Now it is only contacs with the KGB - how time changes?!?
- INTERVIEW WITH METROPOLITAN KHRIZOSTOM OF VILNIUS AND LITHUANIA
RRN - by Leonid Velekhov - Sovershenno Sekretno, No. 7, July 2003
Velekhov: In your time you appealed to sources exposing the links of the Russian Orthodox
church with KGB when you addressed the bishops' council in 1992 with a statement with
regard to Metropolitan Mefody. If I am not mistaken, you admitted yourself then that you
were recruited by KGB. As were many in those years and this seemed like a tempest in a
teapot and it did not produce any consequences. Today how do you deal with the fact that
RPTs cooperated with repressive organs?
Khrizostom: Your question contains a bit of an inaccuracy. In 1991 I stated that I had
contacts with organs of KGB. This was not a repentance but simply a statement of the fact
that in the course of eighteen years I communicated with representatives of the organs. At
the council in 1992 I really was an advocate for the creation of a commission for
investigation of the contacts of clergy, and the higher bishops first of all, with state
security. I never condemned and never accused those who cooperated. I wanted for a
commission to expose those who had betrayed, slandered, or reported on parishioners; such
clerics really deserved punishment and expulsion from our ranks. I myself had contact with
KGB, but I was not an informer. But I was forced to have contact; such was the system. And
I am sure that the overwhelming majority of bishops were forced to enter into contacts with
the organs. The whole question is what was the nature of these contacts: some curried favor
and did everything they were told. Others could debate, not consent, and assert their
rights, as I did. In the contacts with KGB themselves I do not see anything prejudicial;
this was an organ of the state and we were its citizens.
Velekhov: And you have nothing to repent of?
Khrizostom: Public repentance is not repentance but only a demonstration. It is no accident
that the Christian church eliminated public repentance back in the third century.
Velekhov: And your attitude toward Metropolitan Mefody? In your speeches at the beginning
of the nineties he figured in the capacity of a person who made a church career thanks to
cooperation with KGB. Or did he also only "have contact" under compulsion without causing
harm to specific people nor to the reputation of the Orthodox church as a whole?
Khrizostom: Of Metropolitan Mefody I said: I do not rule out that he was an agent of KGB.
That was my assumption. Once we were not only colleagues in the work of the Department of
External Church Relations, but even friends. At one time I shared confidential information
with him and he with me. From this event I also drew the conclusion that he had contact
with KGB not only for the benefit of the church but he also pursued his own gain.
Velekhov: And in your view does a person at all have the moral right to be a high bishop
with a past as a KGB agent?
Khrizostom: I do not completely rule this out. The history of Christ's church knows many
examples when not very worthy persons headed it. The patriarch is elected by a local
council whose participants are guided not only by objective but also by frankly personal
motives. We believers trust in the providence of God. But he also permits unworthy
representatives of the higher clergy to be elected.
Velekhov: In your view how, in general, should relations of the church and the secular
state be arranged?
Khrizostom: The church should conduct its saving mission and its representatives should
play around with the powers that be as little as possible. The church should judge the
actions of society and the authority from an exclusively moral position. Our church spent
long years under the yoke of an atheist state and now, having received definite freedom, it
wants to speak out, to give advice to the authorities, and to interfere in politics.
Velekhov: That's simple. Today the church in Russia is surrounded with respect and honor,
at times even extreme and ostentatious. The first persons of the government attend church
and stand through solemn prayer services. Does the church need this exaggerated attention
on the part of the secular government?
Khrizostom: That is a very dangerous phenomenon. The majority of believers, seeing
representatives of the government in a church with candles in their hands, do not believe
their sincerity. Our society is religionless; one should not confuse this with atheistic.
We have people who do not believe anything. The authorities are only demonstrating their
loyalty to the church, but essentially the church is in a complex situation. It does not
own its property. According to the new law on land the church is supposed to buy the land
on which churches have been built. But where is it going to get the money for this? In
this sense everything was arranged much more properly in Lithuania. There are good, just
laws, and I am guided by them and do not depend on the relations of the authorities with
me. Rulers come and go, but the laws remain. The way the church in Russia today is shown
favor by the first persons of the government evokes nothing other than alarm in me.
Velekhov: You touched on your ministry in Lithuania. Here in Russia much is said about the
bad attitude toward Russians in the Baltic states and, consequently, the bad attitude
toward the Orthodox church. Is everything so bad with you?
Khrizostom: The situation is quite different in the three Baltic states. In Lithuania it is
much more pleasant. All who wanted it had Lithuanian citizenship from the beginning,
regardless of nationality. There are 219,000 Russians living in Lithuania, the overwhelming
majority of whom, more than 200,000, took local citizenship. In last year's census, there
were 141,000 Orthodox in Lithuania. Its property has been returned to the church and the
income of the church and the clergy is not subject to taxes. We representatives of the
Orthodox church have absolutely the same rights as Catholics, who constitute more than 90%
of the local believers.
Velekhov: Regarding this: you live and serve in a state where the overwhelming majority of
believers are Catholics. What do you think: is it not time for relations between the Roman
Catholic and Orthodox churches to warm up? Is the "rock hard" position of some hierarchs of
Orthodoxy with respect to a possible visit to Russia by Pope John Paul II correct?
Khrizostom: It is hard for me to comment on the point of view of His Holiness the patriarch
on the pope's visit. But you know that the Vatican also occupies a position with respect to
the Orthodox church that is not fraternal. I participated in the process of a rapprochement
of Moscow and the Vatican and I am even considered pro-Catholic, a secret Catholic. And I
really relate to the Catholic church as a whole with great respect. But the Vatican is not
the whole Catholic church. For example, in Lithuania at the official level relations
between the Catholic and Orthodox churches are rather cold, but on the human level, at the
level of the flock, they are quite normal. Catholics come to my worship services and buy
candles and light them and cross themselves in their own way, and nobody is upset or
alarmed. I often ask them why are you coming here since there is a Catholic church right
next door? And I hear answers of the type: my late husband was Orthodox and I came here to
pray and light a candle for the repose of his soul. In relations among religious
confessions and between believers and nonbelievers there should be no place for hatred and
hostility; that in my view is the most important. But of course I do not very much like it
when hierarchs of the Orthodox church talk about some "expansion of the Catholic church in
Russia." After all this is nothing more than evidence that we simply are doing our work
badly. In conditions of freedom of faith we should ourselves win the hearts and minds of
people and not depend on protectionism on the part of the state.