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Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev): If you do not want to be vaccinated for yourself, then at least do it for the sake of others

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On October 16, 2021, in the program “The Church and the World”, which was broadcast on the channel “Russia 24” on Saturday and Sunday, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk answered the questions asked by the host Catherine Grachova and from the audience.

E. Grachova: It is time for the questions in the program “The Church and the World” on the channel “Russia 24”, which we ask every week to the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. Hello, Bishop!

Metropolitan Hilarion: Hello, Catherine! Hello, dear brothers and sisters!

E. Grachova: These days the tripartite meeting of the spiritual leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of the Caucasus has ended. What is the purpose of these meetings? What were the spiritual leaders discussing this time? What can they add to what politicians decide?

Metropolitan Hilarion: The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has lasted for more than 30 years. To this day, unresolved issues remain between the two countries. Although a peace treaty was signed and most of Nagorno-Karabakh passed to Azerbaijan, part of it is still controlled by Armenia – but on a temporary basis; a number of humanitarian problems remain. But the most important thing that has not been overcome is the unexperienced enmity between the two peoples, especially in the border areas.

Of course, religious leaders cannot interfere directly in solving political problems. At the political level, serious differences remain. For example, Armenians say that prisoners of war remain in Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijanis say that there are no prisoners of war, but only people who have been arrested on Azerbaijani territory since the signing of the peace treaty.

It is very important, first, that the interethnic conflict does not become inter-religious, that is, that the conflict that has existed for more than 30 years does not turn into enmity between Christians and Muslims. Secondly, it is important that this conflict does not cause hatred, an escalation of ill-will between the two peoples, who are doomed to live together and build good neighborly relations. This is what spiritual leaders were talking about.

Of course, in many respects their assessments of the situation differ, but with the mediation of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, we, as well as in previous meetings with spiritual leaders, managed to reach an understanding on a number of issues. Above all, on those about whom the patriarch speaks in his closing remarks. There is a common understanding that calls for solving the existing problems with the help of weapons are inadmissible, that the hatred between the two peoples must be overcome, that humanitarian problems must be solved, including the issues related to the exchange of prisoners of war.

E. Grachova: Bishop, in early October you visited the Vatican, where you participated in an environmental meeting of representatives of world religions and scientists. Among the participants was Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. I wonder if you communicated with him personally? What was in the air in the Vatican these days?

Metropolitan Hilarion: There was no meaningful communication between me and Patriarch Bartholomew, and it was not sought after. But as we participate together in two events organized by Pope Francis on the topics of “climate change” and “education”, it so happened that we sat in one place. In one case, the Archbishop of Canterbury sat between us, and in the other, a representative of another religious tradition. Both times, coming to the meeting, we greeted each other – this is the end of our communication.

If we talk about the information that the media began to spread on the occasion of the planned meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Cyril, this information is based on the interview I gave during my stay in the Vatican to one of the largest Italian newspapers – Corriere della sera . As always, I was asked the question: will the Pope visit Russia and is a meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch possible? I said that conditions for the Pope’s visit to Russia are currently lacking. The same was recently stated by Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

The Pope and the Patriarch have already had a meeting that has been going on for more than five years – this was the meeting in Havana on February 12, 2016, in many ways – useful and important. Of course, once a meeting has taken place, it can be a second or a third. If necessary, the leaders of the Christian denominations should meet: why can the patriarch meet, say, with the Armenian patriarch, but he cannot do so with the pope? But no concrete actions are being taken to prepare for such a meeting. Its date and place have not been determined, the topic of the meeting is still being clarified.

E. Grachova: On October 4, you were on this particular business trip, when the work of the WhatsApp messenger and the social networks Facebook and Instagram collapsed all over the world. For six hours, IT specialists could not fix the problem. Did you notice this collapse? Are you at all dependent on American social networks in your daily work, do you use Telegram, for example? Or do you not use these things at all?

Metropolitan Hilarion: Of course I noticed the collapse. Although personally I only use WhatsApp, and my Facebook page, for example, is run by my collaborators, as well as my Instagram page.

Our dependence on social networks is really becoming very strong and this is no accident. I read somewhere that for every hour while these social networks were not working, Russia lost 70 million rubles, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg lost, according to various data, from 6-7 to 17 billion dollars.

