Consecration of the Patriarchal Church of the Holy Trinity and Premises of the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions in Brussels
The consecration of the Holy Trinity patriarchal representation church in Brussels and adjacent premises of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Representation to the European international organizations took place on March 30, 2003.
The consecration was carried out by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, accompanied by Archbishop Simon of Brussels and Belgium, Archbishop Innokenty of Korsun, Bishop Hilarion of Podolsk, clergy of the Brussels and Belgian diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as representatives of other Orthodox Churches. The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Belgium S. Kislyak, the Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova to the Kingdom of Belgium M. Popov, Bishop L. de Hoovre (Roman Catholic Church), the Abbot of the Chevetogne monastery Fr Philippe, the President of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Antwerpen Mrs Hilde Kieboom and other distinguished guests also attended the consecration.
After the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Kirill greeted those gathered and gave a sermon (see below). Concluding his speech, Metropolitan Kirill conferred upon those present the blessing of His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and presented an icon of the Blessed Virgin to the newly-consecrated church.
Sermon by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kalinigrad
Your Eminences, Your Graces, Your Excellencies, dear fathers, brothers and sisters!
Today an important event has taken place in Brussels – the consecration of a Russian orthodox church. Yesterday I remembered how I came to Brussels for the first time 34 years ago and celebrated the Divine Liturgy in our church of St Nicholas on rue de Chevaliers. It was a Sunday and there were about ten people in church. It was very sad to behold such a small flock for one who had just come from Russia. Indeed, those who founded the parish were members of the first Russian emigration, most of whom had already passed away by that time. We always remember with gratitude the founders of the first Russian church in Brussels, which became a place to connect with one’s Church, homeland and fellow countrymen. This church brought people together and united them to God.
Back then, 34 years ago, arose the question ‘What will happen to the Russian Orthodox Church in Brussels and Western Europe?’ It was impossible to imagine that a time would come when the church on rue de Chevaliers would not be able to accommodate all the parishioners. When this actually began to happen, there arose the necessity of either constructing a new church or purchasing an already existing one in Brussels. This question attracted much interest from the Patriarch and the Holy Synod, who addressed the President of the Russian Federation, requesting assistance in the acquisition or building of a church in Brussels. At first we were thinking of constructing a church, but God designed to solve this problem in another way, and the church in which we are praying now was purchased. And what is also important – people were found who gave their money so that this might be part of the Russian Orthodox Church. I would like to sincerely thank all of those who donated their funds for the acquisition of this church.
As you know, Brussels has become the centre of a united Europe. It is precisely here, in Brussels, that the architecture of a future single, united Europe is being created. Already today thousands and thousands of Orthodox Christians belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate live in the European Union, and soon other Eastern European countries, in which still more of our flock live, will join. Here in Brussels, legislative norms are being created which will become binding for all Europeans, something which is of great interest to the Orthodox Church. What kind of society shall we live in when a single European home is built? What kind of home will it be? According to which laws will it live? What will be the place of God? Will there be any place for Christian values or will these values be locked up in tiny private rooms? Will European society be inspired by Christian values or will it be pagan? All of these questions can hardly be ignored by the Church.
Just as the Church in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and other republics of the former Soviet Union participates in legislative processes today, protecting the right of Christians to be guided by their values in everyday life, so does the Church consider it absolutely necessary to do the same in united Europe. The necessity of protecting Christian values in the life of Europeans is understood today by all Orthodox Churches. The Catholic Church also understands this well. This is why Churches today actively conduct dialogue with the European Union. Several years ago it became necessary for the Russian Church to create a delegation to the Union. At first it was headed by Archbishop Longin, who lives in Dusseldorf, Germany.
However, it soon became clear that it was impossible to carry out regular work with the European Institutions, not having a permanent representation here. Then the Patriarch and the Holy Synod decided to open the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions in Brussels. Fr Paul, dean of the Church of St Nicholas, was given the task of finding premises for this mission. The Russian Church transferred an initial sum of money and then, thanks to the efforts of Fr Paul, additional funds were found here. Thanks to God, this church and the adjacent house were acquired so that there might be, in addition to a church, a permanent Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions in Brussels. Since the representation acts on behalf of the entire Russian Orthodox Church, of the Patriarch and the Holy Synod, it should be under the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarch. The Church of the Holy Trinity was given the title of Patriarchal stavropegic metochion in Brussels precisely because in this church and in this Representation the interests of the entire Russian Church are presented and defended before all of united Europe.
