A Fourth Rome There Will Not Be

Pope Benedict XVI met at mid-week with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the Vatican, and at week-end chose a new nuncio to Moscow… Benedict also told journalists (jokingly) that perhaps he should start studying the Russian language…

By Robert Moynihan

Russia and Her Mission

“Two Romes have fallen, but the third stands, and a fourth there will not be.” —The Russian Monk Philotheus, c. 1520, referring to Rome, Constantinople (“New Rome”) and Moscow

“In the afternoon Tatiana stayed indoors and read from the prophets Amos and Obadiah…
“Commandant Yurovsky got up from his chair, went out on to the landing and rang the bell at the double doors of the Romanov’s sitting room. It was 1:30 in the morning of 17 July, 1918…
“Yurovsky, having finished reading the decree, pulled out his Colt, stepped forward and shot the Tsar at point-blank range in the chest. Ermakov, Kudrin and Medvedev, not to be outdone… immediately took aim and fired at Nicholas as well, followed by most of the others, propelling an arc of blood and tissue over his terrified son beside him.
“For a moment the Tsar’s body quivered on the spot… Then he quietly crumpled to the floor.
“But at least Nicholas was spared the sight of seeing what happened to his wife and family…” —Helen Rappaport, The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg (2008), describing the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family on July 17, 1918

“None of the Romanov girls — those pretty girls whom none of the guards had really wanted to have to kill — died a quick or painless death. Maria had been felled by a bullet in the thigh… and was now lying on the floor moaning…. Her three sisters suffered terribly, filling the room with their screams as they shrieked out for their mother, Olga and Tatiana doing what came instintively, pressing themselves into each other’s arms in the darkest corner for protection. Realising that the two girls were still alive, Ermakov lunged at them with the eight-inch bayonet he had stuffed in his belt, stabbing at their torsos. But, drunk and uncoordinated as he was, he had trouble penetrating the girls’ chests… Incredibly, Yurovsky now saw that the Tsarevich was still alive… In the end Yurovsky pulled a second gun from his belt to give the dying boy the coup de grace… Alexey’s body then finally slumped and rolled silently against that of his father.” —Ibid.

“There was no beauty to see in the dead.” —One of the Russians who buried the bodies of the Tsar and his children, referring to the bloody appearance of the four girls, cited by Rappaport

“If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” —The Second Secret of Fatima, spoken in an apparition by the Virgin Mary to three children in Fatima, Portugal, on July 13, 1917

Russia Then and Now

Re-reading the history of the Russian revolution, I am struck by its sheer rage and brutality, summed up in the murder, not of the Tsar, Nicholas II, or even of the Tsaritsa, Alexandra, brutal as that was, but of their five children.

(Photo, the Tsar’s four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia)

The family was imprisoned in a house in Ekaterinburg for several months in 1918, then killed — shot and bayoneted to death — in the basement of that house on the morning of
July 17, 1918.

The author of a 2008 book on the last days of the Tsar and his family, the British writer Helen Rappaport, spent many months in Ekaterinburg, a city on the eastern slope of the Urals where the Tsar and his family were imprisoned in the months before they were executed.

She read many local Russian accounts of what happened in 1918, and she has stitched them together into a gripping narrative filled with details unavailable elsewhere.

It is a narrative one wishes one could alter.

A tale one wishes one could change… so that the children are not killed. At the last moment, an airlift to rescue them, to lift them out of the Ipatiev house somehow…

But there is an evil in human affairs that gets the upper hand.

Mysterium iniquitatis.

“The mystery of iniquity,” St. Paul called it — the mystery of evil.

I write this partly in the fear that it could all happen again. Not the same thing, but similar things.

And, though the past (of course) cannot be altered — what’s done can’t be undone — yet the future may be within our power to influence, just a little.

Perhaps we can act in such a way that children are not shot and bayoneted to death, in our time, and time to come.

Or is there never to be “a time of peace,” of the putting away of bayonets — at very least, for children — in our world?

All the prophets, and also the message Lucy heard at Fatima, speak of a coming “time of peace.”

Is it just a dream?

Will the prophecies never be fulfilled?

It would be something worth working for, and living for, and sacrificing for.

Russia in 1918

The descriptions of the beginnings of the Russian revolution make one shudder.

One can sense that social conventions are being overturned, that zeal for revolution is running roughshod over ordinary human kindness.

When the revolution came to Ekaterinburg in 1918, Rappoport writes, “shops were vandalised, their windows smashed; others were closed down, their goods confiscated and their owners ruined… The hotels one by one shut their doors… Civic institutions and businesses lost their educated and skilled workers, many of whom were hounded out as class enemies, thus ensuring, counter-productively, that there was nobody left with the expertise to run them… Phone lines were cut and the handsets thrown in the river. Societies and clubs were banned and all public meetings, except Communist ones, forbidden. One by one, the city’s fine civic buildings fell into neglect, their windows cracked and dirty, their floors unswept and muddied by dirty boots…. People were now being arrested indiscriminately, on the slightest suspicion of counter-revolution. When the prisons were full, hotels and factories were taken over as places of internment.”

And she adds: “Bolshevik venom was in particular directed at the clergy — 45 members of the Ekaterinburg Orthodox diocese were murdered that summer — shot, drowned, bayoneted, their eyes gouged out, tongues and ears hacked off and their mangled bodies thrown in the river.”

In the end, millions of believers were to suffer at the hands of the communists, who desired to eliminate “God” from their society.

And so “Holy Russia” became a different country, with a different name: the Soviet Union.

And the Orthodox faith in Russia was persecuted violently.

