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SYDNEY: December 25, 2009
The First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad Concludes His Visit To New Zealand

From December 11-21, 2009, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York made an archpastoral visit to New Zealand. This was the first visit to this country by Vladyka Hilarion as Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Immediately after his arrival to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, on December 12, Metropolitan Hilarion conducted all-night vigil at Christ the Saviour Church. The following morning, Vladyka celebrated Divine Liturgy in the same church. Many worshipers came from throughout New Zealand to attend the service, some traveling as much as 16 hours.

On December 16, Vladyka Hilarion headed a delegation of several Orthodox Churches at a meeting with members of New Zealandís Parliament in Wellington. They discussed granting the Orthodox Church status as one of the official confessions of New Zealand. Such recognition is important since Orthodoxy is now one of the most dynamic and growing religions in the nation. Between 1991 and 2006, the number of Orthodox believers in New Zealand grew by 210%, while the Roman Catholics saw a 2% increase, and the Anglican Church lost 40%. The Russian-speaking flock consists of some 20,000 people. The main concentration of Russian Orthodox Christians lives in the northern city of Auckland.

On December 17, Metropolitan Hilarion flew to the city of Christchurch on South Island. Here, on December 19, Vladyka officiated at divine services and celebration of the feast day of St Nicholas Church Russian Orthodox Church. Joining Vladyka Hilarion in the service were Protopriest Vladimir Boikov and Priest Arkady Troshkov, Rector of St Nicholas Church, and also Serbian and Romanian Orthodox clergymen.

Over 150 worshipers gathered for the service. The bulk of those in attendance were Russian, but there were quite a few Serbs, Romanians and other Orthodox Christians. After Liturgy, a festive trapeza was offered, which included a splendid cultural program. Performers of various nationalities provided entertainment in an especially fraternal atmosphere.

Afterwards, the ROCOR delegation headed by Metropolitan Hilarion flew to Auckland, where His Eminence performed all-night vigil at Resurrection of Christ Russian Orthodox Church.

On Sunday, December 20, Vladyka Hilarion, with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Irineos of Australia and New Zealand, the local Serbian Orthodox hierarch, celebrated Divine Liturgy in the Serbian Church in Auckland. The small Russian Church of the Resurrection of Christ was too small to accommodate all those desiring to worship at a Liturgy officiated by the Primate of ROCOR, and the local Serbian community joyfully agreed to offer their church for the service.

Metropolitan Hilarion was joined in the service not only by Russian†but also by Serbian clergymen. During Liturgy, Vladyka ordained Deacon Daniel Millwood to the priesthood. Several clergymen of New Zealand also received ecclesiastical awards for their service. Fr Vladimir was given the palitsa, and Priest Eugene Kulanov a nabedrennik.

After Liturgy, at which a multitude of worshipers partook of the Holy Gifts, a ceremonious luncheon was offered. A rich cultural performance was also prepared by the natives of Auckland. Representatives of various Orthodox communities performed their songs and music. This day was particularly significant for many of those gathering in Auckland because it was the first time they saw their Ruling Bishop.

On the morning of December 21, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia flew back to Sydney, the capital of Australia. On December 26, Vladyka Hilarion plans to participate in the Orthodox Youth Conference being held in Melbourne. †