"The Russian Orthodox Church will never remain silent in Her care
for or advocacy on behalf of the Russian people." An Interview
with Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk
April 9, 2010, on Bright Friday, His Eminence, Archbishop Justinian of
Naro-Fominsk, celebrated his first Divine Liturgy in New York in
ROCOR’s Synodal Cathedral of the Sign, co-served by His Grace,
Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Jerome of Manhattan. On March
5, 2010, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox
Church, Archbishop Justinian was appointed Administrator of the
Patriarchal parishes in the USA. Upon completion of the Liturgy, His
Eminence gave an interview to Diocesan Media Office correspondent
Reader Peter Lukianov. The text of Archbishop Justinian’s interview
is available to readers below.
Your Eminence, you recently arrived in the United States, after your
appointment as Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the USA.
What instruction were you given by His Holiness, Patriarch Kyrill,
prior to your arrival in America?
First, His Holiness
passes along, through me, his blessing to the Patriarchal parishes,
and to that part of the fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church –
the Russian Church Abroad. The Patriarch himself charged me to be an
ardent supplicant on the American continent, that in prayer we might
form relationships with the clergy of the cathedral and the parishes,
and that in prayer we might seek unity with the Russian Church Abroad,
because woe be unto any clergyman who gives himself over primarily to
practical business, to administrating, forgetting his basic, primary
responsibility: being a priest, a performer of prayer, a performer of
sacraments. And I, of course, will try not to forget these words of
His Holiness the Patriarch, and these words must become incarnate in
works. Of course, His Holiness would also like for the divine services
conducted in St. Nicholas Cathedral to be a possibility for the
children of the Russian Church Abroad to familiarize themselves with
those, I won’t say traditions, but customs, now prevalent in Russia.
This is because, having once had a life independent of the Moscow
Patriarchate, the Russian Church Abroad may have seen the birth of Her
own local traditions or particularities. And so it should be that,
coming to St. Nicholas Cathedral, the children of the Russian Church
Abroad can see how people pray in Moscow or in other dioceses.
However, this is clearly not the most important thing, which is
adhering to Orthodox teachings, preserving the Church’s dogmas and
canons, that which makes us familiar to our fellows regardless of
where we may live. And, of course, the Patriarch cares deeply that our
witness to the Russian Orthodox Church might reach those people who
might not yet know Christ; there are such people in our Russian émigré
community, as well. His Holiness’ concern is for Russians living
here to stop thinking of themselves in terms of a layered cake:
different generations, different ages, different traditions, but
rather that they should have the feeling and experience of a single
How would you gauge the role of the Moscow Patriarchate in
representing the World Russian People’s Council (WRPC) at the UN?
- Among the many
weighty responsibilities of the Russian Orthodox Church, I would name
Her service as an ethnarch, a representative of the Russian people, in
the broader sense of that word, as it always was in Russia. If you
were Orthodox, that is, regardless of the color of your skin or the
cut of your eyes, it meant you were Russian. And for that reason there
was never any pronounced nationalism in Russia, because there was a
sense that everyone was truly brothers. But, thanks to many centuries
of Orthodox upbringing, we can definitely see the creation, the birth,
of a united, mighty Russian people. And the Orthodox Church has a duty
to be an advocate, a duty to be responsible for the fates of the
Russian people, be that in Russia proper, be that beyond her borders;
but truly, who but the Russian Orthodox Church, relying on the finest
spokesmen-sons of the Russian people, is in a place to represent them
before the United Nations? I think it is clear to every thinking
person that it is precisely the Russian Orthodox Church that is the
axle uniting the Russian people. And for this reason the Russian
Orthodox Church will never remain silent in Her care for or advocacy
on behalf of the Russian people.
Your Eminence, our meeting with you today is historic, because, in
this new era for the Church Abroad, you are the first hierarch
appointed to the role of Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in
the period following the reunification of the Churches. As the
Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes of the MP in the USA, what
is your attitude toward the Church Abroad? Are you planning to visit
ROCOR parishes and reach out to the faithful of the Church Abroad?
- Of course, my
first concern as Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes is that
arena of Church life. But wherever I am invited to participate, either
in the divine services, or in the life of ROCOR, I will gladly,
cautiously, lovingly respond, because many things that perhaps seem
natural to me, as a person born and raised inside Russia, might not be
entirely understood by Russian people born abroad. And so, in order
that we in no way harm the work of unification, we must naturally
constantly synchronize our watches, so to speak. We must compare our
responses to various shared problems. I think that we must
concelebrate at festal divine services, but we must also have a
relationship based not only on shared high ceremony, but on working
moments, an evaluation of our shared life in the quiet of the
study, in joint conferences. In this matter I can only say that, for
the head of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion, for the
Synod for all of my Orthodox co-brothers in ROCOR, I am a servant,
ready to work together as much as is needed of me.
Your predecessor, His Grace Mercurius, Bishop of Zaraysk, worked
diligently, especially here in New York, to unite the flock of the
Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate. One of the remarkable
traditions of the last few years is the Paschal service in St.
Nicholas Cathedral on Bright Saturday. Can we hope on future joint
celebrations in St. Nicholas Cathedral?
- I simply must preserve those good traditions established by my predecessor,
Bishop Mercurius. Of course, the service on Pascha Saturday and the
procession around one of Manhattan’s city blocks is a joy that
inspires all of us. This is such a pleasant, inspirational event for
those Russians who hear of it, that we are simply duty-bound to apply
all our efforts, so that not only this service, but other forms of our
unity, might only develop further in the future. I know there is an
idea to bring part of the relics of St. Tikhon, the Patriarch of all
Russia, to the cathedrals and parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church,
and I mean in all of Her fullness on the American continent, and maybe
to other Orthodox churches of other jurisdictions. Here, I think, we
must deal with this in all seriousness, working out a beautiful,
worthy schedule, deeply symbolic, one that reaches the broadest
possible spectrum of dioceses and parishes. This must be thought
through, and then we can petition His Holiness the Patriarch, so that
this definitely takes place.
There are rumors, Your Eminence, that the Patriarch will visit the USA
in the near future. Have you heard any word from His Holiness on
intentions or plans to visit America?
- His Holiness
absolutely desires a visit to America, to pray with his spiritual
children, bearing witness to Christ and the life of the Orthodox
Church to the whole world. There is some thought being given, of
course, to the most comfortable time to perform this visit, because
there is a certain order, a Church tradition, that the Patriarch must
visit certain other places in his role as Patriarch. But his
archpastoral, patriarchal heart certainly cares for us, and I dare to
confirm that His Holiness is searching for the opportunity to come
here with all haste.
The majority of our site’s readers are clergy and laymen of the
Eastern American Diocese, within the borders of which is located St.
Nicholas Cathedral. Of course, most of your interaction with clerics
of the Church Abroad will be with clerics of the Eastern American
Diocese. What would you wish the readers of our diocesan website?
- I would like for
us, if not formally, then in our everyday lives, to feel ourselves to
be one united Eastern American Diocese, which has its diocesan
hierarch, Metropolitan Hilarion, and a prayerful, hierarchal
connection to His Holiness, Patriarch Kyrill. So far, Church life is
represented in two Church structures, but at the very least, may we
have the impression in our hearts that we are one Eastern American
Thank you very much, Your Eminence. I greatly hope that you will give
your blessing in the future to conduct another interview some months
hence. We will be very grateful.
- As soon as the
fullness of my heart abounds with impressions, I will ask you myself
for an interview, that my heart might remain lively, for out of the
abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Office of the Eastern American Diocese