Interview with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion with Australia’s Unification
During the Pastoral Retreat of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand
-Your Eminence, we are happy that you came to Australia. Many of our readers were upset to learn that you fell ill upon your arrival. How do you feel now?
Yes, I wasn’t well, and so I had to change the schedule of visiting certain parishes. I have cardiac arrhythmia and I had to go to the doctor. The doctors undertook certain procedures in order to restore my heart rate. Some parishioners thought that I had an operation--I didn't, and I want to assure you that I feel much better. The doctors recommend less activity and fewer trips, that's why I wasn't able to visit some parishes with the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, which we brought to the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand from New York together with Hieromonk Tikhon. It will be here until the Wednesday before Pascha, April 8 , then it will return to New York to be at the Synodal Cathedral on Easter. The icon always brings great consolation to people through the prayers of the Mother of God, and miracles occur. Some people ask for help for their ailing relatives, others pray for children, people prayerfully ask for other help.
-Tell us what the priests are going to discuss during the pastoral conference?
Whenever there is a pastoral retreat, priests come to make confession. This took place yesterday in the Croydon church, and to take communion, which they did today. We then stay for a pastoral conference. This is an unofficial forum during which we discuss pastoral questions, moral matters we face in parish life... This is good for the clergymen: during these meetings you always hear something important for a priest.
Older priests pass knowledge on to younger ones. Today, 33 clergyman partook of the Holy Gifts. Not everyone could come some because of illness, plus some priests have to work, but most of the parishes were represented. Today there will be a short lecture on psychiatric health, and we will also discuss the fact that our clergymen are getting older and we need new personnel.
Today we discussed the question of establishing a diocesan pastoral school; later we will discuss the topic “On the Participation of the Faithful in the Eucharis,” that is, how to prepare for confession and partaking of the Holy Gifts.
-Soon after Pascha, Bishop George will come to Australia, whom you appointed as your vicar for the diocese.
Yes, we will officially greet Bishop George here, who was given the title “Bishop of Canberra,” at the end of Bright Week. It will take place in the city of Sydney.
I want to take advantage of the opportunity to talk about some of what our readers ask: Can one of the churches of our diocese be open week long? Some people would like to put up a candle in front of an icon or to pray and to do this during an opportune moment.
This is important in church life especially in a big city like Sydney. In Russia almost all churches are open week all week but there are more people there. Now in Brooklyn, New York, where many Russian Orthodox Christians live, almost all churches are open all day during the week when people can light candles, and usually there is a priest available who can perform a moleben or panikhida. It would be very good if we could establish such a custom here in Sydney, maybe in the cathedral, or which is centrally located.
Of course, first of all we need to make arrangements with the priest and find volunteers who would spend time in the church.
-Some Russian people have told us that there are parishes of other confessions that organized English-language courses which a good many people we just recently arrived to the country attend. Maybe it's worth considering establishing courses in English in our Orthodox parishes?
-This might attract new immigrants to our parishes and churches. In America, Orthodox churches do this, but in Australia our churches don't yet. This is a magnificent idea and I hope that we can find people who can conduct such classes at the Cathedral or in Croydon or in some of our other churches, depending on where more of these new immigrants live who need to learn English. We can also teach Russian if there is that need.
-Thank you, Vladyka. I wish you success in the pastoral conference.