Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk: Christianity does not call for passivity before evil / Interview

On September 15, 2019, in the program “Church and Peace”, aired on the Russia-24 channel on Saturdays and Sundays, the chairman of the  Department for External Church Relations of the  Moscow Patriarchate,  Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk,  answered questions from the leading TV channel, Ekaterina Gracheva.

E. Gracheva: Hello! This is the “Church and Peace” program, and we are talking with the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, about events taking place in our country and abroad. Hello, Lord!

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

E. Gracheva: In the United States at the federal level, the death penalty was resumed. Prior to this, for two decades, she acted in only a few states. In our country, approximately the same time has passed – 23 years – since the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty. In today’s Russia, is it possible to lift this moratorium? Is there a public need for this?

Metropolitan Hilarion: There are certain groups of people who are calling for the restoration of the death penalty. But as a church person, I think that the restoration of the death penalty will not solve any problems. Because if we delve into history, we will see that the death penalty had several reasons. The first reason was that the offender had to be neutralized. And in those cases where, for example, the offender is resisting (if it comes to detaining a group of terrorists), then the death penalty is actually used.

The death penalty was also used as a deterrent. It is no coincidence that for many centuries it has been public. The death penalty was shown so that others would not repeat their crimes. But now we are increasingly seeing that crimes, especially when it comes to massacres, are committed by people who are not afraid of death – some of them undermine themselves in order to destroy other people with themselves. This means that the death penalty as a means of intimidation will not work in our time.

The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty is due, inter alia, to the possibility of judicial error. If a person was convicted unjustly, for example, a murder was committed, evidence was presented and the investigation determined the guilty party, but it turned out that he was found guilty by mistake, then as long as he is alive, this mistake can be corrected. But when a person’s life is taken away, it’s already impossible to correct the mistake.

In Russia, a country with a history of millions of repressions (which, unfortunately, they want to remember less and less now, but it is necessary to remember them), the restoration of the death penalty will not work. Let us recall those thousands, hundreds of thousands that were shot either in court, or without trial, or by the sentence of the so-called “troika”, and then they were rehabilitated 20, 30, 50 years later. But life cannot be returned to man …

E. Gracheva: Not so long ago, a 92-year-old war veteran from the Kaluga Region, who survived both the war and repression, was killed by a drug addict. The governor of the Kaluga region, Anatoly Artamonov, believes that such crimes must be punished by death. What would you answer to this?

Metropolitan Hilarion: I would answer that this is a heinous crime. For such a crime, a person should probably be isolated from society for life. But the death penalty will not solve anything, because the life of the person who is killed cannot be returned. In addition, even for the most inveterate villains and criminals, there is always the hope of correction, repentance. This does not mean that if they repent, they should be released from prison – they should serve the time they deserve. But it is no coincidence that the Church works with prisoners, among whom there are those who are innocently convicted, and those (and their majority) who received punishment in accordance with the measure of the crime committed.

E. Gracheva: Vladyka, the heroes of this summer are the pilots Damir Yusupov and Georgy Murzin, which the whole country now knows about, who performed the “miracle on the corn field” and saved the lives of more than 200 passengers. What does this miraculous rescue of the plane and people make you think about?

Metropolitan Hilarion: It makes you think about many things, first of all, that God cares about people, that God’s providence saves people.

But, as the theologians say, God does not act alone, He expects the assistance of people: the miracle that happened is, of course, a consequence of God’s grace, but also a consequence of the high professionalism of the pilots who managed to land the plane in very difficult conditions so that no one was hurt badly.

At the same time, the incident with the aircraft should make those who are responsible for security at and around airports think. Because, as a rule, birds get into the engines of aircraft either on takeoff or during landing. This is due to the fact that birds live in a landfill near the airport. And this question needs to be very carefully investigated in order to protect both pilots and passengers as much as possible from such incidents.

Since I myself am a frequent flyer, I know quite a lot about this topic, including thanks to the television series Investigation of Disasters, which is occasionally shown on the National Geographic channel. In the series they talk about how this or that plane crash happened, and then they dwell on its investigation in detail. And almost every time a plane crash occurred, when people died, after that some conclusions were made, for example, changes were made to the recommendations to the pilots or changes were made to the technical equipment of various types of aircraft. That is, almost never a plane crash that caused casualties did not remain without consequences that would help minimize the risk of such plane crashes in the future.

Thank God that in the case of the A321 Ural Airlines airplane, people’s lives were saved. But conclusions must be made here too.

E. Gracheva: Vladyka, there has recently been a precedent that has received wide media coverage. A woman ordered for her severely ill son the Frizium anticonvulsant drug that was not certified in Russia. As a result, she was detained by the police, she was threatened with a prison, but the charges were eventually dropped. But it is not the only one, for they also order other drugs that are not in our country. Are there lawyers in the Church who help such people and participate in their fate?

Metropolitan Hilarion: Yes, we have such lawyers. In particular, the Synodal Department for Charity and Social Service has free legal assistance provided by twenty professional lawyers; It has existed since 2013, and more than 2.5 thousand people have already taken advantage of it. In particular, our lawyers advise people who find themselves in a similar situation – people with disabilities who need medicines and cannot get them.

In addition to legal advice, a solution to the problem itself is also needed. Some drugs are not registered with us, but they are vital for one or another category of patients. This means that either amendments to the law should be made that would individually order the necessary drugs, or establish production of such drugs in Russia.

E. Gracheva: This year in our country for the first time in a long time, mortality exceeded the birth rate. In the village of Kursavka, Stavropol Territory, a woman in labor died on the operating table of the hospital – the cause of the death of a 24-year-old woman was heavy blood loss during a cesarean section. Doctors are accused of administering a double dose of pain medication to the patient and throwing one on the operating table.

