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Metropolitan Leonid of Klin: We will not …

Metropolitan Leonid of Klin: We will not break the local conventions and traditions of African parishes

On December 29, 2021, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church at its session made the decision to form a Patriarchate Exarchate of Africa. Metropolitan Leond (Gorbachev) was appointed as Patriarchal Exarch with the title “of Klin”. In an interview to Yelena Verevkina of the Interfax-Religion portal, the hierarch said how and with whose money new parishes will develop, whether manifestations of racism are possible in the Russian Church and whether it is worth waiting for new people to join the Moscow Patriarchate at an early date.

-    As a part of Aftrican parishes have joined the Russian Orthodox Church, a completely new questions are arising. Do you think our Church may encounter some new challenges, for instance, demands to picture the apostles or Christ as dark-skinned, as is the case in some Protestant churches? Or may the problem of racism arise in the Church, and what on the whole is your attitude to the Black Lives Matter movement, may it reach the Church as well?

-   We always say that in the Church ‘there is no Gentile or Jew’ (Col. 3:11). Therefore, a particular image associated with national symbolisn does not prevail in Orthodox traditions. In the Orthodox Church, racism cannot arise in the absence of an ethnophiletic ground for it. Everything depends on those who lead their flock to salvation.

As for the BlM movement, I will emphasize once again that in Orthodoxy salvation is possible for the faithful regardless of their skin colour, ethnicity or languige, for those who do not seek to deviate from God’s commandments and the canons of the Church.

-   Will seminaries be developed in Africa for teaching and training Orthodox priests?

-    Today we have just begun implementing our plans. Surely, the issue of education is one of the top priorities. We are aware of how to solve it. There are excellent theological schools for teaching and training students. However, it is possible that we will create a number of educational institutions in the African continent, provided there is a need and expediencly for it.

-   In the post-Soviet education, especially in seminaries, there has always been some constraint with languages, now you have to do with African ones. Who will train people for work in Africa?

- In Russia, there is a sufficient number of universities that can train specialists with linguistic knowledge. In addition, in African countries they speak in English, French, Suahili and local dialects. As of today, there is no acute linguistic problem. We communicate in the above-mentioned languages. There are printed publications, religious literature, the order of the Divine Liturgy, the texts necessary for celebrating divine services in various languages of the continent. As it may be necessary, translation work will be carried out. We consider the trainiang of specialists in a wide range of areas..                                                                                   

-   Are there those in the Russian Church - benegactors, hierarchs, who are ready to give financial support to these African parishes? Indeed, for the most part these are very poor communities who need financial support. Who will finance them?

-   Yes, in the Russian Church there are benegactors who support her in many areas of her service and, remainng not indifferent to the fate of Universal Orthodoxy, they are ready from their generosity to support our mission in Africa as well. We are grateful to them for their awareness that the Russian Church is now becoming a guardian of Orthodoxy not allowing the holy canons to be trampled down in favour of particular political decisions.

-   What are the next steps to be made in the Russian Church for developing these new parishes?

-   As only two weeks have passed since the historic decision of the Holy Synod, it is too early to speak of the steps to be made. We hoped to the last that the leaders of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria would become aware of the whole tragedy of her step and make the only right decision to refuse to support the schism. We did not prepare anything beforehand, but, believe me, nothing will hold us back. Now we are working out a full-scale program not only for developing the parishes but also for ensuring the full-gledged presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in the continent, including the liturgical, educational, social and humanitarian components.

- How much does the course of the liturgical and parish life of these parishes differ from the traditional order observed in parishes of our Church?

-   Each community has its own special features. Orthodoxy is unique precisely in that it does not remove or level national traditions and culture - it unites everybody and everything in Christ. I have repeatedly said it in my service both outside and inside Russia. We will not break local conventions and traditions. Orthodoxy has always been distinguished by patience and love. Therefore, on the contrary, we will support and preserve the individuality of each community in the continent if its special features not contradict the teaching of the Church. These traditions will not make an influence on the liturgical process.

-   Don’t you think that the incorporation of African parishes will initiate a movement for joining the Russian Church in other Churches, namely those of Cyprus and Greece, which have recognized the non-canonical church (OCU) of Ukraine?

-   We stated that before and repeat now: the Russian Orthodox Church is not engaged in expansion. The Patriarch of Constantinople has committed a canonical crime by entering in ecclesical communion with schismatics. A number of Orthodox Churches have supported this illegal decision and concelebrated with people who have no canonical, that is, lawful ordination, and who are not clergimen.

We know that, according to the teaching of the Church, “he who communicates with schismatics becomes schismatics himself”. We have defended and will continue defending the Orthodox who refuse to be associated with a schism.





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