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“The Russian Orthodox Church will never remain silent in Her care for or sorrow over the fates of the Russian people." An Interview with Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk

On April 9, 2010, on Bright Friday, His Eminence Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, celebrated his first Divine Liturgy in New York in ROCOR’s Synodal Cathedral of the Sign, co-served by His Grace Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese, and clergymen of the Synodal Cathedral and of St Nicholas Cathedral. On March 5, 2010, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Justinian was appointed Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the USA. Upon completion of the Liturgy, His Eminence gave an interview to Diocesan Media Office correspondent Reader Peter Lukianov. The text of Archbishop Justinian’s interview is available to readers below.

- Your Eminence, you recently arrived in the United States, after your appointment as Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the USA. What instruction were you given by His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill prior to your arrival in America?

First, His Holiness passes along, through me, his blessing to the Patriarchal parishes, and to that part of the fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church –  the Russian Church Abroad. The Patriarch himself charged me to be an ardent supplicant on the American continent, that in prayer we might form relationships with the clergy of the cathedral and the parishes, and that in prayer we might seek unity with the Russian Church Abroad, because woe be unto any clergyman who gives himself over primarily to practical business, to administrating, forgetting his basic, primary responsibility: being a priest, a performer of prayer, a performer of sacraments. And I, of course, will try not to forget these words of His Holiness the Patriarch, and these words must become manifested in works. Of course, His Holiness would also like for the divine services conducted in St Nicholas Cathedral to give the opportunity for the children of the Russian Church Abroad to familiarize themselves with those, I won’t say traditions, but customs, now prevalent in Russia. This is because, having once had a life independent of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Church Abroad may have seen the birth of Her own local traditions or particularities. And so it should be that, coming to St Nicholas Cathedral, the children of the Russian Church Abroad can see how people pray in Moscow or in other dioceses. However, this is clearly not the most important thing, which is adhering to Orthodox teachings, preserving the Church’s dogmas and canons, that which makes us familiar to our fellows regardless of where we may live. And, of course, the Patriarch cares deeply that our witness to the Russian Orthodox Church might reach those people who might not yet know Christ; there are such people in our Russian emigre community, as well. His Holiness’ concern is for Russians living here to stop thinking of themselves in terms of a layered cake: different generations, different ages, different traditions, but rather that they should have the feeling and experience of a single Russian America.

- How would you gauge the role of the Moscow Patriarchate in representing the World Russian People’s Council (WRPC) at the UN?

- Among the many weighty responsibilities of the Russian Orthodox Church, I would name Her service as an ethnarch, a representative of the Russian people, in the broader sense of that word, as it always was in Russia. If you were Orthodox, that is, regardless of the color of your skin or the cut of your eyes, it meant you were Russian. And for that reason there was never any pronounced nationalism in Russia, because there was a sense that everyone was truly brothers. But, thanks to many centuries of Orthodox upbringing, we can definitely see the creation, the birth, of a united, mighty Russian people. And the Orthodox Church has a duty to be an advocate, a duty to be responsible for the fates of the Russian people, be that in Russia proper, be that beyond her borders; but truly, who but the Russian Orthodox Church, relying on the finest spokesmen-sons of the Russian people, is in a place to represent them before the United Nations? I think it is clear to every thinking person that it is precisely the Russian Orthodox Church that is the axle uniting the Russian people. And for this reason the Russian Orthodox Church will never remain silent in Her care for or sorrow over the fates of the Russian people.

- Your Eminence, our meeting with you today is historic, because, in this new era for the Church Abroad, you are the first hierarch appointed to the role of Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the period following the reunification of the Churches. As the Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes of the MP in the USA, what is your attitude toward the Church Abroad? Are you planning to visit ROCOR parishes and reach out to the faithful of the Church Abroad?

- Of course, my first concern as Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes is that arena of Church life. But wherever I am invited to participate, either in the divine services, or in the life of ROCOR, I will gladly, cautiously, lovingly respond, because many things that perhaps seem natural to me, as a person born and raised inside Russia, might not be entirely understood by Russian people born abroad. And so, in order that we in no way harm the work of unification, we must naturally constantly synchronize our watches, so to speak. We must compare our responses to various shared problems. I think that we must concelebrate at festal divine services, but we must also have a relationship based not only on shared high ceremony, but on working moments, an evaluation of our shared life in the quiet of the study, in joint conferences. In this matter I can only say that, for the head of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion, for the Synod for all of my Orthodox brothers in ROCOR, I am a servant, ready to work together as much as is needed of me.

- Your predecessor, His Grace Mercurius, Bishop of Zaraysk, worked diligently, especially here in New York, to unite the flock of the Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate. One of the remarkable traditions of the last few years is the Paschal service in St Nicholas Cathedral on Bright Saturday. Can we hope on future joint celebrations in St Nicholas Cathedral?

- I simply must preserve those good traditions established by my predecessor, Bishop Mercurius. Of course, the service on Pascha Saturday and the procession around one of Manhattan’s city blocks is a joy that inspires all of us. This is such a pleasant, inspirational event for those Russians who hear of it, that we are simply duty-bound to apply all our efforts, so that not only this service, but other forms of our unity, might only develop further in the future. I know there is an idea to bring part of the relics of St Tikhon, the Patriarch of all Russia, to the cathedrals and parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church, and I mean in all of Her fullness on the American continent, and maybe to other Orthodox churches of other jurisdictions. Here, I think, we must deal with this in all seriousness, working out a beautiful, worthy schedule, deeply symbolic, one that reaches the broadest possible spectrum of dioceses and parishes. This must be thought through, and then we can petition His Holiness the Patriarch, so that this definitely takes place.

- We have received word, Your Eminence, that the Patriarch will visit the USA in the near future. Can you tell us about His Holiness’ plans to visit America?

- His Holiness absolutely desires a visit to America, to pray with his spiritual children, bearing witness to Christ and the life of the Orthodox Church to the whole world. There is some thought being given, of course, to the most comfortable time to perform this visit, because there is a certain order, a Church tradition, that the Patriarch must visit certain other places in his role as Patriarch. But his archpastoral, patriarchal heart certainly cares for us, and I dare to confirm that His Holiness is searching for the opportunity to come here with all haste.

- The majority of our site’s readers are clergy and laymen of the Eastern American Diocese, within the borders of which is located St Nicholas Cathedral. Of course, most of your interaction with clerics of the Church Abroad will be with clerics of the Eastern American Diocese. What would you wish the readers of our diocesan website?

- I would like for us, if not formally, then in our everyday lives, to feel ourselves to be one united Eastern American Diocese, which has its diocesan hierarch, Metropolitan Hilarion, and a prayerful, hierarchal connection to His Holiness, Patriarch Kyrill. So far, Church life is represented in two Church structures, but at the very least, may we have the impression in our hearts that we are one Eastern American Diocese.

- Thank you very much, Your Eminence. I greatly hope that you will give your blessing in the future to conduct another interview some months hence. We will be very grateful.

- As soon as the fullness of my heart abounds with impressions, I will ask you myself for an interview, that my heart might remain lively, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese