Having celebrated Divine Liturgy on the Entrance into the Temple of the Most-Holy Mother of God, during which Subdeacon Alexei Pjawka was ordained to the deaconate, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus left Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, and headed to New York City, where on December 6, a regular session of the Synod of Bishops began. Participating in this session were Metropolitan Laurus; His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany; His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan; and His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland. Protopriest Serafim Gan, Personal Secretary of Metropolitan Laurus, served as Recording Secretary.
At the beginning of the meeting, Metropolitan Laurus greeted the members of the Synod of Bishops, expressing his hope that the Lord bless their work and grant success in all church matters.
During this session, a candidate for the Chief of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem was decided upon. Archbishop Mark gave a report on the life of the Mission and its monasteries. Bishop Gabriel added a report on the November meeting of the Orthodox Palestine Society/US Section.
Protopriest Peter Holodny, Treasurer of the Synod of Bishops, and Nicholas A Ohotin, Communications Director of the Synod of Bishops, reported on a plan to develop properties in Harlem and in Mahopac, NY, and also presented a detailed plan of necessary renovation and construction work in the Synodal Building in New York. Having heard the report and after an exhaustive discussion of the projects presented, the Synod of Bishops blessed them to proceed, and also instructed Priest George Zelenin of Paterson, NJ, to prepare a business plan for the Synodal candle factory presently located in Mahopac. Protopriest Victor Potapov and Prince Vladimir K Galitzine then reported on the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The Synod of Bishops blessed the continuing work of the Fund for Assistance and expressed its condolences to Prince Galitzine, whose son Cyril tragically died on Thanksgiving Day.
Bishop Peter of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America, reported on various drafts of the new Prayer for the Salvation of Russia prepared by his clergymen. After discussing the texts, the Synod adopted a new version with some minor revisions, which is to be read from now on after the augmented litany during Divine Liturgy in the churches of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
The Synod then discussed an appeal made by the retired Bishop Varnava on restoring the stavropighial status of the Church of Archangel Michael in Cannes. The Synod, consulting first with His Grace Bishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe, then decided to grant the requested status, instructing the Association at this church to make certain amendments in its by-laws.
Upon the request of Bishop Gabriel, the Synod of Bishops established a commission to study the origins of the division between the Russian Church Abroad and the American Metropoliate (the Orthodox Church in America) and the state of relations today. Appointed to this commission were Archimandrite Luke (Murianka); Protopriest John Shaw; Protopriest David Moser and Protopriest Vladimir Morin.
Fr Serafim then read a series of letters addressed to the Synod from: His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia; representatives of other Local Orthodox Churches; the Moscow Municipality; the Rector of St Tikhon Orthodox Humanitarian University and many others.
On December 6, a letter from the Patriarch was received with the invitation for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to send a delegation to participate in the Sixteenth International Christmas Educational Readings. The topic of this series is "Orthodox Values and Contemporary Education." The Christmas Readings are the primary educational forum of the Russian Orthodox Church. Within the framework of the Readings are a great number of conferences, meetings and round tables at which the participants have an unprecedented opportunity to share their teaching experiences and innovative educational methods intended to improve the efforts of the Church in spiritual outreach. Clergymen, public figures, government representatives, Orthodox teachers, and members of the cultural community participate in these events every year. The Synod of Bishops decided to respond to this invitation by sending Archbishop Mark to participate and to speak at a plenary session to be held at the State Kremlin Palace on January 29, 2008, on the topic "Orthodox Education and Culture in the Secular World: The Experiences of Russia and the Diaspora." Archbishop Mark will be accompanied by Protopriest Andrei Sommer.
The bishops then heard a letter read by Fr Serafim from the Head of the Department of International Trade and Relations of Moscow, GL Muradov, in which, with the blessing of Patriarch Alexy, he invites Metropolitan Laurus to the Russian capital in order to receive the "Compatriot of the Year 2007" award from the International Council of Russian Compatriots. This prize was established in 2003 and is awarded to eminent figures who live outside of Russia. The award is ceremoniously granted in person to the winner by the Mayor of Moscow (Yuri Luzhkov) and the Chairman of the Presidium of the ICRC, Count PP Sheremetiev, along with representatives of legislative and executive bodies of Russia. The Synod asked Vladyka Laurus to accept this award in late February of next year and to send a delegation consisting of himself; Bishop Gabriel; Bishop Peter; Fr Serafim; Protodeacon Victor Lochmatov; Deacon Nicholas Olhovsky, the cell-attendant of the First Hierarch; and photographer GF Selinsky.
