Dismissed patriarchal spokesman explains dispute with patriarch


Echo of Moscow, 24 December 2015


--Echo of Moscow correspondent: Can you explain for us what are the reasons for your dismissal from your position?


--V. Chaplin: For sure. On one hand, I never have clung to this position. It consumes practically all of my energy. Now I am able to breathe freely. Obviously free time has appeared and I have the possibility of talking more, praying more, arguing more with the powers that be who now arrange intra-church relations. So I now have more freedom and I am very happy about this.


On the other hand, I suspect that the reason for these changes is not just the streamlining of the work and not just considerations of efficiency. I know that there are in the church a multitude of much less efficient institutions than the department that I created and headed until recently. This pertains also to several synodal institutions and to the apparatus that serves His Holiness the patriarch personally, in office management and in residences and for liturgies. It seems to me that the question of efficiency is not the main thing here.


I am in the habit of disagreeing with His Holiness on several matters. This pertains, first of all, to the tone of church-state relations which we have in both Russia and Ukraine and in several other places. I think that we are too complimentary. Possibly speak out more critically. We should not be afraid of dealing with the most difficult topics in church-state relations in public and we should rely not on persuasion and negotiations but on the support of the people. I think that we should not be trying within the church to reduce everything to one voice, the voice of His Holiness the patriarch. My voice is no less significant and the voice of many others of our priests and laity who are thoughtful and hold an active position is no less significant. Therefore I think that it is simply a shame that His Holiness the patriarch for the moment because of his present position cannot say what he could say when he was a metropolitan. He is a bright man, a thoughtful man, but because of his current responsibilities the opportunity for him to speak out is rather restricted. And perhaps at some time he was offended that many people are speaking better than he and many speak more forthrightly than he. So such is his fate.


The second problem on which I quarreled with the patriarch is the state of church administration. I recently wrote a report for him to the effect that in church administration more systematic decisions should be made. Unfortunately, it is not that way today. Very many decisions are made during spontaneous discussions somewhere in the corridors on the run. I am talking about decisions regarding extremely fundamental matters. It shouldn't be that way. I am sure that a system in which there is no systematic—pardon the tautology—making of decisions, taking into account the position of experts, taking into account the position of incidental institutions, will not long survive. As a stable system and a system that takes into account the opinion of various people. . . . Well, we have in particular the Inter-Council Presence, where many people speak out with diverse positions, and too often the patriarch's voice is heard when the discussion is just beginning. That also is incorrect. The system of church administration should be changed. His Holiness just makes very many decisions personally. The number of these decisions is now great. He cannot cope with these decisions. He is not able to digest the volume of documents pertaining to making decisions. He should delegate authority and give people the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves, which I have always tried to do.


I am a free man, and I consider that nobody has the right to restrict my position. I consider that it is my position that to a great extent still reflects the attitude of the majority of people who attend our church and the attitude that is connected with its institutions. And I will conduct myself as a free man in the future. I have already said that there is sufficient freedom, and I am happy for this.


--Do you associate your dismissal with your personality or do you speak about profound tendencies and can one speak about some split in the church?


--Well, both. Understand, I perhaps remain the only person who can express his position in response to the patriarch's position, which will not always coincide with his position and which in some sense I think has more promise from the point of view of the future. Very many fundamental matters have been postponed for an indefinite period. So, yes, if you will, there are systemic contradictions, but at the same time there are personal contradictions.


--Tell us what are your plans for the future? I know that you serve a church, right? What will you be doing?


--I will relax and I will pray. But most important is that I will speak directly with both the government and society, and I will say what I think to be necessary.


--A practical question: where will you now get money? From where?


--Strange as it may be, as the director of a synodal institution, recently I have been receiving almost nothing. My salary was cut in half and then I refused a second salary. I am paid something in the church where I serve, I think about 20 thousand rubles. And I can live quite comfortable without this money. I do not need money and I have said so many times to everybody.


--Father Vsevolod, thank you very much.


--Thank you, thank you, all the best to everyone.

(tr. by PDS, posted 29 December 2015)


Russian original posted on site, 25 December 2015

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