Monthly Archives: January 2022

Orthodox Christianity in the British Isles

1% of the 65 million population of the British Isles (1) are members of the Orthodox Church. In other words, about 650,000 Orthodox Christians live here. However, as we always consider realistically that only 10% actually practise, that gives us 65,000 practising Orthodox Christians in these isles.

Orthodox Christians here belong to seven different dioceses, of which only four are significant. These are the Romanians, the Greeks, the Russians and the Serbs, as the other three groups, the Antiochians, Bulgarians and Georgians, are very small.

Firstly, there are Romanian Orthodox, 390,000 according to national statistics, who have nearly all settled here over the last twenty years. Although they number over 60% of the total number of Orthodox, they have no local bishop and suffer from a chronic lack of churches and infrastructure. Therefore, they are obliged to attend other churches, Greek and Russian in particular. Hopefully, their Church authorities will one day catch up with this recent immigration and organise adequate Church life for their people.

Secondly, there are Greek-speaking Orthodox (mainly Cypriots), over 30% of the total (195,000). They are by far the richest and best-organised, with the best infrastructure and the most bishops (five at present), but they are dying out. This is because most of them immigrated here between the 1950s and the 1970s. Thanks to the foresight and organisational abilities of earlier Greek archbishops, they have excellent infrastructure, with over 100 parish churches (which are mainly their own property) and over 100 priests, even if many of them are now ageing.

Thirdly, numbering fewer than 8% of the total, in other words, about 52,000, there are Russian-speaking Orthodox (usually not Russians from the Russian Federation, but Baltic Russians, Moldovans and Ukrainians) and also Serbian Orthodox (about 20,000) (2). However, the Serbs from earlier immigrations are ageing and have no bishop here, and the Russians are quite needlessly divided into three groups. The first group with 1 bishop and 20 priests (26,000 faithful) belongs to the Sourozh Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, the second belongs to the Western European Archdiocese within the Moscow Patriarchate, no local bishop but 14 priests (5,000 faithful) and the third group belongs to the American Synod, also known as ROCOR (1 bishop and about 1,000 faithful), which is not part of the Moscow Patriarchate but is on paper in communion with it (3). These Russian groups have been divided through a catastrophic lack of leadership and lack of planning over the last six decades, which have led to very poor infrastructure.

Finally, there are Bulgarians and Georgians, who basically have only one parish each, and the Patriarchate of Antioch. They are about 2% of the total, or 13,000. Antioch also has one parish with a bishop, plus some twenty communities, led mainly by ageing ex-Anglican clergy, who often help look after Romanian Orthodox.

Notes:

  1. Obviously, the British Isles as a geographical area does not include the island of Ireland, where, incidentally, most Orthodox clergy and parishes belong to the Patriarchate of Moscow.
  2. We put Russians and Serbs together because we both use the Orthodox (so-called ‘old’) calendar.
  3. Under its recent leadership, ROCOR has become an isolated right-wing group, which refuses to concelebrate with other Orthodox. As a result of this, in 2021 it halved in size, losing eight parishes and six priests to the Moscow Patriarchate and one priest to Antioch, as he wanted for some reason to be a bishop.

 

Kazakhstan

Since its attempted, but failed, coup d’etat by proxy in Belarus over the summer, the US State Department has stepped up operations against the Ukrainian people, supporting the illegal authorities it installed in Kiev by violence in 2014 and arming them in their genocide of the Ukrainian people in the east of that country. Having armed large numbers of Kiev troops to the teeth, financed them and sent them to the Russian borders, it has then ‘accused’ Russia of aggression by defending itself by sending troops to protect its borders! This absurd propaganda has been blindly repeated by puppet politicians and State mouthpieces in Western countries, such as the BBC.

Now, however, it seems that the US elite has attempted a coup d’etat in Kazakhstan. This is an immensely wealthy country with huge reserves of gas and oil, and most of the north and west of which is populated by Russians. The techniques used to attempt the overthrow of the Kazakh government are exactly the same as those used by the CIA in Kiev in 2014 – and so many other countries before that, especially in Latin America and Asia. The demonstrators in Kazakhstan were paid, they marched along a pre-planned route and among the crowds were snipers (just as in the Western-organised demonstrations against Tsar Nicholas II on ‘Bloody Sunday’ in January 1905, and again in Kiev in 2014). Fanatical Muslim terrorists were trained and armed by the West, just as in Syria.

Today, Bogdan Bezpalko, a member of the Council for International Relations of the Russian Federation, said that the whole affair was just another attempt to destabilise Russia, by setting up yet another anti-Russian State on the borders of Russia, just like the Ukraine. (Reported by the RIA Novosti news agency). He added that this policy had been initiated under the Trump regime by John Bolton and was all about ‘starting conflicts everywhere in the post-Soviet realm’.

