Interview with Sergey Chapnin
Russia Today: This week's been rich in historic happenings for the Russian Orthodox Church. What's the significance of the event on Saturday, namely the sanctification of a new church in Moscow's Butovo district by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksy II and head of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Metropolitan Laurus?
Sergey Chapnin: First of all I should say that this is a real sign of the freedom of church, because we were not allowed to commemorate deeds and heroic deaths of those who suffered for the church and were killed in this secret KGB site in Moscow suburbs, where dozens of thousands people were killed in the 1920s and especially in the 1930s. Today we not only can, we go there and pray, but there is also a church there – not just a small chapel, but a real big beautiful church. This is a sign that we do remember the tragic pages of our history in the 20th century and we do pray to the martyrs who are, as we say, the spiritual and even the mystical basis of the church's revival in the late 1990s.
RT: The re-unification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia has caused excitement among believers from both branches. But what does it mean for the whole of Russian society? Is it making an impact on the country's image?
S.C.: This is quite simple because members of the Russian Orthodox Church form the majority of Russian society, and this Church is the largest religious organisation in Russia, so for the society it is a great joy and many people do know that there are lots of churches, Orthodox parishes outside Russia, in Australia, in Latin America, in North America e.t.c., and not all of them were in canonical communion with Moscow Patriarchate in the 20th century. Now the majority of Russian emigrants of the late 1920s, 1940s and of other waves of migration could pray together, and that is the ecclesial meaning of this event. But, of course, as faith is not separated from Russian national culture and from love towards Russia, it is also important that we manifest our tradition of joint veneration of our country. These are not only religious consequences; this is a broad personal vision of the unity of the nation, and we share this vision now. But also we should stress that the intention of the church hierarchies who were involved in the process of re-unification was not influenced by politics or economy. That was a pure ecclesial intention to be together because we have one church and we should be together despite of all divisions we had in our history.
RT: And what does it mean for the church as an institution?
S.C.: We are together now, and to be that way is a Commandment of Christ. We had lots of splits in the history and only a few examples of “healing” these splits. The re-unification was an example of “healing” the conflicts, so we are very happy that the Russian Orthodox Church managed to do it and to show the rest of the world that we are together and we are able to be together.