Then, after the horrors of Stalinism — millions exiled and executed — and of the Second World War — more millions killed — came the still somewhat mysterious collapse of the Soviet system in 1989-1991, and “Russia” re-emerged into history.

But which Russia?

“Ekaterinburg today,” Rappaport writes, “is becoming hostage to big business as it rushes headlong to a market economy…”

(Lenin would roll over in his grave.)

“More and more of its neglected historic buildings are being torn down to make way for offices and expensive apartment blocks. Gift shops, fast food, and the most fashionable of Western clothes are now available at shopping malls such as Vainer Street, where the ear is assaulted by tinny and obtrusive disco music…

She continues: “Out at Ganina Tama, where Yurovsky oversaw the hasty consignment of the bodies to the mineshaft that first night… one gets an overwhelming sense of the emotional dynamic of a story that, for the faithful, has now been set in stone as a national tragedy encapsulating everything Russia has lost… Ganina Yama is the obligatory place of pilgrimage for any Russian believer, and the high point for any foreign tourist visiting what Russian tour websites now call ‘the Romanov Golgotha’… evocative images of the Imperial Family inevitably twist and turn into view. No matter how one tries to resist, they nag at one’s consciousness… a boy in a sailor suit… girls in white dresses… untainted, murdered children… a devoted family destroyed… all of them now forever young, forever innocent and, as they all so fervently wished for in their many prayers, ‘at rest with the saints’.”

Russia’s Role

As a student of Church history at Yale from 1980 to 1984, my professor, Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, the respected historian of the development of Christian doctrine, once told me he felt that it was critical for the “two lungs” of Christianity, east and west, to “breathe together” again.

“Unless that happens,” he told me, “I think the West will fall.”

Not that Christianity would disappear, but that the Christian West, as the Christian West, would be no more.

I took his words as the indication of a path. For some years now I have been trying, in my own, limited way, to understand the causes of the divisions between eastern and western Christians, and to help to overcome them, in the hope of helping to defend the West from its own self-destruction, and to hand on what has been handed down to us.

And this has meant seeking to reconcile the “three Romes” — Rome, Constantinople, and Moscow.

From the Orthodox point of view, the first Rome, the capital of the Roman empire and the center of the Church, did not fall only to the barbarians, but also to heresy. The Orthodox believe Rome altered the Orthodox faith, by inserting the “filioque” clause into the Creed, and so cut herself off from the true Church. This was one key reason for the “Great Schism” of 1054, and for the mutual excommunications which were uttered at that time by the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople.

And so Christianity was divided into two: the east and the west, the Greek and the Latin, the Orthodox and the Catholic. (Those mutual excommunications were lifted in 1965, but that has not brought about actual reunion, which still seems quite far off.)

The Second Rome, according to the Orthodox view, was Constantinople. It fell when it was conquered by Muslims in the 1400s (in 1453, to be exact).

As for the Third Rome, Moscow, the Orthodox believe it fell to militant “humanist” atheism in 1917.

So, to quote the words of the monk Philotheus, does the Third Rome stand? Or, did it fall, and is it now standing up again?

The Third Rome has had the major responsibility for Orthodoxy since the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

But this vision of a Russian mission to preserve the Orthodox faith has been repeatedly compromised by a tendency to link that holy mission with a secular one: the mission to make Russia a strong, powerful state — nationalism.

Tragically, those who had a broader vision of the Orthodox world, like Patriarch Nikon in the 1600s, were deposed, and from 1700 on the Russian Church found itself controlled by a Department of State on the Protestant model. The aim was to reduce Orthodoxy to a mere national ritualism of outward observance. And that is still a danger today.

As in the West, the arrival of the Enlightenment age brought new challenges in Russia, and the understanding of the Church Fathers was submerged beneath the knowledge of German philosophy and Western technology. Both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches confront this as a continuing challenge.

Soviet Communism — as Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has eloquently noted — proclaimed the supremacy of Russia without Orthodoxy, replacing the Third Rome by the Third International. The Communists behaved like Orthodox, but without Christ; they were delighted to be “Christ-less.”

That phase of history is past. Communism fell 20 years ago. But what is the situation of the faith in Russia, really?

The scars which Communism left are everywhere clearly visible. Everywhere, alcoholism, everywhere, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, everywhere, ecological catastrophe, everywhere, crime, injustice and intimidation, everywhere, the rule of the mafia or mafias.

The communists destroyed thousands of churches, and now thousands have been rebuilt.

But is Russia “converted”? Is Russia now oriented toward Christ, in the same way that she for 70 years was oriented away from Him, “Christ-less”?

I cannot answer these questions.

Meanwhile, two things are happening: (1) in Rome, the Pope is extending a hand of warm welcome to the Russians; at the same time, (2) the Russian Orthodox are traveling far and wide around the world and extending their own hand of friendship toward Catholics and even toward Protestant evangelicals.

So something is happening. What… is still not clear.

Pope Benedict XVI Receives Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Pope Benedict XVI and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met for 35 minutes on Thursday, February 17, in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican.

(Photo, Benedict with Medvedev in the Vatican)

This meeting was rather long — sometimes such meetings with national leaders only last 20 or 25 minutes.

You can watch the public parts of the visit on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7z6kK3XfdU

The two men discussed a broad range of issues including the international situation and particularly the Middle East, the Vatican said after the meeting.

It was their second meeting — President Medvedev and Pope Benedict established full diplomatic relations between their respective states following a meeting in 2009.

An official communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See said the Pope and the President held “cordial” discussions.

The statement went on to say the Pope and President recognized the broad-ranging cooperation between the Holy See and the Russian Federation in the promotion of specifically human and Christian values, and in the cultural and social field.

The statement also noted that the Pope and the President stressed the positive contribution inter-religious dialogue can make to society.

