To the Ends of the Earth

Orthodox Christian Missions

Interviews: Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk on Missions

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Below are excerpts of three recent interview with Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the MP Department for External Church Relations. The first is from an interview to Interfax-Religion, the rest of which can be found here.

What changes in the Russian Orthodox Church since 1 February 2010 have been most obvious and impressive?

The election and enthronement of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill have, undoubtedly, been the most important events in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church last year. By the will of the Holy Spirit and through the election by the Local Council, the Church has been granted the Primate required by our troubled time, a time of impetuous changes and everyday challenges.

Today our Church is facing an unprecedented task to teach an active faith in Christ to people who have heard of Him but failed to listen to Him, to bring nominal Christians to the wholesome life in Christ. This task demands that the whole Church should exert maximum efforts, interpret creatively and sometimes even critically of what has been done or undone, and reflect fruitfully on what is to be done in future. A particular responsibility in this context is placed on those people who are entrusted with governing the Church. Therefore, a cost of a mistake, of an erroneous assessment of the situation, a wrong or irrational straining of efforts could be catastrophically high.
That is why one of the first actions of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill were changes in church governance in keeping with the demands of the time. New Synodal institutions were established, the frame of reference of the old ones was made more precise; an Intercouncil commission was set up, and the post-graduate and doctoral programme of the Church was launched; while reorganization of the diocesan and parish life is going on.

As to the tendencies, I believe that the church life would be developed in the light of the task that I mentioned. All of us should bring witness about Christ to the near and to the far, to those who do not know Him yet, and to those who might have forgotten Him.

The second is from an article on an interview conducted on the TV program, “The Church and the World.” The rest of that article can be found here.

The DECR Chairman noted: “the work of the Church is always and everywhere mission-oriented because mission is a vocation of the Church.”

This mission, the archpastor explained, is directed first of all at the members of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as at her potential members, including children, the youth, and other people who, though having been baptized, do not lead a Christian way of life as yet.
Archbishop Hilarion added that there were nominal Orthodox believers in the world who consider themselves Christians by birth or by belonging to a certain ethnic group, but they do not completely fulfill that what their religion prescribes. The archpastor expressed his regret, saying: “It is a common problem of all the religions: people identify themselves with a certain confession, but they do not shape their lives in accordance with its teaching.” He added: “This means there is such a phenomenon as a lack of serious and thoughtful consideration of the fact that they belong to the Christian Church. They even agree to perform certain religious rites, but as far as real life is concerned, they are not ready to observe the commandments of Christ.”

Lastly, an interview with the ‘Argumenty I Fakty’ Internet Portal about marketing technologies and reaching out to the youth. The rest of the interview can be found here.

Information plays the leading role in society today. The Protestants in the USA buy TV time, distribute leaflets, put advertisements in the streets, place their banners in the Internet, arrange shows and build entertainment centers to attract parishioners. In other words, they “pitch” the church through marketing technologies. How should the Orthodox Church announce herself in the information society? What is inadmissible to her?

The educational activity of the Russian Orthodox Church among different strata of population in the modern information society presupposes constant renewal of the form of missionary ministry and active use of the information space, including various modern technologies.

Today as never before the Church has to seek and find unconventional solutions. Even more important is an ability to present the experience of the apostolic and patristic tradition in the language that our contemporaries understand. In society, which has almost forgotten the commandment of love of the neighbour and in which indifference prevails, including indifference to religious questions, the Church is called to encourage the indifferent to turn to the Gospel and help them implement Christian values in their everyday life. A form of the sermon can change in accordance with modern challenges, but its content is intransient. Because only the conscious faith, rather than the imposed worldview or ideology, is effective in the cause of salvation, and any coercive pressure on the human being, be it marketing technologies or neurolinguistic programming, is unacceptable to the Orthodox Church. In the long run, these technologies produce a countereffect: they do not attract, but alienate people.

Your Eminence, you will open a series of lectures on ‘The Foundations of the Orthodox Worldview” in the Polytechnical Museum on October 6. Share a secret of what you going to talk with the youth?

First of all, I would have liked to know what the young people expect of the lectures, what are their concerns, and what they would like to know about the Church. I do not know how to do it in the best way. I would suggest to the organizers to give questionnaires to the audience in which they could indicate their preferences. I assume that these lectures are for the secular young people who trust the Church and wish to know her views on different problems of modern life, and therefore I think it helpful to discuss the subjects that could be summarized under the title “Christianity in the Modern World.” I shall be happy just to answer any questions from the audience.

What do you think about the purpose of such lectures and what results can be expected?

The main purpose is to understand the position of another person. I am confident that many conflicts in the world, in the families, and deep inside people, could be remove if we always show our wish to know and understand our neighbour, a colleague, and a relative. For a Muslim to understand an Orthodox, and for the Orthodox to understand a non-believer, efforts should be exerted, and genuine interest should be shown to another person. In this case we shall discover that we have much more in common and less that separates us.

I hope that all those attending the lectures will be able to come to a deeper understanding of what Orthodoxy is today, of the feelings of a common Orthodox believer in today’s life, of his thoughts and actions. This will help to affirm Christian spirit and Christian love of the neighbour among young people.

. . .

Another matter of concern is certain people who study religious literature in depth but forget about the main thing – the life in accordance with the commandments of Christ and prayer. It is this, rather than wide reading and erudition, that leads us to salvation.

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Written by Stephen

January 28, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Interview

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