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Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk: Every day we lose about a thousand people due to coronavirus

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk: Every day we lose about a thousand people due to coronavirus
Version for print
27 October 2021 year 09:20

On October 23rd, 2021, on The Church and the World TV program shown on Saturdays and Sundays on “Rossiya-24”, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR), answered questions fr om the anchor Ekaterina Gracheva.

E. Gracheva: Hello! This is the time of the program “The Church and the World” on the TV channel “Rossia 24”, where we talk weekly with the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. Hello, Vladyka!

Metropolitan Hilarion: Hello, Catherine! Hello dear brothers and sisters! 

E. Gracheva:  Vladyka, on October 15th, the All-Russian Population Census began in the country. There are several dozen questions in this questionnaire. It must be said that the last such extensive census was conducted in 2010. The questions are very different: they relate to housing conditions, education level, family structure, nationality, but I did not find questions about religion in this questionnaire. What do you think about the questions in this questionnaire? Are you familiar with them and which ones would you add there? 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  I think that there are really many questions in the questionnaire, and many of them do not concern a person, but, for example, the place where he lives, what material the walls of his house are made of, etc. Probably, such questions are necessary in order to develop housing and transport infrastructure, as experts explain. I think that many people will not be able to answer some of the questions, but as far as I understand, answering all the questions is optional. 

I am now much more worried about something else: the fact that we are losing almost a thousand people every day. Now we will rewrite the population, but several months will pass and we will lose part of this population. It seems to me that all forces should now be thrown into this. The healthcare system is not that elastic. The hospitals are now overcrowded. My friends wanted to send the child to a hospital with some fairly common stomach ailment, but it turned out that there were no places in Moscow hospitals. They were offered to take the child to Sergiev Posad. That is, children and adults get sick, people die. We are constantly breaking anti-records for morbidity and mortality. First of all, we must do something about it.

E. Gracheva:  So you think, Vladyka, that vaccination could be made mandatory in order to reduce the burden on the medical staff and on hospitals. Have I understood you correctly? 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  You understand correctly. I do not believe that vaccination should be mandatory for everyone, but, apparently, it should become mandatory for very many categories of workers - for those who work with other people. If you do not want to be vaccinated, stay at home, do not go outside, do not become a potential source of infection for other people. If you have some kind of homework, for example, you are a writer, you may not need to get vaccinated. But if you work in the social sphere, if you are a teacher or a lecturer, if your profession is associated with constant contact with people, then it seems to me that vaccination for such people should be mandatory. 

Moreover, I think it is necessary to carefully consider the mechanisms of encouraging people to vaccinate. Vaccination has happened and is happening free of charge, the vaccine is generally available, but many people do not want to be vaccinated, and now we see what is happening around us. I think this is a very alarming, deplorable and tragic situation. We priests face this every day. They write to us: a person is ill and ask us pray, then they write that this person had been taken to the hospital, connected to a ventilator, and then they ask to pray for the repose of his soul ... We now face such situations every day.

E. Gracheva:  Vladyka, your statement in one of the past programs that the vaccination campaign in Russia has failed has had a wide resonance. In the comments, many ask the question, what is the statistics of vaccinated among the workers of the Russian Orthodox Church, among the priests? Does anyone have such statistics at all?  

Metropolitan Hilarion:  We do not keep special statistics on vaccinations among priests or parishioners, but I think that the percentage is about the same as in society in general. As far as I can tell, in general, in society, opinions are divided about 50 to 50, that is, about half of our population are people who have been vaccinated or are ready for this, or they have been ill and have a sufficient amount of antibodies. And the other half are people who, for some fundamental reason, do not want to be vaccinated, and these considerations are sometimes the most ridiculous. For example, myths are spreading that these vaccines will make a man impotent, that a woman will not be able to give birth, that vaccination will have some long-term, dangerous and dire consequences. People turn a blind eye to what is happening around them, when one by one those around them pass away, and they die in the most difficult circumstances: they suffocate, they cannot say goodbye to their relatives They even say that they do not wish such deaths to their enemies, but at the same time turn a blind eye to all this and feed on some myths. 

E. Gracheva:  Should vaccination become mandatory for priests? 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  Personally, I think that vaccination should be mandatory for clergymen, since they are in constant contact with a very large number of people. Except, of course, when there are some medical contraindications. But in our Church, as in the state as a whole, such an approach has been adopted that we do not oblige the clergy to be vaccinated. 

E. Gracheva:  Vladyka, due to the difficult epidemiological situation, the Council of Bishops, scheduled for November, has been postponed to the end of May next year. This Council was expected to make a number of important decisions, in particular, regarding the recognition of the “Yekaterinburg remains”. How will things go now? 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  I think that the decisions which we are not going to be able to make in November, will me made next year, if, God willing, the epidemic situation changes for the better. Then, probably, those decisions will be made, the adoption of which was scheduled for November. 