The Russian president brought Pope Benedict a painting of the Moscow cityscape, as well as a pair of volumes containing the correspondence of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin with other heads of state, including the venerable John Paul II, and an Orthodox encyclopedia.

The Pope gave President Medvedev a Mosaic portrayal of the Vatican.

(Photo, Benedict and Medvedev exchange gifts during their meeting in the Vatican)

Following his meeting with Pope Benedict, Medvedev and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, met with the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, who was himself accompanied by the secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

Now what everyone is wondering is whether this state visit could have implications for the relationship between the two Churches, and could presage a meeting between the leaders of the two Churches, Pope Benedict and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

Because of the close ties between the Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church, observers had anticipated that Medvedev might act as an intermediary, broaching the subject of a “summit meeting” between the pontiff and Patriarch Kirill.

In Moscow, Interfax, the news agency of the Moscow Patriarchate, reported that a meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Pope “will happen when there are appropriate conditions for that.”

Then an official downplayed the need for Medvedev to act as an intermediary, saying the Church itself would issue the invitation when the time was ripe.

“The Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church maintain a regime of constant communication and consultations at various levels,” the deputy head of the Department for External Church Relations, Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, told Interfax-Religion. “And when, in the view of both parties, the time comes for the meeting between the leaders of two Churches, we will notify the international community.”

The context of the relationship between the two Churches should not be linked to the meeting between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican city on Thursday, he stressed.

Still, an unnamed source from the Russian presidential delegation said ahead of Medvedev’s formal visit to the Vatican: “Currently, the meeting between the leaders of the two Christian Churches is feasible more than ever. The Russian president could discuss this subject during a conversation with the Pope,” the Russian newspaper Kommersant wrote on Thursday.

But there is no question yet of delivering a formal invitation to the Pope to visit Russia, he added.

The Associated Press in its account of the meeting noted that “Pope Benedict XVI and visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are expressing the desire to further strengthen ties and stressing the promotion of shared values.”

The AP report added this amusing note: “The Pope remarked that he ought to learn Russian in brief comments in front of reporters following the half-hour private meeting Thursday at the Vatican, although there was no indication Benedict would go to Russia.”

This little remark of the Pope suggests that perhaps there was some discussion of a papal trip to Russia in coming years — time enough for the Pope to learn a few phrases of Russian before he makes the trip.

Of course, Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, wished to visit Russia, but never could do so as the Russian Orthodox Church was opposed to such a visit.


Here follows the official Vatican communique issued after the Pope’s meeting with President Medvedev.

Today, 17 February 2011, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Dmitry Medvedev, president of the Russian Federation. Subsequently the president, accompanied by Sergey Lavrov, minister for foreign affairs, went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

In the course of the cordial discussions, the parties expressed their pleasure at the good state of bilateral relations and highlighted their desire to strengthen them, also in the wake of the establishment of full diplomatic relations. The broad-ranging collaboration between the Holy See and the Russian Federation was recognised, both in the promotion of specifically human and Christian values, and in the cultural and social field. Subsequently, emphasis was given to the positive contribution inter-religious dialogue can make to society. Finally, attention turned to the international situation, with particular reference to the Middle East.

General Observations on Holy See-Moscow Patriarchate Relations

My friend Peter Anderson, a Catholic from Seattle, Washington, who follows Catholic-Orthodox affairs very closely, has sent me a number of “signs of the times” which are of some interest. Here they are:

Relations between the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate have warmed considerably in recent years. Russian Orthodox leaders have indicated that they are more comfortable with Pope Benedict XVI than with Pope John Paul II, whose Polish background roused old ethnic animosities. The death of Patriarch Alexei II in 2008, and the election of Patriarch Kirill — who had been the top ecumenical-affairs officer for the Russian Orthodox Church — brought still more hope for ecumenical prospects.

As the Pope and Medvedev were meeting in Rome, Father Milan Zust, SJ, of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (the Pope’s office for carrying on ecumenical dialogue) was in Moscow to give a lecture to the students of the St. Cyril and Methodius Post-Graduate School of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Sharing his personal experiences, Father Milan stressed the importance of contacts and meetings between Catholics and Orthodox to overcome past estrangement. The lecture included a lively discussion with students.

(Here is a report on this lecture: https://www.mospat.ru/ru/2011/02/17/news36461)

And this week, the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission is meeting in Chambesy, Switzerland (21-27 February 2011). The Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation will consist of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR) – head of the delegation; Archbishop Mark of Berlin-Germany and Great Britain – member of the delegation; and archpriest Nikolai Balashov, DECR deputy chairman – consultant of the delegation.

Next month, the German Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (Kirche in Not) will hold its Fourth International Congress in Wurzburg, Germany. On March 19, as part of the Congress, a round-table discussion will be held on the relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches since the end of the Soviet Union. Both Cardinal Kurt Koch of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and Metropolitan Hilarion will take part in a roundtable discussion on this topic. (https://www.treffpunkt-weltkirche.de/aktuelle-meldungen/2010/01-24-test)

Kirche in Not, an international Catholic charitable organization headquartered in Koenigstein, Germany, near Frankfurt, provides financial aid to the Moscow Patriarchate as well as to the Catholic Church in Russia. Perhaps its most well-known work in Russia has been to finance for the Moscow Patriarchate chapel boats that provide Orthodox church services to small communities along the Volga River. The head of the Russia section of Kirche in Not is a Russian Orthodox, Peter Humeniuk, who will also participate in the panel discussion. (Humeniuk deserves a great deal of credit for his outstanding work in improving Catholic-Orthodox relations.)

