SAN FRANCISCO: May 7, 2006
The Opening Ceremonies of the IV All-Diaspora Council Are Held
On the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-bearing Women, May 7, 2006, the opening ceremonies were held for the IV All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) at the Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco, CA.
The opening of the Council began with a solemn Divine Liturgy, at which the First Hierarch of the ROCOR, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, officiated. His Eminence was joined in the service by a representative of the Serbian Orthodox Church and honorary delegate of the Council, His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands, all the archpastors of ROCOR already present and delegates in priestly rank.
Protopriest Nikolai Artemoff of the German Diocese delivered the sermon. Fr Nikolai spoke on the podvig of the Holy Myrrh-bearing Women in their devotion to Christ. The women endured a terrible night of sorrow caused by separation from their Divine Teacher. But "light yet shines in the darkness." The Lord defeated death through His death, scattered the darkness and granted His followers joy and great mercy. Fr Nikolai recalled that after the Bolshevik revolution, Holy Patriarch Tikhon said that the night of godlessness temporarily reigned in Russia and called upon the flock of the Russian Church to preserve their Orthodox faith, so that through their prayers and labor of faithfulness to Christ, the Sun of Truth would once again rise over the much-suffering land. The Apostles, Myrrh-bearing Women and other followers of Christ suffered the death of their Teacher in different ways, but it is important to remember that they continued to live in conciliarity. This is an outstanding example for the children of the great Church of Russia, said Fr Nikolai. If we preserve unity even in the face of certain differences, we will become worthy of illumination by the light of Christ, which will impart to us the grace-filled power to overcome mistrust and lead to God-pleasing church unity.
After liturgy, a moleben was performed to invoke the aid of the Holy Spirit, "for the participants of the holy Council gathered from the entire diaspora awaiting the grace of the Holy Spirit and beseeching Divine help and intercession…"
At 4 pm, the delegates gathered at the Cathedral to participate in the opening ceremony of the IV All-Diaspora Council. An ancient Gospel and cross lay on an analogion in the middle of the church. A table for the archpastors was placed before the ambo. In front of the iconostasis, on either side of the Royal Doors, were analogia with holy icons. As the Protectress of the Russian diaspora, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, was brought into the Cathedral, everyone sang the troparion to the Mother of God "Having obtained thee as an unassailable rampart."
His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, President of the Pre-Council Committee, read the gramata [decree of blessing] of the Synod of Bishops on the opening of the IV All-Diaspora Council, which states, in part:
"Our Lord and God Jesus Christ Who established His Holy Church for our salvation look down upon our Council with the eye of loving-kindness, and may He send us the Holy Spirit and shield us with His Grace, may He enlighten our minds, make our counsel wise, strengthen our will, instill in us love and zeal for all good works; may He grant us unity of spirit in peace and love and direct all actions of the Council to the fulfillment of His commandment: seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Truth. May He direct us also to glorify His Holy Name, so that with one heart and one mouth we may steadfastly confess One God in the Trinity unto ages of ages."
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, the President of the Council, then declared the IV All-Diaspora Council open, after which the members of the Council sang "Christ is Risen," the Creed and "Today the Grace of the Holy Spirit."
The Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of San Francisco and Western America, His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill, greeted all those in attendance and delivered an address in which he asked the delegates to "constructively study the past and not condemn it with our sinful natures."
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus then delivered an address in which he gave a comprehensive history of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, her contemporary life, dialog with the Moscow Patriarchate and her prospects for the future. His Eminence stressed that the ROCOR always considered herself a canonical part of the great Russian Church and yearned for the reestablishment of the ecclesiastical unity rent asunder by historical events. The leaders of the ROCOR, Blessed Metropolitan Anthony and Metropolitan Anastassy and Metropolitan Philaret of blessed memory untiringly spoke of this. In connection with the 100 th anniversary of the episcopal consecration of Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev) of San Francisco and Western America of blessed memory, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus suggested that Eternal Memory be sung. (Link to His Eminence's address.)
The fraternal greeting of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia and the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church was then read by His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands. After the honored guest spoke, the delegates sang Eternal Memory to the reposed leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Dimitri, Patriarch Varnava and Patriarch Gabriel, each of whom had played a great role in the life of the ROCOR.
His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion then read the greetings sent by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia; His Holiness the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II; His Holiness Patriarch Maksim of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church; the Holy Kinot of Holy Mount Athos; and the abbot of the Vvedensky Optina Hermitage, Schema-Hegumen Ilia. His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion noted that greetings were also received from the Governor of the State of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a series of other ecclesiastical and social organizations.
The Opening of the Council concluded with the singing of the Paschal sticheron as the delegates were sprinkled with holy water and greeted each other with the Paschal kisses.