Alternative Orthodoxy tries to consolidate
COMING OUT OF THE CATACOMBS
by Alexander Soldatov
Portal-credo.ru. 15 July 2003
An extremely unusual church meeting took place on Sunday, 13 July, in
the hall of a private clinic of St. John in the yard of an old house on
Radio Street in the center of Moscow. At a long table, decorated with small
bouquets of flowers, were assembled eleven bishops and five priests of
several "branches" of the True-Orthodox church. The "Associated Bishops'
Council of the True-Orthodox Church in Russia" was held at the residence
of Metropolitan Rafail Prokopiev, who heads up one of these "branches."
It was an event unprecedented in the history of native "alternative Orthodoxy"
(as sometimes the Orthodox parishes that are outside the jurisdiction of
the "official" Russian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate are called).
The correspondent of "Portal-credo.ru," who arrived at the place before
10 a.m., entered the one-story, nineteenth-century house situated next
to the clinic, the church of the holy angel Rafail, where the initiator
of the council usually serves. Relying on his own intuition and experience
of participation in such councils of other churches, the correspondent
imagined that such an important church event would be preceded by some
special solemn service with the participation of bishops. This presupposition
was supported by the day on which the council was scheduled, Sunday. However,
the service in the church of St. Rafail was conducted by only one priest,
of a rather intellectual appearance, and an archdeacon. In the church,
which was rather cozy and arranged in a ancient church canonical style,
about fifteen persons were worshiping, mainly women of middle age and three
gray-haired men. One of them told the correspondent that registration of
the council's participants was taking place in the neighboring building,
in the clinic.
The clinic of St. John (apparently it bears the name of the forerunner
of the Lord) was created and run by Metropolitan Rafail, who until recently
was known as a "national healer." Obviously this enterprise is rather profitable
because the whole premises of the clinic are outfitted with the last word
in technology and sparkle with irreproachable European maintenance Registration
of the council's participants at the pretentious registration stand was
conducted by a priest with an ascetic appearance, who gave to all registrants
badges with the emblem "Holy Synod of the True-Orthodox Church" and materials
of the council. After registration an usher in a white shirt with a black
necktie accompanied each participant or guest into the meeting hall, adapted
from the clinic's hall, apparently the most spacious of its premises. The
path from the registration into the room went along a winding corridor
decorated with contemporary icons with quaint lamp holders made in European
designer style of a completely futuristic feel. At one of the crossways
of the corridor there was a kind of bar structure where several elegantly
dressed young women poured coffee for the council participants to the accompaniment
of "Russian radio."
It is necessary to give the organizer of the council his due; it was
conducted in an absolutely open manner and anybody who wanted to, in principle,
could attend. Besides clergy in the hall there were several journalists
(including two television reporters with cameras) and apparently also parishioners
of the church of St. Rafail and clinic workers. The bishops' council itself
presented a rather mixed picture stylistically; an elder Metropolitan Epifany
Kaminsky, who heads the "Sekach branch" of the Catacomb church, whose hierarchy
arose at the beginning of the 1970s, was sitting between two young metropolitans,
Vitaly and Venedikt. One of them did not even have a beard. At the head
of the table sat the chairman of the council, the patriarchal custodian,
Metropolitan Rafail, who is the driving force of the whole "association
process." He really is one of the most well known leaders of contemporary
"alternative Orthodoxy." Interviews with him have appeared in the columns
of influential central newspapers and foreign news media. The metropolitan
came from the military. In the 1970s he served as a soviet instructor in
Syria, where he was severely wounded, after which his leg was partially
amputated. After being discharged he got carried away with public healing,
and soon he converted to Orthodoxy. Rafail was first ordained in the extremely
dubious and practically self-consecrated "Lamekin branch" of IPTs; however
in 1997 he was again ordained to the full degree of priesthood in the newly
formed RIPTs, which received its apostolic succession from the Ukrainian
Autocephalous Orthodox church (which also is not recognized by the "official"
local Orthodox churches). But a most energetic and passionate bishop of
this church, he soon became its head, although at the same time a schism
erupted in RIPTs which gradually led to a series of new schisms. Some of
the "branches" that left RIPTs decided now to unite again under the aegis
of Metropolitan Rafail. However for the first time in all the history of
the "neocatacomb" movement, traditional catacombists, in the person of
Metropolitan Epifany, who always avoided appearing in public and was very
unwilling to have any contacts with "outsiders," were included in the unification
process. Drawing in the authentic catacomb tradition is an undoubted success
for Metropolitan Rafail, who has extremely strengthened his position among
other "alternative" "branches."