Also, Prof. Doctor Barbara Hallensleben advises that Cardinal Koch will also attend the March 25 events relating to the conferral of an honorary professorship on Metropolitan Hilarion by the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

Also, three days ago, it was announced that the University of Fribourg was establishing a Center for Russian Studies (the first of its kind in Switzerland; https://www.mospat.ru/ru/2011/02/16/news36407)

Lastly, and perhaps most surprisingly, Metropolitan Hilarion was in Dallas, Texas, last weekend. While there, he met with the president, faculty, and students of the Dallas Theological Seminary.

(See: https://www.mospat.ru/en/2011/02/13/news36217)

This is evidently one of the first efforts by the Moscow Patriarchate to reach out to the Evangelical churches, perhaps the fastest growing Christian group.

Metropolitan Hilarion stressed the need for various Christian denominations to defend traditional moral values. It raises the question of whether the “alliance” of Orthodox, Catholic, and Eastern Churches to defend traditional Christian values, frequently mentioned by Metropolitan Hilarion, should also the enlist the support of conservative Evangelical groups.

Vatican Names New Ambassador to Russia

Just two days after his meeting with Medvedev, Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday, February 19, appointed Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic (photo) as Vatican ambassador to Russia.

Jurkovic was born in Kocebje, Ljubljana, on June 10, 1952. He was ordained a priest in 1977 and served in the Ljubljana archdiocese. In 1984 he entered the Vatican diplomatic service.

Jurkovic served at the apostolic nunciatures in South Korea and Colombia before a stint as an advisor at the Vatican embassy in Russia from 1992 to 1995. He was an adviser at the Vatican Secretariat of State from 1996 to 2001.

Ordained bishop in 2001, Jurkovic was apostolic nuncio to Byelorussia in 2001-2004 and to Ukraine in 2004-2011.

Jurkovic, who holds the degree of doctor of canon law, knows Italian, Russian, Spanish, English, German, French and Ukrainian in addition to his native Slovenian.

In his new appointment he replaces Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who was named as ambassador to Britain two months ago.

During his eight-year tenure in Moscow, Archbishop Mennini played a decisive role in improving relations between Orthodox and Catholics. In fact, the day after the papal audience, President Medvedev signed an order conferring on him the honor of the “Order of Friendship,” in recognition of his work to improve relations between the Holy See and Russia.

Hilarion Visits USA

Just as all this was about to happen in Rome, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, was engaged in an unprecedented week-long trip to the USA in early February.

(Photo, Metroplitan Hilarion with Catholic University of America President John Garvey after delivering a lecture at CUA on February 9. In the background is Daniel Schmidt of the Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Unprecedented because it involved meeting not only with other Russian Orthodox living in America, and with Catholics, with whom the Russian Orthodox have long been in dialogue, but also with Protestant Evangelicals.

This was a dramatic new step in Hilarion’s long effort to forge what he calls an “alliance” between Christians in defense of traditional values while theological differences that continue to divide the Churches continue to be discussed in theological meetings.

And Hilarion’s visit (which I was able to observe as part of his small entourage for most of the trip) was a remarkable triumph.

There was not a false step during the entire visit.

Indeed, it was an exhausting trip, and I noted that Hilarion, 44, now has a few white hairs he didn’t have a year or two ago.

The trip began in New York with a lecture at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary and with the performance of his Passion According to St Matthew in a Catholic Church in New York.

It then moved to Washington DC for a lecture on art and music at the Catholic University of America in Washington and then meetings with leading Protestant Evangelicals and with Dr. James Billington, a Russia expert, at the Library of Congress.

It ended in Dallas, at the heart of the “Bible Belt,” with an unprecented lecture at the Dallas Theological Seminary and a second performance of his Passion According to St. Matthew in the Highland Park Presbyterian Church, where he also delivered a homily (twice) at Sunday morning services.

(Photo, Dr. Ron Scates, Pastor of Highland Park Presbyterian, during the concert on Sunday evening, February 13; across the aisle is Hilarion; his assistant Leonid Sevastianov is seen leaning forward)

He even found time for an hour meeting with former US President George W. Bush.

Hilarion impressed nearly everyone he met with his quiet intelligence and command of the English language, but most of all with his vision for a renewal of Christian faith in our secular age.

(Photo, Hilarion preaching in the pulpit of the Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas on Sunday, February 13; he preached the same sermon twice, for two morning services, then returned to the church that evening for a concert of his music, The Passion According to St. Matthew, a profound reflection on Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection)

In fact, two Protestant Evangelicals who met with Hilarion, Janice Shaw Crouse and George Tryfiates, were so impressed with him that they wrote an article in which they referred to Hilarion as someone who has the potential to be a great leader for our time, and for the world’s Christians, because of his moral principles.

See: https://www.americanthinker.com/2011/02/russian_orthodox_leader_stands.html

Reports on the Trip

Here are several accounts of events on Hilarion’s trip to the USA.

Meeting with Evangelical Leaders

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ — On February 10, World Congress of Families Managing Director Larry Jacobs was one of a group of evangelical leaders who were privileged to meet with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. The Metropolitan is head of International Relations and holds the second highest position in the Russian Orthodox Church.

In the course of a conversation with Jacobs, Metropolitan Hilarion expressed support for pro-life and pro-family positions, and both the WCF “Moscow Demographic Summit: Family and the Future of Humankind” (June 28-30) and a potential Russian bid for World Congress of Families VII in 2013/2014.

The meeting was organized Dr. John A. Bernbaum, president of the Russian American Institute, and took place in Washington, D.C.

Besides Jacobs, guests included Michael Cromartie (Ethics & Public Policy Center), Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse (Concerned Women for America), Dr. Richard Land (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention), Paul Marshall (Hudson Institute), Daniel Schmidt (The Bradley Foundation) and Mark Tooley (Institute on Religion and Democracy). EPPC, CWA and ERLC are all World Congress of Families Partners.

