Replies to Recent E-Mails
Q: How do you view the current crisis in Syria?
A: I see it as the end of the Turkish-based Ottoman Empire, of which Syria was a part. (Remember that Antioch is still in Turkey). Now, if you remember, during the nineteenth century, the West always supported the Ottoman Empire, fearing for its fall and calling it ‘the Sick Man of Europe’. So today, the Western elite (the so-called ‘international community’), and naturally Turkey, support the rebels in Syria.
For example, we remember the ‘crusade’ (as it was called by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Paris) of the Crimean War, France, Great Britain and the Muslim Ottomans allied against Christian Russia. We recall the Western support for the Turkish massacres against Christian Bulgarians a little later in the 19th century. We recall how the West during the First World War did its best to stop Russian attempts to free the territory called ‘Turkey in Europe’ and free Constantinople, which had already been sacked by the West in 1204, which had led directly to its fall to the Muslims in 1453.
The West will always support Muslim fanatics against Orthodox Christendom. Why? Of course, there are strategic reasons, like the Suez Canal or oil, but basically, it is because the ‘Christian’ West is opposed to Orthodoxy, because Orthodoxy alone witnesses to the falsity of the West’s Christianity.
Now look at what happened to this Ottoman Empire during and after the First World War. Great Britain and, to some extent, France, dismembered it. Straight lines were drawn on maps, creating countries in Western government offices which should never have existed: Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, the Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States etc were all carved out.
On top of this, in that fateful year of 1917, when the Western-financed and organised Revolution took place in Russia and two weeks later the USA entered the First War, the Balfour Declaration was made, creating the first Israel, and British troops (my grandfather among them) marched into Jerusalem. All these new countries had minorities which were denied their rights, the Palestinians, as they came to be, the Kurds, the Sunnis etc. Ever since, we have had continuous war in the Middle East. Israel, as it is now called, will never be at peace.
Q: Why does the West not invade Syria and take control?
A: First of all, there is no oil in Syria to speak of, and oil is the magnet of the West. Secondly, the West is bankrupt. Thirdly, the West already invaded Iraq, where there is a lot of oil, and Afghanistan, where there is no oil, and made a mess of them, creating permanent chaos, resistance and bombings. And fourthly, you do not invade countries in the middle of civil wars. You only make them worse, as we have seen in Yugoslavia and today with the Muslim rebels in Syria, who have been armed by the US through their front organisations in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The West must now know about the dangers of reckless busybody interventions from Libya, where it has set up yet another Muslim terrorist State. Only this week British diplomats were attacked there and the Red Cross centre in Tripoli bombed. In Egypt too, there is now a danger of a fanatical Muslim regime, even worse than the utterly corrupt one before.
What is really worrying is that the Civil War in Syria will spread to the Lebanon and on through Iraq to Iran and even drag in China. Through its illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, the West has set off a powder keg – as it was warned at the time. The great losers are the native Christians of the Middle East, as in Iraq. Already over 150,000 have fled Syria and their ancestral homes.
This Western support for Muslims is the same in the Balkans. Yugoslavia was dismantled by the West creating terrorist organisations in Muslim Kosovo and Bosnia. The West will always arm Muslim fanatics against Orthodoxy, the double-headed eagle, which looks both East and West. It is the only thing that the West fears. To destroy Orthodoxy was British imperial policy in the 19th century; it is also American imperial policy in the 21st.
Q: So do you link the crisis in Syria with the crisis in Greece?
A: Yes, 100%. It is all part of the same post-Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, when the Ottoman Empire in Europe began to break up, German princelings were installed by the Western Powers as kings in the Balkans, at least in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. France was given Romania as a cultural colony and Cyprus was given to Britain as a strategic colony. Only what later became Yugoslavia escaped this. And what has happened there in recent years? The West has set upon Serbia and destroyed it, breaking off Slavonia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and giving them to the enemies of Serbia and the enemies of Orthodoxy. These fragments are essentially now ruled by Western-manipulated mafias and many parts of them have to be permanently patrolled by NATO troops as protectorates.
What is happening today in Greece is a wake-up call from lethargy, from the bread and circuses, which the EU and the Greek leaders gave the Greek people and into which they fell through lethargy. I remember a Romanian going to Greece for the first time a few years ago. She came back and said to me: ‘Under Communism in Romania we always looked on Greece as the source of Holy Orthodoxy. I went there, my hopes high, and what did I see? Everywhere, all the churches had seats. I was so shocked. They cannot even be bothered to stand up for God’.
