Task is Not to Seek Our Own Will, but the Will of God"
Interview given by Bishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western
for the San Francisco Cathedral Publication "Messenger"
September 27, 2003.
Your Grace, who was the initiator of the meeting between
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and the members of the Synod
of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
with the President of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin?
In September of this year, the prior of the Stavropighial
Monastery of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of God in Moscow
(the Sretensky Monastery), Archimandrite Tikhon, asked to
be heard at the Fall Session of the Synod of Bishops. The
Sretensky Monastery is a major publication center of the Church
in Russia. Father Tikhon is well acquainted with both the
internal life of the Moscow Patriarchate and the life of the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. He participated in
the Church History Conferences organized by the Russian Church
Abroad in 2001 and 2002. At the Session of the Synod of Bishops,
Father Tikhon conveyed President Putin's desire to meet with
the hierarchy of the Russian Church Abroad.
When did it become known that the meeting would actually
Initially we received a verbal invitation, but the official
written invitation was received only a few days prior to the
What did you discuss with President Putin and what was your
personal impression of him?
The President mainly spoke about Russia. Reconciliation was
his main theme. For true reconciliation to take place in Russia,
it is first necessary for the Russian Church to be reconciled.
To that end, both parts of the Russian Church, that which
is in Russia and the part beyond its borders, must find rapprochement.
It is my understanding, and this brings me much consolation,
that President Putin places the Church at the center of Russia's
reconciliation, at the center of a revival and a healing process.
I would say that this is the first time after the Revolution
in Russia that a leader of Russia-Soviet Union has expressed
such an Orthodox idea.
We also discussed the state of the Church in Russia, concerns
regarding Church property and the legacy of the tragic 20th
century. Our bishops suggested to President Putin that a special
day be established in Russia commemorating all the victims
of the godless terror. This would not be a holiday, an off
day from work, but a day of sorrow. Schoolchildren would have
talks dedicated to this subject. Regular programming on television
would be canceled, and only programs on the subject of this
day of sorrow would be televised. President Putin personally
welcomed this idea, but said that some thought would have
be given as to how to make it a reality. His Grace Metropolitan
Laurus stressed that, for the Russian Church Abroad, serving
Russia, laboring for the Russian Church, for the Russian people
and culture, is of greatest importance. We presented an icon
of St. Elizabeth to President Putin. I watched carefully how
attentively he looked at the icon, how he made the sign of
the cross with reverence and then venerated the icon.
I was left with the impression that the President of Russia
is someone direct, open and sincere. He loves his country
and his people deeply and it is clear that it pains him to
see and know how difficult life is for the ordinary people.
One can really sense this pain for Russia.
During our meeting, President Putin conveyed a personal invitation
from the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexei to His
Eminence Metropolitan Laurus to visit Russia. Metropolitan
Laurus has been to Russia numerous times, but never in the
capacity of the First-Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church
outside of Russia. The Metropolitan accepted the invitation
Your Grace, how do you propose events will unfold in the
I would like to stress that all the events that have taken
place thus far have happened, one could say, on their own.
We did not make any plans, and we are not making any plans
now. We do acknowledge, though, that in the course of the
last 10 years, absolutely unpredictable events have taken
place, and also, that the division in the Russian Church continues
to pain us. The Lord is merciful. He Himself leads us, He
Himself arranges everything. We must not seek our own will,
but the will of God.
Insofar as the future is concerned, our main focus now is
on the upcoming All-Diaspora Clergy Conference and Sobor of
Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad. The Conference will
take place in the Holy Protection Parish in Nyack, NY, from
December 8-12 of this year. This will not be simply a pastoral
conference, but an All-Diaspora one, with clerical representatives
from all dioceses of our Church. The main theme of the upcoming
Conference is: "The Path of the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia, Past and Future." There will be guest
speakers from Russia as well. They will deliver talks on the
three topics: the New Martyrs of Russia, Church life in Russia
and Ecumenism. The All-Diaspora Conference will convene under
the omophorion of our Guide, the Kursk-Root Wonder-working
Icon of the Mother of God. She has led us all these years
and we hope for and are in great need of Her Protection.
In preparation for the All-Diaspora Conference and the upcoming
Sobor of Bishops, a delegation of three bishops will visit
Russia and meet with Patriarch Alexei. The main purpose for
the meeting with Patriarch Alexei is to meet him face to face,
without intermediaries, to discuss Church matters and to ascertain
his personal views on a number of issues. The bishops will
share the results of this meeting with the participants of
the All-Diaspora Conference and the Sobor of Bishops in December.
Do you not think that some people may feel such a meeting
There are times when we should avoid meetings, and there are
times when we are obliged to meet face to face. In the past
I have feared such meetings, I even preferred being isolated,
but there have been too many changes in Russia. As a pastor,
I have a great responsibly for the salvation of souls, and
I also feel that someone has been praying hard for me. All
this has caused me to have a change of heart. If we have a
great conviction in our position, if God is with us, we should
not be afraid. According to Apostle Peter, we must always
be ready to give an answer of our hope (I Peter, 3,15).
When we meet face to face with somebody, the picture we get
is much closer to reality. We can longer limit ourselves with
reports from others, from internet news items and from a view
from afar--the time has come for us to come into real contact
with the body of the Church in Russia, with the life of the
Church there, with the positive, the promising, as well as
with the negative.
In conclusion I would like to say that our Lord, by miraculous
means, is returning our Russian Church Abroad, the Church
we are so dedicated to and love so dearly, to its original
path, the path of its founders. I personally believe that
this is due to the prayers of the great saint and wonder-worker
of the Russian Church Abroad--Saint John of Shanghai and San
By his holy prayers may our Lord guide us!