Archpriest Serafim Gan: in the West, people do not hear the truth about life in Russia

© Photo : photo from personal archive of Archpriest Seraphim generatoarele the temple of St. Seraphim of Sarov in sea cliff (NY), Archpriest Serafim GanArchpriest Serafim Gan: in the West, people do not hear the truth about life in Russia© Photo : photo from personal archive of Archpriest Seraphim Gang

Exactly 10 years ago was a truly historic event for the entire Russian world — the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church abroad. The delegation of the higher clergy of ROCOR on Tuesday arrives in Moscow on may 25, which will be the main centre of celebrations. The RIA Novosti correspondent Sergey Stefanov spoke with the business Manager of the Synod of bishops of the ROCA, rector of the Church of St. Seraphim of Sarov in sea cliff (NY), Archpriest Seraphim Gan on the outcome of these years for the Orthodox.

— I would say that the life of the Russian Church abroad, in many respects, strengthened. In our Church life involved many of the new immigrants and their descendants, they join our ranks. There is such a phenomenon: people move to a foreign country, it is difficult for them to live and work in new conditions, to overcome any trials, they begin to yearn for home, and in our churches, they find it, find their homeland, comfort, and help.

As our forces we work with people and help them to raise children in the Russian Orthodox spirit, and in General — in carrying those burdens of life in exile, which survived and our parents and our grandparents. In General, Russian-speaking Orthodox community in the United States is increasing, and we rejoice in it.

— I can say that in working with the younger generation, we have achieved considerable success. Youth delegations from all over the world come to Russia to get a feel for their roots, to see their homeland. For some it is the historical homeland, while others were born here, but I don’t remember because I left at a very early age.

We collect funds and organize these trips, together with the Church in the Fatherland. And then our youth, and indeed our parishioners, our clergy, testify to the truth of life at home. About that Russia, which nobody knows in the West, its history, the Orthodox faith, our language and culture. They share all this spiritual, cultural richness, being in a foreign country. The people here are not hearing the whole truth about life in Russia, don’t hear about positive things in her life. We are filling this gap with your testimony and fellowship with ordinary Americans, French and so on.

Today we can say on the issue of parallel dioceses and parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church and ROCOR?

— Yes, continue to exist parallel to the parishes and the diocese, there is even a parallel ecclesiastical mission in Jerusalem, but they all coexist peacefully and help each other. If problems arise, they are resolved at the level of the hierarchy in a spirit of brotherly love and caring about people. In Germany for many years, the clergy of both dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church meets, discusses some issues of mutual interest, and solves problems together. They say these meetings are a great success and benefit. In new York we have a great relationship with the representation of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Patriarchal parishes in the USA. So, in this respect, we any problems, thank God, not experience.

— Is there any data how many people, parishes now remain in schism — those who did not accept the reunification of the two Churches? Whether cases of return of the breakaway members of the clergy and laity?

— Those who did not accept the Act of canonical communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church is a small part of the clergy and flock. Since the signing of this historic document 10 years ago, they are even more fragmented into schismatic other of education and among themselves did not have unanimity. So we certainly regret that this happened, and is ready to facilitate the return of people to the Church.

And we do at the household level. Meet informally with parishioners and clergy, communicate, congratulate each other on holidays. After separation, unfortunately, also affected a family. Indeed, some representatives of the divisions is ready to return to the Russian Church. I think that people see the fruit of unity, they see that no one is going to take property, or to deprive people of positions, nor to interfere in Church life. They see that the canonical Church does not preach any heresy. People see all this, and they want to return to be together. But for one reason or another they haven’t already. I think it’s a matter of time.

Unfortunately, some clerics too far away, making it difficult for them to return. However, genuine repentance always opens wide the door of God’s mercy.

— As will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the restoration of communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church abroad?

This significant date will be marked in the Moscow Sretensky monastery on Thursday, may 25, at the great consecration of a new big Cathedral Church in honor of the Holy new martyrs and Confessors of Russia built on the site of this monastery.

— How can you comment on the fact that these two events coincided, is there some symbolism?

It seems to me, nobody is customized to fit these celebrations the celebration of this important date. But I see this as God’s Providence. Because really: when was the negotiation process between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, we turned to the works, writings or the statements of the new martyrs and Confessors of Russia. And I personally believe that it is their work, their suffering, their lives have helped us to find the right Church to solve all the issues that previously prevented the restoration of unity between the two parts of the Russian Church.

When I found out about it, it just hit me in the soul. Very much. Because the martyrs unites us, and, apparently, the martyrs continue to support this great cause — our unity.

— In Washington recently held a summit on the protection of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Africa. How to cover the tragedy of these people in Western media?