Today, we all depend to some degree on American social networks because too much communication takes place through them. I remember the time when you didn’t need any money to make a phone call within the city, and every long distance and even more international call had to be paid for. Such calls were very expensive. That’s why people who lived in different cities, not to mention different countries, communicated very rarely.

Recently, another information revolution literally took place before our eyes: messengers have appeared that allow you to communicate for free. Of course, too many people – millions and billions – have “hooked” on these messengers. Accordingly, if a failure occurs, it affects everyone who is connected to these means of communication.

It seems to me that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem today, but many people try to use at least a few messengers connected to different systems. In the event of a failure of one system, they temporarily switch to another.

E. Grachova: A spectacular event took place in Russia – at least that’s what many journalists called it: in St. Petersburg, for the first time in 120 years, a member of the Romanov imperial family, Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich, married, whom some monarchists consider the direct successor of the Russian throne. How did the Russian Orthodox Church comment on this event?

Metropolitan Hilarion: The Church’s comment on this event is fully in line with what the President’s spokesman said: “We wish happiness to all newlyweds.” Grand Duke George Mikhailovich got married in St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which in itself was a significant event, they were married by Metropolitan Varsonofy of St. Petersburg and Ladoga. The wedding was attended by representatives of a number of royal and royal families from Europe, including the Bulgarian King Simeon, who once held the post of Prime Minister.

I think that in itself this event was significant in the history of the Romanov family. Unfortunately, the Romanov dynasty, as we know, was interrupted in a tragic way. We honor the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II, as a martyr: he was shot dead along with his entire family, including his underage daughters and heir to the throne. This tragic event is one of the shameful spots in our history.

I would not like to go into the details of the succession to the throne, because, firstly, the imperial throne in Russia no longer exists, and secondly, direct succession has been broken. Still, I think that the event that took place in St. Isaac’s Cathedral is in itself something significant, because for the first time in more than a hundred years, representatives of the dynasty that ruled Russia were married in St. Isaac’s Cathedral.

E. Grachova: Bishop, I do not want to return to the coronavirus in my next show, but, unfortunately, the deteriorating situation in Russia forces me to do so. The numbers are rising, mortality is a record. The Ministry of Health has officially confirmed that COVID-19 reduces the chances of women becoming pregnant even with the help of IVF, reduces their ovarian reserve. Isn’t this another reason to get vaccinated?

Metropolitan Hilarion: It seems to me that the situation with the coronavirus in our homeland is unfortunately very unfavorable. I have to travel and watch how they fight the coronavirus in other countries. I see that in many countries the percentage of vaccinated has already approached 70, and in some – up to 80 percent of the population. This means that the population has acquired sustained immunity to the coronavirus and the pandemic in these countries is gradually, and in some places rapidly declining. These countries lift restrictions, people stop wearing masks, and life returns to normal. Unfortunately, we are very far from this, although it was in Russia that the first coronavirus vaccine was registered, that is, we tackled this challenge before the others, but we did not use the opportunities provided by the specialists who created these vaccines.

Vaccination is really very slow, the number of vaccinated is still at 40 million, which for a country with a population of 145 million is, of course, very small. This means that in all probability the pandemic in our country will continue for a long time, that we will lose many people. Today we lose hundreds of people every day. If in the beginning it was a challenge that we did not know what to do, now we know how to deal with it. We have vaccines, we have the opportunity for free vaccination, but too many people, not only do not benefit from it, but also dissuade others, spread all sorts of myths about the alleged danger of vaccination, or that it does not protect against the virus. True, vaccination cannot protect us one hundred percent, but it protects 90-96-99 percent, and that is a very high percentage. If we look at who is in hospital today and dies in terrible suffering from the coronavirus, then in the vast majority of cases these are unvaccinated people who have given up the vaccine, or relatives or friends have not allowed them to be vaccinated.

I think in this situation we need to turn to the collective mind. I always tell people who don’t want to get vaccinated: if you don’t want to do it for yourself, then at least do it for others and especially for those elderly people who are close to you.

We priests face this every day, and when we are told that the virus is not dangerous, that as many people die from covid as from the flu, we do not believe it because we believe our eyes, but the picture, which we see with our own eyes is unfortunately too sad. That is why I fully agree with the call of our President, with whom he repeatedly addressed the citizens – to be vaccinated, if not for themselves, then at least for others.

E. Grachova: Thank you very much, Bishop, for commenting on this news for us.

Metropolitan Hilarion: Thank you, Catherine.

