Tending To Souls: An Interview With Metropolitan Hilarion

September 12, 2009

Selections from an interview with Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, from an interview by Alexander Bondarev, editor of the magazine Tribuna russkoj mysli [Tribune of Russian Thought].

Regarding the “8th Ecumenical Council”:

Editors: Vladyka, many are now discussing the need for convening a Pan-Orthodox conference. For a great many unresolved problems have developed between the Orthodox Churches, which should be discussed together. At the same time, there are rumors among the people of the Church that this must be something like an 8th Ecumenical Council, that such an assembly would make decisions of a renovationist character: moving to the new calendar, etc. What is your view on the idea of convening a Pan-Orthodox conference, and the fears surrounding it?

Metropolitan Hilarion: There are many questions of a general nature in the life of the Local Orthodox Churches which need mutual resolutions, and the Churches must have such means of communication. We sometimes have controversies with the Constantinople Patriarchate, which views the diaspora differently than the Russian Orthodox Church does. The Ecumenical Patriarch, of course, must be honored for his historical place in the hierarchy of the Local Churches as first among equals, but there cannot be universal authority with only one bishop in the Orthodox Church.

The universal character of the council is determined by the fullness of the Church only afterwards. As far as an 8th Ecumenical Council is concerned, I feel that one is necessary. Ecumenical Councils were always convened to defend the Church against all sorts of heresies which arose at one time or another. We must have a great deal of spiritual strength to preserve the pureness of the faith. In this regard, there can be no political reasons to gather such a council.

Regarding relations with the Roman Catholic church:

Editors: Vladyka, lately the external assault by the atheist world on the Church is becoming more apparent. The European Union in its constitution refused to recognize the Christian foundations of the European culture. Parades of sodomites are becoming a sad reality in our day. In connection with this, much is said about the need for joint action by the Orthodox Church with the Catholic Church in the battle for morality. But naturally, the fair question arises about the limits of interrelationships and the boundaries of joint action. Unfortunately, the idea of “sister churches” is tossed around, which evokes bafflement and indignation among Orthodox believers. What do you think the forms of cooperation with Catholics should take today?

Metropolitan Hilarion: Our bishops, at one of their Councils, discussed this matter and reached the conclusion that in matters of charity and social care we can cooperate with members of other Christian confessions. But we can have no cooperation in prayer or divine services. I think that today, in light of the global moral crisis, the Russian Church can hope for joint action with the Catholic Church, which preserved certain traditions of Christian morality. In this matter, of course, we can work with them.

We deem unacceptable the concept of “sister churches.” The teachings of the Catholic Church are completely unacceptable for us, especially with regard to the dogmatic teachings of the place the Roman bishop holds in the Church. There are other differences as well. But in social matters, for the sake of the people, we can and must work together.

Regarding guidance to the laity, especially journalists:

Editors: The Church is where there is a bishop, divine services can only be performed by clergymen, but the Church is composed of the laity, upon whom much depends. What would you wish for our Orthodox laity, Orthodox journalists? We ask, Vladyka, to len your guidance with us and our readers.

Metropolitan Hilarion: The most important thing in our faith is our inner life. If we pay attention only to the external, the “cover of the book,” and do not bring order to our souls, if we do not have a close relationship with the Lord, then all that is external will be of no use.

Our goal is the salvation of souls, and everyone must tend to this first and foremost. If we pray more, if we struggle to obey the laws, then not only will we work towards our salvation and approach God, but our Church and our people will become stronger, will regain health. Everyone who comes to Christ cannot do this because it is fashionable, for appearance’s sake. If we conduct our spiritual podvig and prepare our souls for the grace of God, for communion with the Lord, if we pray together, then the entire country will heal. Every one of us must tend to our souls first of all.

Read the full interview at http://tinyurl.com/l3v9nw.

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