There are cases when the ambulance is in no hurry to help the patient. On the one hand, deputies of the State Duma introduce criminal liability, for example, for drivers who obstruct ambulances on the roads. On the other hand, we have precedents when doctors themselves are in no hurry to save patients and most often evade criminal liability. Do you think that when such cases occur, maybe you need to tighten the responsibility immediately of the chief doctors of these hospitals or local ministers of health of the regions?

Metropolitan Hilarion: I think that a decision should be made in each case. But, above all, the perpetrators themselves must be held accountable. Naturally, from each such sad case, conclusions should be made regarding the leadership of the medical institution where this happened. But, first of all, you need to find out all the circumstances of what happened.

Not a single doctor is safe from the mistake, and if the existing practice of prosecuting medical errors continues to expand, this may lead to the fact that doctors will try not to intervene in difficult medical situations. They will be afraid of the risks associated with the treatment of severe patients.

On the other hand, if it is a matter of neglect of the patient, negligence that led to death, a judicial investigation is necessary here, the perpetrators must be found, they must be punished.

E. Gracheva: Vladyka, 2019 is the year of the fight against oncology in Russia. And it has grown by the latest data by one and a half percent. No need to go far for examples. This is what a familiar doctor from the 1st Oncology Center in Baumanskaya writes to me, where he worked for more than 25 years: “The head doctor quit in two weeks, scattered about a dozen doctors, only one employee remained in chemotherapy – the manager and one grandmother returned half-time from retirement. I still work in a private clinic. Our dispensary can no longer save anyone. He is dying. ” Vladyka, when you talk with parishioners who are being treated for oncology, doesn’t it feel like you have transferred such patients to paid medicine by default?

Metropolitan Hilarion: I don’t have this feeling. I know many parishioners who receive free medical services, including quite high-quality free medical services. But, of course, we have paid medicine. And it’s not a secret for anyone that even so calling free medicine as a result, in practice, for many it turns out to be paid.

If we talk about cancer, this is a very big problem, associated, in particular, with the general environmental situation and increasing stress levels in the lives of modern people. And therefore, in addition to the treatment of oncological diseases, their prevention is necessary, a healthy lifestyle is very important, which helps minimize the risk of developing such diseases.

I will give a very eloquent, in my opinion, an example known to everyone. It’s no secret that smoking many times increases the risk of lung cancer and other oncological diseases, but this does not deter young people from acquiring this bad habit. A lot of young people, including students, systematically smoke a lot and flaunt it in front of each other. So, some kind of explanatory work is not enough, maybe there is not enough reminder in the mass media, to what all this can lead.

In addition, many young people do not know at all that the risk of cancer with a fatal outcome is much higher for the young than for the elderly, because in a young body all processes, including the growth of malignant tumors, occur faster. In other words, smoking is much more risky for a young person than, for example, for a 60-70-year-old.

We must not forget about the medical examination. You must undergo a physical examination regularly, even if you feel completely healthy. Many neglect this – not only young, but also people of mature age, but, oncological diseases, in many cases, are treatable, and they are most successfully treatable when they are detected in the early stages.

A healthy lifestyle, the absence of bad habits, regular medical examination are the factors that can very significantly reduce the risk of cancer.

E. Gracheva: You correctly said not to be nervous …

Metropolitan Hilarion: A person cannot be forced not to be nervous if he is in a stressful situation. It is very important to understand how we perceive stressful situations, how we react to them. But, unfortunately, there are situations when a person really can’t do anything, but is nervous at the same time. We teach our parishioners that if you are powerless to do something, then there is no benefit in just sitting and worrying. It’s better to think about how you can help in this particular situation. Very often barren and harmful stress can be transformed into something useful and necessary.

E. Gracheva: Ivan Mamonov, a resident of Obolensk, faces seven years in prison because, while protecting his family, he hit a neighbor who burst into his house – according to the investigation, the man exceeded the permissible limits of self-defense. Vladyka, from the point of view of the Orthodox Christian, should the husband, the head of the family, protect himself and his relatives with the help of force?

Metropolitan Hilarion: Of course, he should, he was obliged to protect himself, and his family, his family, his wife and children. But the question of exceeding the means of self-defense is usually decided by the investigation, and only a very detailed study of all the circumstances of the incident can put an end to the investigation.

It is believed that Christianity calls for passivity before evil. Usually this opinion is based on the words of Christ that if you are hit on the right cheek, then substitute the left (Matt. 5:39). But the point here is not at all that one does not need to defend oneself, one does not need to protect others or oneself. The point is that if there is a certain conflict at the household level, then you do not need to foment this conflict, you do not need to try to answer the offender, because in this way the conflict will not end. If we talk about the protection of life, then every Christian is called to protect his own life and his loved ones from aggression.

In the second part of the program, Metropolitan Hilarion answered the questions of TV viewers received on the website of the Church and Peace program.

Question: Why is the apostle John called the apostle of love?

Metropolitan Hilarion: The Apostle John was a beloved disciple of Jesus Christ. At the Last Supper, he reclined at the bosom of Jesus, and Peter through him asked the Master about who would betray Him.

John was perhaps the only one of the twelve disciples who did not abandon Jesus Christ in the hours of His suffering, but stood at the cross with His Mother. It was to him that Christ dying on the cross entrusted His Mother.

But the apostle John is called the apostle of love, not only because he was a beloved disciple, but also because in his gospel Jesus Christ speaks of love more than in the other three gospels. It is in the Gospel of John that we read about how, at the Last Supper, Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love among you” (John 13:35).

Finally, John the Theologian is the author of not only the fourth Gospel, but also three epistles, the leitmotif of which is the theme of love. In particular, in the First Epistle, John the Evangelist says: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and He in him.”


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