
      recently in Europe and in other parts of the world, including for
      example Rome where a Russian Orthodox Church is now standing on the
      hill opposite Saint Peter's Cathedral. We can also for example include
      Cuba where there is now a beautiful Russian Church in Havana and many
      other places.

      - Your Eminence I would like to thank you for giving me this
      interview. What would you like to say to the Greek people who will
      watch your interview on TV and read it in internet?

      - I would like to say that Greeks should keep, protect and cherish the
      Orthodox faith. If the Greeks go in the same direction like some other
      European countries by expelling Christianity from the public sphere
      and by being afraid to express their Orthodox faith because of so
      called tolerance or political correctness they will lose their
      country. Because it will no longer be Greece. Greece is unimaginable
      without Christianity. And I think every Greek person, whether is a
      strong believer or less strong believer, should do everything to
      protect Orthodox Christianity and to make sure that it is transmitted
      from the present generation to the future generation.

      Peggy DOKOU
      Omega TV (Rhodes, Greece)
      November 3, 2010

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