mysterious Body of Jesus Christ is the Holy Church Herself, which
unites all Orthodox Christians of the present world, the past, and
even the future."
An Interview with Bishop
Wednesday, March 3, the final day of the Pastoral Conference, Diocesan
Media Office correspondent Reader Peter Lukianov interviewed His
Grace, Eastern American Diocesan Vicar Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, on
questions involving life in the Diocese, the Pastoral Conference for
clergymen and their spouses, and inter-church relations with the
Orthodox Church in America.
Vladyka, what are your impressions of the Pastoral Retreat and
Conference that just drew to a close?
said at the beginning of the conference that we have a problem of
dissociation, and it is beneficial when we gather, when we
communicate, pray together, and communion from one Holy Chalice. It is
especially good when the wounds of division are healed, the wounds
that were in the Church. For instance, it was pleasant that we visited
St. Tikhon’s Monastery and that the abbot, Fr. Sergius, prayed with
us today. Two other monasteries were represented, as well: Holy Cross
Monastery and Holy Trinity Monastery. It is gratifying to feel
ourselves as one family, one Church. And, of course, we were so kindly
and lovingly greeted here. This means a great deal to me and I am sure
that this conference was a success.
Vladyka, tell us your impressions of the talk by Fr. Artemy Vladimirov.
- Fr. Artemy is a
very interesting speaker, touching on a great deal of subjects. Each
of his sentences, much as the Proverbs of Solomon, can be thoroughly
examined and expanded to a page apiece.
What are your impressions of the presentation by Fr. Andrei Psarev on
Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko)? Did you know Vladyka Vitaly?
- The death of
Vladyka Vitaly took place right on the eve of my entrance into the
fold of the Mother Church. I was still a young man. But I knew many
people who were close to him: Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky), Vladyka
Seraphim of Chicago, Vladyka Alypy (Gamanovich). They all remembered
him and spoke often of him. It is important to remember, therefore:
"Remember them which have the rule over you." We must
remember, not forget, our roots and our hierarchs.
We know that for many years you were Vladyka Nikon’s secretary. Did
Vladyka Vitaly (Maximenko) affect Vladyka Nikon’s worldview and his
pastoral service in general?
think so, certainly. His main influence was Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky),
but Vladyka Nikon certainly regarded Vladyka Vitaly very highly. I
remember one conversation we had long ago. One morning I told Vladyka
Nikon that Vladyka Vitaly had appeared to me in a dream. This was
interesting because I had never seen Vladyka Vitaly, but nonetheless
he appeared to me. Vladyka Nikon decided right away that Vladyka
Vitaly had probably returned to bring about order in our Church. The
order that existed under Metropolitan Anastassy and Vladyka Vitaly
means a great deal. Right now we can only strive to restore such
exemplary order as they once oversaw.
Speaking of order in the Church, tell us, Vladyka, what is it from the
times of Vladyka Vitaly that we don’t have today? What could we learn from him?
What was his most important legacy?
- At that time our
Church was strict, canonically speaking. That is, not only were the
canons strictly followed, but everyone knew his place in the Church.
We had obedience. We had efforts to make everything the way it ought
to be. Our divine services were always carried out ceremoniously.
Later we began to suffer in this respect and failed to observe order
in the Church in general. Earlier everyone tried to work together for
the benefit of the Church. All of this is desirable once more in our
- Over the last several years after the signing of the Act of Canonical
Communion, the whole world began paying more attention to the Church
and its legacy. In your opinion, what can the Local Russian Church and her
archpastors in Russia learn from Archbishop Vitaly and your abba,
- Of course, both of
them earnestly hoped in the future spiritual restoration of Russia and
that there would finally be a united Church. I remember Vladyka Nikon
said that once there was one Church, one Patriarchate in Russia, then
the Church would be in better order in America, as well. This would be
good not only for ethnic Russians, but for others in the Church, for
Americans and other converts to Orthodoxy. Vladyka Vitaly, it is
well-known, hoped for the same. Despite the fact, as we heard
yesterday, that it was forbidden and no one dared do it, Vladyka
Vitaly commemorated the Patriarch in his time. That this was not a
heresy is clear, because none of the bishops reprimanded him for it.
