“THE LORD HAS VISITED US AND WE SHOULD RECONSIDER OUR WAY OF LIFE”
DISCUSSION WITH HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP GABRIEL
OF MONTREAL AND CANADA
Over the course of recent years, the Ruling Bishop of our diocese, His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel, conducts annual discussions touching upon current events deemed important by the Church. He touches upon topics that do not only affect the flock in the Canadian Diocese he is entrusted with, but those important for the Russian Orthodox Church in the Fatherland and in the Russian diaspora.
- Your Eminence Vladyka, in the last two months, the Russian Orthodox Church both in the Fatherland and in the diaspora, and in fact our whole world, has been enriched by a unique yet bitter experience, in a way one of a kind in recent history. A deadly epidemic has come, which they now call a pandemic. What are your thoughts on this?
- First of all, I’d like to congratulate everyone on the coming Pentecost. Indeed, over the last two or three months, the deadly virus has changed our daily lives on earth. This affected all of mankind unexpectedly. The vast majority of those who are alive today cannot remember anything of the kind. From our fathers we heard about wars, from grandparents we heard about the Spanish flu, which a century ago wiped out up to a hundred million people. That is why we were utterly unprepared for this tribulation, from a medical and from an economic point of view, and in a spiritual sense. We won’t discuss the impact on the economy, there’s plenty of discussion of that already. But one can’t help but wonder, how can this massive, multi-billion-dollar gigantic economy which in a mere two or three months of partial shutdown now teeter on the brink of collapse? Whatever the case, one can boldly state that what we are enduring today cannot have happened for nothing. It must serve us to ponder, to make sense of our lives. It means that the Lord has visited us, He allowed this tribulation into the world. To our great dismay we must admit that most people have no idea that we must reexamine everything now. But we Orthodox Christians absolutely must make spiritual sense of all that is happening. In the most holy days, Passion Week and the Pascha of Christ, on the very day of the Resurrection, most of us were deprived of the opportunity, which we had always taken for granted, a commonplace thing, to enter or even approach our temples to this day. For those who attend church services, even for those who only attend for great feasts, this was a matter of foremost importance, this is a great tragedy and a strong warning: “Redeem the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15).
At every minute we imagine that many such minutes more are to come. And we admit to ourselves: did we always cherish the great joy of freely entering the temple of God, venerate the holy icons, receive Holy Communion? For it was all so recent, during the Nativity celebrations, when the unknown virus was only a vague rumor, but in the Fatherland, on the Nativity of Christ, according to statistics, only three percent of Orthodox Christians attended church. A similar number of faithful is found in our Russian Orthodox diaspora.
This is the very moment to come to our senses and not emulate the foolish rich man in the parable of Christ, who gathered great wealth and said: “What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21). Mankind continues to live as the foolish rich man, hoping the peacefully eat, drink and be merry, and does not want to hear the terrible words of God.
The deadly plague has not yet weakened in some places, while any beneficial changes are hardly noticeable. We are most alarmed by the rise in the number of infected in our Fatherland, especially in Moscow. Our cathedral city of Montreal is also enduring hard times, where the number of infected and the death rates are the highest in all of Canada. That is why the conditions imposed on our St Nicholas Cathedral are more stringent: no more than two people can be in church at one time: the priest and a psalm-reader/singer. Understandably, the believer finds it difficult to be deprived of the chance to attend church. That is why during every service we beseech the Lord to shorten this time of tribulation, and hope that in good time we can once again all together lift up prayers of gratitude.
By Divine mercy, we have daily services at the cathedral, and all over Russia, wherever divine services are being performed, in churches and monasteries, where in accordance with local authorities worshipers are not yet allowed, services are livestreamed on the internet. This fortunate opportunity lightens the burden in this important matter: in the home of every Orthodox Christian there should be a sort of house-church established, in accordance with the commandment of Christ, to which I referred in my Paschal Epistle: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).
The present circumstances also grant us the opportunity to spend more time reading Holy Scripture, the Lives of Saints, especially since today this is all accessible on the internet. Judging from the number of views of the livestreamed services of our cathedral, the number of parishioners is not shrinking, but actually growing. It is important that during these difficult days, our devoted parishioners remember how important their contributions are, which help preserve our treasured legacy: our churches and dioceses.
