Your Eminence, for five years now you have led the Russian Church Abroad as part of a united Russian Orthodox Church. What have these years of union given us?
Turning back, I think: Where do I begin? I can say this: the annual return to her homeland of our Protectress—the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign”—and the pilgrimages throughout the various dioceses of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and this year it will go to Vladivostok and Japan for the first time.
I can talk about the teachers, the monks and priests who came from Russia, Ukraine, enriching our Orthodox traditions. This exchange is continuing, and expanding. Hundreds of students and young people who go to Russia and the CIS not only to meet other youth but to do real work—restoring Russian holy sites in Solovki and Tikhvin, for instance.
I could tell you about the publications, films, returned archival documents. Or about the all-diaspora conferences, joint youth pilgrimages… The marriages, and now their own offspring who are born on various continents. You can read all about this on the Internet. But this could not have happened without our joint prayer at the Divine Altar, without the spiritual enrichment of Eucharistic communion with the Mother Church, her episcopacy, clergymen and laity. Naturally, we might have differing points of view in some matters. It is important that the unity of our Church exist exclusively on the foundation of Truth and purity. That is why the reestablishment of prayerfully communion within the Russian Church, the fifth anniversary of which we celebrated last year, is in our opinion an historic event, and the most important one in recent decades.
Recently you ordained priests for communities in Pakistan…
– I’ve never been to Pakistan myself: I paid heed to warning of the danger of being Orthodox and a foreigner, so three Pakistanis were ordained in Sri Lanka. Fr Adrian Augustus travels to Pakistan from Australia. Pakistan is the second most-populated Muslim nation in the world after Indonesia. About 4 percent of the population there is Christian: half are Catholic, the other half Anglican.
Fr Adrian (before baptism Vishal Augustus) the dean and the spiritual father of the Pakistani community, was born in northern India, in the city of Lucknow, and studied in a Catholic school. He grew disillusioned with Catholicism and converted to Anglicanism, but did not notice much of a difference between them and began to study Orthodox Christianity on the internet. He wrote to me and we began corresponding. Since there are no Orthodox churches in India, I invited him to come to Australia and live at a parish in order to be infused with Orthodoxy. In Sydney I baptized him with the name Adrian, and he prayed in our churches, then he took theological classes. After my election as First Hierarch, he came to New York and was soon ordained a deacon, and now serves as a priest in Australia. On weekdays, as is the case with many of our priests, Fr Adrian holds a secular job in one of Sydney’s banks.
During his first visit to Pakistan, Fr Adrian baptized 174 people, and holds pastoral courses for newly-ordained clergymen during visits there and via the internet, and the local clerics teach catechism for adults and Sunday schools for children. Three local Pakistanis have already been ordained to the priesthood. Priests Joseph, Anthony and Cyrill had studied in a Catholic seminary before conversion to Orthodoxy.
Fr Adrian recently acquired a parcel of land for a church, established a missionary fund for aid to new Christians, collecting money for the construction of a church in Sargodha.
Among the recently baptized are Iranians and Afghanis. In India, zealous Christians have also established communities, study catechism via the internet, and those who wish to convert to Orthodox Christianity are awaiting a priest. Such countries which are so remote to Orthodoxy are greatly helped by the internet, giving them the opportunity to find needed information and contacts, read theological literature and the works of the Holy Fathers.