Interview with the Chairman of the Cyprus branch of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society , Professor LA Bulanova andMetropolitan Vladimir and Suzdal Evlogy
the city of Vladimir
Leonid Bulanov: The Cyprus branch of IOPA is registered in Cyprus, Larnaca . Our headquarters is located not far from the Church of St. Lazarus, it can be seen from the fourth floor. Old Larnaca — mostly low-rise buildings, and the IX century church towers over them, and one can see the Larnaca Bay ahead. Very beautiful!
Ancient Byzantium is almost completely destroyed by the Turks , and Cyprus was the only part that survived. It was virtually untouched due to the inaccessibility of the monasteries, such as Kiksky, Maherasky, well, Stavrovouni monastery was close enough, Convent of St. Fecla and many other monasteries. No wonder, there are eleven monuments under UNESCO auspices, churches of X, XI, XII century. Of course, this is a goldmine, so in 2012 I suggested to Sergey Vladimirovich Sakharov concluding a twinning agreement between Vladimir and Larnaca.
If in the East, we need only to notify the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, here, it’s much more complicated: to make this work, it is necessary to inform the Ambassador, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rossotrudnichestvo.
Sergey asked me to organize a fraternity of Bethlehem and Vladimir: to prepare documents, to connect the City Hall, to connect with public organizations. Now I’ve written a book. We shot a lot of photos in a holy place. There was a visit of the Mayor of Bethlehem on the day of Vladimir city, where I was present at the invitation of the Mayor Sergey V. Sakharov.
In the first book you can find welcome remarks of Marshal VG Kulikov, unfortunately, now-deceased. I asked him to write an introduction, but it is too Soviet. There were also written welcome remarks from Sergey V. Sakharov and the Mayor of Larnaca Andreas Luruchatisa. I would like to continue this book, listen to you, and Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Kition. If it is not not difficult, would you say a few words and assess from a Christian point of view all these events. Of course, IOPA is interested in Christian roots, but we will talk more about Bethlehem, because the next book is dedicated to this city, even though an edition will be of 500 copies.
Your representative, Father Sergius Berezkin, was presented at the signing ceremony. He helped us a lot, before signing ceremony he held the service in the Church of the Nativity of Christ. The Cyprus office helped arrange a trip to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, to the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission Archimandrite Isidore, but, unfortunately, Archimandrite Isidore is now working in St. Petersburg.
The twinning has appeared at a very high Christian level, the blessing of the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III was received.
Of course, the fact that the agreement is signed between the mayors’ offices is without a doubt very important. Cultural ties will be supported. In my new book it will be said about the twinning of Bethlehem and Vladimir, I hope that this book will be interesting and useful to many, and I think we have it and upload to the Internet and will publish it, maybe more than once.
Lord, in my opinion, the current mayor, did his best to connect Christians of Cyprus, Jerusalem and the ancient land of Vladimir. None of the mayors before him did nothing of the kind, though the diocesan link with Greece and Cyprus and the Holy Land have been existing for a very long time. How would you describe this situation, and such progressive actions of the Christian mayor, who now heads the city of Vladimir? Can you share your opinion with me?
Metropolitan: We took Sergei Vladimirovich’s actions as something new: we have not known such breakthrough before he become a mayor. He combined the most holy places: Palestine, Cyprus, Vladimir … Vladimir mayor visited the Holy Land, developed a much-needed connection. This twinning can be considered as a means which saves the country — it can unite us, save, help to keep the peace, our love to Christ.
We had a meeting with the new mayor of BethlehemVera Baboon and it was encouraging to see that his wifes in Bethlehem got the same rights as men. The consciousness today differs a lot, but the overall plan of God will be fulfilled. God bless our relations. Now in Vladimir, in the great Russian city, there is a lot of new initiatives — fine, cultural, noble. Our church links with the city, the City Hall are also getting stronger, they can be called practical, Christian, live. Sergey is the most constant quest in our church activities. Recently we celebrated a great holiday -1025- th anniversary of the baptizing. There was a big procession, a festive service devoted to Prince Vladimir. Sergey cheered this event. He visits our church during masses, feasts, so that we feel the pulse of a new attitude to the church, people and faith. Only faith can save us. Universal Faith, Worldwide Faith, Christianity.
I also visited Cyprus in 1988 – in passing, but I touched the walls of temples, and this short visit is always with me in my memory.
Leonid Bulanov: As far as I know, you were in Kikskom monastery?
Metropolitan: Yes, yes! Everything and everyone there shines with Christianity, antiquity. So the meaning in this communication with you is huge, through you, with Cyprus and Palestine. I hope that this good cause will continue to develop.