The Investigative Committee has already released three volumes of materials that were collected during the study of the "Yekaterinburg remains." In contrast to the first study, which was hastily done in the 90s without the Church, which caused suspicion and bewilderment, the current research is exhaustive. More than 40 different tests, including genetic ones, were performed in different laboratories, including those where no one knew what kind of bone tissue samples they were. The conclusions made by the Investigative Committee are quite clear. The members of the Synod have already been familiarized with these conclusions, and after the publication of these three volumes, they will become available to everyone.

A very painstaking, scrupulous and, in fact, exhaustive work has been carried out. We just have to get acquainted with its results and make an appropriate decision.

E. Gracheva:  Vladyka, let's move on to international topics. Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is on a visit this week to the United States of America, where he is scheduled to have a personal meeting with President Joe Biden. What is the purpose of this visit of the Patriarch of Constantinople? What are you expecting based on its results? 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  First, the main flock of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is in America. In Turkey, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has practically no believers, and in America there is a solid Greek diaspora, which is the flock of the Patriarch of Constantinople. This flock financially supports, and in fact, maintains the Patriarchate of Constantinople. 

In addition, the American administration has been providing political support to Constantinople for many years, including those ambitious plans that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has been nurturing and partially implementing. These plans boil down to the fact that fr om an honorable primacy the role of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the Orthodox Church grows into a kind of papal authority in the Catholic Church. This, in fact, is what the Patriarch of Constantinople is most concerned about. This can be traced in almost all areas of his activities.

E. Gracheva:  Ksenia Sobchak published a film on her YouTube channel with the participation of the notorious priest Roman Stepanov. He became famous for calling on the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church to make public their income and property. Specifically in this interview, he tells Sobchak about the use of drugs by priests, about the rape of minors by clergymen. Have you seen this interview? What do you say about him? 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  I saw this interview. Let's put everything in its place. He is not talking about drug use by priests, but about how he used drugs himself. What is, in fact, the video product made by Ksenia Sobchak? She found a priest who was banned from the ministry. Why is he banned? Not because he called for the disclosure of income, but because he violated the basic canonical rules of the Orthodox Church. 

There is a basic rule that a priest must be married in a single marriage. If a priest's marriage is broken, he can either become a monk, or can remain celibate, or, if he enters into a second marriage, he is deprived of the sacred rank - this is a generally accepted rule from which no exceptions are made. After the ordination, this priest's family fell apart - this is, of course, a life tragedy, but each priest responds to such a life tragedy differently. This priest began to cohabit with another woman, and he used drugs with her, about which he himself very colorfully talks. Then he had a daughter from this woman. He also parted with her and has now entered into cohabitation with a third woman.

E. Gracheva:  A real "Casanova of the Russian Orthodox Church" ... 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  He talks about all this in this film, shows these women. Therefore, if you compare him with Martin Luther, then, perhaps, first of all, you need to ask the question that Christ asked His opponents: "Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?" (Luke 6:41). On what grounds and what right does a person have who has violated the fundamental rules applicable to a clergyman? ..   

Much in this film is completely unsubstantiated. For example, a woman accuses a certain priest of harassing her. Why should we trust this woman? Roman Stepanov comes to the church to this priest with a camera, pursues him, begins to tell him that he must repent, confess. What if that priest is innocent? If he is guilty, let the investigating authorities figure it out. Why then does this woman not file a lawsuit, go to the prosecutor's office? This whole film is built on such completely unsubstantiated lies.

Again, this priest speaks of violence against underage children in relation to himself. He tells how he, a five-year-old boy, was once attacked by older children who raped him. This is a trauma that he experienced, but what this has to do with the life of the Church is completely incomprehensible.

That is, it turns out that a person has numerous personal problems: he was a drug addict, now he seems to have "quit"; he violated his marital fidelity, he is already living with a third woman, being still a priest, and at the same time he is looking for problems not in himself, but in the world around him. Of course, such a problematic person who has had so many tragedies and flaws in his life is unlikely to be able to see something good not only in the Church, but in the world around him in general.

E. Gracheva:  Someone under this video of Sobchak wrote the following comment: "After all, the Lord saved her from death, and the first thing she does is release this abomination about the Church." We are talking, of course, about the fatal accident in Sochi, in which Sobchak was a passenger in a car. Did Ksenia Sobchak have a moral right to leave the accident scene, in your opinion? 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  I think that the driver is responsible for the road accident. Therefore, of course, the driver must remain in place. If a passenger is involved in a road accident, then humanly he is called upon to help the victims. That's all I can say on this topic. 

E. Gracheva:  But what about the fact, Vladyka, that she fired the previous driver when he refused to go to the oncoming lane? 

