Interview with the First Hierarch of the ROAC, Metropolitan Valentine
We have received an interview given on December 2001, by the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, Valentine, Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir. This interview was given to the Internet publications "NTV.Ru" and "The world of Religions". With regret we are forced to omit some question and answers due to limitations of space. We omitted such as related to the glorification of the Imperial Family or his relationship to the political organization `Pamyat' (Memory) or similar matters.
1. For what reason did you leave the ROC in 1990?
The atmosphere of betrayal, lies, corruption and a multitude of unchurchly events that permeated the air in the Moscow Patriarchate. Over the course of many years I believed that by compromising with "little evils" one avoided participation in the large-scale evil in the Sergianist lie. I tried to preserve the most important - the religious revival which started in our city, in my parish, where we tried to give the faithful the possibility of living a full ecclesiastical life. But human strength is not unlimited. When, at a meeting of the "sacred Synod' that was deliberating my "personal case", it became utterly clear to me that the price for any ecclesiastical external success would be large-scale 'betrayal, I had to either betray my parishioners, giving them up them for the demands of "the well-being of God's Church," or to retire. I could not ignore this betrayal, I could not do it no matter what were the rationalizations; therefore I proposed that my flock join me in going to the Church Abroad. Besides, through this concrete episode that happened to me, the total untruth of the MP -- an organization that is based upon total lies and betrayals -- became clear to me. Beyond the lie that the Russian New Martyrs were political criminals, there was the lie that the Church in the Soviet Union was never subjected to religious persecutions, that the godless authorities are "from God'.
Therefore, when I read now the justifications of Sergianism, that it was necessary for the sake of saving the Church for the faithful, I can only feel sad and grieved. I served in the MP for thirty years and I saw the Sergianist system inside and out and I know that in order to "save it" it was absolutely necessary to betray. The Sergianist hierarchs have betrayed the faithful and the faithful sense it and have left the Moscow Patriarchate. I could not betray our faithful and, therefore, practically all those who were with me in 1990 (except for those who died, of course) remained with me and now many more have come.
2. Did the desire to leave the ROC come only in 1990 or before? If you were prepared to leave ROC, before, why then did this materialize only in 1990?
Before 1990, actually, there was nowhere to go. The parishes of the Church Abroad were deep underground, and if there is no alternative, then one thinks that there is nowhere to go and it is possible some how to suffer a bit longer. In 1989-90, during "glasnost" and "perestroika", thank God, the possibility of leaving the Patriarchate arose in such a manner as to preserve a legal ecclesiastical existence and, even more, to fill it with the content of grace. Therefore I believe, that my conflict with the superiors of the Patriarchate arose not by accident - the Lord simply has led us from the "house of slavery". But since we had been waiting for some time for it He "pushed" us out; made it necessary to choose "either - or". I believe something like this did not happen to us alone. The process of the collapse of the MP enveloped all Russia. After joining the ROCOR I was appointed an Exarch to the Russian parishes and I remember well - there was not a week when parishes did not join us. There were even times that during a single week several parishes joined us. These parishes were in Moscow and Petersburg, in the Baltic States and Ukraine, in the Caucasus and Siberia and the Far East. In this process throughout Russia at that time we saw the beginning of the genuine repentance of the Russian people, it's cleansing from the atheistic leprosy and its "ecclesiastical" variety: Sergianism.
Or, recall the story when Alexis II made a clearly heretical speech before the rabbis of New York, when he said that Judaism and Orthodoxy are actually the very same religion. At that time many priests of. The MP ceased to commemorate him as patriarch, but then did not decide to leave. At that time a wide spread persecution of our Church began and leaving the MP meant a loss of the church and everything went back to the usual. The Lord always calls one to Himself, to the Truth, but one also has to listen to this call.
3. What were the reasons for your breakup with the ROCOR in 1995?
There were two main reasons. The first - the outrageous disorganization introduced into the life of the Russian Church by controversial decisions of the ROCOR Synod. It created the danger that the True Church simply would cease to exist in Russia and would remain only in the catacombs. Secondly - was the apostasy from Orthodoxy, from the uncompromising relationship toward the heresies of Ecumenism and Sergianism. Generally speaking, the controversial decisions of the Synod were the reason for this apostasy. The Synod didn't clearly know what to do in Russia: should they minister to building up and developing of their dioceses and parishes, or have negotiations with the MP. So it wavered from one side to the other.
