-Bishop, hello, thank you very much for talking with us today. Everyone knows the main features of the Old-believers: the two-fingered signing of the cross, as well as the special musical notation. Please tell us, what is the difference in church Paschal services?
-Pascha is the feast-day of feast-days, the celebration of celebrations, which the entire Orthodox world is looking forward to in order to meet the risen Christ. For Orthodox Christians, this celebration is marked by a Cross procession. For us, Old-believers, the Cross procession is walked with the sun, that is, walked clock-wise. This is the direction in which Cross processions were walked during the times of holy ancient Rus. There is that difference. Also, as you rightly said, the ancient chants, the Byzantine singing, is from before the church schism. Other differences include, the ancient icons, which are from before the church schism; and the style of clothing of the Old-believers is traditional and their very appearance – men with beards, women in elegant sarafans and always wearing headscarves. This Paschal celebration is what unites all Old-believers, wherever we live, and we live in all different parts of the world. We are united by the great triumph of glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a great, united spiritual joy for us.
-Bishop, please tell us, is it known how many Old-believers live throughout the world and also, how many Old-believer parishes are there in Russia?
-There is a “worldly” statistic, so to speak, which took into account the number of Old-believers after the revolution and after the church split, but it is difficult to calculate exactly how many. Now there are about 200 churches in Russia and about 50–60 in Ukraine, Moldova and other countries around the world. It is estimated that there is around one million to two million Old-believers. Although before the revolution, there were considerably more. It should also be understood that the Church is a collection of the living and the dead. Those who have passed away are alive for God and are, no doubt, a part of our Church. Their souls make up the Church, including the first Russian “Old-believer”, Prince Vladimir, who brought the Orthodox faith 1000 years ago to Russia. All the saints before the church split in the 17th century and all those who were in holy Rus, who preserved the oldest piety that we preserve to this day, we are all Old-believers – this is our Church, headed by our Lord Jesus Christ.
-You mentioned Ukraine. Please tell us, how is communication maintained with the parishes in the neighboring state?
-For us, this unity was never broken. As a rule, the Church, especially the Old-believers, do not get involved with economic and political events. We try to distance ourselves from these problems. Today, they neither affect us directly here nor in Ukraine. We are of one faith, we pray to the Lord for peace and for that unity to be maintained. Of course, there are sorrowful cases of separation: the Catholics and Orthodox, the Old-believers and New-believers, and what is happening now is sad. We are for the Church to be one. For the Lord, this is very important – unity in the true church of Christ’s saving faith.
-Bishop, and how is the dialogue now between the Russian Orthodox Old-Believer Church and the Russian Orthodox Church?
-The state, praise God, no longer interferes in the spiritual life of the Church, as was especially the case with the royal government, before the revolution. Now there is an opportunity to freely exchange our thoughts, questions and answers, which is what we are doing. We have built good-neighborly relations with the Moscow Patriarchate. There is a dialogue on topics that are relevant to the whole of society – the topics of morality, the struggle against vices, lack of faith and unbelief. These are points of contact in the common cause of the salvation of our Motherland.
-Bishop, tell us about the shrines in Russia that are revered by Old-believers and please tell us about this complex, where we are now talking to you.
-We are now in a world shrine for Old-believers – a historical center, the Rogozhskoe spiritual complex, in the east of Moscow. It is now being revived and being renovated more and more every year. We are grateful to the government of Moscow and to the president, who was recently here at Rogozhskoe. He viewed the exhibition, which you now also saw. This revival is very significant. How many were persecuted for the Old Belief for almost 300 years…and now there is a revival. We are very grateful to God and grateful to those people who help us.
Many memorable places are associated with the history of Old-believers. These are the centers where Old-believers suffered for the faith. Next year will be the 400th anniversary of the birth of heiromartyr Avvakum. This will be a nation-wide celebration for which we are preparing, and the president and the ministry of culture have approved our initiatives. There are other centers: the Volga shores, the village of Grigorovo, where heiromartyr Avvakum was born, Pustozersk, where he was burned; there are also notable places in Siberia and the Far East — many, many places… Also, abroad in Belaya Krinitsa, where metropolitan Ambrose joined the Church, and all the places where our Old-believers pray – these are our holy places.
-What do you wish to our viewers on these bright Paschal days?
-I will say what the Lord said when, after His resurrection, He came to His disciples. The first thing He said was: “Peace be with you.” This is the dearest wish for all humanity. If there is peace, all the rest will follow – creativity, culture, prosperity – everything, if there is peace. I wish for our country, and for Ukraine and for the whole world – peace, prosperity, wellbeing, love and all the very best for the salvation of the soul.