It appears that Russia has stopped the protests in Kazakhstan, increasing social justice by removing the corrupt Western-backed totalitarian oligarchs, reversing their greedy price rises, and sending in troops to take the Capital’s airport, so that the US could not ship out Kazkhstan’s gold reserves, as they did in the Ukraine in 2014. On Sunday, President Lukashenko of Belarus declared that Western policy was intended to destroy ‘the centre of our Civilisation, of Orthodoxy, that is, Russia’.

Meanwhile, Patriarch Kyrill of the Moscow Patriarchate, within which we in its Archdiocese of Western Europe belong, has called Kazakhstan part of ‘historic Rus’. This came a few days after the Moscow Patriarchate opened its Exarchate in Africa, when one fifth of the priests of the Greek-financed but Egypt-based Patriarchate of Alexandria, transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate. This followed the 2018 establishment of the uncanonical US-financed but Greek-organised ‘Church’ on canonical Moscow Patriarchate territory in the western Ukraine. It is said that another fifth of the African priests will follow quite soon.

It also comes soon after the Moscow Patriarchate defended the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which is largely dependent on Russian pilgrims. Perhaps our Moscow Patriarchate intends to consecrate black bishops for Africa and Palestinian bishops for Jerusalem. Other parts of the Orthodox world largely dependent on the Russian economy, such as Cyprus, will be faced with the choice of whether they support the Moscow Patriarchate in Africa and the Ukraine or not. The position of the 24,000-strong American Synod in New York, some parts of which are still officially in communion with some parts of the Moscow Patriarchate, but which has a history of being financed by the CIA, is not yet clear.

 

Christmas in the Moscow Patriarchate in Colchester

 

Our Orthodox Christmas celebrations at St John’s Church went very well, in peace and joy. There was a prayerful and well-attended Vigil service of Great Compline and Matins on the evening of Thursday 6th January and on Friday morning the Divine Liturgy. (We do not hold a midnight service, as this would be very difficult for the many small children and families we have). Fortunately many people came to confession on Thursday evening, so we coped with the confessions, many of occasional parishioners from the Ennismore Gardens Cathedral in Knightsbridge, which is actually further away from where they live than we are. So on Friday morning we started almost on time at 9.20. At this time of year we greatly appreciate our heating system so, although the church is very large, it is very cosy.

We had the blessing to be loaned holy relics from our friends in the Romanian Church in London. These include the very fragrant myrrh-giving relics of St Demetrius, also those of St George the Great-Martyr, Sts Cosmas and Damian and earth from the grave of St Paisius the Athonite. The holy relics will remain with us till Sunday 9th.

There were about one hundred communions for our Christmas. On Sunday we will be joined by two more priests from our Patriarchal Church, when we will have  a lot more people, including all those who were unable to take the day off on Friday. After the service, there was a common meal, at the end of which the children sang the usual very sweet Ukrainian Christmas carols (koljadki).

Today we noted the message from our Patriarch Kyrill, who spoke against the phenomena of radicalism and fanaticism, which are so dangerous nowadays. He mentioned that they are not only widespread in the Holy Land, but ‘also in other parts of the world’ – as we well know. (www.pravoslavie.ru/143842.html). Nasty sectarianism is always a danger, when we have to deal with people who are not really Christians at all, but are motivated by a political or pathological ideology from abroad, cutting themselves off and refusing to concelebrate with our Moscow Patriarchate.

Why I am a Priest of the Archdiocese of Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)

The tragedy of the Russian Orthodox Church after 1917 was that the centre in Moscow did not ‘hold’ beneath the weight of atheist persecution. And so anarchy was indeed ‘loosed’. The broadly-based Russian Orthodox Church, uniting all groups and also three-quarters of the whole Orthodox Church, began to ‘fall apart’, especially outside the Soviet Union. The anarchic divisions of the twentieth century were loosed not only on the secular world, with its left and right, which resulted in yet another World War and a Cold War, they were also loosed on the Church. Sadly, Russian Orthodox Church life outside the totalitarian Soviet Union was coloured by these divisions, both in Western Europe and in North America.

Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church outside the Soviet Union, separated from Moscow by the Great Atheist Persecution, were split by politics into three separate groups. These groups were:

  1. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Mother-Church (also called ‘The Moscow Patriarchate’), not only inside the ex-Soviet Union, but also throughout the world, were at times coloured by the left-wing and were certainly used at times by the KGB and its equivalents. For example, as a young priest in Berlin in the 1960s, the future Archbishop George (Wagner) was forced to flee from it for the Paris Jurisdiction after refusing to leave and pick up messages for the KGB in the Russian cemetery there.
  2. Representatives of the international (basically today, North America, Australia and Western Europe) Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (‘ROCOR’, also called ‘ROCA’ or ‘the Synod’), were at times coloured by the right-wing and have certainly been financed at times by the CIA. For example, there was the notorious Bishop Gregory Grabbe, not to mention those clerics who have worked for the CIA and its allies in Europe, who compromise ROCOR even further.
  3. Representatives of the Western European Paris Jurisdiction (also called ‘The Exarchate’ or ‘Rue Daru’), were supposedly politically neutral. This much-changed group, considerably smaller now, as it was purified of the political elements who refused unity with the Mother-Church in 2019, is now the Archdiocese of Churches of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe. (In North America the third group, actually the largest of all, as it had been founded well before the Revolution by economic and not political immigrants from outside the then Russian Empire, was called ‘the Metropolia’ and today is ‘the OCA’. It too was supposedly politically neutral).

