Metropolitan Kallistos (ware): “the Church must always preserve their inner freedom”

Interview of Metropolitan Dyaliscope for the web portal, the word of the theologian.

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SB: First of all, thank you very much, Your Eminence, that you have come, and for Your willingness to give an interview to the portal “the word of the theologian.” We will not ask you about how you came to Orthodoxy. you talked about this in various interviews. Please tell us about Your parents, about Your family.

MK: Yes, my parents were members of the Anglican Church. My father served in the army. He served in the army for 30 years, he participated in the First and Second world wars. I have one brother and two sisters. I always have fond memories of my parents, I was always close to him. They later moved to live with me here in Oxford. Before his death, my mother joined the Orthodox Church.

SB: Now in Russia the book of Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann enjoyed a degree of popularity in the Orthodox. environment. Especially when they became available after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The particular explosion of interest in his personality happened after the publication of his diaries. We know you talked to him. How close was Your communication with him and what can you tell about this and about Your attitude to the works and legacy of the O. A. Schmemann?

MK: I deeply admire the works of father Alexander, I especially found useful the book “For the life of the world”, also published as “Sacraments and Orthodoxy.” Several times I met him. I was always struck by his deep mind, he was, of course, deeply well-read in Orthodoxy, but he also knew very well the European literature. From his diaries it is quite clear that he had a keen intelligence and many contacts. Yes, he was definitely one of those authors who has influenced me, what I became Orthodox. I might mention two other Russian Orthodox author that drew me to the Orthodox Church: father George Florovsky, the theologian and the layman Vladimir Lossky. They must have given a greater impact than Alexander’s father. I also knew father John Meyendorff. I deeply appreciated his work on SV. Gregory Palama. Later I was also inspired by the theological writings of Metropolitan John Zizioulas. So not only Russian but also the Greeks helped me in my Orthodox journey.

SB: Who was the greatest Orthodox theologian of the 20th century? you could call someone’s name?

MK: Many people would say that the most prominent Orthodox theologian of the 20th century was father Sergius Bulgakov. I never met him. I was only 10 years old when he died. But along with his father Bulgakov I would call a very significant Orthodox theologians Vladimir Lossky and father George Florovsky, which I already mentioned. So rather than highlight one Orthodox theologian, I would prefer to mention three.

SB: One of the important aspects of the Church is unity. The unity of the Church mentioned in the creed, in fact you wrote about this in Your book “the Orthodox Church”. We remember the words of Christ about unity, addressed to the disciples. But it turns out that the feature of Orthodoxy has always been the relationship with the state. Initially, it was the Byzantine Empire, then of the national state. The relationship of Church and state leads to the fact that the Church is divided into Patriarchates, the number of jurisdictions increases. If it’s all in the spirit of Evangelical unity? How would you comment on this?

MK: Yes, in the past Christianity often operated on the idea that there should be a state Church. So there was the Church of Constantinople during the Byzantine Empire. We see this in many of the Autocephalous churches, but in the 20th century, we witnessed the fact that the relationship between state and Church becomes much weaker in different countries.

Here we come to the question: what unites the Church and makes it one? In the past, people probably would have said that the state is what unites the Church. It is obvious that in the 21st century we can’t give that kind of answer. Let’s go deeper. Really unites the Church of the Holy Eucharist, the communion of the Body and blood of Christ. This is the most important thing in the Church, and which nobody else can do. And I think that’s what the divine Liturgy is the unity of the Church, both within each Church, and between the different Orthodox churches. So, we’re not looking at a secular state in support of our unity. The sacraments are what tells us unity.

SB: I think that the approach of the Catholic Church and in Protestant churches is slightly different. It seems that the main principle of the unity of these churches is not the Eucharist, isn’t it?

MK: Not to the same extent as the Orthodox. There were some Roman Catholic theologians, who emphasized the importance of the Eucharist. I think this especially can be said about Henri de Lubac, who said: “the Church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist builds the Church”. But in General, according to Roman Catholic doctrine, especially in the First Vatican Council, the jurisdiction of the Pope is what unites the Church. Legal, not liturgical principle of unity. As for Protestants, they are so divided among themselves, so numerous that, in General, they are more emphasize the personal faith of the believer, not the unity of the Church.

