SYDNEY: 21 June 2003



… Vladyka Hilarion, whatever positions a man may occupy, and however famous he may become, everything begins with his childhood. Tell us about your own childhood.

… I was born in Canada. My childhood was quite difficult: my family could not break loose from poverty. The farm only brought in enough to make ends meet, despite the fact that we sowed wheat, oats and barley, and kept livestock. But in the severe climatic conditions life was unpredictable.

Because of our poverty, my father constantly had to look for work elsewhere. I began attending school at the age of six. My first year was in a little one-room schoolhouse. All the pupils lived within 2-3 miles of the school and walked to it. Ten students of all ages sat in the same room. The following year, they began to bus all of us to another, ordinary school, and they closed the one-room schoolhouse. I remember how difficult it was for me at first, and how I cried, because I didn’t know English. But my older sister comforted me as much as she could. With amazing rapidity, within about a month, I had mastered the language. Childhood is a marvelous time!

Each season had it own fascination. In the spring--mud on the knees; the roads were impassable; yet all the children gathered together, and nothing stopped us from getting to school. And if a passing car gave us a lift, this was a memorable occasion for celebration. Winter held its own enchantments. The drainage ditches along the roads froze over, and we strapped on skates and happily glided over the ice. My earliest childhood impression was of a terrible freeze. We traveled on a one-horse sleigh. The sleigh had a booth, in which there was a little stove; but everyone was bundled up in winter clothes. This was my clearest, best memory of childhood‹we were all riding to school for a concert. I was a good student; but the subject in which I achieved the highest marks was French.

… How did your parents come to be in Canada?

… My parents were born in Imperial Russia, in the Province of Volhynia (now in the Ukraine), in the village of Obenizh. This was a little village located between Kovel and Vladimir-Volynsk. It still exists. My mother, Efrosynia Grivorievna (nÈe Kasyaniuk), was born in 1908. My father, Alexei Markovich Kapral, in 1909. My maternal grandfather was the warden of the village church, dedicated to the Exaltation of the Cross. During World War I, my parents, still children, were evacuated to Ekaterinoslav (now Dnepropetrovsk). Afterward, Volhynia passed to Poland. The Poles adopted the policy of Polonizing our Orthodox people, and did this by force: they compelled the children to study Polish instead of Russian or Ukrainian, and also tried to introduce the New Calendar in the divine services. My father married my mother at the age of nineteen, and, not wishing to serve in the Polish army, immigrated to Canada. At that time there was a major campaign to encourage immigration to Canada, which was in need of a labor force to take over the ownership of unpopulated, virgin lands. Many areas of Canada were unpopulated, and the government offered each arrival 160 acres of land.

This gave hope to many, and the Ukrainians set out for those remote lands to begin a new life. On June 19, 1929, my parents arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, aboard the steamship Lithuania. They were quite literate people, even though because of the war they had received only a primary education.

They read and wrote Russian, Ukrainian and Polish. At home, they spoke two languages--Ukrainian and English. At that time Russian was for me totally incomprehensible. The arrival of my parents in Canada coincided with the worldwide economic depression. Men were going from country to country, seeking a better lot. My parents also moved to an area which was called Peace River. This was a place remarkable for its beauty. A broad, swift, icy river, and all around dense forests. Each family was given $100 and an axe, so that the men themselves could build living quarters. The climate of northern Canada was severe. They had to build their houses quickly, since winter was coming, with temperatures as low as 40-50 below zero. This is how my parents began their life in Canada.

… How large was your family?

… In 1929, my oldest sister, Anastasia, was born; four years later, the twins, Peter and Harry, as like as two peas in a pod, made their appearance. Later, Michael was born, and then my brother Basil and sister Anna. And only eight years later, on Christmas Eve, 1948, was I born. I was born at home, since my mother couldn_t make it to the hospital. The name they gave for my birth certificate was Gregory, although at baptism I received the name Igor. The great difference in age between me and my brothers and sisters meant that I basically grew up alone. Many of them went out to live on their own and didst stay at home.

… Tell us, under whose influence you not only became a priest, but took the tonsure at so young an age.

