On the eve of electing a new Primate, the Locum Tenens of the Moscow patriarchal see Metropolitan Kirill gave an interview to Interfax-Religion, where he commented on preparations for the Local Council, procedure of coming elections, and reminded how important a prayer of each Orthodox Christian is on the eve of crucial changes in life of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- What hopes do you lay on the coming Local Council?
- The most important act of the coming Local Council will be election of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. Patriarchal ministry requires full devotion to the Church of Christ, God-inspired wisdom and selfless love to the neighbor. I hope that with “the Lord working with them” (Mk 16: 20), the Council will elect the sixteenth primate of the Russian Church, who will lead the church ship on the tumultuous sea of everyday life.
Our Church has changed in recent years. Many monasteries and churches were restored and built and we see both elderly and young people visiting them. Orthodox thought has reached its fullest flower, a lot of church books are being published, Orthodox TV channels and radio stations have been opened. The dialogue with the state is developing. All these good changes were carried out under omophorium of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy. I am sure that the Local Council, representing the whole Russian Church, will thank you to its late Primate.
- There were 15 Patriarchs in Russia. How many of them were elected by lot and by vote and what form of patriarchal elections do you consider the most appropriate now?
- Tsar chose the first Russian Patriarch St. Job from three candidates suggested by church hierarchs. His successors St. Hermogen, Patriarchs Philaret and Joasaphus I were also elected on tsar’s instruction.
In the 20th century, the Local Council 1917 elected the Holy Patriarch Tikhon by lot. The following Patriarchs Sergy, Alexy I and Pimen were elected by open vote. His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II was elected by secret ballot out of three candidates suggested by the Archbishop Council. Years of his ministry proved it was the right choice made by God’s will.
We see that the procedure of patriarchal elections has been changing. However, the elections were always blessed by consulate Church mind.
The Holy Synod recommended that Bishops’ Council should elect three candidates for the patriarchal see. The Local Council can also recommend additional candidates. According to the church statute, a candidate for Patriarch is a bishop older than 40 years with higher theological education and experience of diocese administration. It was suggested that the Archbishop and Local Councils elected candidates by secret ballot so that everyone can vote in all fairness.
We believe that consulate prayer backed up by prayer of the whole Church will open hearts and minds of the Local Council members for perceiving the message of the Holy Spirit. That’s why it is so important to keep our hearts and thoughts clean so that suspicions and enmity couldn’t destroy our inner peace and we would be able to hear God’s voice. The Council’s acts are primarily spiritual acts as they reveal God’s will to the Church and world.
- What do you think are the main tasks of the next Primate? Are they different from those Alexy II had to address in 1990?
- His Holiness Patriarch Alexy from the very beginning of his primatial ministry had to solve such tasks as strengthening church unity, reviving catechism and missionary activities, developing theological education, publishing Orthodox literature, restoring and building churches, reviving monastic life, social work, charities and other kinds of church work. A lot has been already done: it’s enough to mention that the number of monasteries has increased from 22 to 800 in the last twenty years! The number of parishes has grown fourfold. The system of theological education is developing, over 11,000 Sunday schools are acting. Polls and experience of communicating with different people proves that people trust the Church. This national trust is an achievement of His Holiness. Many people loved and respected our Patriarch. A new primate will face a very difficult task, which is to be a worthy successor of the late primate.
Great work is in store for us: the time gives rise to new problems that require much hard work. In recent years, His Holiness the Patriarch spoke of the necessity to change the quality of church life. Growth in number cannot but impress, though today we have to revive churchism in the broad sense of the word – through theological education, missionary work, catechism, social work, church and public activity.
- What would like to wish the participants in the Local Council?
- I wish the participants to realize their great responsibility, I wish them conformity of opinion and fraternal love in Christ. I pray that the Lord grant us “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Eph 1:17) and urge everyone to pray for it. Everyone who considers himself an Orthodox Christian should participate in consulate acts. Only elected delegates can participate in the Council sessions, but the entire Church should pray for the Council.
Until the Council accomplishes its work, the Holy Synod blesses to read a special prayer at the Divine Liturgy, where the Church asks the Lord to keep the Council participants from temptations, offences and divisions and to grant them the gift of love and conformity to choose a Primate. Let us – regular church-goers, those who are not often here, and even those who don’t remember when they last visited the church – start the day with a prayerful address to the Lord: “God, bless the coming Council.”