— Your Eminence! You were born in an Old Believer family. Tell us what your ancestors did, how they lived, worked, went to church?
The life and activities of my ancestors were connected with the textile town of Orekhovo-Zuyevo, which was founded by entrepreneurs and benefactors of the Old Believers Morozov. Old Believers who fled from Moscow from post-schism persecution settled here. In the area, which is called Guslitsa and unites numerous villages in the East of the Moscow region, there were temples, prayer houses, monasteries, monasteries, in which Old Believers — popovtsy and bespopovtsy prayed, who lived together, supporting each other in difficult times of persecution and oppression. I have a lot of photos of my ancestors in my family album, who were mentors, reciters, singers in temples and worshippers. My grandfather Konstantin Gavrilovich Titov is a native Old Believer, was a singer in the church of the village of Zuyevo, he worked all his life at a weaving factory as an assistant master. My grandmother Maria Nikolaevna also worked in the sewing industry, constantly went to church and took me to communion on Sundays as a child. Mom Maria Konstantinovna was disabled — she could hardly move because of polio she suffered in childhood, but she was a good seamstress and had a lot of orders, so she had to work very hard. I often saw her reading spiritual and secular literature. We had a lot of icons in the house.
With the wish to keep the Orthodox faith In general, the family was religious and hardworking, which was instilled in me from childhood.
— What do you remember more vividly from your childhood?
My childhood was spent in the city of Orekhovo-Zuyevo near Moscow, where there were mostly one- and two-story houses, the Klyazma River, in which I almost drowned twice. I remember how in the spring there was an ice drift on the river, huge ice floes floated, they were blown up in front of the only wooden bridge in the city. It was interesting for us boys to watch how ice floes were blown up, fragments from which flew far away and fell very close to the place where we were standing.
I remember an episode from my childhood — the death of Stalin in 1953, when I was six years old. On this day, my grandmother and I went to the bazaar, where a loudspeaker hung on a pole at the entrance and notified people about the tragedy — the loss of the father of nations. Everyone looked up at that mouthpiece and cried.
— Your grandmother was engaged in your spiritual education. Tell us how she introduced her grandson to the faith?
My grandmother Maria Nikolaevna Titova was a native Old Believer-Popovka. She prayed and worked a lot and taught me to lead a Christian lifestyle, although in those years it was impossible to openly talk about her religious affiliation, they were not allowed to wear a cross and go to church at school. Since my grandmother took me to church, when they found out about it, they came home from school and warned us: if Kostya goes to church again, we will send him to an orphanage.
The Belokrinitsky Concord church in the village of Zuyevo was closed in the 30s of the XX century, and believers had to adapt a private house for a prayer room, which was popularly called the Black Prayer Room, since many monks prayed there, and the authorities called the road to the temple a Black dead End, although they themselves found themselves in a dead end at the end of the XX century. In my family photo archive there is a photo of the 50s of the last century, where parishioners are standing on the threshold of our church in Zuyevo, and Father Leonty Pimenov is depicted in the center – a very young man, and my grandmother is standing on the right in the photo. Maybe I was there at the time, but I probably wasn’t allowed to be photographed for ideological reasons. Unfortunately, our prayer room was burned down in the 80s of the last century, when the demolition of buildings began to build high-rise buildings in their place.
— It is known that your secular education is technical, you are an engineer. Moscow Automobile and Road University is a prestigious metropolitan university. What impressions remained in your memory after studying at the university? What was interesting? Which teachers are remembered?
My education began with eight grades of schooling, then two more classes in the evening school of working youth, as due to the difficult financial situation in the family at the age of fifteen I went to work at the factory as an apprentice turner. Then he graduated from the evening industrial college, entered the evening institute, which was called MAMI (Moscow Automechanical), and became an engineer for metalworking. Since I studied after work in the evenings, there were no particularly interesting impressions left from studying at the institute — I was tired and sometimes fell asleep at evening classes, after which it was necessary to heat the stove in winter, go to the pump for water and do other chores, since my mother and grandmother were often ill. Although I especially remember the first exam at the institute, which I failed, it was the history of the CPSU.
— 35 years of your life and work are connected with the Orekhovo-Zuevsky Foundry and Mechanical Plant. What was the specifics of the work?
