LONDON: September 24, 2018
A regular session of the Synod of Bishops coincides with the great consecration of a new cathedral in Great Britain
On Thursday, September 20, 2018, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York chaired a meeting of a regular meeting of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which coincided with the great consecration of the new and magnificent Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God in London, England. Participating in this meeting were His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany; His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America; His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada; His Eminence Archbishop Peter of Chicago and Mid-America; His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan and His Grace Bishop Irenei of Sacramento.
Opening the meeting, the President welcomed his brother archpastors, emphasizing the work done by Archbishop Mark and Bishop Irenei in uniting the parishioners and worshipers around the creation and adornment of the London cathedral, and wished all the participants of the Synod meeting Divine aid in their continuing work.
During Archbishop Mark’s report on the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem of the Church Abroad, Archbishop Peter also told of his recent meeting with His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and All Palestine, who expressed his surprise at the encroachment of the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by exarchs of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Bishop Nicholas requested and received blessing to organize a pilgrimage to the Holy Land of clergy and laity from the USA next year.
The Synod of Bishop heard reports by Protopriest Paul Elliot, Chancellor of the Parishes of Great Britian, and Protopriest Adrain Ecchevarria on the history and present status of Great Martyr Barbara Church in Vevey, Switzerland. Fr Paul reported on the work of the diocesan council, of the pastoral gatherings hosted by Bishop Irenei and his pilgrimages to the holy sites of the diocese, noting the need for a second priest for the cathedral, where some three hundred worshipers gather on Sundays and holidays. The Synod of Bishops expressed its satisfaction with the work of the Chancery of Great Britain, invoking God’s blessing on Fr Paul and his assitants.
Fr Adrian began his report with a history of the Church of St Barbara, which was consecrated on the feast of the Protection of the Most-Holy Mother of God in 1878. Over the course of many years, Protopriest Igor Trojanoff (+1976) and Bishop Ambroise (Cantacuzene) served there. The parish consists of 160 families of various backgrounds. Of them, 80% are Swiss citizens. This year they will celebrate the 140th anniversary of the establishment of the church. Renovations were conducted in preparation for the event. Protopriest Adrian concluded his report by noting that the life of the parish is not one of a nostalgia for a bygone era, but a bright example of living Orthodox Christianity. The Synod of Bishops, hearing Fr Adrian’s report with great interest, granted him, his clergymen and parishioners a decree of blessing to mark their anniversary, wishing Fr Adrian many Divine mercies in his service.
The Synod of Bishops. Deliberating on the status of the parishes of Great Britain and of Western Europe, and studying the results of a questionnaire distributed to the members of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, decided: “1. To release the President of the Synod of Bishops from administering the parishes of Great Britain and Western Europe, expressing gratitude to His Eminence for his labors; 2) to release His Grace Bishop Irenei from administering the Sacramento Vicariate, appointing him Bishop of Richmond and Western Europe, with a residence in London, 3) to commemorate the name of Bishop Irenei at divine services in the parishes of Great Britain, Ireland and the nations of Western Europe under his omophorion, for which to issue a corresponding ukase.”
After discussing events connected with the sending of his exarchs to the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Synod of Bishops decreed: “Following the decision of the Hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, to cease concelebration on the hierarchical level with the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, and suspend the participation of the Russian Church Abroad in the work of all episcopal assemblies, for which to issue a corresponding ukase.”
The hierarchs then discussed the possibility of filling the ranks of the episcopacy, discussed administrative matters and heard a series of intercessions by its ruling bishops for church awards for their clergymen and laity.
On Friday, September 21, the feast day of the Nativity of the Most-Holy Mother of God, Archbishop Mark led the rite of great consecration of the new cathedral in London. His Eminence was joined by Archbishop Kyrill, Archbishop Gabriel, Archbishop Peter, Bishop Irenei, His Grace Bishop Matthew of Sourozh and Bishop Nicholas. After the service, Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated Divine Liturgy in the newly-consecrated church along with the other hierarchs as well as clergymen from Great Britain and Ireland and a multitude of visiting clergy.
The celebrations as well as the meeting of the Synod of Bishops were held in the holy presence of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign," the “Guide of the Russian Diaspora.”
Praying at the service were Abbess Maria (Sidiropoulo) and the nuns of Holy Grand Duchess Elizabeth Convent in Buchendorf, Germany, and parishioners, worshipers of the cathedral and many guests. Attending the great consecration was His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent.
All the services were magnificently sung by a men’s choir under the direction of Arseny Kruglov.
Protopriest Serafim Gan delivered a sermon before Holy Communion.
After the dismissal, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, the host of hierarchs, clergymen and Orthodox faithful congratulated Bishop Irenei, who also holds the position of Secretary of the Synod of Bishops on Inter-Orthodox Affairs. In response, His Grace congratulated all in attendance on this great event, and called upon everyone to piously and with all their means work for the overall sanctification, renewal and divination which this church offers us, where the wondrous personal meeting of man with God takes place.
Archbishop Mark was then presented with a new mitre in gratitude for his many years of archpastoral labors in benefit of the London cathedral, and for his participation in the renovation and adornment of the church. Subdeacon Pavel Lisitsin and Stanislav Kondrashev, stewards of the cathedral, were given the Synodal Medals of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign," First Degree. Metropolitan Hilarion also gave Gregory Wolcough, an active parishioners, the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign," Second Degree. The clergymen, warden, parisioners, sisterhood and renovation committee were also given decrees of blessing.
The event concluded with a festive luncheon open to all.