Only with the freeing of the Church inside the former Soviet Union after its collapse in 1991, was there any hope of unity. This meant that all groups outside Russia should also in turn have been able to free themselves from political interference and so return to unity. This began to come about only ninety years after the 1917 Revolution, with events from 2007 on.

My personal path amid this chaos has for nearly fifty years been to avoid the politically-coloured extremes of all groups, left and right, and to keep faith with the mainstream of the Church, ignoring politics.

Thus, after getting to know very well the situation and limitations of the Orthodox Church in Great Britain in the 1970s, in 1977 I had arranged to go to Kenya as a missionary and even began learning Swahili in preparation to leave that September. Unfortunately, I was prevented from doing so by the untimely death of the sponsor of the mission, Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus, on 3 August 1977 (1).

So it was that in 1978 I went to work in Thessaloniki in Greece and made pilgrimages to nearby Mount Athos. After nearly a year spent in Greece, in 1979 I went to study at the Russian Theological Institute of St Sergius in Paris, then the only Orthodox theological institution in Western Europe. I had reached this decision once I had discovered the impossibility of the only alternatives. These had been to study at the Moscow Theological Academy in Russia – impossible because of the Cold War – or else to study at an Orthodox seminary in the USA – equally impossible for me because of the political and sectarian polarisation of the Orthodox world in North America.

After studying at the St Sergius Institute and being ordained in St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris in January 1985 in what I thought was the politically neutral Paris Jurisdiction, I soon encountered the disastrous influence of Russian freemasonry in that part of the Church. It compromised and destroyed the whole missionary purpose of the Church.

I was saved from that situation by the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva of the Western European Diocese of ROCOR, the successor of St John of Shanghai. And it was through him that I later came to know the ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus, the leader of ROCOR in the USA. In 2007 Metropolitan Laurus brought about the beginnings of the unity of ROCOR, the second largest section of the Russian Diaspora, with the by then freed Russian Orthodox Mother-Church.

As his later successors fell back into the bad old days of ‘mere anarchy’ and failed to rid themselves of politically-inspired right-wing sectarianism, we left for the Archdiocese. Belonging to the new Archdiocese, now cleansed of the freemasonry of its old predecessor, the Exarchate, and so to our great joy reunited with the Mother-Church in 2019, we hope to win the great double prize. This is:

  1. The prize of authentic, and not theoretical, unity with the freed and restored Patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church.
  2. The prize of taking part in the worldwide missionary work of the Russian Orthodox Church (2), in South-East Asia, Africa (3), and, for us in Western Europe, and specifically in the British Isles and Ireland, the foundation of our future Local Church (4).

Perhaps it is time for us to rewrite the words of the Irish poet:

‘Things keep together, the centre can hold;

Mere anarchy is withheld from the world’.

 

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

England, 3 January 2022

 

Notes:

  1. Only a few years ago I received into the Orthodox Church in Colchester the son of the leader of a squad of British soldiers who had been sent to assassinate Archbishop Makarios in one of the ‘dirty tricks’ campaigns mounted against him by the British Establishment in the 1950s. The squad failed: the son is a sign of justice two generations later.
  2. And as we wrote nearly 30 years ago in November 1993 in Chapter 58 of ‘The Saints of Russia and the Universality of Orthodoxy’, in the book, ‘Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition’:

‘In the heart of the Russian capital there stands the Church of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, known to many, mistakenly, as the Church of St Basil. Standing on Red Square with its cupolas, it has become to the modern world a symbol of Russia, the Eternal Russia of tradition. And this, providentially, is as it should be, for this church is not, as many think, a monument to fantastic or exotic decoration. On the contrary, its architecture is symbolically and sacramentally significant of Russia’s very calling – to gather the peoples of the Earth into the saving fold of Orthodox Christianity.

As Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) pointed out in his sermon of 1909, ‘The Temple of Glory and the Temple of Sorrow’, each cupola of this church is artfully designed to represent a different culture. One cupola is Mauretanian (African), another Indian, another Roman-Byzantine (Western), another Chinese, and in the centre towers the Orthodox cupola of Russia. The symbolism is clear. All the great cultures of the world on all the continents are united around Orthodoxy. Russia’s inner meaning and calling, the very purpose of her existence, her God-given destiny, is to gather the peoples of the world together, each with its own personality and particularity and culture, into the Church of Christ’.