Jacobs said the Metropolitan was enthusiastic about the upcoming Moscow event — the world’s first Demographic Summit — and recognized the names of several Church officials on the Organizing Committee, among them Father Maxim Obukhov (head of Pro-Life Centers of the Russian Orthodox Church) and Father Dimitry Smirnov (Chairman of the Synodal Department on Relationships with the Armed Forces and Law Enforcement, and Chairman of the Church’s Bioethics Commission).

Jacobs disclosed: “The purpose of the meeting was to give Metropolitan Hilarion an opportunity to establish relationships with Evangelical and other pro-family leaders who share his values and those of the Russian Patriarch, especially regarding the life issue and the family. We were delighted to have the World Congress of Families included among that select group and encouraged by his support for the Demographic Summit.”

The Summit will take place at the Russian State Sociological University in Moscow, June 28-30, and include scholars, activists and religious and political leaders. It will consider all aspects of what’s come to be known as Demographic Winter — the rapid worldwide decline of birth rates. Alexey Komov is the Coordinator of the Organizing Committee as well as WCF Representative in Russia and the CIS. He can be contacted by clicking here.

Hilarion Alfeyev is a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. At present, he is the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow. He is also a noted theologian, church historian and composer and has published books on dogmatic theology, patristics and church history as well as numerous compositions for choir and orchestra.

For more information on World Congress of Families, visitwww.worldcongress.org. To schedule an interview with Larry Jacobs, contact Don Feder at 508-405-1337 or 815-222-2490 [email protected]

The World Congress of Families (WCF) is an international network of pro-family organizations, scholars, leaders and people of goodwill from more than 60 countries that seek to restore the natural family as the fundamental social unit and the ‘seedbed’ of civil society (as found in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948). The WCF was founded in 1997 by Allan Carlson and is a project of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society in Rockford, Illinois. To date, there have been five World Congresses of Families – Prague (1997), Geneva (1999), Mexico City (2004) and Warsaw, Poland (2007). The World Congress of Families V was held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, August 10-12, 2009 (www.worldcongress.org).

Meeting with Presidential Advisor

On February 9, 2011, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, visited the US National Security Council to meet with Mr. Michael McFaul, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and senior director of Russian and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council.

Answering numerous questions from the high representative of the US National Security Council, the DECR chairman stressed that the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church was not limited to one country but embraced several former republics of the Soviet Union, which are now independent states.

At the same time, His Eminence noted that neither in Russia nor in any other country as part of its canonical territory was the Russian Orthodox Church involved in political struggle. While independent from the state, it maintains cooperation with the state in the spheres related directly to people’s everyday life, such as ethical formation and education, demography, culture.

Asked about the work of the Russian Orthodox Church in the post-Soviet space, Metropolitan Hilarion told his interlocutor about distinctive features the church life has in various regions. He put a special emphasis on the peacemaking initiatives of the Moscow Patriarchate. In this context, His Eminence cited regular meetings between religious leaders in Armenia and Azerbaijan, mediated by the Russian Orthodox Church – which certainly contributes to the process of reconciliation between these two countries and peoples.

The DECR chairman expressed the conviction that dialogue between Christian confessions and various world religions should bear a closer relation to people’s real life.

During his visit to the US National Security Council, Metropolitan Hilarion was accompanied by Archpriest Igor Vyzhanov of the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Nicholas in New York, representative of the World Russian People’s Council at the UN, and Mr. A. Timofeyev, a counselor of the Russian Embassy in Washington.

Participating in the discussion were also Mr. Kyle Scott, director of the Department of State’s Office of Russian Affairs, Ms. Caroline Savage, National Security Council director for Russian and Central Asian affairs, Mr. John Bernbaum, President of the Russian-American Institute and Mr. Bob Foresman, CEO of Barclays Capital Russia.

Talk on Music at Catholic University

On February 9, 2011, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, visited the Catholic University of America in Washington. He was welcomed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and University President John Garvey.

Metropolitan Hilarion addressed the faculty and students with a lecture on relationship between art and religious belief. After the lecture, he answered questions from the audience.

The DECR chairman gave the university an icon of Our Lady ‘Hodegetria’ as a token of his visit.

The Catholic University of America is one of the major universities in North America. Over seven thousand students study in it.

Visit to the Library of Congress

On 10 February 2011, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, visited the US Library of Congress and met with the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington and representatives of intellectual and religious circles of Washington, including Archbishop emeritus of Washington, Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick; President of the Russian American Christian Institute John Bernbaum; President of the Georgetown University John J. DeGioia; Rector of St. John the Baptist church in Washington, the Very Rev. Victor Potapov (ROCOR); Rector of Washington National Cathedral, the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd; head of the Department of Slavonic Studies Harold M. Leich; and director of the European Reading Room Grant Harris.

Metropolitan Hilarion delivered an address on the Orthodox understanding of beauty and harmony followed by a long discussion of a wide range of questions about church life in Russia at present. Special attention was paid to the role played by the Russian Orthodox Church in social processes both in Russia and other countries included in its canonical territory.

Metropolitan Hilarion underscored that the Russian Orthodox Church in these countries enjoyed a great moral authority and exerted positive influence on the life of people in all strata of society. The influence of the Church and, first and foremost, of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, is more extended than the boundaries of the Church. According to the DECR chairman, His Holiness the Patriarch is a spiritual leader capable of uniting representatives of traditional religious communities and healthy forces in society.