Leonid Bulanov: Rise of Christianity in Vladimir in ancient Rus, the transition to the current Vladimir as a wellspring of Christianity, and the rise of Christianity in Bethlehem, where Christ was born- what this combination, in your opinion, means to Bethlehem, and Vladimir, and all Christians?
Metropolitan: The Birth of Christ is always new and inexhaustible. With his life begins another, fine, intelligent, and links, you are talking about, we can certainly find. And our relationship with Bethlehem, the City council is sure to revive now. Anyway, this is some a new power in our minds, a new mood in the religious life, because there everything in life has no meaning without religion. Thanks God, now we live in a defferent time. In our diocese there are about 300 churches, 30 monasteries.
Leonid Bulanov: Exactly, if I’m not mistaken, there are about 2,000 temples and about 30 or 40 monasteries in Cyprus.
Metropolitan: We have 8 Orthodox schools, five religious schools, with one seminary among them — it is in our walls (referring to the walls of the Kremlin Vladimir ). Our future confessors study there. And it is apart from the Sunday schools, which work in almost every church. We do everything to involve the church in the salvation of young people, saving those who are now losing himself. Now we are developing all aspects of this activity, but in the Vladimir diocese there is another important aspect — awakening of catechesis, trust: the thing is, a lot of peolpe today take baptizm, if, but only few of them make a dedication. Now, we put at the heart of catechesis thorough, serious conversation and did not baptize hasty. Some say that’s before you could come to the temple, and immediately you were baptized — why should I do something else, you may ask? Baptism with the understanding — is the baptism with the light, everything ,s different. People breathe in a different way. And now we are holding a special meeting for those wishing to be baptized. If I am serving in the church, I speak with people. I ask them^ how do you pray? How believe? How live spiritually? We do not talk about politics. Do you know what is the response? Very strong! Priors say that a lot of people come here on Sundays to listen to these conversations! And what to say about the conversation with the bishop … It means people realized something it animates them, inspires. They love to listen very carefully, and ask such unique questions. Here one says, «My granddaughter asks,» Granny, where can I hear God, I want to hear God.» I do not know what to answer her. Then I say, now let us enter into the temple, there will be a reading, singing — it’s all God. » So the child learns to love the temple of God … Without it life would be so boring , shallow. It is wonderful that thing like this are becoming more and more common.
Leonid Bulanov: In 2011our Correspondent had an interview with the Archbishop of Cyprus. This interview was published in many scientific journals and in electronic form on the site. It was small, but very capacious. He said that people should not only be members of the church, but also an active participants in the life of the church. That what he said, and these words have become dear to my heart.
Metropolitan: Yes , it is important to take part in the life of the church! That is why we are holding the pastoral form to get people involved. Now a lot of these methods (they are certainly not new in the social sense), how to have a way with the youth. Yes, it’s not easy: after all, along with the Orthodox Church, there are schisms and heresies, but it’s probably the spectrum of life. There was never the only true religion. There is always something secondary. Christ does not turn away from the Samaritan woman, he proselyte her. She is frustrated, and Christ sits with her, talks and proselytes her. So, thank God ! — So should we do. Some movement, so to speak, is there, and we create this value not only internally but also scale the output of a temple at the border — to the City hall, in the city. And it is so important that it is precisely in Vladimir, the oldest Russian city that was once the capital of Russia. Moscow became the capital of the state later, there are now many of our holy things, in particular, of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God …
Leonid Bulanov: If I ‘m not mistaken, in 1297 Vladimir people gave Vladimir Mother of God to Moscow, when the Mongols attacked.
Metropolitan: Not really. Metropolitan Cyprian appealed to Vladimir citizens and asked them to give the icon to Moscow because of Mongols. Of course, Vladimir people knew that they will not see the icon again, but still they kept her in Moscow. People ask me: «Lord , is it possible to take the icon back ?» I reply, » No. This is the emblem of Russian Orthodoxy, it saves all of us. Thanks God! «
Leonid Bulanov: Deep respect for Vladimir land, for every Christian, for Holy Russia, for St. Vladimir- Suzdal , for you. God bless you, Saint Father. Always there was the respect for Metropolitan Vladimir and Suzdal and always with great admiration believers praised you.
The mayor, when he came from Bethlehem, and held a press — conference, said that now Vladimir citizens can take the way of pilgrimage to Bethlehem. This is a big breakthrough for Christians. In the west it is called religious tourism, we have decided to call it a pilgrimage. So it is important that the secular mayor effected promotion of the Christian religion.
