ENGLISH VERSION: “I have two assumptions about the reasons for which Archbishop Andrei (Maklakov) was denied entry to Russia”, says Fr. MIKHAIL ARDOV, Senior Priest of ROAC’s Church of New Martyrs of Russia at Golovinskoye Cemetery in Moscow
Portal-Credo.Ru: On September 16 Archbishop Andrei (Maklakov), administrator of the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) abroad to which you also belong, was stopped at the border control outpost in Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, placed in some prison-like premises for almost 24 hours and then deported to the US. You were meeting Archbishop Andrei in the airport and in a way you were a witness to this incident. Could you please tell us who is Archbishop Andrei and what is his role in today’s ecclesiastical world.
Protopriest Mikhail Ardov: He is a really remarkable man, a true-born American. His former name was Michael McLaughlin and he was born in a Roman Catholic family. He went to study in Rome, but was disillusioned about Catholicism and converted to Orthodoxy. Later he entered the Seminary of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), acquired Russian language to a very high level and changed his surname – out of Russophilia – to Maklakov.
Moreover, he is an extremely important figure for us due to the fact that he had been keeping alive the relationship between ROAC and ROCOR before the latter was fully subordinated to Moscow’s agents. Archbishop Andrei was a cell-attendant to Holy Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) and an assistant to Bishop Gregory (Grabbe).
In early September when I was in the US I took part in a service jointly with Archbishop Andrei in a small temple located in the basement of the house where Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) (+ 1996) spent the last years of his life, and we had a very warm conversation. On September 16 I and my car-driving assistant went to Vnukovo Airport in order to meet him and take him to Suzdal. All that happened afterwards was like a bad dream.
- What did you see in the airport?
- We saw all passengers who arrived by the from New York come out of the gate in this vast new air terminal in Vnukovo but there was no Archbishop Andrei among them. We got nervous. For two hours we were simply going mad, were running out of the building time and again to look for him. How could we miss him, we kept asking ourselves. Theinformationdeskinthisairportisononeoftheupperfloors, quitefaraway. Two hours later we came up to this information desk – I was wearing my cassock and had a crucifix on my chest — and asked whether an archbishop from America had arrived. Was he dressed like this, they asked pointing at me. Yes, I said, he was probably wearing a cassock and had a crucifix and a panhagia on his chest.
And then, at last the lady at the information desk made a phone call to the airport’s border control. They told her that Archbishop Andrei had been detained because of "his papers being not in order" and that he was to be "deported back to America". We were very saddened by this piece of news and we went away without any idea of how to call him. As is known, you cannot get connected to a US mobile phone number when calling from Russia.
- But weren’t you able to call the detained archbishop later?
- At around 7 o’clock in the evening my mobile phone rang and I heard the voice of His Grace Andrei. He was sitting in some kind of a room with other people, mostly from Tajikistan, who were waiting to be deported from our marvelous country. He said that a good man had given him the phone so that he could call me. Thank God, I could hear that he was all right.
- What were the conditions in which he was placed?
- He was there for about 24 hours. Being a monk, he never eats meat. But only meat food was offered to the deportees. When he said that he did not eat meat he was offered a chicken. As a result, he could only eat bread and drink water. On the next day he informed me of the number of the flight by which he was to be deported. So, when I expected him to be back in New York or in the airport I rang him. He said that he had landed safely and that he was on the way to his home and place of service.
- Why, do you think, was Archbishop Andrei barred from coming to Russia?
- I have two assumptions. One of the reasons, I think, was his rather naive comment on the events in Ukraine. ItwasmadebeforeYanukovich’sgetaway. The other reason was that he had been informing the US State Department of the facts of persecution against our Church. Probably one of his comments on this matter attracted attention making him become a persona non grata.
- Was he given any explanation?
- As I understand, no explanation was given. According to him, he was told that his three-year visa may become valid again next year. But if I were him, I would not fly to Russia just like that, I would go the Russian Consulate and find out. As you know, anything can be expected from these gentlemen – he may come and get deported again. After all, he is not young and he is not in perfect health — these were my other causes for concern. Oh, well, he is an enduring sort of person and a genuine Christian.
- Were you able to go to the border control outpost and find out what was going on?
- Oh, don't say that! The fact that we were able to find out something was a major success. No one has any access there. We know this agency and its rules.
- However, they have divisions in charge of public relations that may have been asked for comment...
- We know that there is no use in doing this.
Fr Mikhail Ardov was interviewed by Vladimir Oivin,