"I remember them telling us that we just missed it — Putin had been there. He made a holy pilgrimage to Mount Athos and this monastery."
Editor's note: In April, 2018, a group of Orthodox Christians gathered at a church in Cleveland, Ohio, asking various questions about life in Russia. This video clip is an excerpt from that event. A person in the audience recorded this with his iPhone, so the video quality is sometimes sketchy, but hopefully the viewer will find this clip to be helpful and interesting.
Fr. Joseph: I could talk for a long time about what I have seen and experienced and what I think is really interesting, but I'm curious: What are your questions? When you think about Russia, what comes to mind when you say, "What is it like?"
Woman: I actually have a question on what you just said, because I was shocked to read an article — I forget where, like Time or something — about the piety of President Putin.
Fr. Joseph: Yes.
Woman: What is your understanding of that? I mean, is he truly a practicing Orthodox Christian?
Fr. Joseph: He absolutely is, and he goes to Orthodox monasteries far more often than any American President that I am aware of.
Fr. Joseph: Of either party!
Fr. Joseph: Bright Week last year, Al and Caleb, and I, and my two boys were on Mount Athos. We visited St. Panteleimon's Monastery, which is the gigantic Russian Orthodox monastery on Mount Athos, and we also were at Vatopedi. I remember them telling us that we just missed it — about a week or two before we arrived at St. Panteleimon's Monastery, Putin had been there. He had come with his whole entourage to make a holy pilgrimage to Mount Athos and this monastery.
You know, there are videos of him in Paschal processions. He speaks publicly about the importance of upholding the Christian faith and how, for a country to survive — you know, they don't really believe in the "separation of Church and state" thing. The Russians don't see the point of that. They say, "No, we have to obey Christ. We have to follow Christ. Religion has to be a central part of what we're about. How can we be separate from that? Christ should dictate what we do."
Don't get me wrong; there are a number of things where Russian policies could and should be more Christian. They still have a long way to go. But I'll tell you what: They're way better than where they were 50 years ago! Infinitely better.
Transcript courtesy of Dormition Professional Services
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