His Grace Feofan: “Our task is not to compete in whose mosque or bell tower is higher”

The head of the Tatarstan metropolis about the role of the Russian Orthodox Church, social networks, Columbiners and education of the youth

The 4th Forum of Orthodox Community of the Republic of Tatarstan opened in Kazan on 22 November. According to Metropolitan of Kazan and Tatarstan Feofan, representatives of the church and society were going to discuss many complex problems: “orphans, the elderly, prisons, prevention of extremism leading to terrorism”, family conservation and education of the youth. The head of the Tatarstan metropolis told Realnoe Vremya in particular how the church was going to oppose the dangerous occurrence — cases of mass executions and attacks at school and colleges that have frequented in Russia.

Not get-together but review of Orthodoxy in the last two years

According to Feofan, the forum of the Orthodox community wasn’t a “get-together”. Representatives of different religions, authorities and society were going to participate in it for a reason: “We live in the interpenetrating world and represent one organism”.

“I served in many Russian regions. And I will say that such events don’t take place everywhere. It is a kind of showcase, report on the job that has been done in the last two years, the period between the forums. It is a review of what has been done from what was planned and what was missed, analytics of the past and aspiration to understand what’s necessary in the future. The fast-developing situation in the global world offers new channelings,” His Grace Feofan stressed.

650 people were to participate in the forum, there were Orthodox priests, parochial activists, personalities from the world of culture, education and science. Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov was the special guest. Representatives of the Russian president’s administration, Moscow Patriarchy, heads of the Muslim, Catholic, Jewish and other traditional religious communities working in the republic were also invited to the meeting.

“Of course, there will be representatives of other religions. We didn’t invite the Muslims who we live together with just to tick off but to show our good relationships. We’ve established the relationships between religions in Tatarstan, which are now a reference outside Russia. It is a real, working model of peace. Our task is not to compete in whose mosque or bell tower is higher but who does more good deeds, and not separately but together,” the metropolitan commented on the participants before the forum.

“Aping is a very dangerous thing”

The preparation for the event took half a year. Representatives of the Orthodox community preliminarily discussed religion, education, culture, social work of local religious organisations, which were going to be raised during round-table talks and sections, with leaders of municipalities and the public. Feofan said that the participants of the forum would raise many complex problems “orphans, the elderly, prisons, prevention of extremism leading to terrorism”, family conservation and education of the youth. The last theme was going to be paid special attention — several sections would talk about the religious and moral education of children and the youth.

In answer to Realnoe Vremya’s questions of who was guilty of the frequent cases of mass execution and attacks at schools and colleges in Russia and how to solve this problem, the metropolitan claimed:

“If I answered this question, I would probably win a Nobel prize. This didn’t exist in Russia, in the Soviet Union. We were inculcated some values. But, I am sorry, it is a fact of the western lifestyle and thought, including through different propagandist videos on the Net. These happenings are mirrored here. Aping is a very dangerous thing, the root of the evil.”

Nevertheless, His Grace is convinced that it is impossible to prohibit everything. He is sure that education should begin in the kindergarten, “form the understanding of values among the youth, and in this respect, precisely the religious factor has a huge meaning. Social networks are a given of the youth, the most important thing they become not nets to catch weak souls but a possibility to open new ways to the creation”.

“These different movements want to stir up our society, still weak minds, stability is tried to be undermined with their hands, which is the most dangerous thing. Not marshals but teachers who educate the youth win battles. We are used to looking down on the youth, we always teach the youth. But we should understand one thing — we should have a dialogue with the youth, learn how to listen to them. But at the same time the older generation should be a good guide so that the youth won’t get lost in the thickets of traps, while there are many. The youth wing will be one of the key areas,” the metropolitan and rector of Kazan Seminary noted.

Feofan explained how religious representatives involved teenagers in working in hospitals, helping the elderly fostering the sense of sympathy. “The youth must feel they are needed and implicated in the creation. We have great youth theatres and groups now, they go to ruined churches standing in an empty field in with shovels and buckets and simply conserve them”.

“I am not a stickler for telling off the youth all the time. It is the youth we educated. Are the youth bad? It is a chip, but what is the old block? Now we will cultivate and inculcate good fruits together with the youth,” Feofan noted.

Step-by-step return and restoration of churches

Construction and reconstruction of churches became another topic for discussion. The restoration of the Cave Church of Our Lady of Kazan has almost ended, now artists are working there. “It has turned out amazing, the unique in Russia”. Actually construction works are still held.

It has been recently said in the metropolis it is planned to restore the whole complex of sites of the Virgin Monastery on First President of Tatarstan and State Adviser to the republic Mintimer Shaimiyev’s initiative own initiative. In answer to Realnoe Vremya’s question about the value of the restoration of the Nikola Tulsky Church and a corps of monastic cells and when they would be built, His Grace replied ambiguously:

“Journalists always like to ask questions: ‘How much?’ and then say: ‘How come? It is so much! Why so much?’ I will reply: ‘It will already be good to have as much as you can collect.’ We will invest step by step. We will decide how much we will invest at the end of the path. Now it isn’t an economic forum to count. The most important thing is how many people will respond to restore the appearance of the beauty. And if you counted and give money because we save every penny.”

Feofan also claimed his firm intention to restore not only the Nikola Tulsky Church but also the Patriarch Nikolay Church — it is one complex.

The return of the church of its former buildings was mentioned: “I am not the one who hurries up. I consider what the manager of the Kazan Eparchy, metropolis did is already much: the restoration of the same Kazan Virgin Cathedral, the return of the Patriarch Nikolay Church. And there is a lot of other works you are not always aware of. Come to the Makaryev Monastery, look at how much has been done. Return of buildings isn’t a race”.

The metropolitan forestalled a possible question:

“Ask me: ‘What about the building of the former academy? Where is the hospital?’ We don’t forget that they need to be returned. Work on it is done. But another thing should be considered. Let’s imagine that we were upped and given all the buildings. Could we restore them all immediately and use? No, of course. If we return something, there is a fuss about this return, which will cause a split — this isn’t needed. A dialogue is needed. On the one hand, there must be compliance of the law, which was adopted to return churches. On the other hand, we should consider the real life. I will say that we put the seminary in order. It would have been impossible without President Minnikhanov’s help. It is our common business, but which is done step by step. Everything must be put in order, without destruction,” His Grace concluded.

By Yekaterina Ablayeva