I have tried many times to warn my brother bishops of the destructiveness of what they were doing. The very wise elder Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) also sounded the alarm regarding the situation, but we were no only not heard, but showered with slander. Due to slander of "Pamyat" ("Memory," a political organization) I was dismissed from the cathedral, suspended from serving and, after my departure from the ROCOR, in violation of numerous church canons "dismissed from the ranks". I was making the same choice as in 1990: to submit to all of this, accept untruth and in this manner to betray my flock, which at that time was not in Suzdal alone, but all over Russia - or to fulfill my duty as a bishop even if this meant formal administrative loyalty had to be disregarded. I swore to be a bishop to the Church and my duty before the Church and my flock was most important. The more so since the activity of the ROCOR was heading toward curtailing ecclesiastical life in Russia and was harming our dioceses and parishes. Therefore we, the bishops of one mind in Russia, have severed our submission to the ROCOR.
5. Why in 1995 you were against the rapprochement of ROCOR and ROC?
Because there is no reason for such a rapprochement. The Moscow Patriarchate is not the true Church. She ceased to be so when she accepted the heresies of Sergianism and Ecumenism, and agreed to actually apostatize from Christ. And she is only deceiving her faithful, pretending to be the True Church. The Church Abroad, on the contrary, for decades was famous for her stand in the Truth, no compromises regarding any kind of heresies and lies. What would a rapprochement of the ROCOR and MP require? Either a change of mind by the hierarchs of the MP, their request to those who preserved the Truth for instruction and teaching. Such a rapprochement we would honor. Or the apostasy of the Church Abroad from her steadfast position. This we consider to be betrayal. The first one has not happened, but the second has happened. And I, as a bishop whose duty is to watch over the Truth, in no way could support such a one-sided rapprochement.
As the events that followed showed, the "rapprochement" of ROCOR and the MP means not the cleansing of the Patriarchate, but the total capitulation of the Church Abroad, the denial of own ideals and a readiness to be swallowed up by the MP. Contemporary hierarchs of the Church Abroad honestly admit that they are afraid to remain in the minority, they are overwhelmed by the splendor of "the ecclesiastical revival" in Russia, the cathedral of Christ the Savior, and they want to participate in all of this. But I believe that over the last decade the MP had gotten even worse. Before, her heresies and sins could be justified by the persecution of the godless government. But now that she is free to cleanse herself of all of it of her own free will she has no conscious intention of doing this. The latter lie is worse than the first.
6. How do you feel now about the rapprochement of ROCOR and the ROC?
At present this is the rapprochement not of churches, not of the faithful, but of the Synod's hierarchical bureaucrats. Actually a-leadership revolution in the ROCORites happened. A-faction of the bishops, who for many years were aspiring to power, have done all they could so that the legacy of their First Hierarchs Metropolitans Anthony, Anastassy and St. Philaret (+ 1985) be forgotten; that there would happen a rupture with the Russian bishops, among whom I was one. At present they have overcome the very last obstacle in the person of the aged Metropolitan Vitaly. He made many mistakes, but in general his mind was always Orthodox and this was not convenient. Now they openly laugh at him, call him "insane" and in this manner try to explain his desire to preserve strict Orthodoxy. Indeed, for the contemporary world, which the ROCOR bishops want to become an organic part of, the preservation of Orthodoxy is a kind of being "a fool for Christ's sake".
The present leaders of the ROCOR are basically "a new generation" of church bureaucrats, void of any clear ecclesiastical, religious views. Therefore, for them it is natural to blend into one structure with the same kind of bureaucrats from the MP. And the latter, in their turn, are interested in appropriating the heritage of the Church Abroad, to appreciate not only the church buildings, but also the right to the name, the relics of the saints so that this great and glorious name from the past would no longer "tempt" the flock of the MP by unmasking her untruths and the apostasy of her hierarchs. MP would like to have the right to say: "St. John of Shanghai - he is ours...And even Metropolitan Philaret, who didn't consider us to be a Church, look, he is now ours, not yours any more". And this is by people who are far from the Spirit of Truth. To them it seems that it is enough to switch the tags and omit from the books "the wrong words" in order to believe the matter is settled. But something like this will not happen. The Church of Christ cannot be conquered and after the destruction of the ROCOR the Lord will create a new vessel for the preservation of His Grace.
