Interview with Bishop Irinarch of Tula and Briansk (ROAC)
Vertograd: Vladyka, it has now been over a year since You were consecrated a bishop. Do you find it difficult being a bishop?
Bishop Irinarch: Following the will of God is always easier than opposing it. All I ever wanted was to be a simple clergyman in Suzdal. But man proposes and God disposes.
Vertograd: Please tell us something about your diocese of Tula and Briansk.
- In my diocese, almost all of the parishes are catacomb parishes.
Vertograd: Yes, the Tula region became the center of the catacomb movement even before the declaration of Sergius. The faithful began going over to illegal status when the main positions of the Tula diocese had been taken over by the Renovationists. It is said that in the archives of the UKGB, there is a lot of information about the destruction of catacomb monasteries in the 1930Ős
- In 1943, by a direct order of Stalin, several hundred catacomb Christians were deported from the Tula and Ryazan regions to Siberia. Many of them perished, but, thank God, not all of them. In the Tula region, they have survived to the present day. The Lord has entrusted them to me, and with GodŐs help, I look after them.
Vertograd: Do you have a catacomb monastery in the Tula region?
Vertograd: How about the Briansk region?
- Before the war, in the Briansk region, only a few catacomb priests survived. But after this region had been captured by the Germans, several hundred churches were reopened in which the bishop who was commemorated as First Hierarch was not Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), but Metropolitan Anastasy, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. In the Briansk region, the catacomb Christians were looked after by Bishop Stephen (Sevbo). When the Red Army overran the area, Bishop Stephen, together with many of the clergy and faithful, emigrated to Belorussia, and after that, to Germany. Vladyka Stephen later administered the diocese of Vienna for the ROCOR, and died in 1965.
Vertograd: Do you have any parishes that are not catacomb parishes?
- We used to have three such parishes. Two of them, which had been under an enormous onslaught by the Moscow Patriarchate for many years, were forcibly torn away from us. At the present time, only one remains, and even that one has been the subject of many law suits and threats from the clergy of the MP for many years now.
Vertograd: Vladyka, what would you like to say to the readers of our magazine?
- To continuously offer up your fervent prayers, not only during these days of Great Lent, but throughout your lives, calling to mind the words of St. Paul, ŇSee then that ye walk circumspectly.Ó May God bless all of the readers of your soul-benefiting magazine, and may God help all of the staff of Vertograd to continue to fight the good fight in this important and soul-saving endeavor, overcoming the wiles of the Enemy of our salvation, which come to us by way of his loyal servants.