We carefully obey the instructions of local municipal authorities relating to the lethal virus. More than a few Orthodox clergymen have succumbed to this deadly virus: archpastors, monastics, parish priests. But for the easing of quarantine restrictions we are hoping for, we need to remind the authorities of the needs of the faithful, to eliminate the absurd double standard. Commercial centers, barber shops and bars are opening, but divine services are still prohibited.
- The quarantine rules both in the Homeland and abroad have not only affected divine services. Long-planned events in Russia were postponed, namely, the 75th-anniversary celebration of victory in WWII…
- The old Russian emigration to which I belong by birth did not celebrate this event. There are historical and political reasons, but the main one is psychological. For what was celebrated was not specifically a Russian, but a Soviet victory. To join a celebration under the red flag, with persistent, overbearing reminders of the names of those against whom the struggle included the Russian emigration, our refugees who fled the Fatherland weapons in hand, and their descendants, was morally impossible. But this doesn’t mean that we do not honor the memory of the millions of our soldiers who died fighting for the Fatherland, for the liberation of Europe, and I emphasize, it does not mean that we do not mourn the victims of the war. The majority of the Russian emigration, maybe not right away, but eventually, understood that German Nazism and its allies only pretended to “aim to defeat communism.” They tried to reach specifically Russia in order to vanquish it forever.
The emigration saw that most of the casualties of this war were borne by the Russian people, and to the Russian soldier belongs the deciding factor in this great victory. All warring factions realized this fact. Today we watch with sadness how the West, and first of all the allies of Russia in the war of 1941-45, the USA and England, try to claim this victory for themselves. They take every opportunity to destroy the memory of mankind, to distort history, to force Russia out of it. This is an example of Russophobic possession, but sadly, not the only one. Waves of Russophobia have especially grown since 2014, when Crimea lawfully returned home, to Russia. But Russophobia has existed for many centuries, and I think we sometimes forget of the events that proved more fateful to our nation.
Returning to the 75th anniversary of Victory Day. They planned to celebrate it with great fanfare. But the Lord deemed otherwise. We were hit with a plague, and all the plans fell away. The triumphant march was postponed, and only recently did President Putin announce a new date. It seems to me that this was not an accident. Maybe the Lord is calling us to ponder what we are celebrating on Victory Day of 1945, remembering the victors who laid down their lives for the Fatherland, and sometimes we forget the years of strife which preceded the Great War of the Fatherland, the millions of victims of terrible events that erupted in Russia after the 1917 revolution. I mean not only the New Martyrs who died for their faith, whose podvig, in my opinion, has not been completely grasped by our people.
Unfortunately, a great many people still don’t know how the Russian Church, her holy sites, how Her archpastors and clerics were mocked, what exquisite tortures and torments they were subjected to—nothing of the sort had been seen since the first centuries of Christianity, during the pagan persecutions. And how many laypersons, regular citizens of poor Russia were killed during the Satanic experiment in establishing an atheist, truly Russophobic way of life, contraposed to our historic experience and our historic purpose since the Baptism of Rus?
We are obligated to make sense of the past. Opening the archives of those times would doubtlessly help: they are not yet all accessible. The publication of historical documents is a prerequisite for an honest, authentic evaluation of those events. We shouldn’t fear publishing those materials, on the contrary, we are obliged to create a full picture of those terrible spasms in our historic fate.
Among those documents, I am sure, new information could be found on the spiritual feats of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, including those about whom we have insufficient information to canonize them. What happened must not be ignored, saying that it is just water under the bridge. What happened really happened, and we must build on that. The Russian Church must also speak out on those times.
Let no one think that this is political. No, this is crucial to our spiritual conscience. We need to tell the people about that terrible epoch, beginning with schoolchildren. Obscuring these facts will not bring us peace, but will impress the disease deeper into our sovereign organism. Without mitigating the feats of the Russian warriors, without lessening the celebrations of the Day of Victory, we also need a Day of Mourning.
Let us honor the victims, let us return the ancient names of Russian cities, let us find new terms for what was done in our Fatherland in the last century, and which still carries the names of Russia’s destroyers and executioners.
The hometown of my great-grandfather, Hieromartyr Gabriel Luchinin, the ancient city of Vyatka, is still called Kirov. A few years ago there was a poll taken proposing to return its former name, but most of the city’s denizens preferred to keep the name of the Bolshevik functionary.