… When I was still a young child, one day, in church, I was so inspired by the beauty of the divine service that, when I came home, I gathered together several icons and candles and began to play at being a priest. This sense of compunction never left me. In the forest next to my house, I made my own, secret church; I was at that time eight years old. I adorned my church with icons, said such prayers as I remembered from the services, and even made “wine,” squeezing the juice from grapes. I also performed “services of need.” Whenever Mama killed a chicken, I would take the severed head and hold a funeral for it. Funerals in church left a considerable impression on me. They were served quite frequently in our parish, and I often pondered questions of life and death. As a child, I had a prayerbook from which I prayed. It was written in Ukrainian. Mama taught \pard cs52me to read and write Ukrainian. Then I composed my own liturgy. Later I went further: on a neighboring farm there lived a girl who was four years older than me, and had never been baptized. I “baptized” her and gave her “communion” after my own liturgy. In school, I loved to discuss religious matters with my friends, debating, for example, Darwin’s theory of evolution. I would listen to special broadcasts over Canadian radio. All of this raised new questions, which required answers. I began to read the Bible in English. Soon I began to subscribe to church literature and magazines in English and Russian. May parents did not hinder me in this.

More and more the desire arose within me to become a priest. The clergy of our church encouraged my desire. One clergyman gave me icons and booklets, and told me: “You’ll be a good batiushka!” I always treated all priests with reverence, and even more so the bishop. Throughout my high school years I sensed that this was only a preparation for seminary and becoming a priest. But when my mother learned of my decision, she said: “No! You shouldn’t become a priest. They are always so poor; our parishes are so small; and the life of a priest is very difficult. Better become a teacher, or a doctor, or a lawyer.” But I was insistent and said that I would only be a priest. At that time I had not notion of monasticism.

… How did your years of study turn out? Where did you study?

… At first, our bishop, Panteleimon of Edmonton thought about sending me to study in France; but they closed the seminary there. Then he thought about sending me to seminary in Russia. For a whole year, Vladyka negotiated with the Leningrad Seminary, but in the end received a curt refusal. Much later, I learned that the KGB had asked about my parents in the Ukraine, trying to find out why I wanted to study in Russia. I was then all of eighteen years of age. At that time, I received copies of the open letters written by Fr. Gleb Yakunin and Fr. Nicholas Eshliman, addressed to Patriarch Alexis I, Prime Minister Anatoly Kosygin, and General Secretary Brezhnev, regarding the persecution of religion in the Soviet Union. These letters opened my eyes to many things. Especially troublesome for me was an article by the infamous Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad to the magazine One Church, in which he praised Communism and said that Communism and Christianity shared a the same ideals. This article shocked me profoundly.

I understood that I could no longer remain in the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, and that my place was with the Synod Abroad. I decided to visit Bishop Savva (Sarachevich), the bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. He had been born in Serbia, and at that time was living in Edmonton. He received me like a long-lost friend. He was a man of high spiritual life; in his conversations he always quoted the teachings of the Fathers; and was an extraordinarily good man. I told him of my desire to study in a seminary, and Vladyka spoke at length of what a good thing holy monasticism was. He inspired me. The journey from western Canada to the Monastery at Jordanville took three days. The first impression I received when I saw the Monastery was staggering. This was on November 8, 1967. Snow-covered, with a beautiful, golden-domed church and a large monastery residence; 800 acres amid picturesque farms, woods and lakes‹it seemed like another world, like some sort of Shangri-La. However, after two weeks of studies, I lost my head and became disenchanted, and began to consider returning to Vladyka Savva. I wrote a letter to Vladyka Savva with a petition that he take me under obedience to himself, but he answered that if I desire to be a monk, then this was a time of trial for me. I should remain at the Seminary, and the Lord God Himself would show me the way I should go. Thus, I continued to study within its walls for five years.

After completing my studies, I no longer wanted to go anywhere else, so much did I love Holy Trinity Monastery and its Seminary.

… You have never regretted becoming a monk?