Unfortunately, Vladyka, today we see the development of many
schismatic groups departing from the Church. Many of these groups feel
that the legacies of our archpastors, Vladyka Philaret, Vladyka Vitaly,
Vladyka Nikon, have been lost. The "Synod" of former Bishop
Agafangel "glorified" Metropolitan Philaret. Do you think
that if these bishops were alive today, they would have gone into
schism, or would they have agreed with the restoration of unity in the
Russian Orthodox Church?
am certain that not one of them would even consider going into schism.
If they were alive in our time, in their own prime, they would think
similarly to Metropolitan Laurus of blessed repose, or to our current
Metropolitan Hilarion. I have no doubts as to this, considering how
close I was to Archbishop Nikon. It is also well known that
Metropolitan Philaret willed his vestments to the Patriarch who would
glorify the New Martyrs, which happened.
saw the historic visit of
our First Hierarch, Metropolitan Hilarion, Your Grace, and Bishop
George to St. Tikhon’s Monastery (OCA). What historical significance
does this visit have for the development of dialogue between ROCOR and
we feel ourselves to be one family means a great deal. Around 20-30
years ago, when the Old
Rite church in Erie restored the presbytery and returned back into
canonical communion with the Russian Church, then Bishop Daniel said
something that applies equally to our time: "For so long the
Russian Church was divided. Now we are restoring communion and all of
the broken pieces are all uniting without a hitch." The same can
be said here. Visiting this monastery, we feel not only that we were
once a united Church, but that we always were a united Church. Between
us there was but an abnormal, unnatural division.
- The synods of both Orthodox Churches have created commissions on
inter-church dialogue. What are your thoughts on the problems or
misunderstandings that remain between ROCOR and the OCA? What remains to be overcome?
course, the most important thing is how we interpret the past. What
happened in the past is very important, namely that both sides have an
understanding of what it is that took place: why the problems arose,
what sociological issues. As our Metropolitan said, "Reasons
existed for these divisions." The existence of these two
commissions cannot be compared with the commissions that existed and
exist between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, because there has
always been a canonical obstacle. Until these issues have not been
resolved, we could not have mutual and prayerful communion. But now we
have prayerful communion. Now the issue revolves around eliminating
the baggage of bygone days of mutual misunderstanding. Of course,
there are individuals, including among the laity, who are still
concerned. But in my opinion this is only a matter of time: let us
acclimate and once more look one at another, as at brothers in faith.
- We know that you took part in the enthronement of Metropolitan Jonah
in Washington as the official representative of the Church Abroad and
our Diocese. We also know that the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of
God recently visited St. Tikhon’s Monastery
and there are many
other instances of concelebration between clerics of the Church Abroad and
the OCA. But yet there has still been no official concelebration
between our First Hierarch and the Primate of the OCA. What must happen before this concelebration takes place?
speaking, it has already taken place. Although they only co-served a
panihida, you can nonetheless see on the Internet that ROCOR’s First
Hierarch and the Head of the OCA were both vested. If you can serve a
panihida together, you can serve a Liturgy together, as well. Both of
them desire this. But they both hesitate to do this because remainders
of the schism are still a problem. They fear that someone might be led
into temptation by their doing so. This is the only reason. There are
no theological, no canonical, and no day-to-day obstacles preventing
Is there any official position of ROCOR on service between the OCA and
is no official position, but concelebration is not restricted. There
were efforts to establish a position restricting concelebration, but
they were not accepted by the bishops. Regardless, no one can force
two clergymen to serve together if they do not want to. After all, it
happens that neighboring priests in the same jurisdiction do not
respect one another and do not want to meet or serve together. This
has happened many times in our Church. But this has no canonical
After the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, some clerics of
ROCOR felt that the Church Abroad entered into canonical communion
solely with the Moscow Patriarchate, but not with the other Local
Churches of the Universal Church. What would you say to those
clergymen who do not consider themselves to be part of the Universal
- If someone does not
feel himself to be a part of the Universal Orthodox Church, this is,
of course, unfortunate and mistaken. At the Divine Liturgy on the
Ascension of Our Lord, the very day of the signing of the Act of
Canonical Communion (May 17, 2007), representatives of all of the
Local Churches, I believe with the exception of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate, were present and served. From that day concelebrations
have taken place with clergymen from every jurisdiction within the
Universal Orthodox Church.