SB: Given the importance of the Eucharist, and of course the Eucharistic communion, we cannot but refer to the current complicated developments in the Orthodox Church, which was the cause of the division between the Orthodox at the moment. What do you think about the situation around the issue of the autocephaly of the Church in Ukraine? Your feedback is especially valuable since you are a Bishop of the Church of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and you should be familiar with the situation from the inside. What’s going on? Could you please share it with us?

MK: first, the situation in Ukraine is extremely serious. And I’m very upset with what’s going on. And at the moment I don’t see what can be the solution. Then, secondly, while I am a Metropolitan of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I do not agree with the position taken by Patriarch Bartholomew. With all due respect to my Patriarch, I am bound to say that I agree with the opinion expressed by the Moscow Patriarchate, that Ukraine belongs to the Russian Church. In the end, the Kievan Metropolitanate under the agreement, 1676 was transferred under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate. And so for 330 years, Ukraine was part of the Russian Church. It certainly will not be a popular point of view in Constantinople, and I know that his all Holiness Bartholomew the Ecumenical Patriarch has a different opinion, but I definitely think that it was unreasonable on the part of the Patriarch of Constantinople, to declare unilaterally that the agreement 1676 cancelled. In the end, as Aristotle says, “even God can’t change the past”. It is a historical fact: Ukraine is concerned and refers to the Russian Church. So I think the error of the Ecumenical Patriarch is to give the autocephaly of the two schismatic bishops Philaret and Macarius. the way out of this situation perhaps needs to be a meeting of the heads of all Orthodox Churches, not only of Constantinople and Moscow, but also all the others. Because it is a problem that concerns all the Orthodox churches. Progress should be only through pan-Orthodox discussion. Perhaps we need again to convene the Holy and Great Council that two years ago gathered in Crete. At the same time, I am concerned about the actions of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and the Russian Church. I’m alarmed that they broke communion with Constantinople. I believe that this discussion of the situation in Ukraine should be considered in the spirit of brotherly love, without any communication break. Thus, I cannot fully agree with any of the parties. And I strongly pray that somehow there was a reconciliation.

SB: you’ve already said a lot and shared their opinion, but if you go further. What is Your opinion, perhaps Your personal opinion about why this question has been activated now. Because, of course, the issue of Ukrainian autocephaly, different understanding of who belongs to the Ukrainian Church, it all lasts for many years. But that’s exactly the point – what is Your vision?

MK: I don’t know. I have no insider information on this case. Note, however, that in 2016 the Russian Church did not participate in the Holy and Great Council, which was held in Crete. And Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew are extremely a lot of work to this Council took place. And for him it probably was a big disappointment that eventually the Russian Church, although she took an active part in all the arrangements, decided that she can’t come to the Cathedral. It is already a challenge, the separation between Constantinople and Moscow. But other than that, I don’t know why Patriarch Bartholomew chose this moment to intervene in Ukraine.

SB: it Seems you already mentioned how you’re upset by the breakup. Have you had a close relationship with the Russian Church, you visited Russia almost every year for many years. What do you think, how serious is the break of communion between the Russian Orthodox Church and Constantinople? Does it affect Your contacts with Russian Orthodoxy?

MK: Yeah, it should be noted that while the Russian Church found it expedient to break off communication with Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople no one broke the communication. We continue to say that we would like to have full fraternal relations with all Orthodox churches including the Moscow Patriarchate. Therefore, from the Constantinople I am still free to maintain all their diverse contacts with the Russian Church. And I can attest that my connections with the Russian Church and here in Western Europe and in Russia has always been very important to me. When I became Orthodox, I was adopted by a Greek Bishop in London, but he then sent me to confession to my spiritual father, who was a Russian priest, father Georgi Sheremetev. And so, from that time I always maintained a close relationship with the Russian Church. I appreciate my trips to Russia. Some of the happiest hours of my life have been spent before the Holy icons in the Tretyakov gallery in Moscow.

SB: There is an opinion, maybe not shared by all, that in the Russian Church, as an institution, adversely affected by the Soviet regime and the result of this is to support the state policy of Kremlin episcopacy in our days. Many, many people, especially in the Western media, the opposition leaders in Russia say about the very close relationship between Church and state in Russia. What do you think? How many bishops in Constantinople hold this opinion?

