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RUSSIAN ECCLESIASTICAL MISSION IN JERUSALEM: August 30, 2006
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus visits Gethsemane and Bethany

On August 30, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, prayed at Divine Liturgy at Gethsemane Convent, at which His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany officiated, along with Hieromonk Nicholas (Perekrestov), Secretary of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, and Deacon Nicholas Olhovsky. During Liturgy, His Eminence Archbishop Alypy, who celebrates his namesday today, was specially commemorated,. At the trapeza prepared by the Convent nuns, His Eminence expressed his deep gratitude to the Abbess and her fellow nuns for their warm reception and requested their holy prayers for the safe return of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, scheduled to depart for the US on September 1.

Then, at the request of Abbess Elizabeth, His Eminence Vladyka Laurus gave a detailed account of the progress of talks with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, stressing that the Hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is seeking peace, friendly coexistence and prayerful and Eucharistic communion with the Church in the Fatherland. In his address, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia noted that the Moscow Patriarchate has glorified and continues to glorify the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, and that its participation in the ecumenical movement is completely different than during the Soviet years. The Moscow Patriarchate has condemned the so-called "branch theory" and all sorts of joint prayers with heretics, which falls in line with the anathema against the ecumenical movement adopted by the Council of Bishops of 1983. In addition, His Eminence emphasized other positive phenomena in the life of the Church in Russia, especially underlining the piety of the people of the Church. We must welcome and nourish positive events and phenomena within church life in Russia, for we, the children of the Russian diaspora, are called upon not only to preserve Orthodox Russia outside her borders, but also to serve her, and help in every way possible, support her rebirth, and especially support her healthy ecclesiastical forces which disseminate Holy Russian ideals in the Church and in society at large. In conclusion, His Eminence once again thanked Abbess Elizabeth and all the nuns of Gethsemane for their warm reception and for carrying on the podvig of monastic life in the Holy Land. After the prayer, His Eminence spoke with Abbess Elizabeth in her residence, then visited the nuns who conduct their obedience in various workshops of the convent.

That same day, His Eminence visited Bethany, the "house of dates" or "poor house," on the north-east slope of the Mount of Olives. Here lies a small Russian parcel of land acquired in 1909 by the Chief of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, Archimandrite Leonid (Sentsov), for the needs of Russian pilgrims. The buildings erected here through the efforts of Abbess Mary and her assistants were subsequently joined into one compound. In 1936, a boarding school for girls was established here. It offers a general curriculum plus the following subjects: Sacred History, Catechism, the History of the Church, Russian, Church Music; at the present time, 365 students are enrolled. The aim of the school is primarily missionary: to give Orthodox Arabs an understanding of Orthodoxy. During construction, various traces of ancient piety were discovered: the foundation of a church- or chapel-like building and a few caves in the cliffs of the courtyard. A square-cut limestone boulder was found which appears to be a portal stone for a church. Inscribed, in Greek, are the following words: "Here Martha and Maria heard from the Lord the sermon on the Resurrection of the deadů the Lordů" The rest of the inscription is lost. A chapel now stands on the site with a domed cupola, where every year, on Lazarus Saturday, the clergy of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem perform a solemn service with a procession of the cross and blessing of the waters.

At the entrance to the Orthodox School of Bethany, His Eminence Vladyka and the members of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was greeted by Nun Martha, the Director, who showed them the holy items of Bethany and the school building. Here she offered the guests lunch. His Eminence Vladyka wished God's all-empowering help to Nun Martha and her fellow-laborers at Bethany School, invoking upon them God's blessing and making a donation to the school.

That evening, His Eminence Vladyka prayed at Ascension Convent, and prepared to officiate at Divine Liturgy the next day. Before dinner, offered by Abbess Moisseia, His Eminence called His Eminence Archbishop Alypy of Chicago and Detroit to congratulate him on his namesday, and to congratulate Bishop Peter of Cleveland and the parishioners of Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Des Plaines (Chicago) on their dear archpastor's holiday.

God willing, His Eminence will officiate at Divine Liturgy the next day at St Alexander Nevsky Church at the "Russian Excavations."