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Metropolitan Hilarion: The Russian state will take…

Metropolitan Hilarion: The Russian state will take care of the restoration of the Church of the Archangel Michael in Cannes

On November 27th, 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: Several shady online resources have put up for sale the data of citizens who bought for themselves fake certificates of vaccination and PCR tests. There are more than 500 thousand people in those databases of personal information. According to some, such websites and resources had been created in order to blackmail those very citizens in the future. In connection with this news, a discussion arose: is an amnesty necessary for such citizens and for doctors, because appeals fr om allegedly vaccinated Russians have become more frequent in order to get a real vaccine after a couple of months? What do you think, Vladyka, should such an amnesty be announced for doctors who issued fake certificates for the "vaccinated"? 


Metropolitan Hilarion: I believe, this is first and foremoset a violation of the law, and if people violate the law, they should be punished accordingly. Now is not the time to grant amnesty to deceivers and adventurers. Now we need to take all measures to exclude the possibility of selling fake certificates, so that every person who made the vaccine receives a genuine certificate and can enter public places with it. 

What does a fake certificate mean? That a person jeopardizes, first of all, his life, and secondly, the lives of people around him. Every day we break records for the number of deaths, we have more than a thousand deaths per day - this is a huge number. Whatever the opponents of vaccination say, whatever those who say that people die fr om an influenza in the same numbers as fr om COVID, this is not true. These are huge numbers, we are losing people. Hospitals are overcrowded, doctors are overwhelmed. And in light of this huge crisis that has engulfed our country, the sale of fake certificates is an extremely immoral act and a crime for which the perpetrators should be held accountable: both those who sell those certificates and those who buy them.

E. Gracheva: Vladyka, this week it became known that the government had approved and submitted to the State Duma a draft of a bill focused on expanding the rights of men to receive maternity capital. In the list of categories of men who can get this capital are also those who are raising children fr om surrogate mothers. We remember that it all started in June: the Constitutional Court approved such a norm. Now it is up to the State Duma to make the decision. "Komsomolskaya Pravda" conducted its own poll: 60 percent of respondents agree with this decision. What will the Church say to this? 


Metropolitan Hilarion: We have a definite position regarding surrogate motherhood, which is fixed in the "Basics of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church", and then in the additionally adopted document entitled "On the baptism of children born to surrogate mothers." We do not interfere in the legislation, in the personal life of people, but with regard to those who are members of the Church, we speak quite clearly and unequivocally: surrogate motherhood is not approved or blessed by the Church, because surrogacy is an interference with what belongs to God Himself. 

Children should be born to a dad and a mom, to a biological father and a biological mother. Children are born in a legal marriage, which is sanctified by the sacrament of the matrimony - this is the teaching which the Church has always professed. Anything that goes beyond the scope of this teaching is a violation of the integrity of marriage and the Church cannot accept it. Accordingly, the Church also cannot approve of initiatives aimed at supporting surrogacy in one form or another.

E. Gracheva: Russian Muslims have asked the city authorities to allow them to organize prayer rooms at the metro stations in Moscow so that they could perform regular prayer, as required by their religion. How would you react if such prayer rooms appeared in the metro? 


Metropolitan Hilarion: I think that in our country we must create conditions for all religious organizations to have the right to freely express their faith. 

If we’re talking about Muslims, then I have repeatedly seen in the Middle East and in other countries how during prayer Muslims would stop their activities. For example, a merchant in a shop stands on a rug and performs namaz. He does not look at the people around him, he is not shy about showing his religious feelings in public. He does this because his religion commands him to do so. I think that in our country there should be conditions for each person to freely profess their religion.

From the point of view of the Moscow Patriarchate, it is churches that are seen as places for prayer. We come to churches to pray. At the same time, we have a commandment that goes back to the apostle Paul himself: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5.17). We are called to pray not only in a church, but also when we are in the subway and other public places.

In the Orthodox tradition, it is not customary, for example, to stop on the street and pray the way Muslims do. If we pray in public transport, we do it silently. However, every religious tradition has its own rules. For example, as one Jewish believer had once told me, the Jews observe the Sabbath so strictly, that if, for example, they end up at the airport on the Sabbath and have to fly somewhere further, then they will have to sit at the airport for a day until the Sabbath ends, so that they could resume their flight.

