Metropolitan Mark (Arndt):
"The Danger Is That Attempts Will Be Made to Completely Destroy the Church in Ukraine"
Metropolitan Mark (Arndt) of Berlin and Germany shared his vision of what is happening now in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and in general with the Church in Ukraine. His position, in my opinion, is especially valuable, because he can be said to be on the "spiritual frontline": many refugees from Ukraine have found shelter in his diocese, so that Vladyka sees everything with his own eyes and passes it through his heart.
– Your Eminence, what words can be used to describe what is happening now in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and with the Church in Ukraine as a whole?
- This can be described in such a way that there is now persecution of the only canonical Orthodox Church in the country, to which the majority of believers in Ukraine belong. What is happening in the Lavra is the most striking manifestation of the current situation. The authorities are threatening to evict the monks from there. At the moment, the brethren remain in the lower part of the monastery, but they have an order from the government to vacate the premises. But whatever happens in the future, the monks are not going to do it voluntarily, as far as I know.
– Is it possible to call what is happening now in the Lavra the apotheosis of the persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a whole?
– Yes, this is another step towards the persecution of our Church.
– You are in direct contact with His Beatitude Metropolitan Onouphry and the brethren of the Lavra. What do they say about what is happening?
To be honest, I fear that a call from Germany or from any other country may interfere with our interaction with the Church in Ukraine. They are persecuted for their connection with the Moscow Patriarchate, and now everything that sounds or smells "of Moscow" is persecuted in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government is trying in every possible way to show that they have nothing in common with Russia. But this is madness, because the whole Ukrainian culture is closely connected with Russia and with Russian culture.
– Vladyka, what dangers, in your opinion, lie in the current situation?
– The danger lies not only in the fact that the Church in Ukraine will be ignored, but also in the fact that attempts will be made to completely destroy it.
– Do you have the sense that through an attempt to take away the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra from the Church, the conflict is approaching – or has already approached – the goal for which it was started by its instigators: to divide and try to weaken the Church, which, perhaps more than anything else, continues to adhere to Christian foundations?
–Yes. Naturally, this is an attempt to destroy what allows us to maintain ordinary ethical norms. The Kiev-Pechersk Lavra has preserved these spiritual foundations for a thousand years. And those people who are now in power in Ukraine clearly want to destroy them.
- And who benefits from this?
–The Devil. Of course, there is no other. This is necessary for those people who follow the lead of the devil and want to destroy the spiritual principle of the nation.
– The monks and parishioners of the Lavra may now be faced with a choice: to compromise and go over to the schismatics in order to somehow preserve the Lavra, or to stand to the end and, possibly, follow the path of martyrdom. How do you believe the situation will develop?
- I think that basically they will not make any compromises, because it is a question of whether to be or not to be. We are talking about either the existence of the Church or joining some organization that has nothing to do with the Church and destroys its spiritual nature.
– There are now many refugees from Ukraine in your German diocese, both clergy and laity. How do they feel about what is happening in their homeland with the Lavra and with the Church as a whole?
- They are here, among other things, because they do not agree with what is happening there in church life. Yes, in part, they left their homeland because of the war that is going on there. But this is only the external side. The internal side is much worse, because there is destruction of the spiritual principles of the Church and of the state.
- About spiritual beginnings ... Last February, a few days after the start of the military phase of the conflict, you painfully said that at the end of the war it would be necessary to restore ties between Russians and Ukrainians, and added words that shocked me to the core: "If there is still something left to restore." You see both Russians and Ukrainians every day. Do you believe that we have something to restore, and we will be able to do it?
- I think so, because in general this is not a war between peoples. This is a war between the leaders who started it. Those Ukrainians who are in Germany have a different attitudes towards what is happening. Among them there are those who are not ready to give up their Russian culture. After all, it has been only Russian for centuries, and the concept of a Ukrainian culture arose only in the last, perhaps, 200 years.
– This is the time to recall that in this case you speak not only as a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, but also as a specialist who defended his doctoral dissertation on Old Russian literature.
- Yes, exactly.
- How do you see what we need in order to restore this unity?
- We need a peaceful, calm and spiritual approach so that we do not oppose each other and accept historical facts, to understand and accept the historical unity of the two peoples. Unity that is based on a spiritual foundation. For a thousand years, the Russian and Ukrainian peoples were one. In our Church Abroad, we have never made a distinction between Ukrainians and Russians. It just never existed. Moreover, it must be said that for many centuries Ukrainians held leading positions in the Russian Church. Many, if not most, were from among the “Little Russians,” as they were then called. It didn't really bother anyone, it was normal. And this is exactly what needs to be restored – a normal attitude towards each other on a spiritual basis.
Interview by Dmitry Zlodorev
May 4, 2023