This is the exclusive interview given by archpriest Andrew Phillips (St. John of Shanghai parish in Colchester, England) to St. Basil’s Analytics Center (Moscow, Russia).
— Very Reverend Father Andrew! As we know (thanks to your articles also) Orthodox Christianity in the West has deep roots. Nonetheless, we in Russia mostly perceive the West in dark colours – as a non-Christian, consumer society. Is this image correct? Maybe the real situation is not so bad? Or, vice versa, reality is much worse?
A: In Russia, the Orthodox (but not the Christ-hating liberals) mostly perceive the West in dark colours – as a non-Christian, consumer society. That is true. Antichrist will come from the West. But there is a great difference between ‘the West’, that is, the neocon elite of Washington and Brussels — with their self-justifying ideology of Russophobia, their exploitation of the rest of the world, including their own Western people, their atheist consumerism and secularist political correctness — and the many ordinary Western people at the bottom. Here Russia has many friends. Look at Marine Le Pen in France and her followers. Look at Hungary. You can meet everything in the West because there are many Wests, not just the West of the elite, though it is true that the geographical West is dominated by those parasites. But they are alien to traditional Western people.
For example, a few years ago one Orthodox from the Ukraine wrote to me and asked me how I could continue to live in the West with all its gay parades. Well, I have always lived in the West and have never yet seen a gay parade. I suppose I could find one if I hunted it out on one particular day in the year in some big city, but I can assure you that the vast majority of Western people have never seen a gay parade and some do not even know what a gay parade is. All this evil is imposed from the top – it does not come from us the people.
Yes, you can find everything in the West, from gay parades to places of prayer that belong to the ancient saints of the geographical and then Orthodox West, before it became the ideological West 1,000 years ago. In fact, this is much the same as in contemporary Russia. Yes, there are dark places in the West, but there are in Russia too. It all depends on what you are looking for. A dark soul will always find dark places. A bright soul will always find bright places.
— Father Andrew, many Orthodox Christians in Russia are interested in your thoughts about the problems of Church life. From your point of view, is there a line between situations when Christians – both clergy and laypeople – should keep silent or express their attitude to tempting events or ideas? Is there a dividing line between humility and need to raise our voices in order to defend our faith?
A: Of course, there is such a line. We must refuse to stain our souls, always adhering to our principles, primary issues, we are willing to die for these, but on the other hand we can be diplomatic and even silent on secondary issues. In other words, we must discern between what is essential for our salvation and what is not. Very simply: we must hate the sin, but love the sinner.
— Father, many times you criticized ecumenism. Is ecumenism a serious threat? Is it correct to define it as a heresy? And are those who have stopped liturgical commemoration of hierarchy in order to ‘defend the Church against ecumenism’ right?
A: You are referring to the past. From the 1970s (I began writing in 1973) to the 1990s I often wrote against ecumenism. Why? Because certain Russian Orthodox representatives, appointed from Moscow, were promoting it. In Moscow, they generally did this to preserve the Church from the Soviet State, elsewhere it was to get money from heterodox. In other words, I wrote against ecumenism because it was then a threat, because of course it is a heresy, the heresy of indifferentism. This says: ‘You can believe anything you want, it does not matter’. It does matter actually: the salvation of our soul is at stake.
Ecumenism is a heresy, the heresy of indifferentism. This says: ‘You can believe anything you want, it does not matter’. It does matter actually: the salvation of our soul is at stake
The ecumenists used to say: ‘There is only one God’. Actually, that is correct, but not in the way that they meant. There is indeed only One God, the Orthodox God, the Holy Trinity. The Catholic-Protestant filioquist God is not that. The Muslim Allah is a misconception of God, as is the Jewish God, let alone the Hindu gods and Buddhist nirvana. They cannot save us, only Christ can save us. It is spiritual delusion (prelest) to think otherwise and delusion always comes from spiritual impurity, from a dirty soul. In the same way the ecumenists would talk about ‘The Undivided Church’. But the Church has always been Undivided! It exists today. For such a phrase simply means The Orthodox Church. There is no other. You cannot divide the Church, you can only fall away from it.
It was our duty, living in conditions of freedom to resist ecumenism, because the Church inside Russia was not free to do so. People there were not allowed to speak. When the Church Outside Russia canonized the New Martyrs and Confessors in 1981, it was because the grassroots inside Russia wanted it. So also the Church Outside Russia spoke against ecumenism because of the silence from Moscow. But not only us. On the Holy Mountain they did the same. St Justin (Popovich) did the same in Serbia. So did Archbishop Basil (Krivoshein) of the Moscow Patriarchate (almost a lone voice in the unfree Patriarchal episcopate at the time: there were renovationist traitors (obnovlencheskie predateli) there then – how we suffered from them….)