After the talk, Dr. Billington showed Metropolitan Hilarion and his suite copies of Russian theological literature and Church periodicals kept in the Library, for instance, the works by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion, as well as copies of “The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate,” “The Church and the World,” “Foma,” and other publications issued with the blessing of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The DECR chairman and Dr. Billington exchanged presents. Metropolitan Hilarion gave the Librarian of Congress the first volume of his new book, Orthodoxy, in the English language, and received Dr. Billington’s books in Russian and in English.

The Diplomacy of Music

What Hilarion has done is to reach across denominational divides by an appeal to things which unite rather than divide, and he has done this very effectively through his own musical compositions.

The following article explains this “diplomacy of music.”


New appreciation urged for classical music’s contributions to Church

By Emily Lahr

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON – Classical music is underappreciated for its spiritual contribution to the church, the metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church said in a Feb. 9 address at The Catholic University of America.

“I am well aware of the insignificant number of young people who listen to classical music, whereas almost everyone listens to popular music,” said Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. “This I consider to be a real tragedy.” However, he said he believes secular music “is possible within Christianity, including that which exceeds the limits of classical music which I love so much.”

“Christianity is inclusive; it does not set strict canonical limits to art,” he said, adding that “Christianity can even inspire a secular artist” to convey sacred messages in “the language of modern musical culture.”

Metropolitan Hilarion, who is the archbishop of Volokolamsk and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow, delivered a multimedia presentation on “The Intersection of Music and Faith” to students, faculty and guests in the university’s Caldwell Hall Auditorium.

Trained in violin, piano and composition, the metropolitan served in the Soviet military before entering the monastery in 1987. He has a master’s in theology from the Moscow Theological Academy and a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford in Great Britain. He has the author of more than 300 published monographs and other written works and has composed numerous musical works.

His composition “St. Matthew Passion,” a grand oratorio for soloists, choir and orchestra written in 2006, has received standing ovations at performances in Moscow, Rome and Melbourne, Australia. Its English-language U.S. premiere was Feb. 7 in New York City. His 2007 “Christmas Oratorio” has been performed in Washington, Boston and New York to critical acclaim.

In his presentation, Metropolitan Hilarion emphasized that genuine art serves God either directly or indirectly and even if it is not intended for worship, it can be dedicated to God.

“The works of Beethoven and Brahms may not directly praise God, yet they are capable of elevating the human person morally and educating him spiritually,” he said.

He praised Bach for music that he said contains a universal element that is all-embracing. He added that the composer was able to combine “unsurpassed compositional skill” with rare diversity, true beauty and profound spirituality.

“Even Bach’s secular music is permeated by a sense of love for God, of standing in God’s presence, of awe before him,” he said.

He commented that Bach, a Lutheran, was “truly ‘catholic,’“ the original Greek term meaning “universal” or “all-embracing,” for he saw the church as “a universal organism.”

Bach’s music “belongs to the world as a whole and to each citizen separately,” he said.

The metropolitan used his own spiritual journey as an example of how faith and music can intersect. He was always a talented musician but one time he intentionally abandoned music because he felt caught between ministry to music and ministry to the church. He chose to renounce the world, including his love for music, to follow his calling to serve the church.

“I neither played musical instruments, nor even listened to recorded music,” he said.

Slowly, Metropolitan Hilarion changed his outlook, but it took listening to a performance of one of his own compositions at a festival of Orthodox music he was invited to attend. It helped him realize there was a piece of himself that was missing, he said.

“Listening to my own music, something stirred inside me, and I began to compose again almost at once,” he said.

His presentation was a part of a series of events celebrating the theme of Catholic University President John Garvey’s inaugural year: “Intellect and Virtue: The Idea of a Catholic University.”

Visits to the Russian Orthodox Community in Dallas

On 12 February 2011, His Beatitude Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada, celebrated the All-Night Vigil at St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, prayed at the service.

Many worshippers from Dallas and other cities in Texas gathered at the Cathedral on the occasion of Metropolitan Hilarion’s arrival. After the service, His Beatitude Jonah cordially greeted the high guest and pointed at a special link between Metropolitan Hilarion and Orthodoxy in America as he served at the Moscow Metochion of the Orthodox Church in America over five years.

The DECR chairman addressed the worshippers with his archpastoral address in which he reminded them of a missionary task of Orthodox Christian on the American continent.

Metropolitan Hilarion donated a copy of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God with an inscription to the Cathedral as a token of his visit and common prayers. The DECR chairman had a talk with the retired Archbishop Dimitry (Royster), who had headed the OCA Dallas Diocese for many years.

On February 13, the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, Metropolitan Hilarion concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah at the same cathedral. Taking part in the service were clergymen of the Orthodox Church in America, Rev. Igor Yakimchuk, DECR secretary for Inter-Orthodox Relations, and hierodeacon Ioann (Kopeikin), assistant to the DECR chairman.

After the Liturgy, Metropolitan Hilarion proceeded to the Highland Park Presbyterian Church where he addressed Christians from the Presbyterian, Orthodox, and Catholic communities of Texas. Over 5,000 persons listened to his address. [This figure may be slightly larger than the actual number present.] Metropolitan Hilarion donated an icon of the Saviour to the Highland Park community.

Hilarion’s Talk (full text)

Lecture at the Highland Park, a Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, February 13, 2011

By Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in with the bosom of the Father, has made him known (John 1:18).

These words have a truly profound and universal meaning. Indeed no human eyes have ever seen God the Father – the invisible God who has neither a physical body nor material form. But for people to strengthen their faith in God and to know that He not only exists in reality but also hears their prayers and is ready to come to their aid, the Father sent His Only-Begotten Son who became God incarnate and revealed to us His invisible Father.