  1. ‘The Soviet State exported its faith to the four corners of the Earth. We might suppose that had Russia remained faithful to Christ, she would have exported another faith to those four corners. Instead of sending kalashnikovs to Africa and India, to China and Central America, to Afghanistan and Vietnam, to Cuba and Korea, she would have sent Orthodox missionaries. She would not have translated the works of Lenin, into a hundred tongues, but the service-books of the Church of Christ’. (ibid. November 1993).
  2. As Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokalamsk said on the programme ‘The Church and the World’ after the Russian Orthodox decision to open an Exarchate for Africans: ‘The decision of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church gives the opportunity to those Orthodox believers who do not wish to be associated with schism to be in communion with the canonical Orthodox Church and receive Holy Communion and the other Sacraments from canonical priests’. Such is the situation of many, outside Africa too.

See also:

https://spzh.news/en/news/85321-perehod-v-rpc-102-svyashhennikov-s-prihodami–tolyko-nachalo–ekzarkh-afriki

 

 

 

 

Questions and Answers (December 2021)

Covid

Q: Is covid mentioned in the Gospels?

A: Our whole present situation is clearly prophesied: ‘For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted’ (Matt. 24, 7-9). However, Christ tells us a little later: ‘But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved’ (verse 13). This is exactly what we are doing and shall continue to do. Only the last one standing wins. Others can come and do, falling into one extreme or another, as they have done over the last 50 years. We shall not, but keep to the middle ground, whatever the persecutions from either extreme.

The Creed

Q: What is the ‘Orthodox filioque’?

A: This refers to the temporal procession of the Holy Spirit through the Son of God. This is quite unlike the Roman Catholic/Protestant filioque, which asserts that the Holy Spirit proceeds in eternity from the Father ‘and from the Son’ (‘Filioque’). This heretical filioque was only first clearly expressed, defended and developed in all its ramifications in the work ‘Contra Graecos’ / ‘Against the Greeks’ in 1093 by the Norman-imposed, Lombard Archbishop of Canterbury Anselm. This was just as St Photius of Constantinople had prophetically warned was possible well over 200 years before.

This ‘Orthodox filioque’ is explained by St Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662). One of his friends, St Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury (602-690), is recorded by St Bede the Venerable at the Council of Hatfield in 680 as expressing the Orthodox filioque, that is, the procession of the Spirit ‘from the Father and ineffably from the Son’ (‘et Filio inerranibiliter’). The near-contemporary academic theologian, Vladimir Lossky, also clearly explained ‘the Orthodox filioque’ in his essay ‘On the Procession of the Holy Spirit’.

Q: Is it possible for those who have already joined the Orthodox Church by chrismation and taken communion to be baptised?

A: No. The Creed states specifically ‘I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins’. The Guildford Schism, as long ago as 1976, was an example of this. I still remember it! This was when an uncanonically ordained, though trained in Jordanville, ROCOR priest in London (later defrocked) rebaptised a group of Orthodox ‘converts’, baptised as Anglicans. They had previously been received by chrismation into the Moscow Patriarchate and for months or even years had been taking communion there. This rebaptism created, understandably, a huge scandal: naïve or sometimes proud idealists (idealism is sometimes proud) had been manipulated into believing that this rebaptism was necessary for them to become ‘spiritually pure’ and ‘true Orthodox’ by a guru-like figure, who was in a state of delusion. Once more, it all finished in schism and tears. There is nothing new under the sun. Some people never learn from the experiences of the past.

Such rebaptised generally do not want rebaptism for spiritual reasons, but for psychological reasons of insecurity, which is actually a subtle form of pride, now, they say, ‘we are more Orthodox than the Orthodox’. After rebaptism, they virtually all lapse from the Faith because they do not repent, but rather justify their error.

Church Life

Q: Why are so many Orthodox bishops so distant from their flocks? Why don’t Orthodox usually respect and like their bishops as pastors, but mistrust them and just shrug their shoulders and put up with them?

A: Orthodox love real bishops. Two of the most popular and universal Orthodox saints of all time, St Nicholas and St Spyridon, are both bishops. The persecuted Sts Nectarius of Egina and John of Shanghai were also bishops, though much persecuted by their brother-bishops.

I must have met well over 100 Orthodox bishops, 10% of the present total, in my time. The problem is that virtually all men marry, but bishops must be unmarried. So the pool of talent that bishops come from is very small and actually nowadays sometimes tainted. This corruption comes from the fact that not all bishops are real monks and who also have the skill set to be bishops. Many are simply celibates, which of course is no criterion at all and may sometimes even be a criterion of abnormality. The late Fr Alexander Schmemann pointed this out in his Diaries and he knew exactly what he was talking about from his experience in the USA.

I think there are four different categories of bishops, of whom only the first category is episcopally and ecclesially valid:

  1. The Real Thing: He who loves God and loves his neighbour

Many bishops are righteous and even saintly. They could have married, but God has called them to do even higher things. St John of Shanghai, Archbp George (Tarasov), Archbp Antony of Geneva, Metr Laurus and many others I have known, and know, figure in this category. There are some wonderful bishops in the Churches of Serbia, Greece and Cyprus like this at present.

