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Conversation w/Fr. A. Pihach, OCA rep to MP

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  • Nina Tkachuk Dimas
    English w/photo: http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=99912 Russian w/photo: http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=99913 ENGLISH VERSION:
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2013
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      English w/photo: http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=99912

      Russian w/photo: http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=99913

      ENGLISH VERSION: Patriarch told me not to
      forget to serve both the English speaking and the Russian speaking
      parishioners. A Conversation with Archimandrite Alexander (Pihach), the
      Moscow representative of the OCA
      ________________________________

      "Portal-Credo.Ru": Dear Father Alexander! I'd
      like to congratulate you with the beginning of your service and your arrival in
      Moscow. I think, the representative of the Orthodox Church in America to the
      Moscow Representation is one of the key posts in the administration of OCA, if
      only because the OCA is autocephalous in relationship to the Moscow
      Patriarchate.
       
      But, meanwhile, not everyone in America knows how this
      Representation is structured, its status and how it is connected with the clergy
      and parishioners of the Moscow Church of st. Catherine the Great Martyr in the
      Fields, where it is located. I think that if you answer a few questions, it will
      be interesting for many Orthodox, both in America and in Russia.
       
      Just what is the OCA representation in Moscow? Is it merely an
      office or the entire Church on Ordynka Street? How many people do you have on
      staff?
       
      Archimandrite Alexander (Pihach): As an
      autocephalous Church, the OCA should have a Representation on the territory of
      its mother-Church, that is the ROC MP. To be more specific, this is the only OCA
      Representation in existence. The ROC made available to us the metochion and the
      parish of St. Catherine the Great Martyr in the Fields, where I serve
      simultaneously as priest-in-charge and the OCA's representative. Moreover, the
      Moscow Patriarchate made an apartment available for the priest-in-charge; and
      the OCA's office is in the metochion. In reality, here's how it appears: parish
      life equips and finances parish and metochion life -- and, there is a
      representative who is paid by the OCA. Actually, I am the only permanent
      representative. The other clerics and administrative staff are from Russia.
       
      - I'd like to clarify a nuance which is of interest to all -
      does the OCA have property in the metochion?
       
      - No, this Representation is free for us to use, but it
      belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate.
       
      - Thank you. I get it. Thus it appears that you serve several
      bosses simultaneously; a conflict may arise between them, a conflict of
      interests.
       
      - Well, it frequently happens just this way. I must
      consider OCA opinions and interests, those of the Moscow vicariate with which
      our parish has a relationship, and, of course, the Moscow Patriarchate's
      Department of External Affairs -- that is, my direct leaders are the OCA's
      Metropolitan Tikhon, ROC's leader Patriarch Kirill, and we also have a working
      relationship with Metropoitan Hilarion, with the vicariate and the dean of the
      Moscow Diocese, where the metochion is located.
       
      - A question with the greatest interest: what is the
      relationship of a foreign priest-in-charge with a Moscow parish?
       
      - Wonderful relations! There are no problems or questions
      which could not be resolved. I do understand and speak Russian. Moreover, I am
      not the only priest; there are local clerics from among the Moscow Patriarchal
      priests.
       
      - And what is the Moscow parish's reaction to church services
      conducted in English? BTW - how often do these take place?
       
      - On Sundays. A great number of parishioners require
      prayers in their native English language, and some may use the possibility to
      hear and learn English through liturgical texts. As you may understand, aside
      from Russian-speaking Muscovites, our services are attended by English speaking
      Orthodox from America and Canada, by those who work and live in Moscow. And some
      time ago our parish was increased by children, at this point by grown children
      who lived in America during their childhood and have now returned to Russia once
      their parents fulfiled their American contracts. That is, these children know
      English and don't want to lose it; they attend our parish for language practice.
      This is wonderful, considering the fact that the parish has English language
      courses. Even American tourists come her! Orthodox members of the OCA!
       
      - Father Alexander, what is your status in Moscow - that of a
      diplomat or a representative of an American public organization? I have in mind
      - what questions are you authorized to resolve: only ecclesial ones or can you
      participate in some-sort of projects organized in Russia? Can US citizens in
      Russia turn to you for help - as to an embassy?
       