Only after the incarnation of the Word, when God became one of us, lived a human life, suffered and died on the cross, was raised from the dead to open for us the way to the Heavenly Kingdom and to raise us together with Himself, did human beings come to know God in the real sense.

Before Christ’s coming, people did not know that God could become so close to them and be in full solidarity with them. They did not know that He loved human beings so much that He was ready to accept suffering and death for each one of us. He Himself bridged the abyss that separated us from Him – a chasm which we could never have overcome on our own.

There is no clearer evidence of God’s love for humans than the cross on which God incarnate Himself was crucified. And there is no greater sacrifice that could have been offered by the Lord for the sake of humanity.

But do we not we accept this, the greatest of Sacrifices, too easily? Have we not grown accustomed to it? Haven’t the shock and the confusion of this Sacrifice vanished from us because of our spiritual laziness? I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:19).

This is the stance in life that has made the Church invincible throughout centuries and millennia notwithstanding the all-pervading enmity and temptations of the external world.

We have been redeemed by His blood but we should also be His companions – co-travellers on His path to the cross.

How dignified and sublime is this state of the spirit – the state in which the apostles, martyrs and all the saints dwelt. And how different it is from the petty inner world of modern man who, having lost all spiritual guidelines, has become a blind servant to his own passions and to the opinions of others.

Humanity today is not only godless, it is also anti-human. Inhumanity, indifference towards the suffering of others, unwillingness to help or come forward for help, egocentrism and egoism have today reached truly universal dimensions.

It is ever more difficult to meet a true human being in the desert of the modern world.

Everywhere people live as though they will not be called to account for their sins, as though there is no God who set commandments, established laws and ordained moral rules for His people. Many live as if there is nothing beyond the threshold of death. They live only for themselves, for their own pleasure; they live to gratify their human lusts.

Regrettably we can direct these bitter words not only to non-believers but also to the spokesmen of certain trends in modern Christianity. As such, in the presence of this erosion of the moral foundation of Christian civilization, we are faced with the paramount spiritual problem of our time.

Today we can state with deep consternation that the frontier of confrontation among the various Christian confessions lies not so much along lines of theological dispute, but rather in what hitherto seemed unthinkable, namely, marked differences among Christians in their understanding of moral law.

A few decades ago disputes about what is sin and what is virtue were rare – after all, what was there to argue about? Everyone agreed that the Bible stated everything in absolutely clear terms.

But now there has surfaced a desire to revise, or, to be more precise, to adjust the unambiguous commandments of God to any manifestation of human fancy: a trend that has spread out with the speed of a cancer.

Ideological and ethical dividing lines have now come to lie not between believers and non-believers but actually within the community of those who call themselves Christians. This is even evident within one and the same confession.

Recently, a few months ago addressing members of the Nicean Club of the Anglican Church, I noted that differences in views held by the liberal and conservative wings of that Church are greater than between Anglicans and adherents of other confessions.

Never before has the world faced ethical problems of such severity as in our times. Technological progress has not alleviated the problem of moral choice but rather has exacerbated it. To the horror of thinkers and philosophers, the situation that emerged in the mid-20th century, when humanity proved capable of destroying not only itself but all life on earth, heralded a serious era of moral trials. Nuclear arms became the visible sign of force, and resources were set free by a human rationale not yet ready for such tests.

In the light of fearful evidence, ongoing terrorist acts point to the existence of a dramatic tension between the sight poles of humanity. Having encountered naked aggression, social thinking has taken the easiest and therefore the worst-considered path.

By exalting an all-pervasive pluralism of opinion and making it the foundation of a new world view, we not only fail completely to placate the acuteness of the conflict but instead increase the distance between the poles of confrontation.

The faithful of various religions have at least one common quality, which is a commitment to principles, and in this they can find a place for mutual respect.

But dialogue between a believer and a person void of principles is impossible. Between the two rests a misunderstanding that is neither religious nor ideological, but psychological and almost biological. Here lies the uttermost divergence of the poles.

In order to cope with evil we ourselves must stand firmly on the side of goodness rather than that of abstract pluralism. But how is it possible to speak of a firm moral stand when the very foundations of morality are diluted – and that not without the approval of Christian leaders?

Our task should be to unite the efforts of those Christians who hold fast to the Word of God without allowing any erosion of its moral imperatives to humour the spirit of the time.

If in a community calling itself Christian, practising homosexuals are consecrated as ‘bishops’, if a rite of blessing same-sex unions is practised and fundamental biblical norms concerning marriage, family and human sexuality are reassessed, can this community be called a church? It is salt that has lost its savour; it has ceased to be salty and is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (Mt. 5:13).

Today’s Christendom is divided along tracks that conform to a few simple yet important questions: the acceptance or rejection of the absolute value of human life and the related attitude to abortion and euthanasia; a commitment to the biblical view of the family and the related traditional view of relations between men and women; and finally, the duty, or simply the courage, to call a sin a sin.

It should now be clear what is really hidden under the masks of liberalizing Christian doctrine and of eroding ethical teachings. Why indeed has this particular aspect of Christian theology (as opposed to any other) become the object in a number of Protestant churches and communities of diverse experimentation and attempts at relativization? Why has a review of Christian ethical norms arisen in these communities at all? What forces stand behind these processes and what purposes do they pursue?

One explanation, but not the only one, is that Christianity preaches abstention, moderation and self-restriction. As such it clearly becomes an encumbrance that affects the rampant growth of consumerism on which today’s market economy is based.

For this reason, there are many who wish to remove Christian ethics from social life. Circles with vested interests oppose the influence of Christian morality on the spheres of economy and business by subjecting everything to their principal market rule: ‘supply should forestall demand’. They also attempt to liberate the exploitation of human sexuality from any public control and above all to deprive Christian Churches of the right publicly to express concerns over this issue.