In my view, the Greek people have a choice today with this euro crisis: Repent or disappear. Be true to yourselves or else lose your national identity and fade away. Stand up for Christ or sit down and become a bankrupt colony.
Q: Do you think that the anti-German feelings of the Greeks are justified?
A: You know, in the end we all have to be responsible for our own acts. So, in one sense, the Greeks are responsible for their own debts. But then again, who told the Greeks to get into debt? It was their politicians, their leaders, who were supposed to lead, but in fact misled. And who allowed all this debt to occur? It was the German authorities who ran the euro. So responsibility is shared.
I think that many Germans do have a real problem and that is that they expect all Europeans to behave like them. That is pure fantasy. However, I would blame German politicians for that. After all the German people never wanted, by a massive majority, the euro. It was imposed on them, anti-democratically, by German politicians. But if the Greeks are to be blamed, the same can be said of the Spanish, the Irish, the Portuguese, the Irish and the Cypriots.
Q: My husband says that he will not go to church as long as Putin goes to church. What would you say to this?
A: I find that censorious, puritanical and judgemental. Lots of people go to church, everyone is free to go to church – or not. I cannot stop people from going to church and why should I? As far as I know all of us go to church in order to repent. I certainly do. I would presume that President Putin also goes to church to repent. If not, he is wasting his time there. And, in any case, such an opinion totally confuses the Russian State, of which this President is currently the foremost representative, and the Russian Church. Tomorrow there will be another President or perhaps another organisation and constitution of the State. The Church, however, will always be here, until the end of the age.
When I hear of a ‘Putinist state’, I think of Fr Thedorit, the Pskov elder of blessed memory. As a Red Army soldier aged 20 in Berlin in 1946, he went to the Reichstag to look. He saw Tsar Nicholas II standing there and examining the ruins. The destruction of Berlin was the nemesis brought on itself by Germany for destroying the Russian Empire. You see, President Putin is not Russia’s real leader. Russia has an eternal leader. President Putin, with all his qualities and all his faults, is only a passing phenomenon. Like all politicians, he is here today and gone tomorrow. However Jesus Christ is yesterday, today and forever.
Q: What about the problems of endemic corruption inside Russia?
A: What about the problems of endemic corruption inside the West? Of course, I am not denying endemic corruption inside Russia, but unfortunately those who condemn Russia for this have the beam in their own eye, they are hypocrites who have never seen Western corruption.
For example, five years ago I was arrested in a car in Russia. The policeman wanted a ‘fine’ of about £45 from me. However, when he saw I was a priest, he let me go. This is financial corruption. It is all over Russia. It may be that that particular policeman was just greedy. However, it is also a fact that many there are badly paid, this is their way of making up their wages. The trouble is that until corruption stops at the top, it will not stop at the bottom. If President Putin does not solve this problem, he will fall, demonstrators in Moscow will overthrow him. He has four years in which to act, to deal with this.
Now let us look at the West. Everybody here knows that you cannot get very far if you do not compromise with the Establishment. In Britain, for example that usually means becoming a freemason. Now, surely that is even worse than corruption than in Russia? After all, at the top, freemasonry is satanism. (The fact that most bishops of the Church of England are freemasons is hardly an excuse...). As for countries like Italy, I doubt if financial corruption is any less than in Russia or anywhere else in Eastern Europe, in Poland, Hungary, Romania etc.
Q: But people do criticise the Russian Church for being too close to the Russian State. What would you say?
A: I think there are two main reasons for people saying this. Firstly, there are those who say this because most of these people have a political axe to grind. They are against a strong Russia. Secondly, there are those who say this because they claim that they are apolitical and that the Church must be apolitical. However, this is already a political statement! I remember how people at Rue Daru (the Paris Exarchate) use to say this with immense pride and arrogance. ‘We are not in the Russian Church because we would have to be either red or white and that is a political view. We are above politics’. I would answer them: ‘You are nor red or white? So that means you are pink?’
More seriously, their argument meant that they were not for right or wrong and that is why they were not able to stand up for the Truth, for the New Martyrs, for example. You see, it is all very well to compromise on minor matters, but on matters of principle, it is cowardly, even immoral. There is right and there is wrong – you cannot take a position that is half-right and half-wrong. Many of these people simply do not understand that the Church must influence the State. It is our duty. Our Orthodox Christian Faith is about the Incarnation. We do not belong to some Protestant sect, in which the importance of religion is merely as a personal hobby for Sunday mornings. Our faith is about life, not about words, but about practising our faith. Secularist politicians hate it when the Church practises the faith; they want it to be confined to some personal opinions, which have no practical consequences. That is not Orthodox. It is anti-Incarnational.