MK: I can’t speak for other bishops in Constantinople, but I will say for myself. It is important to separate between the Church existed in the days of communism, and the situation of the Church today. Under communism, the state was officially atheistic, it engaged in the destruction of the Church. And although sometimes it could tolerate the Church, their ultimate goal has always been to destroy the Church. Today, of course, the regime in Russia is not anti-Christian or anti-Orthodox. Putin is not the same as Stalin. Putin, we are told, and there is every reason to believe that he is a practicing member of the Orthodox Church. So, two situations – under communism and today are very different. And no need to be confused. As for the Communist era, say from 1917 to 1988, we must mention first of all the certificate of the Russian new martyrs and Confessors. Before I became Orthodox I read about the persecution that was in 1920-30-ies, and about the suffering that many Orthodox Christians have undergone in this time. I was deeply touched, and in fact it was one of the reasons why I was attracted to the Orthodox Church. I saw the Orthodox Church as the Church of martyrs. And I’m glad that now the Moscow Patriarchate has the ability to openly praise in your worship of these Confessors and martyrs. But the situation under communism was very difficult. I bow before the memory of Patriarch Tikhon. But I would like to know how wise were the concessions made by the Patriarch Sergius (he was not Patriarch at the time), which he did before the Soviet authorities in 1927, and subsequently. It seems to me that the Church in the Communist era is not the best way, was used by the atheist state, especially abroad, to promote the international policy of the Soviet government. So, Yes, there are many things that in the situation of the Church in Russia during communism bother me, but I have not lived as they, in times of persecution. So I have no right to judge. It is important to note that even if there were some bishops who were secret agents of the KGB, was innumerable bishops, priests and laity who remained truly faithful to the Church. And we must not forget. Even if there was some infiltration of the secret services in the Church, it did not prevent the persecuted Russian Church to have a living spiritual experience. Yes, the situation today. Personally I’d like it if it were not such a quite close connection between the Russian Church and state. The true ideal toward which we strive is that the Church really needs to have good relations with the state, but it should always preserve their inner freedom. And I pray that it was in Russia, now and in the future.

SB: Returning to the question of the unity of the Church. Christ praying with the apostles at the last supper spoke of unity:

All may be one; as Thou, father, in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us, – that the world may believe that thou hast sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, they may be one as We are one. (Jn.Of 17.21–22)

Is it possible today the unity of Christianity?

MK: I remember the words of the late Patriarch of Constantinople of Opinogora. He said: “Unity will be a miracle.” But then he added: “a Miracle in history.” Unity is a miracle that we can’t just through our human efforts to achieve the restoration of unity among Christians. We need to ask the Holy spirit to come down and joined us. But the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras was absolutely right when he said that unity will be a miracle in the history. We just hope we will be together in the future century, we are called to work for unity even now. Therefore, I support the efforts being made in the Ecumenical movement. I think we can do more to purchase through bilateral dialogues, than through membership in the world Council of Churches. But I also support the participation of the Orthodox Church in the world Council. So I definitely don’t believe ecumenism is heresy. We need to work for reconciliation. But at the same time, we believe that the Orthodox Church is the one true Church of Christ. And when we enter into discussions with other Christian communities, we should not make a compromise in relation to the Holy Orthodox faith. Without fanaticism, but with solid clarity in our contacts with other Christians we must bear witness to the full truth of Orthodoxy. Unity cannot be achieved through compromise. Thus, in the Orthodox faith we possess an invaluable treasure. In the words of the Holy Apostle Paul, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels glory and power come from God, not from us” So of course, we Orthodox today are unworthy of this treasure, but let us by all means to keep it. Let’s be open with love towards other Christians, but we will never renounce our Orthodoxy.

SB: In the situation that we have already discussed, when we have serious problems with unity between the Orthodox on the level of Church hierarchy, in reality it is the bishops and synods who decides in communion or we are not in fellowship, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of less formal and informal contacts on a pan-Orthodox level. Recent examples of informal Orthodox initiatives at the pan-Orthodox level is IOTA – international Orthodox theological Association, which plans to hold a conference in January in Romania. And also, our local initiative OATS – Orthodox Association of Theological Schools. Will such initiatives in some way to undermine the authority of the bishops? What would you say about this?

MK: It depends on how these work, we can call it, para-Church, informal group. It is important to work in full cooperation with the bishops. They must seek the blessing of the bishops. But at the same time, we ask our bishops, that they trusted us and gave us freedom, so that there can be open discussion. In these informal movements are the same problems faced by our Orthodoxy today. Thus, we wish to work with the bishops, but we ask them to trust us. Speaking about informal movements here in the UK there are Orthodox fellowship of St. John the Baptist, which every year organizes conferences, and publishes a small magazine, “the forerunner”. But we always in our fellowship of St. John the Baptist tried to get the blessing of the Orthodox bishops, which they gave. In France and in other countries of Western Europe are very active Orthodox brotherhoods, which, in my opinion, make a great contribution to the life of different parishes. Also in Britain we have a community of saints Albania and St. Sergius, which is not exclusively Orthodox. This movement involves Western Christians, especially Anglicans, who want to be closer with the Orthodox.