… No, never. Monks are distinguished from other Christians in that they do not bind themselves with marital bonds and dedicate themselves wholly to prayer and spiritual struggle, so as to be free for fellowship with the Lord. Doubtless, it might be pleasant to have a family, children; but every person has his own destiny. I have never regretted taking the path of monasticism.
… How did your fate subsequently unfold?
… I finished Seminary in 1972 and while preparing myself for monasticism became an instructor in the Seminary, in addition to fulfilling a number of other obediences in the Monastery. I soon became a novice, and in 1974, was tonsured a rassophor-monk. In 1975, Archbishop Averky (Taushev), the abbot of the Monastery and rector of the Seminary, ordained me to the rank of hierodeacon. I was the last to be ordained by Archbishop Averky before he died, and I served him as cell-attendant during the last years of his life, during his final illness. In 1976, I was ordained to the priesthood by the present Metropolitan Laurus (then Bishop of Manhattan). Throughout my years in Jordanville, I worked mostly in the printery. In the beginning, I taught New Testament and Moral Theology in the Seminary. Later, I taught Comparative Theology. Then I introduced a new subject, Biblical Archaeology, which is still being taught there. I also received the degree of Master of Science in Slavic Languages and Russian Literature. In 1984, I was appointed vicar bishop of the Diocese of Eastern America and New York, to help Metropolitan Philaret (I received the title Bishop of Manhattan), as well as to assist Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) in the position of Deputy Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. Having lived at the Monastery for seventeen years, the City of New York became my place of residence.

Eleven years later I received the title Bishop of Washington, and in 1996, the Synod appointed me to Australia and raised me to the rank of archbishop.

… Australia has served in the past as a place of exile for Englishmen. After World War II, it population increased with the influx of immigrants, who remain to this day. How has this, in your opinion, influenced the character of the Australians?

… I have lived in Canada, and also for many years in America; and for this reason I am able to judge the distinguishing traits of today’s Australians. They are well-intended and not given to vanity. The most common reaction to any of life’s calamities is “We’re not going to be upset everything will settle down.ß Over the past 10-20 years, the number of immigrants has increased, especially from Asian countries. This has decisively altered the face of Australia. Now everything has become mixed, and this has had an amazing affect upon the country’s culture. It is like a mosaic. It is beautiful that people are preserving their culture and language. Even the SBS news is broadcast in different languages, including Russian. I love Australia very much. I especially love it because we have in it such a good, pious church flock.

… Vladyka Hilarion, one more question: the question of the relationship between the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate.

… This question is very serious and complex. The reason for the divisions which exist to this day is the intrusion of militantly atheistic Communion into the life of the Church; the consequences of this have yet to be eliminated. The Russian people and the Church of Russia have endured the most savage persecutions and genocide in the history of the world. In 1927, when the then Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) published his infamous declaration of loyalty to the Soviet Union,. he in fact thereby made the hierarchy of the Church subject to the godless government.

The episcopate became, in effect, the Soviets department for religious affairs. In this declaration it was stated that the joys of the Soviet Union were the joys of the Church. And these very “joys” at that time included the annihilation of the Faith in our homeland. It was then that the division took place within the Church of Russia. A large number of bishops, clergymen and believers in Russia cut off eucharistic communion with Metropolitan Sergius; and abroad, all the bishops and the entire flock also ceased ecclesiastical fellowship with Metropolitan Sergius (later patriarch). Beyond the borders of Russia, on the basis of Patriarch Tikhon’s Decree #362 of 1920, a temporary ecclesiastical administration was formed, known later as the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

Throughout the years of the Communist regime in the homeland, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad always bore witness before the world concerning the real, persecuted state of religion in the U.S.S.R., while the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate had to give out false information about the state of the Russian Church in the homeland. In the Church of Christ there must never be any falsehood, just as it is not possible to serve two masters, as our Savior says. Yet many bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate had to do just that. We can understand their difficult position during the time of savage persecutions; but now, when Communism no longer exists as a political structure and pressure is no longer brought to bear upon the Church, one would expect from the Moscow Patriarchate an obligatory, conciliar dissociation from Sergianism and from the participation in the ecumenical movement and the World Council of Churches foisted on the Patriarchate by the godless government.

Until this happens, there is no possibility of serious discussion about healing the tragic division which has existed in the Church of Russia for so many decades. We very much desire and pray for the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church; but this unity can exist only on the basis of the Truth and purity. We see many positive, splendid changes for the better in the church life of the Russian people, and we rejoice in this. We understand that the deep wound of division borne by the body of the Church of Russia requires time to heal. This would largely depend upon the current leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate, if they are able to free themselves from servility to compromise, which contradicts the spirit of Christian doctrine, and become “laborers beyond reproach, preaching the word of truth with faith.

” Only in the Truth can the fellowship we call the Church of Christ exist. May the Truth of Christ prevail!

This interview was conducted by Liubov Primachek, and appeared in the Sydney, Australia, newspaper The Word, #24/2003.

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