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In the second part of the show, Metropolitan Hilarion answered the questions of the TV viewers, received on the site of the show “The Church and the World”.

Question: I am very glad, Bishop, that your calls for mass vaccination have not been successful. Many people have shown prudence and are in no hurry to get vaccinated with an untested vaccine. It is clear that no one gives any guarantees, so no one will be responsible for the possible negative, terrible consequences – infertility in women, impotence in men, reduced life expectancy and most importantly – chipping. It is better to get sick ten times than to get vaccinated once.

Metropolitan Hilarion: Here is what Maria wrote to us. What can I say? If we call this “prudence”, then I very much doubt that this person has a normal brain. You are simply repeating the most ridiculous myths that exist about the vaccine, you are repeating completely untested theories despite the obvious facts. And the facts show that people who have been vaccinated continue to lead normal and fulfilling lives. There are millions of such people around you, and they can tell you that after the vaccination they did not become impotent and did not lose the opportunity to have children, did not fall into dementia and did not reach any of those terrible consequences that you are talking about. You. On the other hand, there are really terrible consequences for people who are not vaccinated and get coronavirus. Some have already died, others have become very ill, others are now ill and are connected to ventilators, and others are yet to fall ill.

Today, several hundred people die every day. We break mortality records every day. How many more do you want to die? How many more need to be infected to make sure you need to be vaccinated? Now this is the only protection available. Maybe it is not one hundred percent, not perfect enough. Maybe someday, in 20 or 30 years, some of the vaccinated will learn about some of the consequences, but, first, we have to live to that time, and, secondly, there are hundreds of vaccines and all of us, I guess you, in our childhood we have been vaccinated. Nobody asked us if we were against the vaccine or against it, only now myths about vaccination have emerged, and then nobody asked us. We were just vaccinated and thanks to that we avoided many serious diseases.

I sincerely feel sorry for you for believing in all this nonsense, and I feel sorry for your loved ones who, because of your stupidity, carelessness and selfishness, may fall victim to the coronavirus.

Question: “From which gospel is it best to begin the acquaintance with the New Testament?” Some recommend reading the Gospel of John at the beginning, while others recommend starting with Matthew. And how should the Gospel be read correctly, is it necessary to study the comments of specialists?

Metropolitan Hilarion: I think that if you are taking the Gospel in your hands for the first time, it is best to start with the Gospel of Matthew. Read it, then Mark, then Luke. You will see that in these three Gospels there is a lot of common material, some stories are almost repeated. But when you get to the Gospel of John, you will see that there is a lot of new material, a lot of new stories, and the person of Jesus Christ will be revealed to you in a new way.

In order to understand the Gospel, it is desirable, of course, to read the interpretations of the Holy Fathers of the Church and modern authors, because not everything in the Gospel is understandable from the first reading, and some things are incomprehensible from both the second and third . Specialists who have studied the Gospel text can tell in their books what versions of one or another event exist, what interpretations there are for one or another word of Jesus Christ. There is now a great deal of literature that allows us to understand the Gospel text correctly.

Of course, from all this variety of interpretations, you can choose the one that suits you best, you like it more, because sometimes the same words of the Lord Jesus Christ are interpreted in completely different ways.

We church people say that the legitimate interpretation of the gospel is what the Church offers, because the Church is the community of the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, it is in this community that the Gospels were created, and that is why this municipality is the most authoritative interpreter of the Gospel texts.

I would like to end this transmission with the words of the Second Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

I wish you all the best. Take care of yourself, take care of your loved ones and may God protect you all.

Source: Russia 24

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Petar Gramatikov

Dr. Petar Gramatikov is the Editor in Chief and Director of The European Times. He is a member of the Union of Bulgarian Reporters. Dr. Gramatikov has more than 20 years of Academic experience in different institutions for higher education in Bulgaria. He also examined lectures, related to theoretical problems involved in the application of international law in religious law where a special focus has been given to the legal framework of New Religious Movements, freedom of religion and self-determination, and State-Church relations for plural-ethnic states. In addition to his professional and academic experience, Dr. Gramatikov has more than 10 years Media experience where he hold a positions as Editor of a tourism quarterly periodical “Club Orpheus” magazine – “ORPHEUS CLUB Wellness” PLC, Plovdiv; Consultant and author of religious lectures for the specialized rubric for deaf people at the Bulgarian National Television and has been Accredited as a journalist from “Help the Needy” Public Newspaper at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

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