The present interview by Dmitry Zlodorev was published under News on the official website of the Montreal and Canadian Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on March 1, 2022. Most appalling is the equivalence Archbishop Gabriel draws between the vandalization of the exterior of a single Russian church in all of Canada and the wholesale slaughter of Ukrainians and their cities—including babies, the disabled, the terminally ill, preteens, teenagers, young adults, mothers and fathers and their children, grandmothers and grandfathers under the Moscow Patriarchate .
Archbishop Gabriel serves as ROCOR’s locum tenens during the illness of Metropolitan Hilarion. Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s readers will recall +Gabriel’s bizarre interview with anti-Semite Nathanael Kapner, who was condemned by ROCOR’s Synod of Bishops at a time when +Gabriel was already a bishop and member of the Synod.
You may share your thoughts on this interview with Archbishop Gabriel at email@example.com.
ADDENDUM 3/14/22: An attentive reader has brought to our attention that this interview vanished mysteriously from the diocesan website within days of Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s broadcasting it around the world. Someone might want to inform His Eminence that it can still be found on the Wayback Machine.
Archbishop Gabriel (Chemodakov) of Montreal and Canada (ROCOR)
In Canada, where, as is known, there is a very large Ukrainian diaspora, against the backdrop of new events in Ukraine, one temple of the Russian Church Abroad was subjected to an act of vandalism, and a protest action was held next to another during the liturgy. But, according to Archbishop Gabriel (Chemodakov) of Montreal and Canada, the Church must unite people in the name of Christ and call for overcoming divisions.
—Vladyka, how does the Russian Church in Canada feel about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine?
– I think it is common knowledge that there are many Ukrainians living in Canada, many of whom came here before the 1917 revolution. There is, I would say, an influential Ukrainian lobby in parliament, and this is why we need to be extremely careful in our assessments of what is happening now.
Of course, our Church is a fusion of peoples, where there are Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians and representatives of many other peoples. Of course, many of them are disappointed by what happened, they come to church and share their experiences.
But alas, it happens differently. For example, on Saturday evening, our church in Calgary was vandalized, with paint painted on the doors after the service. No one broke inside, they had CCTV cameras that filmed this man, he had no accomplices. Of course, such things are unacceptable. Representatives of the parish reported the incident to the police, an investigation is underway.
In addition, on Sunday, during the liturgy, a picket was held near the church in Toronto. As I was told, there were 12-15 people there who were holding banners [Ukrainian flags], and everything was calm.
We must always remember to know both sides of a situation.
In this regard, I would like to point out that we must always remember the need to know both sides of a situation.
Unfortunately, in the Western media we are seeing a very one-sided, anti-Russian and, I would say, Russophobic coverage of the situation. But we Russians must understand the reasons why Russia was forced to resort to such actions. [Emphasis ours.] It is known that the Russians put forward a list of conditions that, in their opinion, should be accepted in relation to NATO expansion and, of course, the situation in the Donbass. But as President Vladimir Putin said, the West has not moved an inch to try to resolve the issue.
Many Russians in Canada understand this, but not all, because, as I said, the Western media simply do not report this. [Yes, the Western media do.]
– Among the parishioners of the Russian Church in Canada there are Ukrainians who, to be honest, are sometimes nationalistically inclined. How does ROCOR solve this issue, how do you manage to unite them and the Russians under one roof?
– First of all, we, as the Church, should take care of the spiritual side of life, and not about politics. [Does this apply to Patriarch Kirill’s Forgiveness Sunday screed?] In our sermons and in conversations with people, we try to explain that historically these two nations are one people [Do Ukrainians have a say in this?], and there is no getting away from this historical fact. We’ve always held on to each other. And as Christians, we must understand that we cannot have political divisions to divide us. As the Apostle Paul says, “There is neither Greek nor Jew, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11). We are all united in Christ through our faith.
“Nerves are all tense now, protests are going on everywhere. How can the Church instill peace in the souls of people?
– We urge you to remember that historically we are one people, and we have one faith, which we still have, thank God. Yes, several years ago there were attempts to divide us according to faith, when they tried to make a split and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, unfortunately, gave the green light to the creation of the so-called new Ukrainian “church.” But the most important thing that we understand, we must understand, in any case, is that we are one people, and all these divisions are of a political nature. We cannot allow these passions to rule us.
We call on people to remember our unity so as not to allow enmity in any case.
– ROCOR First Hierarch Hilarion (Kapral) addressed a very wise, in my opinion, pastoral message to the clergy and laity about what is happening, for which he was criticized from both sides. Some pointed out to him that he did not condemn Russia, others – Ukraine. But the Church is outside of politics: she must reconcile, not condemn.
– Let me remind you that our Vladyka Hilarion was born in Canada, and a Ukrainian by origin, his parents came from Volhynia. In fact, he didn’t know much Russian either, until he entered the seminary. Vladyka grew up spiritually in the Russian Church and understands that these divisions are not pleasing to God and cannot be Christian in spirit. Of course, the metropolitan, as an archpastor, and all of us – both bishops and priests – must call people to unity. We can consider ourselves Russians or Ukrainians, but we must understand that there can be no divisions, and we are one brotherly people, and we need to overcome political sentiments that have no place in the Church.
– Surely, they come to you now with their feelings about what is happening. What do you say to your spiritual children?
– Just on Sunday after the service, some came up with their experiences. But I reminded them that they need to know the whole picture, not just the one that the Western media paints.
– Vladyka, Great Lent is coming, a time of repentance and reconciliation. Is it time to make peace?
– Yes, sure. This is the time when a person should think about himself, about his spiritual life, try to correct himself. We are getting ready for the greatest feast of the church year – Easter, and therefore we must have a mood of peace, repentance, humility – all those qualities that are so necessary for a Christian. If the Russians and Ukrainians would now think about it, then, of course, this whole situation could be resolved through reconciliation.