In the textile industry of Orekhovo-Zuev, which was founded by the famous Morozov dynasty, many of my relatives worked, in particular, my grandfather Konstantin Titov worked all his life at the weaving factory, in memory of whom I was christened. The foundry and mechanical plant of the Orekhovsky Cotton Mill, where at one time more than 30 thousand people worked, became my second home. Our plant technically serviced all the factories of the combine, produced spare parts for machine tools and mechanization tools. For several years I worked in a machine shop as a turner, then in a foundry as an assistant master, and then I was transferred to the OTC as a boss. In the nineties, our factory gradually began to close, as textiles began to be imported from abroad, and today the factories built by the Morozovs present a sad picture – these are either offices and shops, or dilapidated buildings.
In the early 90s, I left the factory, having worked at it for 35 years and received the medal “Veteran of Labor”. Now I have been awarded the title of Honorary Resident of Orekhovo-Zuev.
— How hard was it to lead a church life in a state with an official atheistic ideology?
Quite a lot has already been written about this. But it was not a time of rigid atheism, which by the end of the 80s was completely exhausted, so I could openly talk about religion with the workers, especially after 1988, the Millennium of the baptism of Russia.
— How did you choose the monastic path?
It so happened that, caring for my mother, who could hardly move, I had no opportunity and desire to get married. After I joined the church in the late 80s and met Father Leonty Pimenov, I had a desire to serve the church and help people who attended it. Becoming more and more attached to the church, I wanted to pray and fast more, and this is characteristic of monks — the decision to accept monasticism was so ripe, which was approved by my spiritual mentor, Father Leonty. The monastic name Cornelius was announced to me by Metropolitan Andrian.
— Tell us about the ever-memorable Metropolitan Andrian (Chetvergov) and Archpriest Leontiy Pimenov. Who were they to you?
Unfortunately, during the year and a half when Vladyka Andrian was the primate of our Church, I did not often have to meet with him. After the Consecrated Cathedral elected me Bishop of Kazan-Vyatka, Vladyka Andrian and I visited Kazan, where my elevation to the pulpit took place, and Vladyka Andrian warmly welcomed me and instructed me on a new field of episcopacy for me.
There is a lot to say about Father Leonty. He was a God-gifted man who knew how to love God and his neighbors! Thanks to the meeting with him, a good change took place in my soul, he taught me church literacy and the basics of singing, and most importantly, he taught me love, mercy and humility by his example.
— You have been leading the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church for 17 years. What has become new for you as a leader, as an archpastor and as a person over the years? What has changed? What has been done? What are you happy about? What do you regret?
Let’s start by clarifying the question — the Lord Jesus Christ leads and heads the Church, and I am only the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. What was new for me as a bishop was getting to know the parishes and people of our communities in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Australia. Unfortunately, I have not visited all the parishes over the years, and therefore, God willing, I will continue to get acquainted, including with the parishes of Uganda and Pakistan.
In my understanding, the relationship between the state and our Church has changed recently, especially after the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Rogozhskoye.
Done with God’s help: in his native Orekhovo-Zuev, the restoration of the temple has been completed, many buildings have been restored and renovated on Rogozhsky, ponds and the entire territory of the temple complex have been put in order, and now the restoration of the Old Believers institute named after Protopop Avvakum has begun.
I am glad that God gives us the opportunity to build churches and organize new communities, to freely engage in educational, preaching and publishing activities, and, of course, I would like to complete the reconstruction of the institution that our Church needs so much. I regret that time flies so fast.
— How do you, as the head of a religious organization — the Old Believer Church, see its future? What are your immediate plans? What else would you like to do?
I hope that our Church will develop and strengthen, create new parishes and strengthen the preaching of the true Orthodox faith.
And I would like to implement in the future what God will give, based on the circumstances. And the main thing is that I would like to cleanse my soul from sin through prayer and repentance.
What are your wishes to the faithful children of the Church who seek the truth and to the entire Russian society?
To keep the Orthodox faith, to love God and neighbors. As Archpriest Habakkuk said: “Stand firm in faith and unshakable, but do not be afraid of human fear… Sanctify the Lord our God and glorify Him in your hearts, and that will be to us sinners for sanctification, as God is with us…”