Home page News
Archbishop Hilarion’s answers questions from Der S…

Archbishop Hilarion’s answers questions from Der Spiegel

Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, answered questions from Der Spiegel magazine. Below is the text of the talk His Eminence Hilarion had with the magazine’s correspondents.

The interview is published in Der Spiegel’s issue No. 51, 2009.

- How would you explain the difference between the Orthodox, the Catholic and the Protestant Churches?

- The Orthodox and the Catholic Churches have only some differences in theology and models of church order. Thus, we do not recognize the supreme authority of the Pope of Rome over other Churches. However, the differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism are not fundamental. We recognize the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. If a Catholic priest moves over to Orthodoxy we accept him as priest. As for Protestant churches, we do not recognize them as Churches, seeing in them only communities of Christians. We have fundamental differences in theology and ethics.

- What are they exactly?

- Many Protestant churches have liberalized their notions of ethics, giving a theological justification to homosexuality and blessing same-sex couples. Some refuse to consider abortion to be a sin. We do not share the understanding of the Church and church order, especially as the Protestants, unlike the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, ordain women.

- Because the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany elected a woman as chairperson in the person of Margot Kaessmann, you have broken off your dialogue...

- It was the way in which some mass media presented the situation, whereas I only said that we cannot continue theological dialogue in the former forms.

- Which boils down to the same thing after all. You do not want to have talks with Ms Kaessmann?

- So far we have had meetings between Heads of our Churches, that is to say, between the Patriarch and the chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Now such a meeting has become impossible.

- In Germany and in the Western society it has provoked a considerable incomprehension. Your Church appears to represent ultra-conservative forces.

- We will face it. The election of a chairperson is an internal affair of the Evangelical Church in Germany. We respect the right of choice for those who gave their votes to Ms Kaessmann. But we also have our own rights, particularly to define the format of our participation in dialogue when the circumstances have changed. The Patriarch cannot meet with a woman-‘bishop’.

- Is the matter of gender so important?

- This is not a matter of gender but a matter of attitude to the Christian tradition. We believe a woman cannot continue the line of apostolic succession as Orthodox and Catholic bishops do. Besides, a meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Ms Kaessmann would look like the recognition of female priesthood by our Church. Our faithful will not understand it, as in our understanding it is the church people who are the guardian of Orthodox faith.

- Ms Kaessmann has stated that the meaning of ecumenical dialogue lies precisely in recognizing differences, in understanding the church order and the mission of the clergy. But you want to remove women from participation in the dialogue?

- No, women did participate earlier in the dialogue between our two Churches, but as priests, not as bishops. In November and December we were to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our dialogue in Moscow and in Berlin. After the election of Ms Kaessmann happened, I proposed that the celebrations in Moscow be held in the planned format so that Bishop Wolfgang Huber could come to Moscow. But as it was difficult for me personally to come to Berlin in this situation I suggested that the celebrations in Berlin be led by my vice-chairman. In response to that the Evangelical Church in Germany, failing even to contact me personally, declared all the celebrations cancelled. I regret that and I do not think one should react in this way.

- Apparently your proposal to send a vice-chairman was considered an offense?

- May be. But such an impulsive reaction does not correspond to the level on which our relations have existed so far. I am ready to meet with representatives of the Evangelical Church in Germany, either in Germany or in Moscow.

- And with Ms Kaessmann?

- I think, with my counterpart in the Evangelical Church in Germany.

- Is it a man?

- Fortunately, it is. Bishop Martin Schindenhutte.

- Mr Margot Kaessmann and Bishop Martin Schindenhutte sent the Patriarch a letter asking to clarify his position. Is there already any answer to it?

- The authors of the letter will receive an answer signed by either the Patriarch or me.

- Relations with the Catholic Church are developing more harmoniously, though in the past there were a lot of differences between you.

- Not only there were but there are remaining differences. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Greek Catholics in western Ukraine seized hundreds of churches, driving out thousands of Orthodox faithful. We are told that the Greek-Catholic Church is autonomous. But since the Greek-Catholic Church is part of the Catholic Church, we believe Rome should find a possibility for influencing the situation there.

I do not even doubt that your next question will be about a possible meeting between Pope Benedict XVI of Rome and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

- And when the ‘summit’ of the heads of the two Churches will take place?

- We do not exclude the possibility of such a meeting and hope very much that it will take place. Pope Benedict XVI is well aware of the existing difficulties and for this reason does not speed up the question of his meeting with the Patriarch, much less the question of his visit to Russia, as was done under his predecessor. We are grateful to him for this. Besides, we closely follow his statements and support him whenever his defends traditional Christian moral values. But a mere protocol meetings and handshaking before cameras is of no interest to us.

­- What is then the interest?

- We want a breakthrough in our relationships. When the situation in western Ukraine radically improves, when we – Orthodox and Catholics agree once for all that we are not rivals who lure away believers from each others, then a meeting between the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow will become possible. We are allies; we face the same challenge – the challenge of militant secularism.

- This militant secularism is localized, in your view, primarily in Russia or in the West?

- In the West. In Russia it is not an official ideology. It is present but our faithful oppose its manifestations, standing out for traditional values, such as family, childbearing and the value of human life.

- In what way the situation in the West is different?

- In particular, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg intends to ban Crucifixes in Italian schools. And this is a violation of traditional Christian values.

-But then Muslim schoolgirls should be also allowed to come to school in headscarves.