The ecumenists used to say: ‘There is only one God’. Actually, that is correct, but not in the way that they meant. There is indeed only One God, the Orthodox God, the Holy Trinity. Other «gods» cannot save us, only Christ can save us
But today, in the West, at least, ecumenism is dead. Ecumenism is only for old people or the backward. Most young people have never even heard of it. Today, our fight is in resisting nominalism, indifference to the Faith, the spiritual disease that is in the West and came from the West. It has destroyed Heterodoxy and threatens Orthodoxy in Greece now and then will threaten everywhere else. Visit new calendar Greece today and you will find empty churches, women immodestly dressed in jeans and without head coverings and in the churches everywhere seats, not a few, but rows of them like among the heterodox! This disease will spread elsewhere if we do not keep the Faith. It is already spreading to EU Romania and Bulgaria. The EU is spiritual poison.
As regards not commemorating the hierarchy for ecumenism, that is also a grave mistake. His Holiness our Patriarch Kyrill needs our prayers! First of all, I know of no Russian bishop, let alone all of them, who is involved in the heresy of ecumenism. And here we must define ecumenism. Talking to a Roman Catholic is not a heresy! That is not ecumenism! I talk to heterodox every day. How else are we going to convert them to the Church of God, to our understanding of the universality of Holy Rus?! By being silent? Ecumenism means saying that our Orthodox Church is not the Church of God, not the Truth. That we do not do. That is the heresy of heresies.
Our enemies want divisions in the Church. That is what Washington wants, to foment schism in the Russian Church, in the Ukraine, in Russia, wherever they can, making it into thousands of sects, just like Protestantism, which is all they know. It is what Hitler wanted and tried to do when he invaded Russia, to divide the Church. It is what the liberals want. And there are naïve zealots who fall into the game of our enemies — they divide the Church.
Our enemies want divisions in the Church. That is what Washington wants, to foment schism in the Russian Church, in the Ukraine, in Russia, wherever they can, making it into thousands of sects, just like Protestantism, which is all they know
We saw these temptations of division very clearly in the Church Outside Russia, especially after the 1960s. At that time our part of the Russian Church had been infiltrated by politically-minded zealots, bureaucrats and traitors. Some of them, or their parents, had been traitors in 1917: remember that the so-called ‘Revolution’ was simply a palace coup, carried out by Westernized aristocrats, including Romanovs, politicians and generals. Some of these traitors who had emigrated later admired Hitler! Unbelievable! Later still, their sons put St John of Shanghai on trial.
They were few in number, but they had little love for the Russian Orthodox Tradition and Holy Rus, sometimes they were not Russians themselves. Often they worked for or were paid by Western spy agencies. They disrespected the holy canons. They were defeated by the Church and in 2007, as you know, we were united with the free Patriarchate under the heroic and ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus, leading us in the noble tradition of St John of Shanghai to full unity, which, spiritually, we had always confessed. We never considered that we were separate from the Russian Church. We were always ready to die for Her; only the atheistic politics of captivity and so of renovationism (obnovlenchestvo) in Moscow divided us administratively.
— At the end of 2017 the Episcopal Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church was held. What do you think of its results?
А: Overall very positive. This was the Orthodox answer to that Greek meeting in Crete, which was neither great nor holy. Over twice as many bishops met in Moscow as in Crete and they rejected such secularist compromises like Crete and also the very old-fashioned draft catechism, which had been written by a clique of semi-modernist neophyte intellectuals. (It sounded like something drawn up by the Second Vatican Council 55 years ago! In the West we have seen all this before).
The Russian Church is 75% of the Orthodox world and we saw this clearly in Moscow in December. We must lead the other Local Churches away from spiritual captivity to freemasonry, modernism, the new calendar and US money and politics. That is our messianic Russian Orthodox role.
However, there is very, very far to go in Russia itself. We have only just started. For instance, the churches in Moscow are always full. Of course, they are full: 1,000 churches for 15 million people! That is 150,000 people for each church! We are building 200 churches in Moscow. Good, but we should be building 20,000. Abortion has halved in Russia. Good. But it is still four times the shameful level of even Western countries! Alcoholism is falling. Good. But the official statistics do not include non-official alcohol (samogon). And corruption and bribery…So far to go….Repentance has only just begun. Let us look at the real situation, the pastoral crisis in our Mother, the Russian Orthodox Church:
At least another 100,000 priests and churches are needed in the Russian Church, if ever the pastoral crisis of nominalism
In the last few years before the Revolution there were between 142 and 163 bishops for some 117 million faithful in the Russian Orthodox Church. This was pitifully few bishops, on average about one for every 800,000 faithful. Little wonder there was a Revolution with the Church organization captive to State bureaucrats. Today, for example, the Church of Greece has 100 bishops for 8,500 priests and 10 million people, one bishop for every 100,000 people. On this basis, the Russian Orthodox Church should today have 1,640 bishops and 139,000 priests for its 164 million faithful. Instead, there are only 368 bishops (true, a record number, thanks to His Holiness) and only 36,000 priests, one bishop for every 450,000 faithful and one priest for every 4,500 faithful. Bishops are still very distant figures inside Russia. (In the Church of Jerusalem which has a flock of 130,000, there are 20 bishops, one for every 6,500 faithful).