Why is it so important to be a part of the Universal Orthodox Church?
- It is important
because we are all part of one Body. The mystical, mysterious Body of
Jesus Christ is the Holy Church Herself, which unites all Orthodox
Christians of the present world, the past, and even the future. That
can be said because it is all one for the Lord God, one Church. If we
do not consider that the Church is one, on the one hand we are in
error, because this is not the case. On the other hand, what body does
not have circulation of blood? If some organ or limb does not have
blood circulation, then that means gangrene and death for that part.
In addition, if you consider people in our Church who do not want to
pray with others, maintaining that by refraining they are preserving
spiritual purity more than others, they err for the same reason –
they are still part of one Body. Either you are correct and these
people are in error, or we are in error and they with us as well.
ROCOR is considered one of the most conservative Churches in Universal
Orthodoxy. How would you gauge the role of the Church Abroad in
relation to the other Local Churches?
- I know that among
the Local Churches there are those who respect of for this strictness,
for our negative attitude toward ecumenism and modernism. The fact
that we can once more pray together and have brotherly contact
supports the conservative elements in the other Churches.
So you feel that we should not depart from our roots, instead
continuing to witness the official positions of ROCOR?
had the following experience when I was a priest in Chicago and
Milwaukee. With the blessing of our hierarchs, I always participated
in pan-Orthodox clergy conferences. This always worked in our favor.
On the one hand, we saw what kind of priests they were, most of them
were truly Orthodox, and priests similar to us. They, on the other
hand, got to know us and saw that we were not some fanatics or
schismatics, but that we were building church life and dealing with
these pressing questions in an Orthodox manner.
Vladyka, the first anniversary of your consecration as a bishop
recently passed. As one of the youngest hierarchs of ROCOR and one of
the new vicar bishops of our Diocese, how would you gauge diocesan
life over the course of your hierarchal service?
is difficult, because for thirty-two years I was absent from these
areas, serving in parishes in Chicago and Milwaukee. The period of
time I do remember was when Archbishop Nikon was here, and on the
fortieth day after his repose I was taken by the now-reposed
Archbishop Seraphim to Chicago. From that time I have only been in
touch with this area by phone or Internet, and have really not met
with anyone. So it is hard to say. Of
course, it is uplifting to see that progress is being made now, and it
would seem that from one day to the next the situation of diocesan
life and administration improves.
Vladyka, the Synod of Bishops recently met. On your initiative, a new
commission was created by the Synod. Could you tell us some about this commission?
have translations before that were, in my opinion, not entirely
correct. This will be a controversial question, but in this regard we
have taken several steps to improve order. The official name is the
Translation Committee. The issue is that earlier all of our
translations were done at Holy Transfiguration Monastery, which is
officially part of a schismatic group. These translations were often
far from being free of errors. This involves us because we must as
their permission to use their translations. Right now we are
completing a new English translation of the Psalter, which contains
all of the hymns, prayers, and texts by the Holy Fathers, which are
included in the Slavonic edition of the Psalter. I think that this is
a step in the right direction. I hope that in the future we will have
an opportunity to make editions with parallel Slavonic and English
texts, which would not only be easier to use in church, but would also
help those trying to learn Church Slavonic.
What would you like wish the readers of the diocesan website?
- I would like to
wish for them that which began our interview – communication. It is
imperative that we communicate more often, be closer, share our
questions and thoughts, find answers together for these problems and,
most importantly, be closer to our Holy Church!
God save you!
Media Office of the Eastern