Nathanael Kapner’s 2006 “Church News” interview
with Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir
Nathanael: "Welcome dear Vladyka to the United States for your 2006 Autumn Pastoral visit! Can you please tell us what your plans are for this visit? Will you be meeting with any from the ROCOR who are unhappy with Metropolitan Laurus' decision to unite with the Moscow Patriarchy?"
Metropolitan Valentine: "I came to visit with my flock, to serve together with my Bishop, His Grace, Bishop Andrei, and to meet with our clergy. We will be discussing several Church matters that pertain to the life of our Church in America. As regards meeting with those from the ROCOR, I am willing to meet with both them and *anyone* else who wishes to speak with me during my visit here. I have already spoken with quite a few people since arriving here last Friday. Both Bishop Andrei and I have been quite busy."
Nathanael: "Can you please give to us a general overview of the ROAC Jurisdiction?"
Met Valentine: "We have approximately 300 communities, of which, 12 Bishops are their Chief Shepherds. Of these 300 communities, 100 are operating openly--the other 200 are in the catacombs. By definition, we do not know, nor do we want to know, who exactly they are, where exactly they are, and how many there are of them, etc. There are many today who try to establish their authority by claiming that they are in the "Catacomb Church." They put on the Internet that they are members of the Catacomb Church. But real "Catacomb Christians" do not want anybody to know anything about them."
Nathanael: "Can you briefly tell us why the ROAC is a canonical Jurisdiction and why people can safely find refuge in the ROAC?"
Met Valentine: "I was consecrated a Bishop under Metropolitan Vitaly of the ROCOR in 1991 by four ROCOR Bishops, namely, Bishops Anthony of Geneva; Mark of Berlin; Gregory (Grabbe) of Washington D.C. and Florida; and Varnava of Cannes France. When the Synod "deposed" me and the five Bishops with me in 1995, they had no canonical grounds for doing so. It should be noted that Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) was not allowed to be present during this Synodal gathering that was held against us. And it should be noted that the allegations made against me and the others, which were circulated by Archbishop Mark of Berlin, were later found to be groundless, as recorded in the minutes of the ROCOR's Synodal meeting by Archbishop Hilarion. But the real reason that the Synod "deposed" me and the five others, is because we simply would not allow the outside "meddlers," Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Bishop Varnava, to intrude into the running, or should I say, the "running-down" of our parishes here in Russia. I find it highly suspicious, that we were "deposed" both by the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchy, on the very same day."
Nathanael: "Gregory Lourie is back in the news. He claims to be part of the ROAC. Recently he celebrated, as a priest, the Feast of "The Exaltation of the Cross" at his St Petersburg Church. Is he a priest? And then at the Feast, Lourie performed the custom of waving the Cross to the four corners of the world. Isn't this the province of a Bishop only? Is Lourie trying to pass himself off as a Bishop? Is he now a Bishop? Was he consecrated secretly by other Bishops? Will Lourie try to start a ROAC-Lourie "opposing" Jurisdiction?"
Met Valentine: "Gregory Lourie was deposed from the priesthood by our Church in September of 2005. He has no right to continue acting as a "priest." If he does so, it is an invalid act and a blasphemous mockery of the Holy services that he performs. It is unto his own condemnation that he illegally performs these services, and to the spiritual detriment of those who take part in it as well. As far as Gregory Lourie's involvement in the ceremony of "The Elevation of the Cross" is concerned, our Synod will follow due process in both our investigations and actions with regard to it. But to bring it into true focus, we do not consider Gregory Lourie, nor the parish of St Elizabeth in St Petersburg, which he "serves," to be in the ROAC. I should also note, that the so-called "monastic tonsures" that Gregory Lourie recently performed on Olga Mitrenina and her friend, Martha Senina, we consider to be illegal, and therefore, these "monastic tonsures" are both null and void."
Nathanael: "Is the Moscow Patriarchy persecuting the ROAC in Russia?"
Met Valentine: "It is well known and well documented that the Moscow Patriarchy has been harassing our Church in Russia. The MP is using its influence in the government to do the same. Recently, in the city of Zheleznovodsk, which is located in Western Russia near the Ukraine, the government took our Church property, and gave it to the MP."
Nathanael: "Will the ROAC seek to enter into communion with Abp Tikhon of the RTOC? Or any of the other TOC Churches both in Greece and in North America like the GOC and the ROCiE?"
Met Valentine: "In the year 2000, our Synod made a statement in which we said that we would be actively seeking to join together with other True Orthodox Churches throughout the world. During the past six years, all of our experiences in this vein have proved disappointing. We are willing to sit down at the table and speak with anyone, but we are no longer actively initiating this outreach based on our disappointments in the past. We are concentrating rather, on saying our prayers, and serving the flock which is under our care now."
Nathanael: "In closing dear Vladyka, what do you perceive to be the future of the ROAC both in Russia and abroad? Will the ROAC be able to withstand the persecution of the MP in Russia? Will the ROAC grow outside of the boundaries of the Russian Federation?"
Met Valentine: "First of all, the Lord promised us that the Church would always be persecuted. But He also said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. As far as our Church outside of Russia is concerned, that depends on the people there. If they in their search for the truth find it is desirable to be under our omophorion, we are happy to accommodate them. I am confident, that with our new Bishop Andrei in America, our dedicated clergy and our sincere and devout flock throughout the world, that the ROAC, which stands upon a strong Apostolic Confession of Faith, can look upon the future with both optimism and hope."