Metropolitan Hilarion: I don’t want to discuss other people's sins, I don’t want to be like Roman Stepanov, who is looking for some problems around him. Let everyone be responsible for their own affairs and be held accountable for their actions - this is the best approach. The Lord said: “Do not judge, lest you be judged” (Matt. 7: 1). 

E. Gracheva:  Thank you very much, Vladyka, for answering our questions. 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  Thank you, Catherine! 

In the second part of the program, Metropolitan Hilarion answered questions from viewers that were sent to the website of the Church and the World program.

Question:  I have read all the Gospels, but I still do not understand wh ere God came from. He created the world and man, but how did He Himself appear? 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  God did not appear from anywhere, He has always existed, exists and will continue to exist. God, if you like, is the only Being that has never begun and will never end. All other creatures were created by God and received a beginning in time, and He exists outside of time, He is the Creator of time. He never ‘began to be’, He was never born, but has always existed. 

Question:  Please clarify the issue of the language of worship. I know it has been asked many times, but like many people, I still don't have a complete understanding. It is usually said that Church Slavonic is the language in which services were originally conducted. If you follow this logic, then you can go further - you need to conduct divine services in Greek. Since Christ spoke Aramaic, then maybe we must switch to Aramaic?  

Metropolitan Hilarion:  The language of worship is an issue that has been discussed in the Russian Orthodox Church for a very long time, at least since the 19th century, when St. Theophan the Recluse wrote on this topic. 

The problem here is complex and must be addressed in a comprehensive manner. Simply to translate the Byzantine liturgical texts of the 8th century into Russian does not mean to make the service more understandable. I conducted one simple experiment when I served in the Hungarian diocese: we had a Russian-speaking parish, and at one service I read the Great Canon of Penitential Andrew of Crete, not in Slavonic, but in Russian. People in the same way did not understand anything in Russian, just as they do not understand this text in Slavonic. Why? Because this is a complex theological text that was written in an era when people, and especially the monks for whom this text was written, knew the Holy Scriptures very well. Now people for the most part do not know the Holy Scriptures, even our Orthodox believers. It is almost impossible to simply understand such a complex theological text by listening, even in Russian.

That is, the question here is not to translate the texts into Russian, but to make the service more accessible and understandable. For this, in some cases, the Russian language can be used. For example, His Holiness the Patriarch suggests to priests who have a desire for this and have a corresponding request in their parish to read passages from the Epistle and from the Gospel in Russian, not in Slavonic. In some parishes, such readings are done in both Slavonic and Russian, as, for example, in the parish wh ere I serve. But the issue of understanding worship can be fully resolved only due to the fact that the meaning of the service will be constantly explained to people and they themselves will be serious about reading the Holy Scriptures. Without knowing the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, and not only the Gospel, but also the Old Testament, it is impossible to understand the service.

Question:  Tell me, please, how to get rid of selfishness, from fixation only on yourself? I cannot penetrate with all my heart into the problems of loved ones, but can only focus on my own problems. 

Metropolitan Hilarion:  To get rid of selfishness, you need to learn to put yourself in the place of another person. A person has come to you with a question or with a problem, and you are trying to solve this problem from your own experience, but try to put yourself in the place of this person. How would you act or how would you feel in such a situation? And try to help him from this perspective of another person, try too sympathize. This, of course, must be learned. In some cases, you have to force yourself to do this, force yourself to go out to meet another person, open your heart to him. And, of course, you need to pray to God that He will help you get rid of selfishness and see other people with their problems, sorrows, needs and diseases, and come to their aid. 

Question:  Explain, please, the commandment: "Do not judge ...". After all, our Savior, according to the Scripture, speaks against the high priests and scribes in disputes, calling them the offspring of vipers and hypocrites. 

Metropolitan Hilarion: First of all, I would like to say that the expression “spawn of vipers” is not a very successful translation of what would be more correct to translate as “offspring of snakes”. This expression was used by John the Baptist, and the Lord Jesus Christ borrowed it from the Baptist. The Greek word for “vipers” actually means a snake. That’s my first point.

As for your question, I can say the following. The Lord called not to judge or condemn people, but He never called for a person to renounce the gift of reasoning, that is, for example, we must understand what sin and a sinful way of life are. We have the right to condemn the sinful way of life, but we must not condemn the sinner.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself set an example. The Gospel contains numerous instances of how He did not condemn sinners, yet He never condoned sin. When a sinful woman came to Him to anoint His feet with fragrant ointment, He did not condemn her, but also did not justify her sin. He simply reacted to her in such a way that she understood without any words that she had to change her life.

The Lord calls us to act in this way: not to condemn people, but to live in such a way that when they come into contact with us, they themselves understand what is sin and what is virtue, and take an example from us.

I would like to conclude the transmission with the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, which were discussed today: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matt. 7: 1-2). 

I wish you all the best and may the Lord bless you all.

DECR Communication Service/

Version: Russian