Metropolitan Hilarion delivered a presentation at the plenary session of the Orthodox Pre-Assembly of the World Council of Churches
DECR Communication Service, 11/05/2022.
On May 11, 2022, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who is currently in Cyprus with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia as the head of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church at the WCC Inter-Orthodox Pre-Assembly, spoke at the plenary session on the topic “Reconciliation and Unity is the Purpose of the Divine Love Incarnate in Jesus Christ.”
As the DECR Chairman noted, «it is the first time in the entire history of the World Council of Churches that the word “love” has been included in the Assembly theme – “Christ's love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” After all, love is the essential idea of Christianity. “Love comes fr om God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn. 4:7-8), the Apostle says.
In the New Testament, the ontological abyss between God and flesh, between Divinity and humanity is overcome by the Word of God becoming flesh. While before that God participated in the life of the people of Israel as though fr om the side-lines, from above, from heaven, now the Son of God comes to earth and becomes a part of the human history. At the same time, He as before remains the pre-eternal Divine Word inseparable from God. It is Jesus Christ Who brings to us the all-abundant love of the Creator of the universe».
In order to prove his point Metropolitan Hilarion quoted Isaac the Syrian: «God the Lord surrendered His own Son to death on the Cross for the fervent love of creation… This was not, however, because He could not have redeemed us in another way, but so that His surpassing love, manifested hereby, might be a teacher unto us. And by the death of His only-begotten Son He made us near to Himself. For the sake of His love for us and in obedience to His Father, Christ joyfully took upon Himself insult and sorrow».
The DECR Chairman stressed: “The Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, His suffering, death and Resurrection gave unity unto humankind. And in this feat of redemption committed by the Saviour, Gregory the Theologian sees the greatest miracle that should be glorified rather than deliberated on in theological writings. “There arose within us a need for a God made flesh and made dead, that we might live that we might live… We were put to death together with Him, that we might be cleansed; we rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him; we were glorified with Him, because we rose again with Him. Many indeed are the miracles of that time: God crucified; the sun darkened and again rekindled… the veil rent; the Blood and Water shed from His Side… the rocks rent… the dead raised… the Signs at the Sepulchre and after the Sepulchre… and yet none of these equal to the Miracle of my salvation. A few drops of Blood recreate the whole world… drawing us together and compressing us into unity”. The arms of the Saviour stretched out on the Cross embrace all ends of the world, uniting all people into “one man” whom the Saviour places “in the bosom of one Deity”, that is, reunites him with God and deifies, St. Gregory writes. The same image we find in the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem and the liturgical texts of Holy Week».
In his report, Metropolitan Hilarion noted that in the time that had passed since the previous WCC Assembly, upsetting events had taken place in the family of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. With regard to those events, the DECR chairman urged: «But let us not turn this Pre-Assembly or the upcoming Assembly into a platform for discussing our internal problems in the face of the Protestant world. After all, we will not be able to resolve them here. Instead, let us try to unite in order to bear common witness to Gospel values. We may be divided in the understanding of certain church-canonical or political realities, but we are united in our faith in Jesus Christ as God and Saviour and in the one two-thousand-years Tradition of Christ’s Church, which we are called to reverently preserve».
Metropolitan Hilarion especially greeted the representatives of the Oriental Churches, talking about the dialogue that the Russian Orthodox Church has with the Armenian Apostolic Church, and with the Coptic, Ethiopian, Syriac and Malankara Churches. The speaker thanked the leadership of the WCC for the fact that the work of the Orthodox Pre-Assembly had been organized according to the principle of rotation of the chairmanship at each of the meetings.
«It is possible when both families gather together. And we thank the World Council of Churches for showing us such example of arranging the meetings. This may well be when only representatives of Orthodox Churches gather. We believe in one Holy Catholic Church founded by the Lord to bear witness to Him in every corner of the earth. The apostles, who brought the glad tidings of Christ to people and endured torments and even death for that, were taught by the Lord Himself not to think about superiority over each other. The youngest among them was the beloved disciple of Christ, but when he and his brother asked about primacy, they were rebuked by the Lord Who said, “The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Mt 20:25-27).
So how can we exalt and honour ourselves in front of each other except for showing desire to serve our brethren? How can we believe that one Church, even the smallest one, is less important to God than the other, even more ancient and larger one? The grace works in the same way in every Church founded by God. We are not of Paul, of Apollos, or of Cephas; we are of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 1:11)».
The DECR Chairman reminded the participants of the Orthodox Pre-Assembly of the duty of bearing witness to the Tradition of the Church in the first centuries: «The state of morality in the present-day society urges us to raise our voice in defence of the traditional values of family and marriage, in defence of human life, from the moment of conception till natural death. We should react to the loss of every moral authority in today’s society, to the triumph of falsehood and injustice by bearing firm and unanimous witness to Christ – the Saviour of every human being. Our contemporaries need guidance and fundamental life principles, and it is only the Lord Jesus Christ Who can give it. If it is not we, then who will bring this witness to them?
We must not be indifferent, seeing the Western Christian world in its certain parts sliding into the abyss of absolute rejection of the Gospel and Christ and following the path of moral relativism and degradation. Our primary duty is to do all we can to reach out to the strayed hearts, casting aside compromises and politesse. It is only the clear example of faithfulness to the commandments of God and a firm word that can produce results in order to “by all means save some” (1 Cor 9:22)».