Metropolitan: Pilgrimage service. There is a priest who organizes such trips. The opportunity of pilgrimage to the Holy Land is very valuable. This is the kind of gracious interface between man and God. One woman came from Jerusalem and said, «Lord, I was there, and now I can die.» I said to her: » Why are you so hurry? ‘. She replies, » Yes, I ‘m in no hurry, but the sky is incredible there, imagine. And if here I can only read about it, but there there are inexhaustible and history, and the grace of God!» So you do a holy cause.
Leonid Bulanov: Indeed, there is a view that after visiting Jerusalem and Bethlehem, people change, and it has come through the centuries . Archimandrite Kapustin was a member of the IOPA and headed the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem. He baught more than 200 hidelands in Jerusalem, ie in the Holy Land. Unfortunately, many hides were lost. Khrushchev sold them for four million, and he got half of this sum with oranges, which went off during transportation. Funny and sad story! But now we’re getting something back, including twinning. Twinning begins with Russian land and calls for reunification. Where, you think, will this revival of the ancient? Would the price of Christians increase? Will the faith become stronger or nothing will change?
Metropolitan: Indeed! We grow and become rich interacting with each other. Communication is the essence of life, so we must develop it, it’s food, it’s a treasure. We see it, feel and strongly contribute to the development of these relations. This communication and twinning are very important.
Leonid Bulanov: Here opens the way of the studying of Palestinians, citizens of the city of Bethlehem in the Vladimir University. That means we will have friends and Russian-speaking Palestinians who study in Vladimir. Archbishop Pheophylact, the rector of the Church of the Nativity – speaks Russian. It is very rare for the Greeks. He lived for more than ten years in Odessa and fluently speaks Russian. We have a lot of photos with him, he blessed us, although the Patriarch of Jerusalem, we talked to him after the official reception and he said he was in Vladimir, and claim it to be a city of high — level Christianity. He lived three years in Russia, he was the representative of the Jerusalem Patriarchate in Russia. I think that Russian Christians were lucky in it. Since the mayor of Bethlehem managed to make a breakthrough.
Metropolitan: I know His Holyness Pheophilos III. I knew him when he was an archimandrite. You can see, where the Lord has put it, he is a great man. He knows our Russian reality. Well, of course, Bethlehem and Palestine appreciate these friendship. Russia in fact supported, as they say, all the holy East. Russia contributed a lot to the East…
Leonid Bulanov: Even if you take the Bethlehem Mother of God, it was donated to the temple during the times of Elizabeth and its origins from Russia, not to mention the Jerusalem Mother of God, which was drawn by a nun from the Russian Convent in Ein Karem. Indeed, the origins are very deep, it should not go without mention of Kiksk monastery, where the emperors made the altar, bells. They encrusted the altar with gold, decorated the temple. Russian emperors invested a lot in the monasteries of the Middle East, Jerusalem, etc.
Metropolitan: Russian religious, you know, it shocks the East — not only the East but the West too. Foreigners come and tell us when we go to Russia, we want to see people rather than sights, and we wonder: there is a very strong faith in Russia, people deeply believe in God, while in the West the belief is fading, churches are empty. People are in trouble , they lose faith, but here in Russia, it’s still alive. God be thanked!
Leonid Bulanov: Lord! Thank you very much , we will no longer take your time, which is preciouse. Thank you, that you are so carefully and meticulously answered difficult questions. They disquiet not only Vladimir people, but all Christians. Thank you very much!
Metropolitan : But I am also impressed by the fact that there are people like you who take to heart the state of relations between Russia and the Holy Land, and it is difficult to imagine that something grew and blossomed without them. If faith is strong , we will stand , and if we lose this foundation of life, faith , then you know it will cause a lot of trouble.
Because of the bad weather some people in Russia faced a big problem, and you know how people responded to the call for help, they collected a good amount of money in churches. I appeal to parish, ‘ Let us help more practical . » and pass round the plate for donations. Surprisingly, many people gave almost everything that was in their pockets. On the feast day of Vera, Nadezhda, Lyubov and their mother Sophia we made a prayer. In all churches at the same time was the liturgy, and people in the monasteries were praying at night. Here I am today came from the monastery «Zosimova pustyn», if you have heard of it. Memorial Day of St. Alexis Zosimov was celebrated there — old man who was pulling one lot in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior to the patriarchate. This lot came, as you know, to Patriarch Tikhon. And at night we made a prayer, and in the morning someone told me: «Here, Lord, at night you prayed, and now we can see the sun in the morning. You see, God as anybody, hears us if only we pray, even beforehand. Sometimes he gives us what we want though we have not asked him yet. Thank God!»
At the end of interview the metropolitan of Vladimir and Suzdal Evlogy showed to Leonid Alekseevich Bulanov the museum of the Vladimir diocese.