The council began with greetings and an extremely long (more than 90
minutes) report by Metropolitan Rafail, divided into 33 chapters (in accordance
with the number of years of the earthly life of Christ). The general thrust
of the report was, it seems, liberal, although moderate in order not to
"scare off" the catacombists. Thus, in the section "On divine liturgy"
the metropolitan called for making "a more lavish" reading of sacred scripture,
reading it mostly in Russian, and to cleanse the lives of the saints of
"historic unreliability." Metropolitan Rafail called for adopting a "multiplicity
of liturgical rituals" and even "theological research" of the churches
that are joining in the new association, thereby giving respect to the
Apostolic Orthodox church, which is famed for its extreme liberalism and
calls itself (for example, in the words of its priest Gleb Yakunin) the
successor of the renovationists.
Indirectly the speaker even called for an ecumenical dialogue with other
Christian churches (carefully avoiding, however, the word "ecumenism" itself),
noting that the subject of such dialogue should be "the Lord's supper"
(which is how the sacrament of the Eucharist was called in the report).
The metropolitan declared his readiness for dialogue with both the Moscow
patriarchate and Old Believer churches (dialogue with the latter has already
been conducted with some success; Metropolitan Alimpy Gusev promised to
facilitate the allocation to RIPTs of the unowned church on Malaia Androniev
Street in Moscow. In general, the "ecumenical" part of the report contained
a mass of extremely bold statements: Metropolitan Rafail spoke flatteringly
of the Muslims and even acknowledged that Buddhists have "positive spiritual
The metropolitan's political doctrine is based on the doctrine of human
rights and complete freedom of religious organizations from control on
the part of the state. "The freedom of the church," he stressed, "is the
foundation of the principles of its relations with all civil structures."
When Metropolitan Rafail solemnly proclaimed the foundations of the
teaching of the new united church, something completely unexpected and
nightmarish occurred in the hall. The secretary of Metropolitan Epifany,
Hegumen Alexander, an extremely thin, short man about 35 to 40 years of
age with a yellow face and gray hair twisted carelessly in a "tail," shouted
in a horrible voice; his whole ascetic body began to shake furiously and
foaming at the mouth he crawled under the at which the session of the bishops'
council was being held. The embarrassed priests sitting alongside the raging
man pulled him out from under the table and took him out of the room. For
another 30 seconds a deathly silence prevailed and the premises, it seemed,
were filled with a kind of infernal tension. Raging always produces a heavy
impression, and when the one possessed is a clergyman, it is doubly awesome.
Numbness involuntarily seized all the members of the council and absolutely
all present. Metropolitan Rafail tried to relieve the situation and said
in an emphatic, calm voice: "It's hot in here, stuffy. Now give him some
help." The reading of the report continued.
Metropolitan Rafail finished his report with a call for a more vigorous
evangelism. To the amazement of some council participants, the metropolitan
pointed out as an example of evangelistic zeal the Jehovah's Witnesses
, who go to every house with their proclamation. The metropolitan criticized
the much used term "canonical territory," emphasizing that nobody can "stake
out a claim" for the souls of people and make them something like serfs.
After the report a short break was declared, during which three metropolitans,
Kiriak, Rafail, and Elifany, conducted an improvised press conference.