Is this truly the spiritual state of today’s Russia? The late Metropolitan Khrisanf of Vyatka, whom I had visited in 2008, told me what happened when the diocese proposed to give the streets their former names, including those bearing ecclesiastical names, for instance, “Pokrovskaya” and “Preobrazhenskaya.” The next day, “red” demonstrations began before the bishop’s quarters: “We won’t give in! Don’t you dare!" But it is not renaming, but restoring the original names, the names given to them by our ancestors. That is, history is not being altered, it is being restored.
But God shall not be mocked. If we hope for the rebirth of Russia, we cannot allow either distortion or amnesia of her history, we simply must set forth that which was consciously abandoned and mocked as a result of the revolutionary catastrophe, to pay proper respect to those who were consumed by its lethal flame. And then, I hope, the Day of Victory will become even more joyous.
We members of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR had the honor of discussing this with President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin at our first meeting in New York in 2003. The president himself initiated this meeting, who took active part in healing the Church divisions, earnestly yearning to reestablish the unity of the Russian Church. During our meeting, we also appealed to him to establish a Day of Mourning. The president replied that he agrees with our proposal and intended to speak with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy.
I would add that for us, descendants of the old Russian emigration, it was insanity to see the plans for a mosaic of Stalin in an Orthodox church devoted to the military, the main church of the Russian Military. Thank God, by the wise decision of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill this madness was stopped in time. Moreover, I must point out that in the original Christ the Savior Church built in memory of our War of the Fatherland of 1812, neither Emperor Alexander I, who took the decision to build this church, nor General Kutuzov, nor any other heroes of that war were depicted. There is nothing of the sort in today’s rebuilt [Christ the Savior] church. Such depictions, unless we’re talking about people canonized as saints or participants in some figures in Church history recorded in Scripture or the Lives of Saints, have no place in churches.
Our Council of Bishops of 2017, held in Munich, appealed to the Russian president with a humble request to readdress the impropriety of the presence of the body of Ulyanov-Lenin on Red Square of our ancient capital, for he was a hater of all things Russian since his youth, and this hatred drove all of his actions. For this reason he became the executioner of the Russian Church. Unfortunately, we never received a response.
Some time later, during his reelection campaign, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin promised the Communist Party of the Russian Federation that he would not discuss the interment of Lenin. We presume that this was caused by the fear that such a measure would lead to a serious schism within Russian society and would insult the older generation. But let’s not forget: when Lenin and his comrades—by the way, with the West’s help—intentionally destroyed everything connected with the Church, with Imperial Russia, when it was divided into “republics,” they weren’t worried that their hasty actions would lead to a division within Russian society, or that they would insult or upset anyone. They quickly tried to erase from the memory of the people everything connected with the Orthodox Faith, the Tsar and Fatherland. Does our youth know anything about this?
I follow Russian TV news on a regular basis, I watch Nikita Mikhalkov’s “Besogon” and other talk shows; unfortunately, the absolutely unnecessary introduction of English terminology has ensconced itself into the Russian language today. In particular, I try not to miss “Evening with Vladimir Soloviev,” and “Meeting Place” with Andrei Norkin. I have no doubt that these are Russian patriots, and they couldn’t possibly approve. The experts they interview in the studio often say interesting things, I agree with a lot of it. But I don’t remember anyone ever raising the issue of re-burying Ulyanov-Lenin.
I pose the challenge (I dare say in the name of all Russian patriots in the diaspora) to begin an honest and frank discussion on this topic: I am certain that it will benefit us all. We hear often enough that there is no need to indiscriminately condemn and cast aside everything that was created in the Soviet years of Historic Russia. The bitter truth is that all that was beneficial and valuable created in our Fatherland during this period (and not thanks to, assuredly, but in spite of bolshevism) was exactly that which was thrown away and condemned: from the historic borders of the Russian State to universal free education.
And to “console” us we were left with the names of the scoundrels for our cities and streets, and the mummified Russophobe on Red Square. The entire old Russian emigration is still bewildered: why has Lenin’s body still not moved to a cemetery, and why are monuments to him still standing?
In my opinion, we are openly incurring God’s wrath. I would hope that our compatriots who remain in error will not leave this life deceived, and that the truth of Russian history will be grasped by those still on earth, including the true role of Lenin and his henchmen in the fate of Russia. These individuals can never be considered defenders of Russian interests.