Each religion has its own rules and they deserve respect. If prayer rooms are created for Muslims, then prayer rooms must be created for both Christians and also representatives of other religious traditions, because they also have their own religious needs.

By the way, in many airports around the world there are such prayer rooms for representatives of different faiths. For example, Brussels airport has six prayer rooms: one for Catholics, another for Protestants, third for Orthodox Christians, fourth for Muslims, fifth for Jews, and the sixth is just a room for non-believers wh ere they can come and consult a psychologist.

Another question arises: wh ere will these premises be located? Because we all know the metro very well: there are paths along which trains run, there are stations wh ere passengers gather, and if it is necessary to arrange prayer rooms at each station, then wh ere will they be located? Then, probably, all the metro stations would need to be redesigned and rebuilt. I don't know if the Moscow Metro is ready for this kind of transformation.

E. Gracheva: I would like to talk about the rules of Russian spelling and punctuation. Is is on them that the Russian language has been based since 1956. It turned out that for more than sixty years no changes have been made to those rules, and, according to philologists, the day has come for these changes and our dictionaries to be updated. The Ministry of Education has published a draft of this document and updated spelling rules are now being proposed, including for terms associated with religion. For instance, it is suggested that the words "God", "Easter" and "Patriarch" should be written with capital letters. As a writer and a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, how would you evaluate these innovations? 


Metropolitan Hilarion: I view them positively, but this cannot be called an innovation. This is a return to those norms of the literary Russian language that existed in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, and which, for ideological reasons, were distorted in Soviet times in order to specifically humiliate and trample on religion and believers. For this purpose, the word "God" and, for example, the expression "Mother of God" began to be written with a lowercase letters. While believers have always – both in Soviet times and now – been writing those words with a capital letter. 

We in the Church have our own standards that we observe and those standards have been published. All publications that come out under the auspices of the Church follow certain rules. We always capitalize the word "God" except when it comes to pagan gods: in those cases, the word "god" is written with a lowercase letter. We capitalize the word “Church” when it comes to the Church as an organization. But if we are talking about the church as a temple building, then we write it with a lowercase letter. Therefore, there is a certain logic in writing certain words with a capital or a lowercase letter, and we follow this logic. It was developed, in fact, back in the 19th century, when our literary language was created by great Russian writers. However, I repeat, it was distorted in Soviet times. Now these distortions are being removed and this can only be welcomed.

E. Gracheva: Vladyka, here is a a direct question for you as the head of the Department for External Church Relations. It is connected with the decision of the French court in Grasse, which recognized the Church of the Archangel Michael in Cannes as the property of our country. This is indeed a long story. Could you please tell us more about the background of this dispute? Due to this dispute, the church is now inactive. How did it happen that our property became an object of a court disagreement in France? What is the fate of the church now? Will the services there be resumed? 


Metropolitan Hilarion: In accordance with the French law, all religious denominations exist not in the form of centralized organizations, but in the form of associations, that is, for example, the Roman Catholic Church of France does not have the status of a legal entity. It is canonically formalized, there is a conference of bishops, but from the point of view of French law, each parish is nothing more than an association, that is, a group of people who have gathered to fulfill some purpose, in this case, religious. In French it is called "аssociation sans but lucratif", that is, "an association without commercial purposes”.  We would call it a "non-profit association." 

It was the association that owned the Church of Archangel Michael in Cannes that brought it to this state. Not only there had not been any repair work done, but there was also a collapse of the dome that has taken place. It is now lying on the ground. The building is cordoned off and is now in a woeful state. People have not been allowed inside for six years. The priest, who is invited by this association to serve, performs services in a tent. This egregious situation is the fault of the leadership of this association. Now the church has been returned to its rightful owner by a court decision, because it was built at the end of the 19th century at the expense of the Russian imperial family. It was the property of the Russian state and it is returning to the status of a property of the Russian state. We can finally breathe a sigh of relief, because now the Russian state will take care of the restoration and the major repairs of this church.

I very much hope that soon after the restoration work has been carried out, believers will be again able to participate in divine services in this historic Russian church.