Twp reporters posed Questions especially vigorously, alternating with one
another, one of whom represented a unknown foreign television company and
the other "Echo of Moscow" radio (the latter displayed a knowledge of questions
of the structure of "alternative" Orthodoxy in Russia rare for a secular
journalist). The metropolitans said many good words about the necessity
of unification, but when to an explanation of specific reasons for their
separation from the Moscow patriarchate a certain stuttering arose. Metropolitan
Epifany took the floor and said that in Belorussia there are many Catholic
churches where they baptize by affusion, which is the essence of "Catholic
faith." In patriarchal churches, they have begun baptizing in the same
way, which means that they have begun to follow that very "Catholic faith."
In addition, RPTsMP even performs a marriage if one of the spouses is Catholic
without demanding that he accept Orthodoxy. The catacomb elder called giving
communion to unmarried couples a sin of RPTsMP of no less importance. The
liberal Metropolitan Kiriak Timirtsidi tried to explain his nonacceptance
of RPTsMP in his own way; he declared that in the "dominant church" there
exists "complete distortion of the spirit," and conciliarity is absent.
He reported that episcopal rank in RPTsMP now is valued at 200,000 dollars,
"and everybody knows it." IPTs also cannot accept the "militaristic structure"
that, according to Metropolitan Kiriak, has developed in RPTsMP. Knowing
that conservative Orthodox believers usually criticize RPTsMP mainly for
ecumenism, the "Portal-credo.ru" correspondent was interested in what was
the attitude of members of the council to this phenomenon. Metropolitan
Rafail said with clear irritation that "ecumenism is simply conversations,"
and Metropolitan Kiriak suggested "not posing that question for now," although
from the hall, to which some of the bishops already had returned from their
break, shouts rang out: "Ecumenism is heresy! Of course, heresy!" Especially
vigorous rejection of ecumenism was expressed by Georgian Bishop Nikolai.
Even after the beginning of the second session of the council he continued
to argue loudly with his neighbor bishops: "If ecumenism is not a heresy,
then I would be able to serve happily in the Georgian patriarchate. So
then why did I leave it?"
The second session of the council opened with two reports by IPTs managers,
Archbishop Alexander Mironov and Metropolitan Kiriak Timirtsidi. These
reports, to a great extent, appeared to be directly contradictory to each
other. Archbishop Alexander read his text confusingly, with a mass of qualifications,
so that it was simply impossible to understand a considerable part of it.
The bishop used a loud, sharp voice and an extremely "specific" approach
to church problems, which were displayed in the report with maximum sharpness.
Metropolitan Kiriak, by contrast, spoke quietly and intellectually, often
breaking from the text and improvising, quoting sacred scripture abundantly
in Greek. And he spoke not so much about urgent and clear church problems
as about theoretical condition of church conciliarity, understanding of
episcopal ministry in apostolic time, and the tragic consequences of the
"Constantinian epoch" in the history of the church.
Archbishop Alexander began his report with a mention of the significant
decree of Patriarch Tikhon No. 362, which, in his opinion, serves as the
basic of the autonomous coexistence on one and the same territory of different
church jurisdictions. However now the speaker is convinced the question
of unification of these jurisdictions and the creation by them of a single
administrative body "is hovering in the air." The archbishop made two basic
arguments in favor of unification: the necessity of cooperation with government
ruling bodies (of all the "alternative" churches represented at the council,
only one, that headed by Metropolitan Rafail, is registered) and establishment
of contacts "with local churches" (just which churches he meant by this
the speaker did not specify). The chief hindrance to unification Archbishop
Alexander considers to be the inevitability of disputes between the chairman
of the synod and its members (the former tends toward personal administration,
the latter to the equality of rights of synod members). The speaker acknowledged
the presence of ideological disagreements within the "true-Orthodox" group,
between liberals and conservatives. "We are experiencing a period of transition
that has to affect the church, too," Archbishop Alexander said in the spirit
of "perestroika," probably implying his sympathy for liberals more than
conservatives. In conclusion, especially intensifying his voice, the archbishop
called: "We must cleanse our ranks of those who have forgotten who has
displayed their shortcomings. . . . The overwhelming majority of our clergy
have no piety at all or else it is in rudimentary form." Further Archbishop
Alexander made a declaration with far-reaching political consequences:
"We must pose the question of church property remaining from the synodal
period. There should not be any kind of 'use,' but only ownership!"