Q: But there are real problems. Some individuals in the Russian Church do seem to be too close to the Russian State, don’t you think?
A: Some individuals, no doubt, are. There always have been such individuals, who swim with the tide. But individuals are not the Church. People have to learn to stop thinking that the Russian Church is a few wealthy parishes and monasteries in Moscow and St Petersburg. That is not the Russian Church. Outside a few showpiece churches in the city centres of Moscow and St Petersburg, you will soon find real Orthodoxy. Go down the chain and you will see the real thing.
However, it is true that in the current situation inside Russia, there are temptations for some individual representatives of the Church. In my view there are three such temptations, I would call them ‘Third Rome temptations’, though they are nothing new, they existed in the 1st century, just as in the 19th, let alone in the 21st. (By the way, ROCOR is free of all of them). These temptations are:
Power: This is the temptation to let the State influence the Church, rather than the other way round – the way it should be. Some individuals will always fall for this, (‘every man has his price’), but they are only a minority.
Money: This is the temptation of luxury, to build a few churches, but with gold and marble. We need to build many churches, simple ones, which become real parishes, communities. The Church needs to help the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the orphan and the widow. This is building the Church with spiritual gold and marble, that is, on the faith of the New Martyrs and Confessors.
Influence: This is the temptation to gain influence through alliances with other religions, notably with the Vatican, which is a State, not a Church. However, only individuals compromise themselves in ecumenical acts, the Church is not compromised.
As I have said before, these ‘Third Rome temptations’ can be resolved through the concept of Moscow as a Second Jerusalem, that is, as a spiritual entity influencing the Nation, rather than a Church that has been submerged and disappeared beneath a Statist identity, as happened with the Vatican from the 11th century on. If the Second Jerusalem policy is followed, then once more the approval of the 1561 Synod of Moscow will be heard again. This was approved of by the Patriarch of Constantinople, who acclaimed Tsar Ivan IV as ‘Emperor and Lord of Orthodox Christians all through the universe’. But Third Rome Russian nationalist politics will not be approved of at all.
Q: But we all agree that most Russian Orthodox are only nominally Orthodox, don’t we?
A: Yes, although 90% of Russians are now baptised, only some 5% of Russian Orthodox anywhere (including outside Russia in ROCOR) are practising Orthodox. However, that number has been increasing rapidly over the last generation. In the West, however, much less than 5% are now actually practising. In England and France, the figure is about 2%. Moreover, Western nominalism is increasing, whereas Russian nominalism is decreasing. The direction is opposite. And then when you look at those who do practise, what a difference! The few English people who ever set foot in any church would never set foot there, if they could not sit down. In the USA, where a large minority, up to 40%, do ‘go to church’, you find that their ‘churches’ are in fact ‘social/entertainment centres’, nothing like real churches. So you have to analyse statistics to find the truth.
Q: Are you criticised?
A: Apart from two e-mails over the last five years which complained because they were misinformed and attributed to me what I had never said, in the last five years I have received two letters, both anonymous, both from extremes, both clearly from converts. One said I was an ecumenist, the other said I was a fanatic. Although I throw away anonymous letters, I find this reassuring. It suggests that I am following the middle way, the golden mean, integrity, which is what I have always followed, whatever the cost to me. It is strange how people try and categorise me, by fixing me into some ‘type’. They fail and I think that always frustrates them.
More light-heartedly, six years ago, I was phoned by an elderly Russian man from Los Angeles, asking if I had been assassinated yet! Apparently, he had thought that my talk at the Council in San Francisco has been so much against any reconciliation with the Church inside Russia that I would be assassinated by ‘liberals’ (= the bishops) for it...
Q: What can you say about parish life in Colchester?
A: We move ahead and expand. We are intending to carry out three projects in the next three years, when we have enough money. The first project is to finish repainting the outside of the Church, the second is to resurface the tarmac parking areas outside the Church (475 square metres) and the third is to refloor the Church. We estimate that will cost us over £25,000. Beyond this, we are looking to double the size of the parish hall from 100 square metres to 200 square metres and then renew the lighting in the Church. We estimate that will cost at least £100,000. These are large sums, but we will get there in the end, it will just take time. Personally, we also hope to be able to move to near the Church so that I will at last be able to do daily services, at least vespers and then in the mornings at least to be able to read morning prayers and the canons of matins.