— I think, this question, unfortunately, is ignored, and only recently, someone in the information space talking about it. And we are very sad. We would like to see more activity in resolving issues related to the persecution of Christians. We would like to see more activity on the part of host States Foreign Church.

— And the complicated Russian-American relations somehow affect the life of Orthodox believers — immigrants from Russia?

It is a very difficult question. Some complain about any kind of trouble, but mainly to our religious freedom, of course, no one touches it. And, in General, the pressure that complain the representatives of some Christian organizations, we do not feel.

We enjoy their religious freedom, we live his life under the spiritual care of his flock in a foreign land. And not only Russian, Ukrainians, Belarusians and other immigrants from the former Soviet republics, but also Americans, French, Australians, who are drawn to us. Not so much to us, of course, much to the heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Russian Holy. Locals are attracted to this Russian piety. They are brought to Orthodoxy, people like Prince Vladimir, venerable Seraphim of Sarov and Sergius of Radonezh, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexander Nevsky. And they are drawn to us.

And, as I said, we’re here quietly, without raising any noise, testify about their faith, about their culture, about their historical roots, and no we it not prevent. Although reported in the media about any incidents when allegedly violated the religious freedom of Americans, us it is absolutely not concerned.

— Judging from your experience, what are the main challenges encountered today by Orthodox Christians?

— To be honest, the main challenge is the departure of society from its Christian roots, its secularization. This is probably the main problem that many believers complain and which is of concern to our people everywhere. People are moving away from faith and moral values, lead them away from faith and our children, our youth. But we should not be afraid, on the contrary, we must accept it with humility, as a lesson, as a call to become truly Christians. If people around us are moving away from their Christian roots, you should not blame neither them, nor the powerful, nor anyone else, only themselves.

So, in our eyes, in our lives, don’t you see that the celebration of life, of the victory of the resurrection of Christ that we preach and continue in these days to celebrate. So people do not see the Holiness and beauty of God in our Affairs. But if we want to influence the situation, it is better not only to talk about what all needs to be, but constantly work hard to ensure that in their lives to embody gospel covenants. If we try to work on myself, the people living around us will not be able to pay attention to the fragrance of our faith and of the good life.

— How do you see the future of Christianity in Europe in connection with the new «migration» — the mass migration from Muslim countries?

— Future is in our hands and in the hands of God. Of course there are things that man cannot stop his feeble hand. But if we believe in God and trust Him, His leadership, and if we are going to build their future on the stone of good Christian life, the grace of God will assist us and strengthen us. In this I deeply believe.

— These days in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church is going on an unprecedented event — of the relics of Saint Nicholas from Bari. What does this mean for the Orthodox world? How often Christian shrines bring to the Russian Church abroad?

— We are happy for our fellow citizens and hope that the bringing of the Shrine — the relics of St. Nicholas — will bring spiritual benefit to those people who are looking for help and prayers of this Saint.

I have repeatedly accompanied the main Shrine of the Russian Church abroad, the Kursk Root icon of the Mother of God, not only in Russia, but also abroad. And I find that this kind of trip with the shrines bring enormous benefits, as evidenced by the same letters we receive after returning to new York. Some write that he found a life partner, others got a job, and others — that have received healing or some help…

I think just bringing shrines in the country, and in different parts of the abroad always brings favor and blessing, is a spiritual ascent. The Shrine unites. People come to her with their joys and sorrows, with all that is in their hearts and receive help. And we can only rejoice. So all welcome this relic to Russia.

In recent years, the Russian Orthodox Church particularly revered Morococha Iveron-Hawaiian icon of the Mother of God. This image also often bring in different congregations and different countries. What is the reason for this special veneration?

— Interestingly, this icon began to exude myrrh in the year of the restoration of the unity of the Russian Church. And I think that its veneration is due primarily to the fact that it happened in 2007, when he performed the miracle of the restoration of unity… it is easier to split up, and the people here decided to unite. In any case, it is a miracle that people came to unity.

And secondly, I think this reverence is due to the fact that this Hawaiian icon is a copy of the Iveron-Montreal icon of the Mother of God, which was written on mount Athos, and exuded myrrh immediately after the canonization of the Russian Orthodox Church Holy new martyrs and Confessors of Russia. This glorification was made in 1981. And this is the miracle of myrrh-streaming started to happen exactly at the ark with the relics of Grand Duchess St. Elizabeth Feodorovna, sister of the last Russian Empress.

Unfortunately, the Iveron-Montreal icon disappeared after the murder in 1997 in Greece her guardian, Joseph Munoz-Cortes. But after 10 years, when it was restored unity of the Russian Church, a copy of the icon in the Hawaiian Islands in our ward began to stream myrrh. And some see it as the grace of God to do with what happened 10 years ago.