- And why not? But there is another factor, which is the religion of a majority. For Saudi Arabia it is Islam, for Russia it is Orthodox Christianity. In Kursk, the miracle-working Icon of Our Lady the Sign, the main shrine of the Russian Orthodox diaspora, was met by over 60 000 people. On November 4, the Day of the People’s Unity in Russia, we together with representatives of other religions organized a march in Red Square. The Patriarch walked in the first row, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist leaders in the second. It was a sort of visible symbol: our society is multi-confessional but the Patriarch is the head of ‘the majority Church’. He unites our faithful and helps the mechanism of interreligious cooperation to function effectively. The Patriarch should be in some sense the spiritual leader of all the people, not only Orthodox believers.

- Today the new Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, along with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are the most influential people in Russia. Doesn’t it threaten the separation of church and state?

- Not at all. We do not interfere into politics, nor do we give recommendations as to whom to vote for. The Church is open for people of different political convictions.

- What is our attitude to today’s internal Russian discussion on Stalin’s personality?

- We should face the historical truth. There is irrefutable evidence that under Stalin there were mass repressions.  We may not ever know the exact number of those repressed but it is a matter of millions of those who were executed by shooting, deprived of their property, driven away from their native land. It was a repressive system which eliminated its own people for several  decades.

- But today there are voices in Russia saying that Stalin also has merits.

- The crimes I mentioned cannot be justified either by these merits or the victory in World War II. The victory was gained by the people, not Stalin.

- Your Eminence, thank you for the talk.

Questions were asked by Martin Derry, deputy editor-in-chief, Christian Neef and Matthias Schepp

Share:
Patriarchal condolences on the death of Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York

18.05.2022

Patriarch Kirill: Our flock is both in Russia and Ukraine and we ardently pray for the restoration of peace

18.05.2022

Commentary by the Communications Service of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate on the interview given by Pope Francis to the Italian publication Corriere della sera.

04.05.2022

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill’s talk with Primate of Serbian Orthodox Church

27.04.2022

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill celebrates Paschal Great Vespers at the Church of Christ the Saviour

24.04.2022

Paschal Message of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to the archpastors, pastors, deacons, monastics and all faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church

23.04.2022

Holy Synod members discuss the issue of rendering aid to refugees and suffering civilians in Ukraine

25.03.2022

Holy Synod considers it important that the Russian Church’s stance on the crisis in Ukraine be brought to notice of the heads of non-Orthodox Churches and inter-Christian organizations

25.03.2022

Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church meets under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill

24.03.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion: The main thing in a person's life is their relationship with God

20.03.2022

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill’s address to the Supreme Church Council on March 18, 2022

18.03.2022

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill chairing a meeting of the Supreme Church Council

18.03.2022

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill had a talk with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

16.03.2022

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia talks with Pope Francis

16.03.2022

Patriarch’s homily on the Sunday of Orthodoxy at Christ the Saviour Cathedral

13.03.2022

The 25th meeting held by the Working Group for cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

19.05.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion meets with leaders of a major inter-Cristian humanitarian organization

13.05.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk visits Exarchate of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem in Cyprus

13.05.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk meets with Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus

12.05.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk holds negotiations with head of the DECR of the Malankara Church

11.05.2022

DECR chairman meets with representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church Catholicosate of Cilicia

11.05.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion delivered a presentation at the plenary session of the Orthodox Pre-Assembly of the World Council of Churches

11.05.2022

Russian Orthodox Church delegation attends Orthodox Pre-Assembly of World Council of Churches

10.05.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion on the work carried out by the Church amid the political confrontation in Ukraine

09.05.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion: Imposing sanctions will not affect the life of the Russian Orthodox Church

09.05.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion on details of the talk between His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis of Rome

09.05.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion: We have learned from own experience that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate

02.05.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion: The Church is called upon to unite people regardless of their political orientation

02.05.2022

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill’s talk with Primate of Serbian Orthodox Church

27.04.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk celebrates Paschal services.

24.04.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk celebrates Vespers of Good Friday with the procession of the burial-shroud.

22.04.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk celebrates Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great on Holy and Great Thursday.

21.04.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion: the essence of religious life lies in the love for God

16.01.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion: May the joy of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world live in our hearts always

09.01.2022

On Christmas Eve, Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Moscow church in honor of the icon of the Mother of God "Joy to All who Sorrow" on Bolshaya Ordynka.

06.01.2022

Metropolitan Hilarion: The Lord calls every person to salvation in a variety of ways

27.12.2021

Metropolitan Hilarion: The Lord has commanded us to love every human being

31.10.2021

Metropolitan Hilarion: on the Feast of the Holy Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos we glorify the heavenly intercession of the Mother of God

14.10.2021

Metropolitan Hilarion: Many things in a person's life depend on faith

29.08.2021

Metropolitan Hilarion: The Holy Spirit is the main treasure of the Christian soul

01.08.2021

Metropolitan Hilarion: Holiness is a constant striving to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ

27.06.2021

Metropolitan Hilarion: God does not want to condemn, but to save us

07.03.2021

Metropolitan Hilarion: The Lord always grants to us the opportunity to display our talents

24.01.2021

Metropolitan Hilarion: The Lord has imbued the waters of Jordan with his divine presence to wash away human sins

19.01.2021

Metropolitan Hilarion: to repent means to change your way of life

17.01.2021

Page is available in the following languages
Feedback

Fields marked by * are mandatory required

Send a message
Рус Укр Eng Deu Ελλ Fra Ita Бълг ქარ Срп Rom عرب