Q and A August 2022

Q: Is the funeral of Metr Kallistos significant? What about the fact that it is taking place in a Catholic church?

A: I think it is significant. It is perhaps the last Pan-Orthodox event to take place in this country. We are turning a page. The old generation, for good and ill, is all but gone. The Orthodox world is now divided and chaotic and will remain so until there is a genuine and free Church Council, unmotivated by geopolitics and manipulations, whether Greek or Russian.

Some more rigid people will say that of course it is taking place in a Roman Catholic church because Metr Kallistos was an ecumenist. However, that for me is not the point. The point is that neither of the little Orthodox chapels in Oxford, neither the Russian, nor the Greek, is anywhere big enough to accommodate even a mere hundred people. Now that is really sad. When will the missionary work start in Oxford, a city of 1,000-2,000 cradle Orthodox and another 100,000 to become Orthodox? There are those in Oxford who think about books, but what we want is churches, basic infrastructure. Are the Orthodox incapable? Do they believe in anything at all, except in tiny ghettos?

Q: Why do Churches die out?

A: Churches die out when they no longer have any spiritual significance. This is clear from the many current examples and it concerns Protestant, Catholic and also Orthodox churches. To have no spiritual significance happens when you swim with the secular tide. Quickly your services become empty ritualism or nationalism (for example, Uniatism) and your teaching becomes moralism (for example, Puritanism). These together create Phariseeism, as with the Old Testament Jews, who were ritualistic, nationalistic (they hated the Samaritans and the Saducees) and moralistic – and who crucified Christ. This decadence of ritualism, nationalism and moralism always precedes the physical closure of church buildings. This is the spiritual law. There are no exceptions. If you become spiritually irrelevant, you will die and enter the dustbin of history, churches, bishops, priests, people.

Q: What is Uniatism?

A: It is Roman Catholicism which attempts, and by definition fails, to imitate the Orthodox Faith. Technically, it may reach a high level of imitation, but it has no spiritual or creative content, only intellectual or emotional content. It has no spontaneity or creative force.

Q: What is the greatest change you have seen in Orthodox practice over the last fifty years?

A: Undoubtedly, it is frequent communion. In the 1970s you were told on no account to take communion more than once a month, at best. A great many at that time still took communion, at most, once a year. Of course, it was this decadence of practice that had created the Russian Revolution and the spread of atheism everywhere. It was precisely the decadence of rare communion that was countered by both St John of Kronstadt and St John of Shanghai, who were in turn both opposed by the formalistic hypocrites, scribes and pharisees of the hierarchy.

Q: I have seen a video of a Russian priest blessing shells and kalashnikovs. Is this real?

A: I have seen the same video. I think it is a fake. However, I have also seen a video of a Ukrainian bishop blessing guns of the Kiev Army. I think that that one too is a fake. However, there is a slight chance it is all true. After all, everything is possible when you commit the idolatry of putting nationalism of any sort above Christ.

Q: Do you think the Russian African Exarchate will be successful?

A: I do not know. The Russian Church now has three Exarchates – in Western Europe, South-East Asia and the new one in Africa. The sign of success will be native European, Asian and African bishops, priests and autonomy. We appear to be very far from that at present. If ‘nativisation’, that is incarnation, does not happen, all these Exarchates will die out as some sort of exotica imposed or allowed for temporary ideological reasons. This was the case in this country, where the Patriarchal presence is now dying out.

At present a lot of African priests have joined the Russian Exarchate there simply because their bishops were absentee landlords. They lived in their villas in Athens and visited their wretched poor flocks once a year, arriving in limousines, like the Greek bishop in the Congo. On the other hand, where there was a good Greek bishop, nobody has left. It is always the same. In Western Europe where the bishop only persecutes his clergy, dreams about pumping money out of poor parishes, buying £400 shoes and bling, people will leave him for a genuine Orthodox bishop.

It is not a question of jurisdiction or nationality, it is simply a matter of whether the bishop behaves as a Christian or as a monster! Of course the Africans left for the Russians in the above cases. If the Russians opened in Israel, the same would happen there and the people would leave the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem for a new Exarchate. On the other hand, there are plenty of Russians who would leave their corrupt Russian bishop if they were sent a genuinely Orthodox Greek bishop.

Q: Do you think the Moscow Patriarchate and ROCOR will ever recover from the PR disaster of their attitude to the military operation in the Ukraine?

A: Who knows? For the moment it seems highly unlikely. Certainly, the multinational and missionary aspect of the Russian Church has gone out of the window. Many Non-Russians and Russians too have left both the Patriarchal and the ROCOR jurisdictions, at least, in Western Europe. Half the ROCOR Diocese in England ended up under the Romanian Church and has attracted many Ukrainians and Russians, precisely those who reject politics and nationalism and just want to be Orthodox. English people don’t want to attend Russian churches, MP or ROCOR. If I were a Ukrainian, would I want to attend them?

Thank God we, who were granted canonical letters of leave from the Moscow Patriarchate exactly eight days before the events on 24 February 2022 and found a safe refuge in the Romanian Church, are outside all that. It has always been the duty of us pastors (even more it should be of archpastors) to lead the way out of politics and scandals like the Miami one in ROCOR, steering the ship of the church away from all that worldliness to protect the people. Those who do not protect the people will be – and already are – condemned by history.

Q: Do bishops of all Local Churches try and steal property?

A: Absolutely. There were many cases in the USA in the old Russian Metropolia (now the OCA).  Then remember the Greek bishop in Italy who demanded the keys to the Russian churches in Florence and San Remo in 2019 – immediately they left him and he lost everything. The same thing happened in France when the Greek bishop tried to take over the Rue Daru Cathedral. There have also been several cases in Moldova over the last twenty years, which led priests and parishes to join the Romanian Church. There have been Russian cases in the USA elsewhere over the years, where the Russians then lost many valuable properties through their crass mishandling of the situation, as in Amsterdam this year, as with the Brookwood case in England in 2007.

In England alone they lost at least £7.5 million of assets between 2007 and 2022, about 75% of their total assets, to other jurisdictions. If they had only behaved as Christians and not as property-grabbers, all would have been well. Such mismanagement and incompetence are punished by immediate sackings in the corporate world, but not, it seems, in the Church. It is always the same old story, priests are free to do whatever they want if they have no property, but if they have property, then there is greed and they are attacked and slandered on the internet. And this happens throughout the Orthodox world. Fortunately, the guilty are a minority of bishops.

Q: Where can I find the liturgical texts to locally-venerated Western Saints?

A: The complete set of liturgical services for the Western Saints have been in the public domain on the Romanian Orthodox website ‘Orthodoxengland’ website for some 15 years.