11. During the summer of 2001 in the Vladimir city press a number of articles were published, directed against you and the ROAC. What do you think is the reason for this and who is behind it?
This is not restricted to articles alone. The Vladimir prosecutor initiated a criminal case against me based upon slanderous accusations of one power hungry former priest, whom we have defrocked for his activity against the Church. The campaign in the press is only an "artillery support" to the criminal process - the aim of which is to remove me from the leadership of the Church or, simply to remove me physically.
There are several reasons for that. First of all - the visible success of our ecclesiastical growth - the addition of new parishes, including in the USA, the strengthening of the organization, the solemn glorification of St. Philaret, which demonstrated our spiritual and ideological succession from Russian Church Abroad when she was flourishing. The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, especially after the crisis in the ROCOR, became a main source of attraction of those, who seek True Orthodoxy in Russia and in many other countries. Of course, for many this is not welcome. I do not believe that there is a governmental policy to destroy us, but it is obvious that some group there is definitely interested in the disappearance of the ROAC. It is possible that these people are connected to the MP, although the latter always denies participation in the campaign against me and talks of its lack of interest in this.
Why do the Vladimir authorities participate? Partially to settle old scores with me from Soviet times. Partially, out of arbitrariness -- there is plenty of it locally. To learn to live according to the law, to learn how to separate truth from slander - is not a simple task. It is much easier to use slanderers in one's own interest. It is possible that there're also criminal motives. As you know, Suzdal is a tourist city. At present, this sphere is in a critical state, but it will not be always so. It is possible that some one wants to take advantage of the local riches.
12. How do you explain the growing attention of the media to the ROAC in recent months?
I know that many connect it with the appearance in our Church of some kind of "high level protectors" and attribute everything to their "intrigues". I will not justify myself and say that there are no influential people in our Church. I will not for a very simple reason: for some reason, when the government officers and oligarchs protect the MP - this is considered proper, but if someone renders even small support to us, such a person has to justify himself or conceal his name. Is there anything criminal or immoral in supporting the True Church? Besides, our Church is open to all people, regardless of their social situation. In the same way, strong religious feelings are not dependent upon it; after all - every soul is by the nature Christian. It should be no surprise that people who are disappointed with the MP are turning to our Church. And among the political elite, who meet with MP hierarchs in "unofficial" surroundings, the disappointed can number as many as among the simple people.
Therefore, if some of the powerful in this world really offer us support, I am grateful to them and do hope that the Lord will reward their good deeds. Even more so, because such people have great reverence toward Christ's Church and have sincere faith. Therefore, they do not condition their help with any kind of demands upon the church authorities. Usually, I do not even know who and what they did for us and I try not to be involved. They helped: thank God. The problem is not so much in this, but why the publications of our Church evoke such a response from society. Many feel and felt the untruth of the MP, but in so far as there was a feeling that the state is rolling down into an abyss, the conditions of the church affairs were accepted as "normal" - everything is bad and this is bad. But now a desire for revival has started in society, for order and truth, yet the situation in the MP remains the same - the very same lies, mercenary interests, lack of faith and cynicism on the part of hierarchs and many priests. The disparity is felt more sharply and people started looking around - if there is some other true Church, more corresponding to Orthodox ideals. The Church Abroad is going more and more down the slope into the bosom of the MP. The scandal of the violence against Metropolitan Vitaly demonstrated that over there they have lowered themselves also morally. And this is why society turned to us - we have never changed our position and didn't hide it and always declare it clearly and unevasively.
Thank God in our Church there are enough talented and educated people who write and speak well and who are able to explain our position, they know how to find a common language with the clever secular people and therefore, their efforts bring forth fruit. For me, as a bishop it remains only to bestow upon them God's blessing and to hope that their efforts will increase those being saved in the Church.