I would like to think that the vast majority of bishops fit into this above category. The three categories below are therefore exceptions, but, however few in number, they still exist. They represent the three main passions, love of money (‘the root of all evil’), love of power and love of the flesh, in Church Russian, srebroljubie, vlastoljubie and slastoljubie. These are all passions which should be knocked out of men if they become novices and then live as monks in a monastery for, say, ten years.

  1. The Careerist – Love of Money

Some bishops are simply too selfish to marry – no woman would have them. These are generally secular failures, political appointees, cowardly diplomats, State worshippers, nationalists, over-ambitious and spineless careerists, and pompous bureaucrats. They can be good at obtaining and organising infrastructure, but not at much else and they are easily corrupted by prestige, greed, ambition, power and money. In times of persecution, they betray the Church, as they swim with the tide, for they have no principles at all. This we can see very clearly today, as also throughout history, as recently in the Soviet period and today.

  1. The Pathological – Love of Power

Some bishops are incapable of marrying (and often of forming any normal human relationship). These are men with psychological problems, pathological cases, mummy’s boys from dysfunctional families, gaslighting narcissists, the jealous, the autistic, dry monks who hate people (which is why they became monks, so that they do not have to have any relations with others), fraudulent charlatans, fakes and manipulators who turn the charm off (for those who see through them) and on (for the naïve neophytes), as it suits them. They are characterised by the total absence of empathy, mercy, love and compassion. Incapable of dialogue, they can only monologue in their grasp for money and power to feed their naked ambition. All is justified by them by the word obedience, that is, to themselves!

As they are incapable of normal relationships, they are often ‘zealots’, that is, pharisaic sectarians and extremists, and in extreme cases they are pathological, sociopaths or even psychopaths. This is why this type of people-hater can be found among certain very strict and conservative bishops, with a punishing and tyrannical streak, indeed, some are old calendarist bishops. Though they disguise their hatred beneath zeal, they are soon found out. (There is an excellent and accurate portrait of such a misanthropic Russian emigre bishop in the Paul Chavchavadze novel, ‘Father Vikenty’).

  1. The Sexually Problematic – Love of the Flesh

Some have sexual problems. Some are homosexuals (though some of the non-practising ones in this group are rather nice people and sometimes even quite good bishops), but also there are those who form ‘gay mafias’ which persecute the married clergy. Several Local Churches suffer and have always suffered from these mafias. Or else there are bishops who should have married and then get a mistress (or a few mistresses, as in several cases I have known). Some of these (the ones with one mistress/wife) are not too bad, but others are atrocious (see below). These bishops are generally liberals, sometimes extreme liberals, clearly for self-justifying, psychological reasons.

Of course, there are, quite commonly, those who combine Type 2 with 3 or 4. They are the ultimate nightmares. However, they are never combined with Type 1.

I can see only three ways out of this crisis, two are idealistic, one is realistic.

The first and most idealistic solution is to have a monastic revival. This would eliminate the last three categories of bishops, who are just celibates (and you can elect to be a celibate for all sorts of bad reasons – see above) and not real monks. Those individuals in the last three categories would then be sifted out by monastic life, which destroys the love of power and the love of money. Then we would have bishops who are all real monks. But this is idealism, not realism. You cannot order a monastic revival. It is organic and takes at least a generation to develop. Then there is no guarantee that the bishops in power will select suitable candidates.

The second solution is that a Council agrees to reinstate married bishops. The trouble here is that married bishops were abolished during the first millennium, sometimes for very good reasons. We only have to think of the married bishops of the Soviet period, like ‘Metr Filaret’ Denisenko of Kiev. He is still alive, one of the most corrupt individuals in the Ukraine. His wife would decide whom he ordained, mainly depending on the size of the bribe the candidates gave her. Do we want that? In any case, realistically, I cannot see any such change being approved by any Council for generations to come.

However, while we are waiting for a monastic revival inspired by the Holy Spirit or a Council, let us have the third and only realistic solution, the only one for the time being. This is to have fewer bishops, those only from the first category, who will then have to delegate much to a robust structure of married and experienced older priests as deans, since the few bishops will be too busy to do much more than ordain, give out myrrh and guide.

Q: Are the canons enforceable? They were all written down so long ago.

A: It is true that many of them are no longer practised or indeed no longer relevant. As many churchmen have said, the canons are guidelines. After all, the word ‘canon’ means ‘an example’. They should not be compared to State laws.

What concerns me is that some converts from Protestantism pick and choose in their application of the canons, just as they pick and choose chapter and verse quotations from the Scripture, failing to read the context, taking quotations and canons out of context. Then they apply them literally like laws.

For example, there is the well-known Canon XX of the First Universal Council which bans kneeling on Sundays, which certain converts love to quote. It would mean that the whole Romanian Church is uncanonical, not to mention millions of other pious Orthodox.

Another case is Canon LXX of the Sixth Council (Quinisext), which states that ‘women may not talk during the Liturgy’. This refers of course to chatting during the service (which at the time was done by certain women in some places). Now misogynists like Makrakis (and some other Greeks especially) have taken this up and interpreted it as if women were not allowed to sing in church! It would be funny, if it were not sad. In any case, if followed, it would mean that the whole of the Russian Church is also uncanonical.