      - I am in Russia on a 'humanitarian visa' which I received
      on the basis of an invitation by the Moscow Patriarchate. I would like to
      emphasize that the OCA did not send me as a representative; the Moscow
      Patriarchate invited me. It is somewhat inconvenient that while the visa is in
      effect for a year, the actual stay is limited to 90 days But, that's okay --
      I'll get accustomed. Although I don't have a diplomatic status, I work very
      closely with: the embassies of those countries which have OCA parishes -- these
      being the USA, Canada and Mexico. I am invited to all sorts of events which take
      place in these embassies; for this reason I really may be able to help citizens
      of these countries if something befalls them on Russian territory. I believe
      that our entire parish would respond to someone's troubles. In any event, I do
      not have any moral right to refuse to help.
       
      - And do you cooperate with other foreign religious groups
      working in Moscow?
       
      - Of course! First of all, there is the friendship of
      American clergy. In Spaso-House (the home of the American ambassador in Moscow)
      from the times of Eisenhower -- that is the 1940s, there has been a Protestant
      parish But these days Moscow has Catholic and Lutheran and Anglican parishes --
      they're all English speaking! We hae developed wonderful relationships and we
      communicate.
       
      - Have you been officially presented to the Moscow
      Patriarchate?
       
      - The process of my being presented began with the Most
      Blessed Tikhon, Metropolitan of All America and Canada sending a letter to
      Patriarch Kirill of All Russia with recommendations. Some time passed; I went to
      Moscow, acquainted myself with he future site of my work, later consented. But I
      received Patriarch Kirill's blessing just recently -- in the Dormition Cathedral
      in the Kremlin Our conversation was brief; it took place after the Patriarch
      served Liturgy -- but, nevertheless, the Patriarch had time to tell me not to
      forget to serve (nourish) both the English speaking and the Russian speaking
      parishioners. The service in the Domitian Cathedral communicating with the
      Patriarch made a deep and pleasant impression on me.
       
      - Did you have any experience working in the area of church
      diplomacy before arriving in Moscow?
       
      - In general -- no. But I did have administrative duties in
      the OCA and, it seems, everything will go well.
       
      - Do you have any personal or friendly contacts in the
      ROC?
      - Of course, but not many.
       
      - Do you believe the ROC MP administration has exhibited any
      interest in your numerically-small jurisdiction?
       
      - Of course. They granted autocephaly and will always
      carefully watch what is happening. Moreover, the flow of Orthodox immigrants to
      America continues and somebody ought to nourish them.
       
      - Perhaps ROCOR?
       
      - All canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in North
      America.
       
      - How did you learn Russian? Although I would say it is, to
      some degree, Ukrainian.
       
      - My ancestors came to Canada from Austria-Hungary in 1890!
      So it turns out that we are the eighth generation of Orthodox Christians in
      Canada!
       
      - Ukrainian Orthodox?
       
      - No. The Russian Orthodox Church in North America always seemed
      more canonical to me. We all came from the Russian Orthodox Church.
       
      - Were there other clerics in your family?
       
      - No. I'm the only one. I am a product of the Orthodox Church in
      America and a student of one of its founders, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, as well
      as Fr. John Meyendorff.
       
      - Did you manage to hear their lectures?
       
      - Oh, yes!
       
      - Had you been to Russia, particularly Moscow, before arriving
      here to work?
       
      - Yes, but [only] as a guest. I went to Ukraine more often.
       
      - How do you like the Capital? Would you be able to live here?
      Is there a chance that you'll like it here so much that you'll want to stay here
      forever.
       
      - I like Moscow.It is a large city and it is interesting to live
      here.It is unlikely that I will want to stay here forever: Canada is still my
      homeland. But while I'm here - I am very aware that I have a permanent
      representative of the Orthodox Church in America.
       
      Interviewed by Svetlana Vais,
      Moscow,
      for "Portal-Credo.Ru"

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