On the day of Pascha, I was able to interview His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, at the Russian Charitable Organization of St Sergius of Radonezh before his departure for New York.
The Orthodox Christians of Australia know and love Vladyka Hilarion. It was in this very Diocesan house in Croydon, a suburb of Sydney, that he began his service as Archbishop, Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand, in 1996, at the age of 48.
The future hierarch was born in the town of Spirit River, Canada, to the family of immigrants from Volhynia. At the age of 19, he enrolled in Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY. After graduating, he was tonsured a monk at Holy Trinity Monastery. In 1976, he graduated from Syracuse University with a master’s degree in Slavic studies and Russian literature. For many years, he was the editor of the English-language version of Orthodox Life, also working as its typesetter. He was also sent to Jerusalem to help with the Mission. At the age of 36, he was consecrated Bishop of Manhattan, later assigned Bishop of Washington. From 1996-2008, he ruled the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. After the death of Metropolitan Laurus, he was elected Primate of ROCOR in May, 2008, and moved to New York, retaining his title as Ruling Bishop of Australia and New Zealand.
Since that time, Vladyka Hilarion tries to make one or two visits to Australia every year, visiting the parishes of the diocese, whose parishioners remember and love him.
— Vladyka, you just spent about five weeks in Australia.
— I enjoy visiting the Australian diocese. I spent most of the time in Sydney, less time visiting parishes in other cities. I was very happy to participate in Paschal services at the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul in Strathfield and see how many young people came to pray, and a large number of acolytes. The services were joyous and imparted me with great inner strength.
I was happy to greet Bishop George, my vicar, who zealously tends to the ecclesial life of our clergy and is always welcoming. I want to thank the clergymen themselves as well for their zealous service. Every year we have a Great Lenten retreat for the clerics; parishioners make confession at their churches, while the retreat gives our clergymen a chance to make confession, but also to hear lectures and gain spiritual support and renewal through confession. All our clergymen gathered in Sydney for this event.
— Any important events at this parish this year?
— In mid-November, there will be a Diocesan Assembly, which takes place once every three years. Reports on the life of the diocese are prepared, the diocesan council is elected for the next three-year period, and the clergy and flock spend time together.
— How is your health; many were troubled by reports of your illness last year.
— I have a serious illness, but it’s curable. I am in good health at this time.
— What can you say about the dioceses of ROCOR today?
— The number of parishioners is growing, not declining, in our dioceses, especially in Eastern America, a diocese I head. Parishes are being added, both Russian- and English-speaking and missionary work is continuing. One can say that Orthodox Christianity is growing in America, existing parishes are being renovated, new ones being built.
It should be noted that parish activity in Australia is not waning, either. A convent is being built in Bungarby, several parishes are undergoing renovations. This year there were over 8,000 worshipers gathering for Paschal services in the diocese, almost a thousand came to SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in Sydney for Paschal night services, at which Metropolitan Hilarion officiated.