Greetings to all assembled here today.
First of all, we give thanks to God for all His blessings to our diocese during last 3 years, including freedom of worship, which is lacking in many countries even today. In Russia until recent years Orthodox Christians endured unprecedented persecution for the Faith.
During last three years there were many joyous events, but also quite a lot of uneasiness and turmoil in connection with the dialogue of our Church with the Moscow Patriarchate. Following the positive decision of the IV All-Diaspora Sobor in San Francisco, the Council of Bishops of ROCOR decided to enter into Eucharistic communion with the MP. On 17 May this year, Patriarch Alexy and Metropolitan Laurus signed the Act of Canonical Communion of the two previously estranged parts of the Russian Church.
The conditions of reunion are beneficial for the ROCOR, since we retain our autonomy in internal matters—in pastoral, educational, administrative, financial and property matters—while remaining in canonical unity with the Church in Russia. The NSW Russian Orthodox Property Trust of our diocese secures the church property of parishes from secession to breakaway groups.
Not everyone agreed with the rapprochement of the two parts of the Russian Church. We are very saddened that a certain portion of our clergymen and flock have departed and joined dissident church groups. Most are sincere in their views and we need to pray for their return to canonical, grace-filled church life.
The Synods of ROCOR and the MP have agreed to a 5-year interim period with regard to commemoration of the name of the Patriarch of Moscow at the divine services, if there are parishes and monasteries which experience some difficulties with such commemoration. However, the majority of parishes in our diocese do commemorate His Holiness the Patriarch at all services without any problem.
During this somewhat complex and difficult period our diocese has been greatly blessed with the visitation of two Miraculous Icons of Kursk and the Reigning Mother of God. The Kursk Icon was here for four months and visited all the parishes, monasteries and communities in both Australia and New Zealand. The Reigning Icon was accompanied by Metropolitan Onoufry from Ukraine and Archbishop Evgeny from the Moscow Theological Seminary and Academy, along with several clergymen and the magnificent Sretensky Monastery choir. The services in Melbourne and Sydney have left an unforgettable blessed impression on all who attended the services.
I express sincere gratitude to all our pastors, clergymen, abbots and abbesses, monastics, altar servers, church wardens, members of parish councils, sisterhoods, brotherhoods, choir directors and choir members, all those involved in social and charitable organizations, and all church laborers and donors for their ardent and self-sacrificing labors and service to the Holy Church of Christ.
Special thanks to the members of the Diocesan Council, who have served for the past three years as advisors to the Archbishop in administering the diocese. Also, gratitude is expressed to Fr Michael Boikov, who has served as the Diocesan Secretary for many years; Alexandra Gan, who took over from the late Nina Grant, and did much to improve the workings of the Diocesan Office; after her departure to the US, her position was briefly taken by Katia Desiatov and is currently held by Vera Wheat, who is doing an excellent job in this position. Fr Michael Boikov, in addition to his pastoral and office duties, has been our chief candle maker for the past several years, a job which is extremely demanding and requires skill and alertness.
A very important facet of our church life is the education and upbringing in the Orthodox faith and piety of our children and young people. Church schools serve this purpose to some extent in the parishes. Recently the Synod established a Synodal Youth Committee and each diocese institutes its own Diocesan Youth Committee. Our Youth Committee consists of Fr Gabriel Makarov, Alexander Paramonov and Catherine Barlow. Its aim is to assist parishes to rejuvenate work with their young people. An important annual event in the diocese is the Orthodox Youth Conference, to be held this year in Sydney. Many of our pastors conduct regular meetings and talks with their youth.
Another important goal of our diocese is to maintain a high standard in our church music and to train new choir directors, chanters and readers for the divine services in all our parishes. In the coming 2008 year a church music seminar will be conducted for this purpose.
We will discuss these and other topics in this 15th Diocesan Assembly. May God bless and enlighten us for the fulfillment of His commandments and His divine will.
Thank you for your participation and God bless you!