I would like to sincerely thank Fr Paul, the dean of this parish, both for fulfilling the obedience given to him and for the manner in which he fulfilled it.
I would also like to warmly greet His Grace Hilarion, Bishop of Podolsk, who has been assigned as Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions in Brussels. The fulfillment of the highly responsible task of defending the interests of Orthodox people in Europe is a tremendous work. This work of cooperation of the Russian Church with the European Institutions has been entrusted to Bishop Hilarion and his aides. I would like to warmly wish you success, dear Vladyka. You have been given a very important obedience to fulfill. Remember that you are responsible for millions of Orthodox believers who live in united Europe. For them, Europe should be their home, and for Europe to be a home for our faithful, Christ must be present in it. Leaning on the support of other Orthodox believers and of our Roman Catholic brethren, work for the glory of God, strengthening Christian values in the life of the European continent. And may God’s help be with you and with your colleagues!
I would also like to sincerely thank Archbishop Simon for his many years of tending the flock in Belgium. It is precisely during your archpastoral service, dear Vladyka, that this wonderful increase in the Brussels flock has taken place. Under your episcopal care this flock has grown, and you have kept it safe and nurtured it. I would like to ask you to continue your service in Brussels as the ruling bishop of the Belgian diocese, continuing to care for our people here with the sincerity, warmth and simplicity for which everyone knows you.
I would like to confer upon you, dear brothers and sisters, the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch. Of course, he knows what is happening today in Brussels. The Patriarch has been to Brussels many times and is familiar with the life of the church here. He asked me to give all of you his patriarchal blessing and urge you to live a Christian life.
And now I would like to answer a very important question – why do we need churches? Until quite recently people in our country thought that we did not need them to be happy. We relied on the might of the most powerful country in the world. Colossal material means, the power of a huge state, science, education and a mighty army were at our disposal, and everything was directed toward affirming life, making it happy and just. But something was lacking – there was no God in these efforts. We believed that by relying on our human powers it would be possible to create a happy and just life. We, our fathers and grandfathers were wrong. It turned out that this was impossible to do, and at the end of the 20th century all these efforts finally came to an end. Many thought that God had left us, but if we think about it, He did not leave us, but was teaching us. We endured sufferings, sorrows, the collapse of a united country, the division of families and poverty in order to understand that by relying on our own powers and only on our own powers, it is impossible to be truly happy.
True happiness is given by the grace of God. This is why our exhausted people have turned to God. This is why over the past 10 years about 15,000 new parishes, over 600 new monasteries and around 60 theological seminaries and academies have been opened. This is why over 10,000 monks and 20,000 priests have begun their service to God. But the most important thing is that our people have begun to frequent God’s churches, feeling with their minds and hearts the necessity of God’s presence in their lives. Perhaps, through the example of our sorrow and tragic historical experience, through the prayers of the martyrs and confessors of Russia, the Lord revealed to us a very important truth: there is no life without God. And today we must share this truth with others, perhaps, first of all, here in Europe, where many have forgotten Christian values, where many have stopped going to church. We must do everything we can, along with our Christian brothers and sisters in Europe, so that people once again might put their faith in Christ and rediscover what it means to be a Christian.
At first sight, the event that took place here today could be called local or insignificant. But in fact it is a momentous event. People who have endured much suffering and have found God are bearing witness today to the entire world, this city and country, to what Christ means in their lives. Keep the faith! Rely on it in your lives! Live by it! Guide your personal, family and social actions by it. Then our lives will become different. Then, indeed, the light of Christ will enlighten all of us. With these thoughts, this hope and this faith we consecrate thousands of new churches and will continue to do this in the future! It is our people who want this: our people, who have come to God through their suffering and trials. May the Lord bless all of us, may the protection of the Most Pure Queen of Heaven keep us from all evil, may God’s peace remain in our hearts. In this church you will meet with God, in your hearts you will feel His presence, and you will return home to your families and homes strengthened by His grace. It will be so because we believe that God is with us.