How can a Christianity that is disunited and riddled with contrary views in theological and anthropological teachings oppose such tendencies?

In our disquiet over the preservation of Christian values, we should in the first place strive to be at one. Liberal tendencies in Protestant and Anglican communities present a challenge to Christians and Churches that have remained faithful to the evangelical principles that underlie doctrine, church order and ethics. We should then seek out allies to combat the destruction of Christianity’s very essence. Finally, we should defend Christian values against the challenges of secularism and relativism.

The Lord has placed each of us in a particular life situation where we are surrounded by people at home, in the university, and at work. We must act among these people as apostles and preachers of Christ’s Truth. Christian spiritual and moral ideals should imbue our entire life. We should be Christians not only in church but also as a family, at work and in every place where people meet us. We should never impose the Christian faith on anybody; no-one can be forced to believe in God. But at the same time we ought to live in such a way that people may be inspired by our example.

Authentic religious life begins not when we provide rational answers to questions of God’s existence but when we begin building our lives in accordance with God’s commandments.
I invoke God’s blessing on all of you who have assembled here.

Video of Hilarion’s Talk

Here is a video of Metropolitan Hilarion’s remarks at a Presbyterian service in Dallas on Sunday, February 23:


“May God Forgive You”

On the same day that Hilarion was preaching in Dallas, the Russian Orthodox Church was celebrating the Feast of All the Holy New Martyrs — a title which includes the children of the Tsar who were killed in 1918.

There is another figure little-known in the West, who deserves greater attention: Elizabeth Federovna (photo).

She was the sister of Alexandra, the wife of the Tsar. She too was a German who married a Russian noblemen. And she too was executed by the communists — on the day following the execution of the Tsar and his family.

When I was in Moscow several years ago, I spoke with a nun who has succeeded Elizabeth, who has been canonized as St. Elizabeth by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In the room was a beautiful, black-enameled grand piano. I asked whose it was and where it came from. The nun said, “It belonged to Elizabeth. It was hers as a child in Germany. She brought it here after her marriage to the Grand Duke Serge.”

I went over to the piano. On the top, above the keyboard, scratched into the black enamel, were four letters. I tries to make them out… “E, l, l, a…” “Ella,” I said. I put my fingers on the scratches and traced the letters. It was her name. She had scratched the letters into the piano when she was five or six years old. At that moment, I promised her that I would try to tell her story.

And the piece below tells that story:


by Henri de Velliers

This past Sunday [February 13] the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated the feast day of all the holy new martyrs and confessors (neomartyrs and confessors) of Russia, victims of the communism during the XXth century.

The unprecedented atheist persecution that hit the Church in Russia since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 to the celebration the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia in 1988 failed to destroy the Christian faith in this country. Under communist rule, many martyrs have borne witness to the victory of Christ over death, fear and evil. A database of the St. Tikhon Orthodox University in Moscow identified the names of 500,000 new martyrs and new confessors of the Faith, victims of communism.

Each year the Russian Orthodox Church proclaims the canonization of about 2,000 new saints, and names them in its calendar. Nevertheless, it seemed necessary to unite all the new martyrs in a special feast day. It was scheduled for the Sunday following January 25 (February 7 on the Gregorian Calendar), because on January 25 was martyred the first victim of the persecution after the October Revolution: on January 25, 1918, Vladimir, Metropolitan of Kiev was arrested during the night and taken out of the Laura of the Caves of Kiev. Abused and insulted, he sang and prayed quietly before his execution. He blessed his executioners before being shot, saying: ‘May God forgive you!’.

It is certainly impossible to list all the new martyrs, but we would like to recall here the beautiful figure of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia. Elizabeth Fedorovna was born on October 20, 1864. She was the wife of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, who was assassinated in 1905 in a terrorist attack.

She visited the murderer in his prison to urge him to repent, and she seek his grace to the Tsar. She never stopped praying for him.

During the Russo-Japanese War, she took care of many war-wounded soldiers and then decided to devote herself to God.

Animated by the spirit of charity and mutual help, she founded the Monastery of Martha and Mary in Moscow, for nuns nurses serving the poor and sick.

Feeling hard times coming for her country, she encouraged believers to get through these terrible times with faith. She was herself an admirable nurse, never sparing her strengths.

Refusing to be rescued, she was arrested in 1918 with two sisters, one was Barbara, who shared her martyrdom.

During the night of July 17, 1918, she was thrown, with other members of the Romanov family, in a well 60 meters deep, inside the Alapaevsky mines [near Ekaterinburg].

She did not die immediately and people outside the mine were able to hear her singing the troparion of the Resurrection and the Akathist hymn from the bottom of the well.

Her body was found intact on a ledge about sixteen meters below, beside the body of prince Konstantinovich whose wounds had apparently been cured by her.

After a long journey by Irkutsk, China, Suez and Palestine, her relics were deposited in the Russian Monastery Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem [in the Garden of Gethsemane], built by Emperor Alexander III.

St. Elizabeth is one of the most revered holy neomartyrs in Russia today, her icon is present everywhere.

Troparion of the neomartyrs and neoconfessors of Russia, tone 4:

Today the Church of Russia joyfully forms a chorus,
praising her new martyrs and confessors;
hierarchs and priests,
royal passion-bearers,
right-believing princes and princesses,
venerable men and women,
and all Orthodox Christians.

Having laid down their life for faith in Christ
during the days of godless persecution,
they preserved the truth by the shedding of blood.

By their protection, O long-suffering Lord,
preserve our land in Orthodoxy
till the end of the age.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” —St. Paul, First Letter to Timothy 6:12

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