It is likely that on the way to Moscow, His Eminence will stop in Cannes to officiate at divine services at Archangel Michael Church (February 16-18) and to acquaint himself with the life of that parish and with the renovation work being performed. On the return trip, His Eminence will stop in London, where the next session of the Synod of Bishops will be held (March 3-4), and to attend a fundraising event to benefit the local cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
A letter from Protopriest Nikolai Balashov addressed to Fr Serafim was then read in which Fr Nikolai reports that A. Alexeev, Russian Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia, wrote to His Eminence Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad on an initiative of M. Filippovic, the President of the Council of Sremsky Karlovci, to organize a celebration next year of the reestablishment of the brotherly communion between the one Local Russian Orthodox Church. The organizers of this event, the Council along with the Serbian Orthodox Church, wish to schedule the event to coincide with the 160th anniversary of the declaration of the Serbian Vojvodina. The Synod instructed Fr Serafim to express its approval for this event and its willingness to send a delegation of the Russian Church Abroad consisting of Metropolitan Laurus; Archbishop Mark; Bishop Peter, Protopriest Liubo Milosevic; Fr Serafim; Protodeacon Victor Lochmatov; Deacon Nicholas Olhovsky; Reader Nicholas Kostur and Brother Radomir Plavcic.
Having read a letter from Protopriest Vladimir Vorobiev, Rector of St Tikhon Orthodox Humanitarian University, the Synod of Bishops gave its blessing to Protopriest Nikolai Artemov and Reader Andre Psarev to participate in a conference on the theme "Paths of the Russian Emigration."
The bishops then heard the report of Peter Derby, member of the new Advisory Committee to the Synod of Bishops, which is to examine the administration of the Synod of Bishops and make recommendations and render assistance and support in the operations of the Synodal Chancery.
In concluding the work of the Synod, Metropolitan Laurus expressed his gratitude to the bishops, the members of the administration of the Chancery, and called upon all to prepare spiritually for the celebration of the feast day of the Synodal Cathedral of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of the Sign.
On the evening of December 7, the Representation of the Moscow Patriarchate in the United States held a reception to honor Metropolitan Laurus at the reception hall of St Nicholas Cathedral. In attendance were the Metropolitan; Archbishop Mark; Bishop Gabriel; His Grace Bishop Merkury of Zaraisk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA; Bishop Peter and clergymen of St Nicholas and the Synodal Cathedral.
Bishop Merkury greeted the honored guests, noting that "this brotherly meeting is not the first to be held during a gathering of the Synod of Bishops, but it is the first since the reestablishment of the fullness of canonical and Eucharistic communion, and it is important that we have the opportunity to openly and freely discuss various aspects of our common witnessing of the Faith, for more coordinated and fruitful work in the harvest-fields of the Church of Christ."
Metropolitan Laurus thanked Vladyka Merkury and the members of the Representation for their invitation and hospitality, and praised the level of cooperation between the bishops and clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in the US, noting the particular efforts of Patriarchal Representative. His Eminence also congratulated Vladyka Merkury on his namesday.
Thereafter, during the trapeza, questions of joint services were discussed. Everyone joyously and with gratitude to God commented on the great positive changes in the development and strengthening of relations on the diocesan and parish levels.
At the end of the event, Many Years was sung to Patriarch Alexy, Metropolitan Laurus and the archpastors and pastors of the Russian Orthodox Church.
On December 10, Metropolitan Laurus celebrated Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign along with the attending members of the Synod of Bishops and Bishop Merkury. During the minor entrance, in accordance with a decision by the Synod of Bishops, Metropolitan Laurus elevated Deacon Serge Arlievsky to the rank of protodeacon. Before the veneration of the cross, His Eminence awarded the Synodal Medal of the Sign of the Second Order to Yuri Iliodorovich Schidlowsky, who recently retired after many years of work as the Executive Director of the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Irene Sergeevna Gan was given a Synodal Gramata [decree of blessing] for her work in organizing the combined Choir of the Russian Church Abroad, which traveled to Russia to participate in the celebration of the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, as well as organizing the celebration of the 150 th anniversary of the composer AD Kastalsky, and a youth choir which sang at the Synodal Cathedral. Among the worshipers in attendance, in addition to a multitude of parishioners of the Synodal and St Nicholas Cathedrals were SV Garmonin, Consul General of the Russian Federation in New York, as well as pilgrims from the city of Kursk.