NEW YORK: December 11, 2019
A regular session of the Synod of Bishops coincides with the feast day of the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign”
On December 7-10, 2019, the Synodal Residence of Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia hosted a regular session of the Synod of Bishops. Presiding was His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York; the proceedings took place in the presence of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign.” Participating in this session were also 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 Eminence Archbishop Peter of Chicago and Mid-America; His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe; His Grace Bishop George of Canberra, Vicar of the diocese of Australia and New Zealand, and His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese and Deputy Secretary.
Opening the meeting, the President greeted the hierarchs, wishing them Divine aid in their work and congratulating them on the coming feast day of the Hodigitria of the Russian diaspora.
Archbishop Kyrill reported on the celebrations on November 6 of the feast day of the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in San Francisco and the concurrent consecration of Archimandrite James (Corazza) as Bishop of Sonora, Second Vicar of the Western American Diocese. His Eminence presented a large photo album of the event published in the periodical Russian Life.
Archbishop Mark then reported on the state of affairs of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem. Archbishop Gabriel and Archbishop Peter then requested blessing to organize pilgrimages to the Holy Land next year—Vladyka Gabriel around the time of the Ascension of the Lord, and Vladyka Peter in August.
Animated conversation then followed a report by Vladyka Irenei, Secretary of Inter-Orthodox Relations of the Synod of Bishops on the situation in the Orthodox world after the granting of autocephaly by the Constantinople Patriarchate to the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine.”
Bishop George reported on events in Indonesia, where on November 2, the clergy and parishes of the Orthodox Mission once attached to ROCOR’s Australian Diocese joined the Southeast Asian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Archbishop Peter then discussed the work of the Jubilee Committee on the celebration of the centennial of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Two publications are in the works: one gift-quality album on the history of the Church Abroad which will be available in the fall of 2020, and a scholarly compendium of articles on ROCOR history which will be published in time for the hundredth anniversary of the 1st All-Diaspora Council in 2021.
During the days of Pentecost in 2020, St Elizabeth Convent in Buchendorf, Germany, will host the Jubilee Council of Bishops, which will also mark the hundredth anniversary celebrations in the German Diocese. At the end of October of next year, Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, will be the locale of celebrations of the centennial of ROCOR and the 90th anniversary of its own founding. A conference on Church history will be held at the time, and pannikhidas will be performed for the departed Primates of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
The annual liturgical music and youth assemblies will likewise concentrate on the theme of the centennial, while parish schools will be encouraged to organize local celebrations. Church-wide events will coincide with the feast-day celebration at the Synodal Residence next December, while in May, 2021, a pilgrimage will be held to the holy sites of Belgrade, Sremsky Karlovci and the Serbian Orthodox Church connected to the history of the Russian Church Abroad there.
The Chancellor of the Synod of Bishops, Protopriest Serafim Gan, then reported on the icon-painting competition for the 100th anniversary, exhibiting sketches and studies of proposed images from iconographers in Russia, Ukraine and the Russian diaspora, inviting the Synod members to render their critiques, choosing finalists. The work of Nun Sophia of Ascension of the Lord Convent on the Mt of Olives was chosen as the winning entry; Priest Paul Akmolin of the Mid-American Diocese won second place, and Thecla Abriam of Nativity of the Mother of God Cathedral in London won third place. Fr Serafim was instructed to order four icons from each winner, and continue to raise money to cover expenses.
Litanies and prayerful supplications to mark the jubilee anniversary were also reviewed. Archbishop Mark was asked to review the texts and make necessary revisions by early 2020.
The bishops then heard reports on the establishment of a clergy pension fund, and on other administrative and financial matters. A more detailed report on a possible pension will be presented at the Jubilee Council next June.
The bishops then made intercessions for ecclesiastical awards to the clergymen and laity of their corresponding dioceses.
A proposal by Bishop Nicholas to publish the akathist to the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign" which would include new hymns was approved.
After concluding their work, the member hierarchs honored the Mother of God on the eve and feast day of the Cathedral on December 9-10. During Liturgy, Metropolitan Hilarion ordained subdeacon Stefan Stoyanov to the diaconate. The Cathedral choir sang with great inspiration under the direction of Protodeacon Vadim Gan.
Bishop Nicholas read the decision of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad to elevate Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany to the rank of Metropolitan, after which “Axios” was sung and he was given a white klobuk. Metropolitan Mark then in turn read a congratulatory message to Metropolitan Hilarion on his 35 years of archpastoral service.
In recognition of their earnest efforts in organizing visits of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign" to the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church, and in connection with the 10th anniversary of its first visit since 1920 ten years ago, Bishop Nicholas, Fr Serafim and Protopriest Alexandre Antchoutine were given the Synodal Medal “of the Sign” Second Degree.
A festive luncheon was offered by the sisterhood after the veneration of the cross for all attendees.
Hegumen Nikodim (Balyasnikov), Secretary of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA of the Russian Orthodox Church, read the following congratulatory message to Metropolitan Hilarion:
Your Eminence, Dear Vladyko!
I express my heartfelt greetings on this important day, the 35th anniversary of your archpastoral consecration, and prayerfully wish you spiritual and physical strength, peace and the unceasing mercies of Christ, the Lover of Mankind.
The Lord deigned for you to carry a lofty and greatly-respected episcopal service. Standing for many years before the altar of the King of Heaven, and celebrating the Holy Eucharist, you lift your “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks… for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1).
As the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia today, you tend to the development of parish life in the territory entrusted to you, you preach the wisdom of God to those near and far, “the mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7).
May the Chief Pastor Christ, through the intercession of the Most-Pure Virgin Mary assist you in your future labors, which you perform with fervor, to the benefit of Orthodox Christianity. Many blessed years to you!
Congratulatory messages received by the Chancery of the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad were then read from His Beatitude Metropolitan Onouphry of Kiev and All Ukraine; His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander of Astana and Kazakhstan and His Eminence Archbishop German of Kursk and Rylsk.
Metropolitan Mark then recalled the late archpastors and other eminent figures of the Russian Church Abroad, calling upon everyone to hold sacred the legacies of our blessed fathers and the piety and traditions of our spiritual culture.