On the other hand, there is Canon XXI of Antioch which say that bishops must stay in the diocese originally appointed for them, ‘even though he is forced to do so by coercion on the part of bishops’. Yet virtually every Orthodox bishop in the contemporary Orthodox world has changed dioceses, if not once, then again and again. For example, our own St John of Shanghai/Paris/Brussels/San Francisco. There are many other examples of canons simply not being applied, and for good reasons.

Then there is Canon LXXX of the (Quinisext) Sixth Universal Council which excommunicates anyone ‘living in the City’ who does not attend church for three consecutive Sundays. Does this mean that virtually all urban Orthodox are excommunicated?

Canon CI of the same Council says that laypeople must take communion in their hands. Again, does this mean that all laypeople are now excommunicated, since none does this today?

There are many, many other examples. Literalism is not helpful: context, interpretation and discernment are all-important with the canons.

Q: What is the most difficult thing for you in the priesthood?

A: I think it is to combine softness with hardness. This is a problem of discernment, especially important at confession. You have to know when to follow the strict rule and when to be indulgent. This does not come from me, for Christ already spoke to the disciples about it: ‘Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be therefore as wise as serpents and harmless as doves’ (Matt. 10.16-17). The weak and cowardly should not be ordained. St Paisios said that the present generation is incapable of struggling. This is a real problem.

Q: To what extent can there be variations in Church life? I see also sorts of people, anti-vaxxers, pro-vaxxers, traditionalist, modernists. Is that all legitimate?

A: There has always been room for variation inside the Church, for ‘left’ and ‘right’. In Constantinople itself there were always two parties, ‘the Blues’ and the Greens’. Let people be anti-vaxxers or pro-vaxxers, but they should not try and impose their views of whatever side on others as some sort of dogma or as a reason to break off communion with those who disagree with them. Let us have more tolerance!

All Orthodox agree about what is in the Creed (that is why we are not Roman Catholics or Protestants), but there is room for different views about what is not in the Creed, which is left for intelligent and humble debate. Without that, the Church is a dead ghetto, not living at all, but paralysed and dies out. On the other hand, to fall out of communion with one another, just because you do not have identical views about secondary matters, is wrong.

For example, in the emigration, there were highly-westernised Saint Petersburg aristocrats (some of them already had property in France before the Revolution), freemasons and philosophers, who had helped overthrow the Tsar. Their freemason descendants in the emigration stayed under Constantinople even after reunion with the Mother-Church in 2019 (and because there was reunion: we fought for 30 years for that reunion).

On the other hand, there were extreme right-wingers (let us not forget that Gregory Rasputin was murdered by one of them, Purishkevich, also said to have been a freemason). After one of them, Fr George Grabbe, helped to put St John of Shanghai on trial in 1963, had married ‘the Tsarevich’ in New York on 30 September 1964, the Grabbe family tried to take over North American ROCOR for nearly three decades, until they left the Church. According to several writers, including the Church historian Sergei Fomin, Fr George (later Bp Gregory) was also a freemason (The Lafayette-Astoria Lodge).

In 1966 the Grabbe faction led to old calendarists taking over, which in turn led to a wave of censorious phariseeism and appalling scandals (including those of his son Antony Grabbe in Jerusalem) and schisms, in 1986, 2001, 2007, as extremists who had been taken into ROCOR inevitably left, once more moderate forces came to the fore. Yet there were people like the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva of ROCOR who never broke communion or ceased concelebration with the moderate, non-freemason Parisians, our friends from always. It was the selfsame Parisians who led most (58% – not ‘the brothers’) of the Paris Church back to the Mother-Church in December 2019, to our great joy, and it became the Archdiocese of Western Europe. Our long-held dream had come true. We greeted this at the time in several articles.

Inside contemporary Russia we see the same trends. On the one hand, there is the pro-Protestant wing of Fr George Kochetkov and his neo-renovationism (the words of Patriarch Aleksiy II, not mine), as well as the more moderate Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev, Fr George Mitrofanov, Fr Pavel Velikanov, A. Shishkov, all of the pro-ecumenism and pro-modernism wing.

On the other hand, there you have the Stalinist (yes, Stalinist, incredibly!) right-wing, ultra-nationalist, shamefully anti-Semitic, anti-Protestant, anti-Catholic, pro-canonisation of Ivan IV and even Stalin, with their the stubborn refusal to recognise the authenticity of the relics of the Royal Family found outside Ekaterinburg decades ago, with figures like the now defrocked Sergei Romanov and the late ex-Bishop Diomid. (However, so far only the latter fell out of communion with the Church).

What I am saying is that it is legitimate to be the right of the centre or to the left of the centre, what is not legitimate is to fall into such extremes that you fall out of communion with one another. The important thing is to keep to the unitive mainstream of the Russian Tradition, the heritage of the holy Patriarch Tikhon, missionary, American citizen, Patriarch, Confessor and probably Martyr. Intolerance always leads to schism as we saw with the old Rue Daru jurisdiction before the majority there triumphantly reunited with Moscow in 2019. And as can see today with the old calendarist wing of ROCOR, which considers that others are not ‘pure enough’ for them and that therefore they must ‘wall themselves off’ from the rest of the world, like some Protestant sect, and break communion with other Orthodox.

