NYACK: December 12, 2003


Photo below: All-night vigil at the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady of the
Sign on the feast day.

All-Diocesan Pastoral Conference; Days Four and Five

The final two days of the All-Diocesan Pastoral Conference began with divine liturgy, as did the first days. All liturgies served at Protection Church were, from the Cherubic Hymn on, sung by the entire host of clergymen.

The first lecture on Thursday, 11 December, was read by the teacher of St. Petersburg Theological Academy, Protopriest George Mitrofanov. The topic was "The Glorification of the New Martyrs of Russia." In the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the glorification of the New Martyrs was general in character, while in the Church in Russia it was specific, by name. Each glorified New Martyr has a biography, however brief. Fr. George provided horrifying statistics on the persecution of the clergy and faithful. For example, in 1937, 136,000 clerical persons were arrested. Of those, 85,300 were shot. The lecturer gave other examples of the horrors inflicted by the GPU (Soviet Secret Police) on the clergy and their families.

The Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate of 2000 glorified a host of New Martyrs, including "non-commemorating" clergy. In this way, the Church in Russia not only paid homage to their martyrs, but also placed an unbreachable barrier between the Orthodox Church and communism. In the words of Fr. George, the Orthodox Christian cannot be a communist. In
glorifying the New Martyrs of Russia, the episcopacy of the Church in Russia in fact spoke of its own repentance.

Immediately following the lecture of Protopriest George Mitrofanov, a round-table was held on the topic of the New Martyrs. Protopriest Valerii Alekseev (Odessa) posed the question of the desirability of glorification as a New Martyr (by the Church in Russia) of Boris Talantov and Archbishop Germogen (Golubeff). Archimandrite Luke (Jordanville) spoke of the arguable points relating to some of the glorified individuals, and Protopriest Nikolai Artemoff touched upon several aspects of Ukase No. 362 of St. Patriarch Tikhon.

After the round-table, a series of questions was asked, in part, relating to the opposition of the "Sergianists" and the "Josephites." Protopriest George Mitrofanov noted at least one instance when the NKVD turned out to be a "unifier," Bishop Evgenii (Korbanov, of the "Sergianist" clergy),
Metropolitan Joseph and Metropolitan Kirill were executed together in 1937, on the anniversary of Ukase No. 362.


Clergy in line for presentations.

During the course of the discussions, the new book by S. Fomin on Metropolitan Sergius, "At Guard of the House of the Lord," was mentioned. This book is in decisive opposition to the position of the Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate of 2000. The following topics were also mentioned: the glorification of Metropolitan Joseph, archival research on the matter of repressed individuals, the glorification of some of the Royal servants, the politics of Stalin, the glorification of Admiral Feodor Ushakov, the Solovetsk prisoners and the problem of verifying oral tradition in regards to the New Martyrs.

On Thursday, after lunch, a round-table on ecumenism was held. Deacon Nikolai Savchenko (St. Petersburg) gave the opening remarks. He said that the Church in Russia, in the form of a significant part of the clergy and faithful, regard ecumenism with extreme opposition, and that prayer with the heterodox is practically non-existent. Still, the membership of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council of Churches, and especially in its administrative body, continues to cause grief. The leadership of the WCC includes a bishop and several clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate. The board includes 8 Protestant women "priests," and, in accordance with its statutes, the administration is obligated to work towards disseminating and promoting ecumenism throughout the world.

The ecumenism round-table, consisting of Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff, Hieromonk Andrei,
Protopriest Maxim Kozlov, Deacon Nikolai Savchenko and Archbishop Mark.

Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff (Los Angeles), expressed the thought that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia must continue to denounce ecumenism, to appeal to the Local Churches with our concerns and to defend those who left the WCC. Protopriest Maxim Kozloff (Moscow Theological Academy) opined that restraint must be observed in the matter of the ecumenical movement. Dialog with the heterodox within a certain framework can be beneficial, and the temptations which exist now must be gradually removed. Archbishop Mark spoke of interrelationships with the heterodox from a pastoral standpoint. Hieromonk Andrei (New York) also participated in the round-table.

At the end of the day, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus thanked the guest lecturers from Russia, Archimandrite Tikhon and Protopriests George Mitrofanov and Maxim Kozloff, for their participation, patience and contribution towards the work of the Conference and blessed them with gift books.

After the departure of the guests from Russia, draft resolutions were considered.

On the final day of the Conference, Friday, 12 December, after liturgy, Protopriest Igor Chitikoff (Florida) read a lecture on the topic "North America as the Canonical Territory of the Russian Church."

Before lunch, various draft resolutions were discussed, and it was decided to issue a pastoral Appeal instead. Every participant was given an opportunity to express himself on the matter of the Appeal and to make proposals. By God's mercy, an Appeal was adopted unanimously. Photo of the Conference participants.

A number of priests thanked the archpastors for the opportunity for all the clergymen to honestly speak their minds and share their concerns. This attests not only to the freedom of spirit in our church life, but also to our conciliarity. The desire was also voiced to have the lectures of the
Conference published in the Church press.

His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus thanked the organizers of the Conference, especially the Rector of Protection Church in Nyack, Protopriest George Larin, and Priest Serafim Gan, and also the Sisterhood for their hospitality, and called upon the clergy to live in peace and love, to
labor for the glory of God and, upon returning to their parishes, to pass along his blessings and tell them about the Conference.

The All-Diaspora Conference was concluded by a service of supplication before two icons: the Miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God and the icon of the Healing of the Child Prokhor. The clergymen, tired but encouraged by the communion with and frank discussions of vital ecclesiastical matters, hurried home to share the coming Sundays with
their parishes.

Glory to Thee, O God, our Benefactor forever and ever!


This account is not an official report of the Conference by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, but a brief personal report by one of its participants, and so it does not pretend to be a complete description of the Conference.

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