Metropolitan said: «We have gathered here to remind people of reconciliation and unity at a time when the world is being torn apart by conflicts and hatred. As Christians we cannot remain indifferent to the tragedies unfolding before our eyes. Cries for help of millions of our brothers and sisters in various parts of the world must not remain the voice of one’s crying in the wilderness. They need to evoke response in our hearts and in joint actions of our Churches.
Incalculable are the sufferings of people in Libya, Syria, Iraq, in the African countries. It should be noted that the World Council of Churches is one of the few Christian organizations acting in response to the human afflictions caused by armed conflicts and other tragic circumstances».
The DECR Chairman noted the great work that the WCC had done to resolve the situation in West Papua, Ethiopia, Colombia, the Middle East and other parts of the world during the period between the two Assemblies. On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church, which participated in these initiatives, he thanked for them the leadership of the WCC and its individual working bodies.
Regarding the armed confrontation in Ukraine, Metropolitan Hilarion emphasized that «with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church in all its canonical territory lifts up daily prayers for the soonest restoration of peace, mindful that it should be lasting and long-term and, therefore, based on justice.
However, prayer alone is insufficient. It is important to help those in affliction. Over a million refugees have crossed the Russian border, and the Church is carrying out humanitarian work all over the country, unprecedented in scale, to provide emergency relief for people. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, historically and spiritually tied with the Russian Church as its self-governing part, is doing colossal work to render aid to displaced persons. Millions of refugees have found themselves in Poland, Romania and other countries. We are grateful to Polish, Romanian and other Local Orthodox Churches, to non-Orthodox Christians and all people of good will who are helping the refugees. This is our common tragedy, and we have to go through it together».
As an example of the work carried out by the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion cited the evacuation of the civilian population, which was held at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol: «The Russian Orthodox Church has not stand aside. On April 29, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia called Metropolitan Mitrofan of Gorlovka and Slavyansk and asked him to go to Mariupol to take part in the negotiations and evacuation. On April 30 and May 1, one hundred and one civilians, including six children, were taken to safe places. Metropolitan Mitrofan was among the first to meet them.
On May 6, fifty-one people were evacuated from the Azovstal. Both Russia and Ukraine announced that the evacuation of civilians had been completed. Metropolitan Mitrofan took part in the action. Grand total is one hundred and fifty-two human lives saved».
Metropolitan Hilarion shared with the Pre-Assembly participants the testimony of Metropolitan Mitrofan on how the evacuation took place: «At three in the morning I left Gorlovka, and at seven was in Bezymennoye village, having joined a convoy of representatives who were to take part in the process… The negotiations, conducted in two stages, with breaks and consultations, were concluded at around 2:00 p.m, and all those involved started moving in the direction of the Azovstal steelworks. The endpoint was the crossroads in front of the Azovstal bridge. The bridge was mined at the time… Over ten mines were removed from the bridge during demining. After that we proceeded to a meeting point... It was already twilight and it almost grew dark when a bus arrived from the Azovstal territory. Three Ukrainian military men brought people. They were twenty-one, including six children. There was even a six-month-old infant among them…I greeted all those coming out of the Azovstal with the words “Christ is Risen!” and conveyed to them greetings and words of encouragement from His Holiness the Patriarch. Many of them were crying. First of all, we needed to say to them that everything was alright, that the war was over for them, and convince them that now they were safe. The elderly needed help walking and carrying their bags. … We explained to the people that now they were safe, that they were going to a refugee camp wh ere there would be enough food and water and they would receive medical and legal aid… that afterwards, each of them would have a choice, either to go to the territory of Ukraine, to Zaporozhye, or to stay here».
According to Vladyka Mitrofan, «to make the evacuation of civilians from the Azovstal plant possible, great many people got involved, doing their job: negotiators, the military, medical doctors and many other professionals. Ceasefire was being maintained literally in manual mode, so that nothing would have fired and the process would not have been disrupted. All people took great care, working at their lim it. I would like to express gratitude to His Holiness the Patriarch, for he took the situation to heart and did everything within his power to bring about the rescue of civilians from the Mariupol underground. And I was fortunate to see the reward – the eyes of the people coming out of there their joy at realizing that now their life is no longer in danger... Thanks to tremendous work done by many people, one hundred and one persons are alive now».
In conclusion of this report Metropolitan Hilarion said: «Day after day, strenuous humanitarian and peace-making activities are being carried out, much of which remain unseen. We invite all the interested parties to join efforts with us in rendering aid to the suffering. I think that time and again our conflict-torn world will need Christians’ help... Our civilization will be saved by reconciliation and unity, which for Christians are unthinkable without Christ the Incarnate Love, Who gives us the only true purpose in life».
At the end of his speech, Metropolitan Hilarion answered numerous questions from the audience. The discussion on the report of the DECR Chairman was attended, in particular, by Metropolitan Seraphim of Zimbabwe (Patriarchate of Alexandria), Metropolitan Niphon of Targovishte (Romanian Orthodox Church), Metropolitan Basil of Constantine and Ammachost (Orthodox Church of Cyprus), Metropolitan Gabriel of Neo-Ionia and Philadelphia (Orthodox Church of Greece), Archbishop Viken Haykazyan (Armenian Apostolic Church - Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin), Archbishop Sebuh Sarkisyan (Armenian Apostolic Church - Catholicosate of Cilicia), Acting General Secretary of the WCC Archpriest John Sauca (Romanian Orthodox Church), Deacon Ikoumenios Amanatidis (Patriarchate of Constantinople), A. Kavas (Patriarchate of Jerusalem), N. Skvarnik (Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia), D. Kukura (WCC consultant).
Photos taken from Mospat.ru and WCC website