Q: How can you venerate as a saint Emperor Constantine, who was a pagan till the last few days of his life?

A: We venerate Divine Providence acting through him, rather than all his actions. Thanks to Divine Providence in him the Empire gave the Church huge privileges, resulting in the First Universal Council in 325. This is very important because at the time in the early fourth century only between 10% and 20% of the Imperial population were Christians. This is significant because, unlike what the secularists say, the view of the majority is not important. If the minority is following God’s Will, it will always win. Several other venerated rulers fall into this category of those who fulfilled Divine Providence, which was a triumph.

Q: I find it very difficult to sing in church and pray at the same time. Have you any advice?

A: There used to live in Paris a Russian prince, Alexander Nelidov. As a young man he was a professional dancer. However, later he became a priest. The late Fr Alexander used to say that, ‘to sing in church is to pray twice’. What he meant is that the spiritual reward for singing in church is twice that of the reward for prayer. Only a couple of years ago, I discovered that Fr Alexander, God rest him, was actually quoting Blessed Augustine.

Orthodox England

Q: You often write of pre-Norman England, but it was pretty primitive, wasn’t it?

A: The period of history between the departure of the pagan Romans in 409 and 1066 is sometimes called ‘The Dark Ages’. However, that fairly recent name indicates rather the darkness or ignorance of pro-Norman scholars about the period. (On the misuse of the term ‘The Dark Ages’ see the work by Seb. Falk, ‘The Light Years’, 2020).

Apart from the artistic achievements which began to be appreciated as recently as 1939 with the Sutton Hoo archaeological discoveries (much increased since then), there were the literature, medicine and science (St Bede, St Alfred, St Dunstan, the Winchester School, Abbot Aelfric, Fr Byrthferth, Bishop Wulfstan etc) and the huge engineering works: the five Cambridgeshire Dykes (built c. 600), the 100 miles or so of Offa’s Dyke (c. 780) and the 100-200 miles of canals and drainage ditches in the Fens (between 700 and 1000, including the huge, 100-mile long embankment preventing the sea flooding the land, known as the ‘Roman Bank’.

This includes the work carried out by the five Fenland monasteries between 970 and 1000), excavated by hand, partly in order to facilitate the transport by barge of building stone for new churches. (In some older books you still come across the ignorant myth that pre-Norman or English churches were all small: this is simply because the Normans knocked down nearly all of them, such as the huge Cathedral in the Old English Capital of Winchester, and only the little ones survived). Much of this engineering work was wrongly attributed to the Romans, much of it still exists (‘The Backs’ in Cambridge is the result of Old English hydraulic engineering), much of it was far better and longer-lasting than the 17th century drainage schemes in the Fens, carried out by 10,000 Scottish and Dutch prisoners of war.

In 1066 the Normans took over the best-organised State in Western Europe, as recorded by the Domesday Book. If you google any of these ‘Anglo-Saxon’ themes, you will obtain a wealth of information and also a rich bibliography.

Q: Is the site of St Guthlac’s monastery called Croyland or Crowland?

A: The town of Crowland is in Lincolnshire. The abbey church in Crowland is sometimes still known by its older and now old-fashioned name of Croyland. Crowland is the modern name. There you can venerate the holy relics of St Theodore, Abbot of Peterborough, martyred by the Vikings in 870. The store-room where the skull is kept is to be made available to Orthodox as a chapel, probably in 2022. It is believed that the relics of St Guthlac are buried somewhere in the graveyard. Certainly the remains of the great English hero Hereward (miscalled ‘The Wake’) were buried there. The site of St Guthlac’s hermitage seems to have been identified recently about a mile away on St James’ Road by St James’ Farm. Archaeological excavations are ongoing. Nearby is the site of St Guthlac’s sister’s hermitage. She was St Pega and the site of her hermitage is in Peakirk (‘Pegakirk’). She is still there too.

Q: England is often portrayed as the villain in Russian Orthodox writing. What have we to be proud of, spiritually?

A: I think you have been reading Russian nationalist writing. Just as British nationalists like Boris Johnson, portray Russia as an evil bear, so Russian nationalists portray England (= Britain) as a rapacious lion. Normal Russians do not see it that way, but are more balanced.

We can take joy in our saints, of the sixth and seventh centuries especially, St Alban, St Cuthbert, St Hilda, St Audrey and many others, like our martyrs St Edmund and St Edward, whose names have gone around the world. In general, we rejoice in the great Old English and their resistance to the Normans in and after 1066 – as we still do resist them, for we follow in their footsteps. Then, who defended Constantinople in 1204? It was the English, as described by Villehardouin and Robert de Clari. After all there had been a massive exodus of the English to Constantinople (and later to southern Russia) after 1066. In the twelfth century the Roman Imperial Army was largely composed of Englishmen. In the twentieth century, we have the royal figures of Sts Alexandra and Elizabeth, of Fr Nicholas Gibbes, tutor to the Tsarevich, and many others who loved persecuted Russia.