Metropolitan Kiriak, as if justifying himself for his brother, began
his report with a penitent acknowledgement that not all archpastors of
IPTs act "on the level," and he tried to show a model of a real scholarly,
civilized report. "On earth there exist many parts of the single church
of Christ," Metropolitan Kiriak stated ambiguously. "The unity of the church
should be in diversity. When we say that we are the ones who are true and
the others are heretics, we commit great sin. The spirit blows where he
wishes." Further, speaking in a thoroughly ecumenical language, Metropolitan
Kiriak called "for not treating western Christian with scorn;" the only
protestant confession whose heresy he acknowledged quite definitively is
the Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not worship the Holy Trinity. Further the
metropolitan proposed a renovationist program of reform: "Preaching should
avoid one-sided asceticism, which is unacceptable in ordinary worldly life.
. . . It is necessary to serve and to read sacred scripture in a living
language." The speaker concluded: "God forbid that members of the church
are imbued with a false zeal for the faith."
Several times Archbishop Antony Kobrat tried to get into debates of
the reports. He was the most impressive participant in the council in terms
of his external appearance; rings adorned his fingers, he had a wide red
belt over his vestments and a skull cap that also was red with an extremely
unusual shape. His calls were not always clear, but on the whole he argued
for strengthening of discipline and for "a very strong supreme church authority.
Metropolitan Venedikt, by contrast, noted that "the church is not a nursery
and not a prison. . . The first bishop is not a dictator." As if explaining
his unusual external appearance (we recall that Metropolitan Venedikt was
the only beardless bishop at the council), he declared: "It is very bad
to imitate the bishops of the Moscow patriarchate in their external appearance"
and acknowledged that he considers RPTsMP "without grace." The last declaration
did not meet with approval of the majority of those present, but Metropolitan
Venedikt hastened to qualify that this was his personal opinion and he
did not impose it upon anyone.
After the debates they turned to a discussion of basic principles of
unification, set forth in a separate document. There were almost no objections
except to the second point with rejects "the vertical of authority." In
the end, they settled on the formula: "The vertical of authority, as is
seen in civil authority, cannot be accepted" in the church. Metropolitan
Rafail, who had just been elected patriarchal caretaker, declared Patriarch
Tikhon's order No. 362 rescinded, since the "supreme church authority"
in the local Russian church has been "reestablished." After some discussion
by Bishop Nikolai about the antiquity of the autocephalous Georgian church,
all hierarchs signed the act of unification and the bishops' oath, composed
in the main according to the text of a bureaucrat.
All of the documents adopted at the current council, Metropolitan Rafail
explained, should be confirmed at a local council, which he proposed convoking
in February of next year. The metropolitan was convinced that such a council
should certainly be held in a church, and since by February there will
be a church (this will be either the Old Believer church on Malaia Androniev
Street or a newly built church in the Moscow suburb of Denezhnikovo, near
Bronnitsy, where Metropolitan Rafail owns a large parcel of land). According
to the metropoitan, the invitation to this council will be distributed
even "to representatives of local Orthodox churches," all the way to the
Adopting the text of a "model bishops' oath," participants of the council
again called attention to the "errors of the Moscow patriarchate," which
every cleric coming to IPTs from RPTsMP must renounce. The list of "errors"
was confirmed in the following form: "Church modernism, simony, informing,
disclosure of the secrets of the confessional, and the 'declaration' of
Metropolitan Sergius of 1927."Someone of the clergy present again was interested
"and what about ecumenism?" To which Metropolitan Kiriak responded quite
distinctly: "We omit the word 'ecumenism' so that they will not accuse
us of being obscurantist."
