The winter session of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia opened on Friday, December 9, 2011, with the singing of “King of Heaven” at the Synodal building in New York, in the presence of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign.”
Participating in the meetings were its President, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York; His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany, Vice President; His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, Secretary; His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada; His Grace Bishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe; His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America and His Grace Bishop Jerome of Manhattan.
Opening the meeting, the President noted that very complicated ecclesiastical matters are to be discussed at this session relating to finances and church administration. The archpastors then approved the agenda earlier distributed by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, adding several items to it.
At the request of the Primate of the Russian Church Abroad, Archbishop Mark, Overseer of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, reported on its activities since the last Synod meeting. He also reported on the 65th-birthday celebrations of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia held in Moscow. His Eminence, having participated in celebrating Divine Liturgy at Christ the Savior Cathedral at the event, relayed the congratulations and best wishes of the First Hierarch and Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad to His Holiness, and presented him with a gift.
Having heard a report by Priest Joakim Provatakis and Mr Serge Lopoukhine, administrators of St Zosima Church Supply in Mahopac, NY, the Synod of Bishops thanked them for their efforts and gave its blessing to incorporate as a separate entity, and also decided to incorporate the Synod Bookstore. After hearing an exhaustive report by Synod Treasurer Eugene Grigoriak, the hierarchs decided to use it as a foundation for further decisions on finances and the ecclesiastical administration.
The Synod of Bishops approved changes to divine services: “Prayer before surgery, read at the end of a moleben for the sick,” “Matrimony of spouses who lived in concubinage without ecclesiastical blessing,” and a short Blessing of oil “Performed by a lone priest in the hospital or home.” The Synod also confirmed the verbal exchange “Dialog between a priest and deacon after the Great Entrance during Divine Liturgy” which is already used in service books of the Russian and Serbian Orthodox Churches.
After studying the written report of the President of a newly-formed Publishing Council, His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart, Vicar of the German Diocese, the Synod confirmed its regulations and blessed its members to bring their plans to action.
Hearing the President’s report on his concelebration with His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Koman, Exarch of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe under the Constantinople Patriarchate, which took place on November 20, the 65th birthday of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the Synod of Bishops decreed: “1) To express joy over the first concelebration of Divine Liturgy over the entire history of the Russian emigration at St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris by a First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and a Patriarchal Exarch in Western Europe. 2) To employ every means to strengthen brotherly ties, mutual collaboration and cooperation with Archbishop Gabriel of Koman and the Exarchate he rules on the basis of our common heritage.”
Hearing the report by Archbishop Kyrill on his recent archpastoral visit to Mexico, the Synod of Bishops appointed him “Administrator of Parishes of the Russian Church Abroad in Mexico,” and designated Holy Trinity Skete in Mexico City as a monastery.
At the request of the President of the Synod of Bishops, Vladyka Michael was elevated to the rank of “Archbishop of Geneva and Western Europe.”
The Synod gave its approval to an appeal by His Eminence Metropolitan Mefody of Perm and Solikam and His Eminence Sergei of Samara and Syzransk to bring the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” to their dioceses. Pending His Holiness Patriarch Kirill giving his blessing, the miracle-working icon will be brought there next fall to coincide with its regular visit to Kursk.
Other administrative matters were also discussed, as well as intercessions by the archpastors for awards to clergymen and laity.
The next meeting of the Synod of Bishops will be held in March 2012.