Interview with Metropolitan PHILIP, page 3
Fr. Peter Gillquist: What have been your biggest disappointments in your service as Metropolitan?
Metro PHILIP: I would say the lack of progress toward Orthodox unity. Back in 1966, when I was consecrated Archbishop, in that beautiful monastery where I started my life in the church, St. Elias Monastery, I have been obsessed with two things. One, the unity of the Antiochian Orthodox people in North America. I was convinced that I must first put my house in order. Before I unite orthodoxy, I must unite the Antiochian people, people of this archdiocese. That was accomplished. The second burning desire which I have is the unity of orthodoxy in North America. Contrary to what many people believe, that I want to abolish all cultures, that's not my intention at all. I have been preaching unity with diversity. Those who want to be Serbians and have a slava at every feast, let them have it. Let them do that. If the Greeks want to do the Greek dance, let them do that. If the Antiochians want to do the dabke, let them do that. (It's a form of dance.) Let them do that.
We could be united if we could have a synod in this country, a synod of bishops in this country, and start experimenting. For example, take western Pennsylvania. We have many churches which belong to the OCA, we have Antiochian parishes. We have Greek parishes, we have Serbian parishes, Carpatho-Russian etc. We could put a bishop in western Pennsylvania to shepherd all these parishes there and if this bishop is wise, he can learn a little bit of Greek, a little bit of Russian. Our people are in this country and the language is English. They all understand English. When we go to work, we speak English, but when we go to church, we speak different languages. Why? It doesn't make sense to me. Well, there are positive signs. For example, our young people are sold on this unity. I can speak of the – about the Antiochians, the Antiochian youth, and the Antiochian people in general. We pray for this unity, they are for this unity, but we would like others to join us in this spiritual venture.
My disappointment in this regard, that we have not made a great deal of progress at all. SCOBA is not very active really. SCOBA could have done much to enhance this unity but we did not do much through SCOBA. We did not even communicate with our clergy, telling them to have inter-Orthodox relations on the local level. In some places, our Orthodox people don't know each other. Our clergy even don't know each other on the local level. So we need a great deal of work in this area and we have not progressed much. This is precisely why I am disappointed.
Fr. Peter Gillquist: How have you changed personally since becoming Metropolitan? What has this responsibility done to you?
Metro PHILIP: I became more realistic when I became Metropolitan in 1966. You know, there is an expression in the, I think, either in the Book of Acts or in the Epistles of St. Paul that they were someplace preaching and the people said (this group of Christians), "They're turning the world upside down." During the early days of my episcopacy, I wanted to turn the world upside down. I wanted to bring peace to the Middle East. And for your information, I had my heart attack in the State Department. When I was pleading the cause of the Palestinian refugees, and at that time I met with Lyndon Johnson and I was very disappointed with the meeting. I was very idealistic and I did not accept things the way they were. I had this drive, this drive to change, change, change according to my calendar. When I had my heart attack in Washington, D.C., in '68, I realized that things do not happen according to my calendar but according to His, to God's calendar; that things are going to happen in His time, not my time. I reconciled myself to this fact, that Philip Saliba cannot change the world. He can help, but he cannot do it by himself. It takes the grace of God, it takes the power of God, takes the synergy, this work between us and God, I mean salvation is a cooperation between us and God, between the human and the divine. So I realized after my heart attack and open-heart surgery that I must pace myself and change what I can change and accept what I cannot change, and say "Thy will be done."
Fr. Peter Gillquist: Sayidna what gives you the most hope for the church in the decade ahead?
Metro PHILIP: Well, Father Peter, our church is a church of hope. Our Lord said, "Lo, I will be with you until the end of time." So as long as He is in the church, our Christ, the Savior is in the church, as long as the Holy Spirit is working in the church – I mean in every baptism, there is a Pentecost. In every wedding, there is a Pentecost. In every Divine Liturgy, there is a Pentecost. So the Holy Spirit is still working in the church. What happened in the life of the Antiochian Archdiocese – I don't want to talk about others. Let me talk about the Antiochian Archdiocese. In 1966, we had 65 parishes. Today, we have 253 parishes. We almost quadrupled the size of the archdiocese. Why? We've been working. I mean through the Department of Mission and Evangelism, which you chair, and those who are working with you, those who are working with us, I think people know us know but they should know us more. Certain groups are being torn asunder, certain Christian groups, and I think they should know that we exist. They should know that we are the church, as you call it, the Church of the New Testament, the church which was born on Pentecost day. We are the Church of Christ and we're here. Come and see, you see. Come and see. This is the church.