Before the end of the council Archbishop Alexander, with his awesome
voice, recalled a couple of "delicate" problems which, in his opinion,
should be resolved by the council (in the end only one of them was resolved).
He began with the story of Hegumen Maxim, who, serving near Pensa, "found
a woman, got married, and a child was born," although now he is again serving
in the capacity of a hegumen and even is secretary of the council. "There
cannot be such a hegumen in the church," the archbishop concluded, immediately
going over to laying out a similar case of his brother, Archbishop Arseny
Kiselev, who had not come to the council. "Archbishop Arseny lives with
a woman; such a thing cannot be," Archbishop Alexander shouted at full
voice. Metropolitan Kiriak, in whose diocese the young Hegumen Maxim now
has settled, suggested timidly: "It should be viewed individually." He
said that the married hegumen had already long ago left the woman and had
even done penance in the northern Caucasus metropolia. He recently established
a monastery in Piatigorsk, and therefore it is possible to consider that
Hegumen Maxim had completely repented and returned to the monastic life.
In principle, the council agreed with this approach; Metropolitan Rafail
just advised that such a hegumen with such an extensive biography grow
his beard long and stop dying his hair (the hegumen has already stopped
wearing an earring). The case of Archbishop Arseny, who according to several
at the council does not "live with a woman" at all, was remanded for review
of the synod. "We all value one another," Metropolitan Venedikt concluded.
The concluding discussion of the council was devoted to the procedure
for reception of clergy from RPTsMP. Some radically inclined bishops, especially
Metropolitan Venedikt, insisted on the necessity of their reordination,
although Metropolitan Epifany introduced a "conciliatory note," suggesting
receiving them through reannointing only.
With the singing of "Fitting it is. . . ." at six o'clock, the council
concluded its work. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 July 2003)
MATERIALS OF THE ASSOCIATED BISHOPS' COUNCIL OF THE TRUE-ORTHODOX CHURCH
List of participants of the bishops' council of 13 July 2003
1. His Blessedness Rafail Prokopiev, metropolitan of Moscow and all-Rus,
chairman of Holy Synod, first prelate of the True-Orthodox church.
2. His Blessedness Stefan Linitsky, metropolitan of Moscow
3. His Eminence Epifany Kamensky, metropolitan of Minsk, exarch of
the True-Orthodox church in Belorussia.
4. His Eminence Kiriak Temertsidi, metropolitan of Piatigorsk and Northern
5. His Eminence Vitaly Kuzhevatov, metropolitan of Kolomna and Russia.
6. His Eminence Venedikt Molchanov, metropolitan of Tsaritsin
7. His Eminence Alexander Mironov, archbishop of Tatarstan and Mari.
8. His Eminence Arseny Kiselev, archbishop of Krutitsy and Vladimir.
9. His Eminence Sergius Sarkisov, archbishop of Tsarskoe Selo.
10. His Eminence Damian Akimov, archbishop of Kherson and Gothia.
11. His Eminence Didim Nesterov, archbishop of Vyborg and Staraia Russa.
12. His Eminence Feodor Korobeinikov, archbishop of St. Petersburg
and Sergiev Posad.
13. His Eminence Feodor, archbishop of Klin and Podolsk.
14. Reverend Tikhon Kiselev, bishop of Penza and Simbirsk.
15. Reverend Nikolai Modebadze, bishop of Potinsk and the Black
16. Reverend Evgeny, bishop of Bronnitsk, vicar of the Moscow
17. Reverend Grigory, bishop of the Georgian True-Orthodox church.
18. Reverend Ioanniky Shendrik, bishop of Voronozh and Saratov.
19. Reverend Aleksei Skrypnikov-Daraki, bishop of Rostov and Taganrog.
20. Reverend Serafim, bishop of Gomel, vicar of exarch in Belorussia.
Basic principles of unity of the Orthodox churches:
1. The associated churches respect the internal traditions and structures
that have developed over the years: language of the divine liturgy, ritual
aspect of the divine liturgy, distinctives of the charters.
