Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s readers around the planet have been introduced to Archbishop Gabriel (Chemodakov) twice: first, in Only Monarchy Can Save Russia — Restore It!, an interview he gave with an anti-Semitic monk previously condemned by ROCOR; and second, in ROCOR Archbishop of Canada Justifies Wholesale Slaughter of Ukraine, an interview removed from the Archdiocesan website as soon as we published it.
Irrepressible interviewee and Patriarchate-Kremlin propagandist that he is, +Gabriel spoke with Dmitri Zlodorev in a conversation published by Православие.Ru on July 20, 2022. In it, he makes Russia out to be the victim and blames the West’s reaction to the Ukrainian massacre and Patriarch Kirill’s full-throated support of it on “Western Russophobia.”
What follows is a Google translation of the report published on Русская Народная Линия on July 25.
This is complete absurdity
According to Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal, Canada’s decision to impose sanctions against Patriarch Kirill is in line with Russophobia unleashed by the West
The Canadian government last week imposed sanctions against Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Archbishop Gabriel (Chemodakov) of Montreal and Canada spoke about the attitude of the Russian Church Abroad (ROCOR) to this step, as well as to rumors about withdrawing from subordination to the Moscow Patriarchate, in an interview with Pravoslavie.ru.
“In a word, I would say that this is absurd, just like the British sanctions imposed earlier against the Patriarch. I would say they don’t make any sense. The patriarch is the head of the Church, he has his own opinion, and it is not clear to me why the authorities of Western countries are politicizing this issue. However, all this corresponds to the Russophobia that now reigns in the West. We have freedom of religion, and we are free to commemorate at divine services all those whom we consider necessary,” Vladyka said.
He expressed the hope that this decision by the Canadian authorities would not affect the diocese or ROCOR as a whole. “We continue to proceed from the fact that in Canada the Church is separated from the state, we have freedom of religion, and we are free to commemorate at worship all those we consider necessary. In this case, we recognize Patriarch Kirill as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and recognize his authority. I hope that no action will be taken in this regard, and we will still be able to freely practice our faith, as is done in a democratic country,” the archpastor continued.
“I repeat: we are going to commemorate the Patriarch as the head of the Church. His Holiness is a citizen of his country and has the right to express his own position. In my opinion, it is normal that he supported the President of the Russian Federation and the Russian troops, who protect the interests of Russia and the Russian-speaking residents of Donbass, who are still being attacked by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. I think one could hardly expect that he would have a different position than the one he expressed. We have no reason to stop commemorating him,” he added.
“Naturally,” Bishop Gabriel noted, “at the beginning of the war, there were cases, and even later, when some priests expressed their concern in this regard, since there were many Ukrainians among their parishioners who asked temporarily – not permanently – to stop the commemoration of the Patriarch. Such requests arose in several ROCOR dioceses, but I would say that their number can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Our Synod answered: no, we must continue to commemorate, and there is no need to politicize the theme of our church unity and subordination. The most important thing is to pray, try to keep the peace in the parish and explain to those who may have expressed some kind of concern why we should pronounce the name of the head of the Church, of which we are a part, in worship services.
The archbishop also touched upon the question of how the parishes of his diocese relate to this issue. “Despite the fact that we really have many immigrants from Ukraine, none of the approximately 30 parishes has made such a request. Unfortunately, there were situations when people left our parishes and moved to the Ukrainian Church. But in most cases, the priests, thank God, were able to calm people down and explain to them that we must maintain prayerful and ecclesiastical unity, and that the Patriarch did not say anything terrible, as some may think. He defends the interests of both Russia and the Church,” he said.
“It should be emphasized that at every divine service we pray for the cessation of hostilities so that peace reigns between the fraternal peoples. The Church must concentrate on fulfilling the gospel commandments. But there were times – and how many times this happened in the history of Russia – when the Church supported military operations, when it was about defending the Fatherland. Now Russia has been forced to take steps to protect itself from neo-Nazis who have been shelling civilians in the Donbass for 8 years now, and they are doing it to this day,” Vladyka added.
He added that the diocese entrusted to him actually has no relationship with the Canadian authorities. “But when, at the beginning of the special operation, our parish in Montreal and I personally received threats, the police took it very seriously, and we are grateful to them for the protection they provided us. Security at the Easter service was provided by 30 police officers, as well as special forces. Thank God, then everything went smoothly, but then the threats continued, and the law enforcement agencies again took them seriously. As far as we know, they found and interrogated a person who could be involved in these threats. I did not hear anything about the results of this interrogation, but since then the situation has calmed down. God willing, the authors of these threats realized that the police take them seriously,” the archbishop said.
He also noted that Patriarch Alexy II in 1991 anathematized those who staged a coup (GKChP), and the Church thought that at that time it was necessary to protect the existing government. In the USSR, the Church supported the state, despite the fact that it actively and cruelly persecuted it. “And this approach, which we called “Sergianism,” was precisely one of the reasons for the disagreement between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate. For us in the West, this was unacceptable. As for the current situation, there is a favorite expression in the West that Russia attacked Ukraine “unprovoked”. In reality, this is a distortion of the truth: Russia has taken such measures to protect the Russian-speaking residents of Donbass, who have been shelled for 8 years. If America or any other Western country were in such a position, they would have taken exactly the same steps, and no one here would have condemned them. And, in my opinion, it would be strange if the Patriarch in this case anathematized the authorities of his country, and especially those guys who are fighting to defend Russia,” he continued.
“Of course, one could talk about the anathema of the Ukrainian nationalists, who for many years have been destroying the world’s population, but they have anathematized themselves. They act not in a Christian way, but according to some kind of demonic instigation – there is no other way to call that completely wild, unacceptable nationalism that they profess,” the bishop added.
He also commented on the rumors that allegedly the ROCOR Synod, which took place at the end of June, was going to consider the issue of secession from the Russian Orthodox Church. “This is absolutely not true, I don’t even know where such information came from. We didn’t really have that kind of conversation. Even those bishops who, to a greater or lesser extent, spoke out against the special operation did not raise the topic of withdrawing from Eucharistic communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. Our unity is not subject to discussion, and there will be no such discussion at the upcoming ROCOR Bishops’ Council in September,” Vladyka Gabriel noted.
Speaking about the upcoming election of a new Primate of ROCOR , the archbishop noted: “I think, whoever is elected, this will not change our position in relation to the topic of unity. Even if a bishop becomes First Hierarch who speaks negatively about the situation in Ukraine, I do not think that he will be able to influence the entire Synod so much as to even just start talking about a possible exit. It seems to me that this is not only unlikely, but, one might say, almost impossible.