Met. Anthony (Pakanich): «Vladyka Amfilohije is a holy man»

Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanich) talks about personal meetings with Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, his service and holiness.

– Vladyka, you have met Vladyka Amfilohije many times. What are the main impressions?

– This is a holy man. Saint in all forms. It is probably difficult to find a more popularly recognized authority in the Church. A real national spiritual leader! His departure is a huge loss for the people of Montenegro, and for Serbia, and for South America, which he nursed. And for many Orthodox Christians on all continents of our planet.

– Did you meet in Montenegro?

– I learned about Vladyka Amfilohije when I was a student. He was one of the foremost contemporary Orthodox theologians.We read his works, and when he arrived at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, we had the opportunity to communicate with him.

But already a closer acquaintance happened when I was the rector of the Kiev Theological Academy. Metropolitan Amfilohije was awarded the degree of Doctor of Theology (which, by the way, we didn’t have time to award him).

While in Montenegro, I watched how he loved his people, how worried about the situation in the country.

It is well known that Vladyka Amfilohije was surrounded by the popular love of the Montenegrins, young and old. He was called father, mother, grandfather and apostle. What is the secret of this recognition and respect?

He was the real father of the people. Sermons by vl. Amfilohije were always filled with such inner gospel strength and love, were sorelevant and timely that people perceived his words as addressed to them personally. He was close and dear to everyone.

Love for people, care for their flock was constantly manifested.

A year ago, Vladyka invited me to the celebration of the day of the Archangel Michael. The Serbian Church doesn’t have a name day or a namesake, traditional in our understanding, but has its own holiday, the Day of the Glory of the Cross – theday of the patron saint of the family. It is passed down from generation to generation. The patron saint of the Radović family is Archangel Michael.

And after the Divine Liturgy, I saw a picture of how, at 82, Vladyka was on his feet all day, surrounded by people who constantly came and wanted to congratulate him. Then we said goodbye briefly, because people came and came…As we were later told, he accepted congratulations all week.

He was part of his Montenegrin people. The Orthodoxy of the Montenegrin land is inseparably linked with Vladyka Amfilohije. He became its bishop when the socialist regime fell and through his efforts the church life was revived: churches were built, monasteries were opened. More than 700 restored churches and monasteries after such devastation and desolation.

Moreover, monasteries were opened not just as buildings or architectural complexes, but as real monasteries. Knowing his spiritual way and love for monasticism, many people came to Montenegro from different parts of the world to takemonastic vowsfrom his hands. He gave monastic vows each and every one personally. There were many immigrants from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus.

His monastic path is also unique in that he communicated with saints who have already been canonized by the Church today. He was a spiritual disciple of the venerable Justin (Popović) and venerable Paisios of Mount Athos. They were united by spiritual friendship, unity of spirit.

An ascetic of our time. A brave and sincere opponent of any church schisms. Of course, humanly I wanted such courageous people, strong, authoritative, and he was one of the most authoritative theologians and hierarchs in the entire Orthodox world, to be with us longer. His words in defense of the canonical order, especially in our Ukrainian situation, have always been very weighty and accurate. Many hierarchs of other Local Churches were guided byhim.

In this regard, his departure is sad for us, but I think that he will be the defender of the Orthodox Church already there, in Heaven, when he will pray at the throne of God and ask the Lord that He would enlighten us all and send down unity and correct understanding, and responsibility for the fate of the Orthodox Church.

– Vladyka, you were at the funeral service for Met. Amfilohije. Share your impressions.

– The feeling that the whole country was at the funeral. National love was also manifested in this mournful hour, when the Lord accepted his soul.

Mournful from the point of view of earthly life. The Lord Himself knows when to give us life, when to take. The main feeling at a funeral is the connection of the incompatible. On the one hand, there is a crowd of thousands of people crying, and everyone is crying – children, adults, young men. But there is no despondency from this cry. Crying from despair, tearing the soul apart is one thing. And here was a light cry, filling with hope.

Vladyka Amfilohije managed to educate the Montenegrin flock with a correct attitude not only to life, but also to death. This cry was an inner spiritual joy and triumph for the Montenegrin land, when she saw off her son and her father on the last journey. Vladyka Amfilohije became the father of a people who were not afraid to endure anything for the sake of the Church and gave himself all to revive Itand Itprospered.

A lot of people came to say goodbye – thewhole square was filled in front of the Cathedral, which he built. Vladyka did everything thoroughly and with a spiritual meaning. And the cathedral as well.

– What was the meaning behind the construction?

– If you look at the beautiful large Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Podgorica, you will notice that the lower part of the temple consists of rough cobblestones, above is processed stone, and at the very top you can see thin tiles of jewelery stone. The stones for the construction of the cathedral were brought, by the way, from all over Montenegro.

The lower rough stones are like people who have just come to the Church: raw, rough, with angles, irregularities, roughness and roughness. The stones above are people who are gradually being transformed in the Church by the grace of the Spirit of God, which cuts off all irregularities and irregularities. The stones at the very top are those who truly grow in the Church and are already becoming a work of art.

– The Orthodox world today is terribly divided. What can be done to unite?

– Bravely adhere to the Truth. As Saint Mark of Ephesus said: «Never, ohman, what belongs to the Church, is not corrected through a compromise: there is nothing between truth and falsehood».

Now is a difficult page in the history of the Church. Both the Ukrainian and Montenegrin Churches are experiencing persecution and seizure. Let us remember howbehavedMet. Amfilohije all this time.

When the past Montenegrin government decided to seize the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Vladyka bravely stood up for his defense. And the people heard his voice. Lifting the spirits of hundreds of thousands of people for their faith and Church. A real miracle!

When Vladyka learned that someone had been arrested, he came to the police and said: arrest me, and let them go, I am the instigator of all this.

Despite his years and illnesses, he didn’t hide, but was ready to go to jail, if only those people would be released.

Courage and purity are examples to follow. Kind and firm. A real Warrior of Christ!

We will prayerfully remember him with the hope that he will soon pray for us at the throne of the Lord.

Interviewed by Natalia Goroshkova

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