2. The vertical of authority, such as there is in civil authority,
should not be accepted by the sides, but the law for all should be the
words of Christ: "Whoever wishes to be first, let him be the servant of
3. The associated churches bear the responsibility to observe sacred
unity and not elevate candidates for bishops without mutual consent.
4. The associated churches observe in their mutual relations the commandments
of Christ's love, peace, and truth.
5. The Holy Council professes the ancient church consciousness that
conciliarity constitutes the basis of the church's structure and the sacred
link of church unity, because only the collective reason of the church
is the hopeful preserver of church traditions and the righteous judge of
arguments and disagreements that can arise within the church.
6. The contracting sides renounce mutual disciplines such as unfrocking,
anathemas, etc. Only an objective ecclesiastical court and a local council
can resolve various misunderstandings in the spirit of fraternal love.
7. The signing of the resolution on the unity of the churches may be
made only with the consent of a majority of members of the supreme administrative
bodies of the associated churches.
8. Departure from the Holy Council of the associated branches of the
Orthodox church is possible only by decision of the local council.
Resolution of the Bishop's council of the True-Orthodox church in
13 July 2003
The Holy Council, assembled in the Holy Spirit, guided by the attempts
of the Orthodox church to achieve long-awaited unity, has resolved:
To unite the Orthodox Catholic church, the Apostolic Orthodox church,
the Russian True-Orthodox church, the Kazan metropolia of the True-Orthodox
church and the Catacomb church into a single True-Orthodox church in Russia.
To confirm the basic principles of unity of the Orthodox churches.
To elect Metropolitan Rafail Prokopiev custodian of the patriarchal
throne of the True-Orthodox church
To confirm Archbishop Alexander Mironov of Tatarstan and Mari as chancellor
of the Holy Synod
To create a Holy Synod of the True-Orthodox church comprising metropolitans
Rafail, Epifany, Kiriak, and Vitaly, and Archbishop Alexander
To create a Supreme Church Council of IPTs comprising members of the
Holy Synod and all bishops, plus six representatives of the clergy and
six representatives of the laity.
To seek for ways to reunite all who are not members of the synod of
the True-Orthodox church. The signing of the resolution on the unity of
the churches may be made only with the consent of a majority of members
of the supreme administrative bodies of the associated churches.
To assemble in the near future a local council of IPTs in the city of
(tr. by PDS, posted 15 July 2003)
INTERVIEW WITH METROPOLITAN RAFAIL PROKOPIEV
THE OTHER ORTHODOXY
by Vladislav Yurchenko
Moskovskie novosti, 4 June 2002
Interview with Metropolitan Rafail (Leonid Prokopiev) of Moscow and
Krasnoiarsk, the head of the united True Orthodox Church (IPTs)
--Master, where does the name of your church come from?
--Our portion of Russian Orthodoxy in USSR and today’s Russia is called
"catacomb." There always were fewer church buildings than parishes. In
the October revolution of 1917, the civil war, and the early five year
plans the government took away from us not only church buildings but also
the lives of priests and parishioners.
--Where does the name IPTs come from?
--It was uttered by the lips of Metropolitan Joseph Petrovykh of Petrograd
in 1928, as an alternative to the official church. He is our founder. He
was shot in 1937.
--Those "Josephites" were accused of schism and sectarianism. Does that
fit your church?
