The Russian Soyuz Orthodox TV channel asked Archpriest Alexander Abramov, rector of the Church of the Venerable Sergius of Radonezh in Krapivniki, Moscow, to comment on this unusual initiative.
—The building of a “church” for Christians, Jews and Muslims is to begin in the center of Berlin. The joint project of three religions will be called the “House of One”. The beginning of the construction work is scheduled for 2019. In your view, is it possible that the project of a house of prayer for three religions will become the new “Tower of Babel”?
—In such cases I always ask the following question: who asked them to do it? Where are the thousands or millions of people who are going to worship there? Who are the authors of this initiative? This is the way things are usually done. As a rule a group of eccentrics, driven by good intentions, gather and say: “All of us belong to the Abrahamic religions, have the same roots, and confess monotheism. Now we will do it (build the House of One), resolve all our differences and will pray side by side henceforth. It will be a great joy!” These eccentrics often become totalitarian prisoners of their own ideas and begin to carry out their plans.
I personally regard these things as very utopian. I remember one man who wanted to prove to me that it was necessary to build a temple of the Abrahamic religion on the Moon so that it could be seen from the Earth. I asked him, “Why do we need this temple? Who will need it?” And he replied, “Thus we will show the majesty of our God.” I argued, “But can’t we see the greatness of our Creator by looking at the Moon without building a gigantic church on it?! Isn’t it true that we glorify the Almighty while admiring the beautiful things He created? Don’t we praise our Heavenly Father when we look up at the Sun?” We sing during the Orthodox services: “From the rising of the Sun to its setting The Name of the Lord is to be praised.” In my opinion, not only is this idea utopian and ludicrous, it doesn’t solve any problems to boot.
—But it seems to me that they want to tackle the problem of the influx of refugees in Europe, they aim to reconcile them somehow… This much vaunted tolerance…
—I would suggest visiting such reconciliation centers even in Moscow. We do have a few centers of this kind with a mosque standing next to them. Each of them is a complex of buildings and not a single structure. For example, a mosque and an Orthodox church, or a mosque, an Orthodox church and a synagogue. Will you see any people going inside the mosque, then the Orthodox church, and then the synagogue for worship? No! You’ll never see them to that.
When it comes to migrants, mosques should be built in Europe for them. It is because most of the migrants are Muslims by origin. We shouldn’t show off and indulge in illusions about “creating a new religious movement”. Even if we take Christians, various denominations have been in the state of conflict for centuries, and we, Orthodox, have serious and nearly unsolvable arguments and disagreements with Roman Catholics… Given this, can we speak about any religious syncretism? What is its purpose and who will benefit from it? The Name of God won’t be glorified this way. The Name of God is glorified only when you have confidence in the truth of the faith you confess and do what God tells you to do.
Does God really want us to devote our lives to some meaningless endeavor that is not even mentioned in the Holy Scriptures? What can we say about its effects? It will be a tinsel show! Of course, there will be a grand ceremony, with the participation of numerous state figures who will cut a ribbon… And, as is the case with all such artificial enterprises, the building will stand empty after that. Currently the Catholics and Orthodox are implementing their joint peace-making initiatives in Syria. That is a real path to cooperation and it does not involve matters of religious confession.
Matters of religious confession are extremely intimate and cannot be subjects for dialogue. Then why do we believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, if we claim that everything in the world is a subject for dialogue? And if so, we’d better believe in 100 Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Churches instead! But we proclaim that the Church is one, and therefore, a dialogue on topics we have ruled out has no future and will lead us nowhere.
—Thank you very much!