On November 30, 2008, the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, in concelebration with bishops and clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, officiated at Divine Liturgy in Munich's Cathedral of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.
His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, in Germany for medical treatment and rest, was joined in the service by His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany (ROCOR), His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart (ROCOR), His Grace Bishop Konstantin of Western Europe (Serbian Orthodox Church), His Eminence Archbishop Theophan of Berlin and Germany (Moscow Patriarchate), His Eminence Archbishop Longin of Klin (MP), and His Grace Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria (MP).
In attendance at the service were representatives of the Catholic Church in Germany and the Lutheran Church.
After Liturgy, Archbishop Mark, the Rector of the Cathedral, addressed His Holiness, recalling that last year, after the Patriarch performed divine services here, he gave the Cathedral a gift of the Korsun Icon of the Mother of God, and just a few days ago, a carved frame was completed to house it.
His Holiness then received a gift of a patriarchal mantle embroidered by the nuns of the Munich convent.
In His Holiness' response, he thanked Vladyka Mark and said that although he is in Germany now for medical treatment, he wished to celebrate Liturgy along with the flock of the German diocese. His Holiness Vladyka also noted that this day marks the 28th anniversary of the consecration of Archbishop Mark, who ministers to the faithful of Germany and Great Britain. The Patriarch stressed Vladyka Mark's labors towards achieving the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church. His Holiness then gave Archbishop Mark an inscribed panaghia in memory of today's event.
"We have a common goal: to strengthen and support our compatriots living in Germany and Great Britain," said Patriarch Alexy to Vladya Mark.
His Holiness also congratulated everyone on the first Sunday of Advent, which leads us to the great celebration of the Incarnation of God. In his sermon, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church also noted that today we celebrate two great saints: St Gregory of Neocesaria, to whom one of the churches of central Moscow is dedicated, and St Nikon, student of St Sergius of Radonezh, the founder of Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra. His Holiness called upon the parishioners to emulate these two great saints.
His Holiness the Patriarch then gave the Munich Cathedral the set of Eucharistic vessels used in that very Liturgy. "May this Chalice serve as a reminder of the unity which was achieved through common labor, to no small degree through the efforts of Vladyka Mark," said His Holiness. According to the Patriarch, the feeling of unity obtained from such joint services is especially important: "Without a doubt, the unity of the Russian Church has now reached the parish level, an important sign of the reality of the event of May, 2007."
The Cathedral could not accommodate all those who wished to participate in the service, so large monitors were installed outside for viewing.
After the Patriarchal service, a formal reception was given at the Cathedral hall, and tents were set up outside for the hundreds of worshipers who had gathered from all over Germany, where they enjoyed the traditional Russian lenten foods of ukha (fish soup) and buckwheat kasha.
The history of the Russian Orthodox community in Munich begins in 1798, when a Russian consulate was established on the Ottostrasse, where, as was customary, a chapel was erected. From 1832 on, the members of the consulate and their families would attend Salvatorkirche Greek Orthodox Church in the center of town. It was here that the poet and diplomat Feodor Tiutchev was married and baptized his five children.
In 1921, local Russians formed the Community of St Nicholas. The parish would assemble at two church locations they did not own: the Mathildenstift hall on a street of that name, and a barracks on Denningerstrasse. Priests would travel from afar, sometimes from as far away as Poland.
In the early 1990's, the parish was able to purchase an edifice from the German government for a church of their own—a church built in the middle of the 20th century by Americans and abandoned after they withdrew their military personnel from the country. This church drew the attention of the clergy and parishioners through its proximity to a prison in which one of the founders of the student group "White Rose," Alexander Schmorell, was executed. Shmorell was glorified as a local saint by the German Diocese of ROCOR in 2007. The church is also close to the cemetery at Perlacher Forst, where Schmorell and his fellow members of "White Rose," as well as a multitude of Russian prisoners of war and "Ostarbeiters," are buried
The church was remodeled from an American Romano-Gothic style to a traditional Pskovian style. In 2001, 13 bells cast by the Shuvalov brothers in Romano-Borisoglebsk (near Yaroslavl) were hoisted into the bell tower.
In May, 2005, the adjoining Chapel of St Nicholas was consecrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, then-Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia,.
The Munich Cathedral became the first church of the Russian Church Abroad in which His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia served after the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion: on November 29, 2007, His Holiness performed a moleben and akathist before the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God here.
Today, the Cathedral on average hosts a hundred or so baptisms, 15-20 weddings and a similar number of funerals every year. Sunday services draw approximately 250 worshipers, and over a thousand people gather on Pascha. The main language used in the services is Church Slavonic, while the Epistles and Gospel are read in German. Every Wednesday, vespers is performed in German, and once a month, a choir of Orthodox Germans sings an early Liturgy. The parish publishes materials in both Russian and German.
Over 130 children are enrolled in the parish school. The curriculum includes Russian and Church Slavonic, Russian history and literature and choir. The Law of God is taught from the first grade on a high-school level, in accordance with a program approved by the Bavarian Ministry of Culture. Grades given at the school are counted on the students' educational record.
"The number of Russian parishes in Germany is growing as a result of new immigrants and those who come here to work. Since the beginning of the 1990's, the greatest number of Russians—3.5 million—has come to Germany, a country of 80 million, while in comparison, 3 million have come to the USA, and 1.5 million to Israel," noted Protopriest Nikolai Artemoff in an interview granted to RIA Novosti.
The cities of Germany now count some 90 Russian parishes, though sometimes a single priest must minister to several at the same time.
According to one source, Munich now has two Russian monasteries (ROCOR) and three Russian parishes (two belonging to ROCOR and one to the MP). The Munich Cathedral is the largest church, is an active participant in city life and collaborates with the Theology Department of Munich University.
"The Cathedral of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia and St Nicholas is today an active participant not only in Orthodox and Russian life in Munich, but in Munich life in general," said the ROCOR representative.
Press Service of the Moscow Patriarchate.