In recent decades, billions of dollars were spent on establishing a “New World Order,” including in Ukrainian lands, with the aim of finally destroying even the memory of the Divinely-established unity of Kievan and Muscovite Rus. Of course, this is just one aspect of the program the USA is operating to establish a controllable administration practically everywhere. It was with the same aims the West supplied money to Lenin: to destroy Historic Russia. It is time to admit that it was precisely the catastrophe of 1917 and the years following that brought Russia to the catastrophe of the 1990’s.
By God’s mercy and the efforts of President Putin, the final destruction of our Fatherland was averted: what has taken place in the last 20 years, no one else could have accomplished. He dreams of restoring the greatness of Russia.
But for Russia’s rebirth, we must properly understand her history and the tragedy of 1917, and also everything that led to it. If we are upset with the West’s attitude towards Russia today, we must remember the West’s role in the events of 1917. It is time to face the fact that the West always hated a strong Russia, and hates her today, doing everything possible to hinder her development. If not for the historical events of the brief period of 1905-1917, by all indications we would have left far behind us both the USA and what is now called the European Union. And then not only would our Russian people not flee their Fatherland, on the contrary: populations from other countries would flee their own troubles and strive to settle in Russia, and not the USA, which a mass immigration has flooded in the last century.
- The Russian Church Abroad is marking its centennial at an alarming time. The virus has not subsided and we are now told of a second wave in the fall. How might this affect the jubilee celebrations?
- Unfortunately, we have had to cancel the Council of Bishops which was to mark our 100th year, in Munich. But we hope that church celebrations in the Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign” in New York on the feast day of the miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God will yet take place. I would add that the planned autumn celebrations at Holy Trinity Monastery are also postponed. By the way, this year we also mark the 90th anniversary of this monastery, the “lavra” of the Church Abroad.
Now I’d like to briefly touch upon some moments in our Church’s history which seem providential. The century of the existence of the Russian Church Abroad reveals to us the will of God. On November 6/19, 1920, in “Tsargrad,” Constantinople, over a hundred twenty-five Russian and foreign ships dropped anchor after arriving from Crimea. Crowded on board were 150,000 passengers: and so the Russian emigration began.
On that same day, on the steamship “Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich,” the first meeting of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority presided over by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kiev and Galicia was held. It was decided to extend the authorization of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration established in the South of Russia “to minister to all aspects of the spiritual life of the refugees and army.”
Only one day later, on November 7/20, 1920, the well-known decision of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, the Holy Synod and the Supreme Church Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, No. 362, was issued: “2. In the event a diocese… finds itself completely out of contact with the Supreme Church Administration, or if the Supreme Church Administration itself, headed by His Holiness the Patriarch, for any reason whatsoever ceases its activity, the diocesan bishop immediately enters into relations with the bishops of neighboring dioceses for the purpose of organizing a higher instance of ecclesiastical authority… 3) Care for the organization of a Supreme Church Authority … for those who find themselves in the position indicated in paragraph 2, is the indispensable obligation of the senior bishop of such a group.”
The proximity of the dates can hardly be called coincidental, especially since over the course of several months, the decision of the Supreme Church Administration was not known of in Russia, and the decision made by the Patriarchal Synod in Moscow, in turn, remained unknown to the organizers of the ecclesiastical center abroad.
On December 22, 1920, a decree was issued by the Ecumenical Patriarch, No. 9084: “Russian bishops are to fulfill everything for Russian Orthodox refugees that the Church and religion require for consolation and encouragement…”
It was the document signed by His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon the Confessor and the Synod, together with the decision of the Patriarch of Constantinople, that became the inviolable canonical basis for the existence of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Our Abba, Blessed Metropolitan Anthony, at first thought that all activity of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority abroad must come to an end, and responsibility for the spiritual accommodation of Russian Orthodox people abroad should lie on the Constantinople Church and Local Orthodox Churches where they may be found.
But, having become better acquainted by the situation of the Russian emigration and events in the Fatherland, Vladyka Anthony came to the conviction that the administrative center of the Russian Church abroad must be preserved.
In those days, the possibility of a successful conclusion of the struggle with Bolshevism for many emigres seemed more than likely. This attitude remained for several decades. For instance, when Russian emigres who arrived in Australia from China and other countries in 1953, after World War II, they built the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul in Sydney, and they approved a design in the Protestant style. The reasoning was that the people lived with hope for change in Russia and that they could return home. In that case, they would have to sell the building, so if it were built in the Protestant style, it would be easier to sell.
