NEW YORK: January 16, 2009
"We must entrust the fate of the Church of Russia today to just the sort of person who will continue the course of the late Patriarch Alexy," stated His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
A few days from now, a Local [Pomestny] Council of the Russian Orthodox Church will convene in Moscow in order to elect a new Primate. For the first time in history, delegates of the ROCOR, including all its ruling and vicar bishops, will participate in electing the new Patriarch.
"I recall the image of the His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, a spiritually strong and bold church leader, a man of prayer who preserved and prayerfully interceded for the unity of the Church in a difficult time, when external forces strove to destroy her," noted Metropolitan Hilarion.
In the opinion of ROCOR's First Hierarch, the new Patriarch "must not only be a man of deep faith, but completely trusting of God and His guidance, a wise, humble, hardworking individual with a heart big enough to hold the joy of every person and to contain sorrow for every loss, for every conflict among the people." He must be "utterly faithful to the Holy Orthodox Church and to the observance of her Holy Canons," said Vladyka. "This must be a hierarch who suffers and prays for the nation and for all of us, no matter which continent we live on," he continued. "Despite his high calling, this must be a man who loves with all his heart each individual and the entire people of Russia."
Looking back over the time since the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion in Moscow in May, 2007, Vladyka Hilarion stressed that many people, both in Russia and abroad, are genuinely happy over the strengthening process of the unification of the Russian Church.
"During this time," he said, "the bishops and clergymen of the Russian Church Abroad and I have had the opportunity to visit Russia, and everywhere we went, we were approached by simple believers who wished to share their joy that now we are all children of one Russian Orthodox Church, and that we once again 'gained' each other."
The Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York recalled that in October and November of last year, delegations of the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate participated in the "Days of Russia" program in Latin America, where, in his words, "there were mostly clergymen who went into schism as well as their flocks, who were scattered and fragmented in conflict."
"But the attitude these clerics and laity have towards the unity we have achieved is gradually being overcome through brotherly meetings and joint divine services," averred the First Hierarch of ROCOR. "During divine services, molebens and meetings, we saw love triumph over evil, over division and personal agendas," said the Metropolitan. "For despite our political differences, the main thing that unites us is our search for salvation and the preservation of the purity of our faith. That is the path to spiritually uniting the peoples of our Fatherland."
He drew attention to the fact that last year, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and His Holiness Patriarch Alexy both departed from this world, having made invaluable contributions towards the reunification of the two sundered parts of the Russian Church of today. Calling the leaders of the two branches of the Russian Church "men of prayer, reconcilers, unifiers," Vladyka pointed out that they were destined "to complete the task of reunifying the Church, which entire generations of Russian in the Fatherland and the diaspora strived for and awaited." In his words, the day of the signing of the Act in Moscow became "the day of the Triumph of Orthodoxy."
ROCOR's First Hierarch said that "even with the departure of such persons as Patriarch Alexy and Metropolitan Laurus, church life does not come to a halt." "It continues in their teachings and in their followers," he said.