--That is because we remember how after 1917 priests and monks were
shot and crucified at the gates of the altar. In 1922 and 1923 alone more
than 8,000 perished. We have not forgotten how Metropolitan Sergius Stragorodsky
violated the "Testament" of Patriarch Tikhon and with the help of GPU-NKVD
created the collaborationist Holy Synod and in 1927 published the declaration
of loyalty to the bolshevik regime. Because of this, at that time a third
of Orthodoxy "renounced" the "sergian" church. And RPTs is its successor.
RPTs has not repented for the policy of Sergius and that means that it
approves of it. The government and RPTs do not think it necessary to return
our churches and monasteries that we had in 1928.
--But now, when buildings are not returned, other churches take the
government to court.
--We have not tried to take away anybody’s churches. After all, they
are serving God there. We have built new ones, like in Petersburg, and
restored "orphaned" churches. We bought two tourist centers outside Moscow.
We will build monasteries there and there will be shelters for almost 1,000
invalids and abandoned children. We do not ask the government for anything.
But they still interfere with us there. Priests from the neighboring church
try to persuade local authorities and residents that we are sectarians.
If we build a building and invalids are going to live there in a human
fashion, who could be against that! It will reduce the terrible number
of needy people. There is room enough here for other churches to do good.
--In your earlier life you were wounded in Lebanon. But after all USSR
was not participating in direct military operations was it?
--In 1983 I was a military advisor for a Syrian brigade. An advisor
is an independent figure. But the circumstances in probing the positions
of the Israelis outside Beirut became complicated. There was no room to
move. I walked into a mine field and there was an explosion. The result
was a severe wound. I lost a leg. I have a prosthesis. The other is crippled.
I believe that this was an experience given from above and that the Lord
helped the physicians to bring me through. The wound strengthened me in
my Orthodox destiny and in 1990 I left the army to serve in the church.
--Your church is called the "united" IPTs. With whom are you united
and what preceded this?
--We are bishops from three independent Orthodox churches and separate
dioceses who agreed on unification in 1996-1998 at joint conferences of
bishops. We mark our road in this way: unity for the sake of truth,
service to God, and brotherhood of parishioners who were broken by the
conditions of the underground in USSR, and a "literal" observance of Lord’s
commands. We refuse to unite with those churches where the apostolic succession
of the priesthood has been disrupted. In the 1920s and 1930s their priests
were shot and new ones were ordained in secret or priests’ wives began
to lead them. There were parishes that did not want to have anything to
do with us because of the "hidden idea," that "truth will not exist in
the country." Many of them are in Tver, Novgorod, Siberia, the Volga
and Urals regions, and in Petersburg and Moscow.
--Did you return to the "Josephite" IPTs of 1928?
--Pretty much so. But many former parishes did not come with us. The
situation of IPTs parishes varies, from police repression to prosperity,
as in Tatarstan.
--How did you become the head of IPTs?
--It would be better for someone else to answer that question. Perhaps
at the election my comrades, bishops, thought that I was older than most
of them. It is possible that they looked at my army experience and that
I always was making peace among everybody as much as I recall. In childhood
and youth I was not peaceful. But I have become convinced not to pick a
fight by underhanded means nor to drink too much. In the army, in the exclusive
world of military settlements somewhere in Transbaikal or the Caucasus,
the commander of the brigade is often the last hope. I had to make peace
there among married couples.
--On your way from the army to the church did you have any doubts, any
--In 1990 RPTs did not respond to my suggestion to create an Orthodox
medical treatment center; I was supported in the Russian IPTs. There they
offered me the rank of deacon. But my wife did not want to be a priest’s
wife and we separated.
--What will your church be doing further in the direction of unifying
--One shouldn’t move quickly in this matter. After all we have learned
to listen to each other and after this we said: "The Lord is among us!"
The task of unification is complex and it cannot be resolved sooner than
three to five years. Not a "union" at first but something like the CIS.