But Metropolitan Anthony foresaw something else: already in his Nativity Epistle of 1922, he wrote: “For it cannot be known for certain whether we will return to Russia… Not everyone will return to Russia, for there are many among the refugees who will die abroad before the return, and many will not wish to go to Russia at all…”
By Divine Will, St Tikhon the Confessor became the Patriarch of Russia. At the same time, the Russian Church outside of the Fatherland formed only thanks to the colossal, unequalled authority of Blessed Metropolitan Anthony among all the primates of the Eastern Churches.
Each of these two great hierarchs received from the Lord an obedience that was prepared for them specifically, and each fulfilled it to the end. His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon was assigned, despite all the efforts of the forces of Antichrist, “to maintain the Russian Church on the cross,” as St John of Shanghai later said, “on the surface of Russian life.”
The service of Metropolitan Anthony was different: he was to preserve Russia Abroad and continue the work of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration on a canonical foundation. As we see, even today the work of the Russian Church Abroad continues, and her service is needed by many hundreds of thousands of people from all corners of Historic Russia. Under these circumstances it is apparent that the service of ROCOR will continue, for it preaches Orthodox Christianity on all continents, among all peoples living there, wherever a Russian diaspora formed.
Without a doubt, this is Providential: The Lord arranged things so that we not only tried to preserve our own flock within the Orthodox Faith and love for Russia and her great culture, but opened and continue to open parishes for many natives of the lands of our presence, where divine services are performed in their native tongues. It is a joy to see that a new wave of immigrants from Russia is becoming churchified, and new parishes are opening in places there were never any. In our Canadian diocese, a new community was just established in Saskatoon, in distant Saskachewan. Its rector reported that they intend to purchase a building where they will set up a church in honor of Holy Prince Vladimir, Baptizer of Rus.
Had there been no Russian Church Abroad, we would have lost our Russian language and culture, but also the Orthodox Faith, for we would have forgotten our ancestry and background. Resisting assimilation is difficult if you have no spiritual base. But the Lord deemed otherwise, and to this day, after the reestablishment of unity within the Russian Church, we continue to carefully preserve the legacy of Historic Russia given to us by our parents and grandparents outside of her borders.
At the same time, it is important to understand that the Russian Church Abroad never saw herself as they sometimes say “a separate jurisdiction.” “The Russian ecclesial organization abroad has considered itself no more than a branch of the [Mother Church], bound organically to the whole body of the Church of Russia” said the Encyclical Letter of 1933. At the Assembly of Bishops of 1935, it was repeated: “The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad… is an indissoluble part of the Russian Orthodox Church, temporarily existing on autonomous principles.”
That is why, by God’s will, the historical conditions for the existence of the Russian Church changed, steps towards the reestablishment of Church unity commenced, exactly according to the formula of 1935, which I just referred to. There is no need to hide it: the desired unity seemed out of the question, or at best a matter for future generations. But by the prayers of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, the All-merciful Lord performed a true miracle, however, sadly still not fully understood and appreciated by everyone.
- Your Eminence, you have long discussed the inclusion of Tsar Paul I to the host of Passion-bearers. There are many supporters of this in the Russian Church, both in the Fatherland and abroad. March of 2021 will mark the 220th anniversary since the evil murder of the “Tsar-Cavalier,” as Pushkin called him. Where does this important matter stand now?
- We very much hope that the question of canonizing the Tsar-Passion-bearer Pavel Petrovich will finally be raised at the highest ecclesiastical level. Our Synodal Commission on the Canonization of Saints, of which I have the honor of being a member, can deliberate this matter, and then the Moscow commission can discuss it with hopes of presenting our joint proposition to the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, and of course, His Holiness the Patriarch, and finally to the Council of Bishops for final judgment. All the materials for this must be prepared in advance, and we don’t have much time.
Pushkin’s words about His Highness Pavel Petrovich were repeated in the memoirs of Yakov Ivanovich De Sanglen in his old age, the director of the Special Chancery of the Ministry of Police, who knew many secrets about the internal and external policies of Russia. By the time of the murder of Tsar-Passion-bearer Paul, the memoirist was almost 25 years old: “Possessing the greatest knowledge, with strict judiciousness, Paul was a knight of times past.”
