We May Become Witnesses of a New Great Persecution of Christians
The tragic situation in Ukraine has changed the lives of Russian Orthodox Christians all over the world. His Eminence Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Germany is almost on the front line of this battle: his diocese receiving refugees, distributing humanitarian support, which the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in different countries send to our brothers and sisters affected by the tragedy. He revealed in an interview on how the Church is dealing with that, how events in Ukraine may change the faith of Christians there and throughout the globe. However, we decided to start with the most recent news about the possible meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and Pope Francis
- Dear Vladyka, the Patriarch and the Pope may meet by the end of this year. Do you see this meeting as possible and the what outcome it may have? What questions should be discussed during this meeting from the ROCOR’s point of view?
- We are aware that there has been one previous meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope in 2016, and thus we naturally have to consider a possible future meeting as well. I have no idea what is the aim of those who are planning this meeting may be, therefore I can only guess, and would abstain from making any statements. I think basically probably, like last time, it is just a meeting to show good will and to express our joint interest in certain things. We have very serious problems, now in Ukraine particularly, and therefore there may be an idea that the two leaders could work towards some peace agreement which they could suggest to those who are active there. But I see a very little chance of this.
- Why do you see very little chance?
- It seems that it is not religious powers that may have any input in this, except showing good will, because there are politicians who are governing this whole business.
- The Ukrainian parliament has introduced a draft bill suggesting a full ban of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine and seizure of all its property on the territory of Ukraine. What is ROCOR's position on this matter? Will such bills lead to a worsening of the church situation, and is it possible to avoid the seizure of churches in this case and violation against our parishioners in Ukraine?
- If the Ukrainian government goes through with this law, then, this will be the beginning of new persecution of the Church, which will be very similar to the persecution in the first centuries of Christianity. We are not talking about the Russian Orthodox Church. We are talking about the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is independent and has full autonomy inside the Russian Orthodox Church. We see that there are, again, attempts to kill, to abolish the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to eliminate it entirely and leave the whole Ukraine to people who are not in the Orthodox Church. This is a very dangerous moment, and I am afraid that we will be witnesses of a new great persecution of the Church.
- Do you think that such laws are a way to deepen the current conflict in Ukraine?
- Yes, it is, It certainly will be a great blow to church life in Ukraine.
- What would you tell to various forces who are trying to win the ROCOR over to their side, so that the church would support this or that political position?
- We are far from any political statements or any political positions. Our business is to bring God to people and bring people to God, and not do anything around politics. We have to bring unity and a human approach to things.
- You are a one of the point persons in Europe who is in charge of distributing money our parishes collect to Ukraine. How is this campaign going on now?
- Specific numbers are changing every minute. I know that at the end of March the amount of money that was collected was about 40,000 euros, and by the meantime that certainly doubled, at least. We are constantly sending humanitarian support to various places in Ukraine, to priests and bishops who distribute it among the flock. We also receive many, many refugees here in Germany. The number of trucks that we sent to Ukraine with goods, food and clothing – they are constantly running.
- Several weeks ago you wanted to contact Metropolitan Onufrii. Did you do that, and what did he tell you, if it is not a secret?
- I decided not to bother him because I can imagine how busy he is now with his own responsibilities. Therefore, I have only talked to people in his inner circle. They are extremely concerned because lots of people are homeless, lots of people escaping from Ukraine, and they just hope that they will find a place here in Western Europe where to put their head down and where to pray.