E. Gracheva: Let's hope that it will turn into a similar pearl of Orthodoxy on the French Riviera as the Church of St. Nicholas in Nice. 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: In Russia, a large number of people die every day, not only from coronavirus, but also from other serious diseases. For example, from flu, tuberculosis, heart diseases. As a result of accidents, more than 11 thousand people were killed in Russia last year. However, for some reason, all attention is given to COVID, and you personally also constantly talk about this. Vladyka, in my opinion, this problem has gone out of hand. 


Metropolitan Hilarion: I don’t know if you have been to a hospital or the hospital “red zone”. Go and have a look. Do not be lazy, put on your overalls, go see these people connected to the ventilator, look at people who are dying. Maybe your family has not yet been affected, but sooner or later it will probably affect someone close to you. Then you will see that this problem has not been sucked out of the blue. Only then will it be too late. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like you who not only have such views, but also voice them. In fact, what is happening is completely incomparable with what you are describing. You yourself write that as a result of accidents last year, more than 11 thousand people died. And more than a thousand people die from the coronavirus a day. So compare these numbers. Even a simple comparison of these numbers will show you that the problem is not at all exaggerated.


Question: Hello, Vladyka. I would like to thank you for your active position in favor of vaccination. I myself have been vaccinated, moreover, I am planning to undergo revaccination. I made this choice myself, because I don't want to die. But I can't explain and convince my loved ones. My reasoning does not work for them.  Half of my friends and some of my relatives – are desperately against the vaccine. How can I explain the need for vaccination from an Orthodox point of view? 


Metropolitan Hilarion: You know, my arguments do not work for many either. For instance, I have just responded to the question wh ere it was said that the problem was exaggerated. The figures are published. People die in thousands a day, but someone wants to believe that the problem is sucked out of the blue, someone wants to believe that covid is the same as seasonal flu. There are people, and there are a lot of them, who prefer to believe not figures and facts, but myths and rumors. They live by these myths, these people are very aggressive, just like many of our anxi-vaxxers: they are very aggressive, they attack other people, they do not stop before forging or buying fake certificates, that is, they do not even stop at deeply immoral acts. There are people who cannot be convinced. Nevertheless, I am confident that we must tell them the truth, tell them what is really happening. And if they do not believe, if they attack us for this, then it must be tolerated. If they do not believe or do not want to hear us, then we often cannot do anything about this problem, unfortunately. 

There are many people who did not believe in covid, they thought that these were all fairy tales, that this problem was exaggerated, and as a result they got sick and now they have already left this earthly world. There are people who did not advise others to be vaccinated, their relatives for instance, and thus contributed to the fact that those other people died in severe torment. And now they come to us, priests, for confession and say: I am so sorry that I didn’t save my mother or that I didn’t save my grandmother ... We are now constantly faced with this. Unfortunately, people regret and come to their senses too late, when it is already impossible to correct anything.  

Question: There are two similar questions: one from Konstantin, whose mother is sick. She is unbaptized and he wants to pray for her in church. And another question from Svetlana, who how one must pray for the dead if they were not Orthodox, were Catholics or belonged to other Christian denominations. 


Metropolitan Hilarion: In the Orthodox Church, there is such a rule that certain types of commemoration - both for the living and the dead, namely those commemorations that are performed publicly at divine services - are performed only in relation to Orthodox people, both living and dead. This applies to commemoration at the proskomedia, that is, before the start of the Divine Liturgy, this applies to those cases when the notes with names are read aloud. But no one prevents an Orthodox Christian from praying for his loved ones, regardless of their confession. This applies to both the living and the dead. 

The Lord commanded us to pray for each other, and not only for Orthodox people. Therefore, if you want to pray for your loved one, living or deceased, then no one will interfere. This is a good, kind and holy deed.

Question: Several years ago, when I was already mature, I was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church, since at that time I was living in Athens. Here’s my question: for me, as an Orthodox person now living in Russia, does this change something? Should I be baptized again? 


Metropolitan Hilarion: You do not need to be baptized again. We say in the Creed: "I confess one baptism for the remission of sins." If a person has been baptized once, then no re-baptism is required for him. Except for those cases when he was, for example, baptized in some schismatic community by a certain false priest or an impostor who does not have a canonical ordination. In this case, the sacrament of Baptism is performed. Moreover, we do not say that it is repeated, because we believe that the previous “baptism” performed by an impostor or a schismatic was not valid. 

I would like to conclude this episode with the words of the Apostle Paul from Ephesians: “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5.17).

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

DECR Communication Service


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