The Prussian emissary Goltz, who knew Pavel Petrovich since his youth, attests that he had “a magnificent soul, most honest and lofty, but also pure and innocent, who knows evil only as he pushes it away, and speaks of fault only to the extent necessary, in order to arm himself with the determination to avoid it and not support it in others. In brief, it is impossible to say enough in praise of the Grand Duke.”
In the notes of PP Lopukhin we read: “[Pavel] was not at all a dark and suspicious tyrant as he is portrayed. To the contrary, his natural qualities were earnestness, nobility of sense, unusual kindness, geniality and a very sharp and discerning mind.”
But to this day, a collection of ridiculous and utterly baseless rumors and gossip, intentionally smearing the image of this Orthodox monarch, who Pavel Petrovich was and remained until the final moments of his martyric earthly life must be viewed not only as honorable but literally the most important aspect of his reign.
This is no mistake. “The brief reign of Paul I is remarkable in that he tore off the mask of the entire phantasmagorical world, and brought new ideas and new concepts to light,” said De Sanglen. Indeed, in administrative, military, and what is most important for us in this case, ecclesiastical fields of statecraft, Emperor Paul Petrovich introduced great, beneficial changes. No one mentions this even to this day, though in 1916, an expansive work by the historian Mikhail Klochkov, “Essays on the Government Work of the Time of Paul I,” completely destroyed the false anecdotes with which the great efforts of the Tsar-Passion-bearer are denigrated.
For us it is important that Tsar Pavel always strove towards Christ. It is known how burdensome and joyless his relationship with his mother, Empress Catherine, was, and with her court. Upon the coronation of Pavel Petrovich, the last favorite of Catherine, Platon Zubov, personally requested an audience with the new Tsar in order to resign from his post as Chief Adjutant. Zubov had always treated the Grand Duke with demonstrative derision, sparing no opportunity to insult him. But Emperor Paul met him without the least rebuke. He even offered Zubov to continue to serve and become the chief inspector of the artillery.
Count Viktor Kochoubey marveled at this generosity and allowed himself to ask: “You Highness, how can you be so kind to a person who always insulted you?
“I ascended the throne of my ancestors, and so I must behave like a true Christian, the first duty of which is to forgive all insults,” replied the Emperor.
I would add that it was Tsar Pavel Petrovich himself who in fact gave the Russian serfs civil rights and ordered that mandatory work days for peasants on landowners’ fields could not exceed three days a week. He even granted the Russian priesthood the pectoral “Pavlovsky cross.”
Within the list of the “sins” of the Tsar-Knight is his Masonic past, which was prominent, and in fact Freemasons themselves often repeat this. Such accusations are especially widespread in Orthodox circles which tend to be monarchist, and so the image of Emperor Paul continues to be distorted there, where one might expect that he would particularly revered. In the best case, they can forgive the Tsar’s youthful errors. For us another element is far more important: from the “masonic period” of the biography of the Tsar we notice his search of something like a moral-political mechanism that would unite Christian peoples occupied him since his youth.
But despite all the efforts of interested parties, keeping Pavel Petrovich in the ranks of the Masons was short-lived. The French Revolution changed everything, the true essence of which the Grand Duke, possessing the highest degree of understanding of the underpinnings of the events, grasped almost instantly. In the winter of 1791-1792, when his childhood friend, the great architect Bazhenov began to deliver a speech on the virtues of Masonry, the Heir interrupted him: “I love you and recognize you as an artist, but not as a Martinist, I want to hear nothing about them, do not say a word about them.” Therefore, to blame Tsar Pavel Petrovich for being a Mason is as unwise as to accuse Apostle Paul of being an adherent of Old Testament teachings before he met Christ.
Emperor Paul I, elected Grand Master of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, assumed that it was ancient--and let’s not forget, established at first as Orthodox, with the blessing of the Patriarch of Jerusalem--as a military-monastic hospitable brotherhood, so it must be the basis of what the historian Taube wrote “a counter-revolutionary, pan-European entity.”
Let the people of today’s Russia remember the second pillar of the Hospitaliers (after care for the poor): the defense of Christians against their enemies.
The Russian people appealed and continue to appeal to Tsar Paul with prayers for help, and there are testimonies of incidences when such help was given. Now, it is time for the Church to speak.