But I think that a community of saints Albania and St. Sergius Orthodox themselves helps to a deeper understanding of their own faith. Thus, I welcome such informal groups. We need such groups who have worked side by side with our parish structures and organized the dioceses. Conflict should not be. They can enrich our Orthodox life. And I think that’s exactly what they’re doing now.

SB: Maybe as an Addendum to our original plan, I have prepared some short questions which may not always require a big answer, this blitz.

CB: Who is your favorite writer?

MK: Favorite writer, Yes. The writer, who had me a very great influence is Charles Williams. He was British and died in 1945. Among other things he was the author of seven remarkable novels, which we might even call “sverkhizluchenie thrillers”. I especially remember one book called “All Hallows Eve” and another “Descent into hell”. These novels, which I read when I was a Junior in high school, I’ve always enjoyed them, and I often came back to him. Charles Williams is not widely known, he was a close friend of the COP Lewis, who is much better known, and also J. R Tolkien. Along with the novels of Charles Williams, I loved and frequently reread the Tolkien trilogy “the Lord of the rings”. These books, we can say, Christian fiction, which I love, but which taught me a lot.

SB: how many languages do you speak?

MK: the Languages I know best are those on which I actually didn’t say it -Greek and Latin. Because I studied them at University and got a degree in classical languages. But at the time I learned modern Greek, I am also very fluent in French. So I can write in French and speak it a sermon. But I’m not very good accent. Other languages I don’t know that well, but I can read German and Italian. I know enough Church and can serve the Liturgy in Slavonic, if needed. But I would need to know modern Russian language better than I know him.

SB: Who would you say is the most outstanding Orthodox theologian today? Call some names?

MK: Yeah, earlier I mentioned people who have already passed into another world. Among those alive today, I most likely honor Zizioulas Metropolitan John, Metropolitan of Pergamon. I deeply respect his work and about the Church and about the human person. So I would put it in the first place.

SB: do you watch TV?

MK: no, not Usually. I have no TV.

SB: do you listen to music?

MK: I love music. Especially composers of the Baroque era, and perhaps also a little earlier. I love Monteverdi, Vivaldi and Bach. And I love Russian Church music. She’s extraordinary beautiful.

SB: What are you reading? Maybe some books?

MK: I read a few books. But right now, in moments of leisure, I read the novel by John Buchan’s “John Burnet Burnski”. I love the novels of Buchan. I love to read novels of an earlier time, I don’t read a lot of contemporary authors.

SB: you Have a dream that hasn’t come true?

MK: if I have this dream, which was not yet.. I had these dreams that were fulfilled. A very long time ago when I had my first contacts with the Orthodox Church, long before I became Orthodox, I had a dream in which I saw myself as an Orthodox priest, kadashim Holy icons on the iconostasis. It was very lively. For me it was a sign that maybe I was called to join the Orthodox Church. This dream came true.

SB: Could you share your favourite joke?

MK: Oh, this is hard. Jokes depend on the context, they must arise spontaneously from the dialogue. I was told that on the Internet there is a program called “Jokes the Bishop,” which consists of different kinds of jokes I used in different conversations. But it seems to me very strange, when they are taken out of context and just relate with themselves. So I think it’s difficult to single out any individual joke.

SB: In any case, thanks a lot! Do you have a special word that you would like to appeal to our audience. Did I mention that this will be a mostly Russian audience. What do you wish viewers and readers of the portal the Word theologian?

MK: We meet during advent. Thus, my appeal to the Russian Orthodox people will be bless you Lord in the upcoming Christmas holiday. One of the texts which is referred to in a special way in the service of the vigil on the eve of Christmas is “God with us”. And I pray that you felt the real presence of Christ in your daily life, and especially in the coming holiday! Christ the Lord chose for himself to enter into communion with the human race the closest of all possible ways, by Himself becoming a man. And it is a source of constant joy and endless hope for all of us. Let you become co-partakers of the Christmas joy this year and every year!

Source: portal the Word theologian

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