At least another 100,000 priests and churches are needed in the Russian Church, if ever the pastoral crisis of nominalism (people baptised but who never go to church or live an Orthodox life) in Russia is to be overcome. Just as has been done outside Russia for so long, devout married men, financed by secular occupations, will have to receive basic practical training and then be ordained as ‘worker priests’. Under the direction of experienced full-time priests, they could serve in simple, cheap-to-build, wooden churches, without unnecessary gold and marble. Such ‘kit-churches’ would create real local parishes and pastoral centres, at last, at last, at last, bringing the Church back home to the people at the local level,creating real communities, real parish life. That would at last put an end to the attraction of various Protestant sectarians.
That is just how far we have to go!
— Missionary activity of the Russian Church is gradually increasing. We have new fruit rising from the seeds planted by the priest-martyr Daniel Sysoev. From your point of view, what should we do in order to motivate Orthodox Christians to do foreign missions more actively (in the Anglo-Saxon world also)?
A: I met Fr Daniel in Moscow in 2007. He was brave.
We need two things:
Firstly, we need unmercenary bishops and priests who can speak languages. And unmercenary, like the Apostle Paul, who was a tent-maker. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese are what we need firstly. If you cannot speak other people’s languages, they will never join the Russian Orthodox Church, whose mission is universal. Half a million Mayans are waiting to join the Church in Guatemala. There are over a billion people in the Philippines, South-East Asia, South America, Africa. They are all waiting to join the Orthodox Church. But no-one wants to be a priest here. Here the priests pay for the Church: in Russia the priests are paid by the Church! I have been serving at the altar for 33 years and have never been paid. I did not pay to become a priest. Why should I be paid? All the money we collect goes into our church buildings. Remember that in the West we are starting from nothing. We need basic infrastructure. That can also come with help from Russia.
We need unmercenary bishops and priests who can speak languages. If you cannot speak other people’s languages, they will never join the Russian Orthodox Church
This is part of Russia’s messianic role — finance. Now, please help us in the Eastern half of England, for which I am responsible. I need to build churches here or else convert premises for use as churches. We have people, poor Russian-speaking immigrants, especially from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, refugees from the poverty created in those countries by the EU and the Russophobia of their American colonial governments. In Eastern England we only have two of our own churches so far, in Colchester and Norwich. I am in touch with a company in Kaliningrad. They make beautiful wooden churches, which in our money are very cheap. We can buy land here and erect them. Unfortunately, land here is expensive. Help us, please! God will reward you.
Now I will tell you of our shame. After 1917, 2,000 Russians came to London. In London sixty years ago they had two churches, one small, one medium. Today, with at least 50,000 Russians, there are still only two churches, one small, one medium. Neither is big. Our church in provincial Colchester is bigger than both of them. At best there are 800 Russian Orthodox in the London churches on any Sunday. What about the other 49,200? We need another ten churches in London.
— Father Andrew, what Fathers of Church are the most close to you? Who among Fathers highly influenced you? And what patristic writings can you recommend to read?
I feel especially close to St Basil the Great (yes, your patron) and St John Chrysostom, because they are both strict Orthodox, who called heresies heresies and feared no-one, least of all Christ-hating emperors and empresses, but they were also loving pastors who were loved by their people. Then St Ambrose of Milan and St John Cassian, who were deeply spiritual and lived in the Western context, transferring spiritual experience from East to West, which is exactly what we too are doing today. Of recent Church Fathers there are St Theophan the Recluse, St Ignatius (Brianchaninov), St John of Kronstadt, St Nicholas the Serb and of course, our beloved saints of the Church Outside Russia, St Seraphim of Boguchar and St John of Shanghai. They are all especially close to us because they speak to us in our language.
I also believe that we can learn a great deal from the most slandered saints in history: the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, his Holy Family. Remember that Tsar Nicholas was a great missionary in the West, building 17 churches in major Western cities, from New York to Nice. He is our model here in the West
I also believe that we can learn a great deal from the most slandered (obolgannye) saints in history: the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, his Holy Family and all those, without exception, who remained faithful to him, though hated by the aristocracy, the rich and the powerful, who in 1917 betrayed our Orthodox Empire in word and deed. The great Elder Nikolai (Guryanov) will teach you more about them. We too must remain faithful to them, to their spiritual heritage, in the same way as them. Remember that Tsar Nicholas was an international figure, who spoke four Western languages and was a great missionary in the West, building 17 churches in major Western cities, from New York to Nice. He is our model here in the West.
— We ask you to give some advice about spiritual life to those who will read this interview.
Read your prayers and keep the fasts, live by the calendar, go to church as often as possible, go to confession and take holy communion as often as possible. Read the lives of the saints and help others. Set an example. St Seraphim of Sarov says: Save yourselves and thousands will be saved around you. That is the only way. And the basis of salvation is self-reproach (samoukor), not looking at or judging others. This means: resist the ways of the world, keep your souls free and clean, avoid extremes because they always contain the spiritual impurity of pride. Always remember that God is merciful, for we are saved only by His mercy. Know that the last words in history will belong to Christ. God is with us! May God grant us all a spiritually profitable fast!
The interview was taken be Evgeny Ivanov, Scientific Director of St. Basil’s Analytics Center.
Here is the Russian version of the interview.
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