Believers must be ready to defend their temples
One of the oldest priests of Kiev, Fr. Vsevolod Rybchinsky, told about his attitude to Tomos, “unification council”, and "SLC" project.
This summer, Protopriest Vsevolod Rybchinsky celebrated his 80th birthday. His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy congratulated him on his jubilee and awarded the priest the Order of Saint Apostle Andrew the First-Called.
Father Vsevolod is a legendary Kiev priest who built a huge St. Olga Cathedral, as well as a large-scale church complex. For a long time he was a dean of the South-Eastern district of Kiev. The priest has gone through a difficult life and is highly respected by the priesthood and the laity. He was trained as a builder in his youth which helped him subsequently in the priestly ministry: over the past 20 years, the priest has built 5 churches, the largest of which is a church complex in honor of the Holy Princess Olga.
Today, Protopriest Vsevolod Rybchinsky answered a few questions from the UOJ.
1. Currently the authorities are imposing pressure on the Church. What would you wish to the state agents?
- To take their hands off the Church. During the Communist rule, a NEP (New Economic Policy – Ed.) was introduced, there was great enthusiasm, and a lot of constructions were made before 1937. Then when the Communists came down hard on the Church, everything began to decline: there came along war, devastation, famine in 1947 (I do remember it), one thing leading to another. So where are the Communists now? Nowhere! And where is the Church of Christ? Here! Therefore, I wish our public servants to stay away from the Church! We will sort out everything ourselves. This is the first point. The second point is – don’t be deceived: God cannot be mocked. Those people know little about religion and punch above their weight, as the saying goes.
2. What is your opinion about the so called “unification council”?
- Firstly, we will not join the “Council”, which is scheduled for December 15. Secondly, even if they manage to unite with each other, they will lose a lot. I’ve spoken with many priests in Kiev who are respected people. I was told it would be an Exarchate of the Patriarch of Constantinople in Ukraine, not a patriarchy. In case of the exarchate, a new church structure will not have preparation of chrism, nor will it have its supreme court: only Constantinople will resolve all disputable issues and manage all ordinations to arch-sees. It’ll be a defeat rather than a victory. And there will be no unification as such.
3. If someone from the UOC hierarchy happens to take part in this “unification council”, how should regular parishioners of his eparchy respond to it?
I do not advise parishioners to take it for granted, since he is, in fact, a traitor. This will also be a lesson for those who are thinking of shifting to another denomination. I do not advise it. Because people will no longer take such bishop as their hierarch: he will be a defector. And people will not allow him to serve the Divine Liturgy. It will be a disaster for him. He will be neither here nor there, between heaven and earth, so to say. If he wants to go back – just turn him from the door of the church. That’s all!
4. How should parishioners act if their temples are subject to illegal seizures?
My advice is to protect the temple and not to let a "new" priest into the church. Everything will be settled one day, but today, of course, there is a lot of tension. Therefore, I advise parishioners to become more active and involved. For over 20 years I have built 5 worship buildings. And I’m not going jut to give them away to someone, moreover, to the non-canonical Church. I receive a lot of calls and people say to me, “Father Vsevolod, if there might be raider seizures of the temples, you can count on us.” So we will fight for our shrines.
5. Does your parish support the idea of having a Single Local Church?
Nobody supports the idea of the Local Church among our parishioners. Not a single person! Because it is a bogus story! This is not going to be the Church they anticipate. I’ve already said it would be an exarchate, not a patriarchy. Should there be any conflicts, our believers will stand by our Church through thick and thin.
6. What is your attitude to glorification of the nation in Ukraine?
It reminds me of 1933 year – "Deutschland über alles!" I suppose, there is no need translating it. So, "Ukraine above all!" – is not about Ukraine. Ukraine embraces Ukrainians, Russians, Moldovans, Tatars, Jews, Turks, Greeks ... Indeed, there are more than 30 nationalities in the country, if not about 80. So, it’s necessary to unite people rather than position Ukrainians "above all." How about Russians, Jews, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks then? I think it’s not sensible.
7. What do you think about worship services being performed in the Ukrainian language?
I read the Gospel in Ukrainian myself. It was a facsimile edition of His Beatitude Vladimir. He gave it to me as a gift, and I still read it. I am pleased. Nevertheless, let’s take Roman Catholics. Their services for the most part around the world are conducted in Latin except for some countries, but people speak in a local language. We have not yet matured to switch to the liturgical Ukrainian language. And I myself preach only in Ukrainian; wherever I am, I speak to people only in Ukrainian. Of course, if I meet a Russian, then I speak to him in Russian. If it is a German – I can speak a little German to him. If it is a Greek — I can say something in Greek. But it is a spoken language, not a liturgical one. The Church-Slavonic language has always been liturgical and has to remain so.