There is much to love in England, though not, alas!, its Establishment politicians, who become lord and sirs, even though some are considered to be war criminals. They are ‘Normans’ to the core. This is not a racist statement, as few of them have any ‘Norman’ blood. What we are talking about here is the elitist mentality. Anybody opposed to Orthodoxy can in our English context be called a ‘Norman’.

The crimes of ‘the Normans’ include their genocides in England from 1066 on and for hundreds of years afterwards with their barbaric ‘hanging, drawing and quartering’, their genocides in Wales (the castles), Scotland and Ireland (from the 12th century on to the torture-chambers of the Tudors, to the Hitlerian Cromwell, then the Potato Famine and the ethnic cleansing of Highland Scots in the 19th century (sheep were more valuable than human-beings)), then the genocides of native Americans, of Indians (from the salt-hedge to the 1940s Bengal Famine, for example) and Africa (the slave-trade, which made Bristol and Liverpool wealthy). It is the British who invaded 178 countries of the world, not the English (https://ww2answers.com/qa/which-countries-have-the-british-invaded.html).

I have always distinguished carefully between the British and the English. The British are an imperialist concept, invented by the Romans, taken up by the Normans and then developed in the eighteenth century, which promised that ‘’Britons’ never would be slaves’, but everyone else could be enslaved by ‘Britons’. The British have always oppressed the English, ever since 1066. Russians, and others, need to make this distinction!

The Western World

Q: Why are you not a Catholic?

A: First of all, because whenever I have been to a Roman Catholic church, I do not feel anything. It feels empty to me. In an Orthodox church I feel a presence. Secondly, because Roman Catholicism is not historic, it did not exist until the 11th century. Thirdly, because the Papal claims are purely secular and were taken over from the pagan Roman Empire. Fourthly, because to justify their claims, the Popes altered the Creed with their filioque, placing the bishop of Rome above the Universal Councils. Fifthly, because Roman Catholicism invented the Crusades, the Inquisition etc. Sixthly, because their clergy are forced to be celibate, which means that a section of them are perverts. I could continue, but surely that is enough?

Q: When were organs introduced into Western churches?

A: The first organs in the West since the fall of Old Rome were sent from Constantinople to the Carolingian Franks, Pepin the Short and his son Charles the Tall (Charlemagne), in the later eighth century. In Constantinople they were used only at secular events, however the Franks introduced them into church. By 1054 only a few cathedrals had them. During the Middle Ages they became slightly more common.

However, there was still great resistance and the scholastic Thomas Aquinas opposed the organ as a ‘Judaising force’. Here he was referring to the Old Testament use of musical instruments, which he saw as pagan. Indeed, in some more traditional churches organs have never been introduced, for instance, in the Sistine Chapel. In fact it was only in the 18th and 19th centuries that organs became near universal in Non-Orthodox, especially Protestant, churches. As we know, today they are often replaced there by pianos, guitars, drums, keyboards and anything else you can name.

Q: Why does the West put Christmas above Easter?

A: It is more complex than ‘the West’, which in fact is very varied.

Thus, Protestants have long considered that ‘Jesus’ becoming a man is more important than His Resurrection from the dead and our Co-Resurrection with him. However, Roman Catholics are different. They seem to consider that Christ’s Crucifixion is more important than His Resurrection. However, in both cases it is true that there is an emphasis on the human nature of Christ, which we do not have in the Church.

Q: Why do the Old Catholics not join the Orthodox Church?

A: There exists a curious psychological deformation. Roman Catholics who leave their denomination almost always have to become Protestant, missing the Orthodox boat. This is what happened in the Old Catholic movement, which degenerated into a form of Protestantism, missing the Orthodox boat. As was noted in the century before last, Catholicism and Protestantism are the two sides of the same coin, and that coin is not Orthodox. (Incidentally, in a similar way, some Anglicans have to become Roman Catholics, before they can envisage joining the Orthodox Church).

Q: What do you think of Samuel Huntingdon’s book ‘The Clash of Civilizations’?

A: I first came across it in the 90s in a review in ‘The Economist’, which I had to read for my job at the time and I obtained a copy. Occasionally since then I have used it for reference.

Some criticised it even then as the last gasp of a conservative New England WASP professor. In an age of Black Lives Matter it does seem even more old-fashioned. However, Huntingdon does recognise the limitations of the West, unlike US administrations since the 1990s, which have been gripped by the delusion of global hegemony. Had they listened to his warnings about Western interference in the Ukraine, for example, we would not be where we are now, when Russians are petrified by a NATO invasion of Russia from the Ukraine and international tension has been ramped up by Washington’s aggressive threats. Similarly, there are Huntingdon’s warnings about ex-Yugoslavia, which remains a powder-keg, created by Western interference.