Everything depends on how soon the hierarchs and parishes renounce personal
and jurisdictional pride. The Lord gave the command "Love one another"
and even more "your enemy." But the Orthodox are not enemies. How many
priests are devoted to Orthodoxy over there! They are not interested in
what is being done "up top." They worship God and want to serve the Lord
with their flock. We get along well with the Old Believers church. We have
similar priestly vestments. We also cooperate with priests of RPTs; we
have substituted for them secretly when they were sick in the Kaluga and
Perm dioceses and in Tatarstan. But under the present leadership of ROTs
unification is impossible. They must change so much that they wouldn’t
recognize themselves. It is immodest to talk about one’s self, but this
happened to me in the minefields of Lebanon.
--Some people now try to make us think that the church has become a
--Access to power and to its budget is fatal for the church as a spiritual
institution. Obviously the sad experience of the church in Byzantium and
in tsarist Russia hasn’t taught anything. "Render to God what is God’s
and to Caesar what is Caesar’s." It can participate in education, but not
in the state curriculum. I do not see any place for the Law of God there.
In literature, okay.
--What kinds of sources of income do you acknowledge for the church?
--It is impossible to do good by bad methods. The church should not
be engaged in money lending, buying, selling, or gambling. We pray for
those who in RPTs are trading in tobacco, alcohol, precious metals, and
contraceptives. May the Lord forgive them their sin. We do not have anything
against selling candles, icons, and liturgical texts, or payment for baptism
and the voluntary "tithe" of our sponsors. The one who serves at the altar
should be nourished from the altar.
--Why in Orthodoxy is there such tension in connection with the pope’s
visit to Ukraine and wish to visit Russia?
--The constitution guarantees freedom and equality of religious confessions.
But we are afraid that "they" will take away parishioners. Who is preventing
us from going to the West and taking their parishioners? But we are belittling
the Lord’s command, "Love one another" by the refusal.
--The fathers of the church say: Russians are Orthodox people. But according
to statistics there now is a clear outflow from the churches and there
is no Orthodox consciousness and morality, although nobody has been persecuting
the church for more than ten years. Has the credit of trust in you been
--In the 1990s people came to the churches with pure intentions, with
a desire to work for the glory of the Lord. And they did not find it there.
It is a shame; it is medieval form of Christianity. And the intelligentsia
and simple people did not accept it. So they went off to scientology and
the Krishnaites. Not because they are exotic but because things are more
comprehensible and useful there. It is also a shame, this seminary training
and education in the ecclesiastical schools. They are not producing pastors
but performers of rituals. They are not able to bear the gospel of Christ
to the world. The late head of the Nizhny Novgorod diocese of RPTs, Metropolitan
Nikolai, whom everybody respected, complained that he was not able to find
anybody for good pastoral counseling. Hence, the catechetical illiteracy
of Orthodox believers and their distortion of the doctrines and substitution
of trust in rituals for understanding. We are not awaiting the judgment
of God but the coming of the devil. We should be afraid that the Lord might
turn away from us. If God is protecting us, what can the devil do?
Information from MN: In Russian Orthodoxy there are around thirty different
churches and yet more independent dioceses and parishes. The process of
splitting up has been going on to the present. In the so-called catacomb
churches the doctrines, rules, liturgy, and holidays are the same as in
Orthodoxy before 1917, as is the case also in RPTs MP. The catacomb Orthodox
are distinguished by the "literalness" of their interpretation of the commandments
of Christ and the brotherhood of parishioners. They do not commemorate
Alexis II as the chief hierarch and they commemorate the government, armed
forces, and country in their own way. Three churches are united in this
society: the True Orthodox Church (IPTs), the Orthodox Catholic Church
(PKTs), and the Russian Orthodox Catholic Church (RPSTs, which before 1999
was the Russian IPTs) and independent dioceses of Belorussia, Ukraine,
and Russian, including the Russian Catacomb Church (RKTs). The new church
took the name True Orthodox Church. There are around 50 parishes and 40
churches of the new IPTs. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 June 2002)