Speech by His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney and the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand on the 20th Anniversary of His Archpastoral Service

Reverend fathers!

Your Excellency, Dear Leonid Petrovich!

Greatly respected General Consul, George Davidovich!

Dear brothers, sisters and children in Christ!

I wish to thank all of you here today with all of my heart, and for all the greetings and good wishes you expressed here today.

I feel that today's anniversary celebratin is not so much a date in my life or my Episcopal service, but it is a milestone of the 20-year period in the history of our Russian Church Abroad of which I was a witness and participant.

Twenty years is not such a long period of time, but these years comprise one generation of human life, and over this time, a great many events took place, joyful and sorrowful, in personal lives, in world history and the history of the Church.

For everything I have lived through, I give profound thanks to the Lord God, for His great mercy towards me, an unworthy sinner, over the course of my life. He is the source of our existence, our Creator, Providor, Chief Pastor and Savior. Glory and honor to him for ever and ever!

It is with a feeling of gratitude that I remember those archpastors, priests, monastics and pious laypersons who served as examples and images of the good Christian life. I was fortunate to serve as a bishop under the spiritual leadership of three First Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, under Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky, _1985) of blessed memory, under the now-retired Metropolitan Vitaly and under our present First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus.

Upon the archpastoral path that lay before me I always tried, and continue to try to be guided by the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who before the Last Supper washed the feet of His disciples and said: __: "[W]hosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matth. 20:26-28). By this He showed his lofty example of service to one's neighbor, and humility.

Episcopal service is apostolic service, the service of high priest, the service of looking over the church flock, and for this reason is carries a great deal of responsibility and is very difficult. At trying moments of service, I often remember the words of Metropolitan Philaret, addressed to me as he imparted to me the eiscopal staff on the day of my consecration. This was December 10th, 1984, on the feastday of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. He spoke of the lofty significance of episcopal service, and of the difficulties that will doubtless accompany such a task. But Metropolitan Philaret encouraged me with the words: "The Holy Spirit places His elect upon the height of episcopal service not to simply abandon him there. No, He will always, with the strength of His Grace, support His faithful servant. And this grace-filled help was always necessary for those who occupy this lofty place of service in the Church, and now, of course, more than ever before."

These words always console me during the rough patches in my archpastoral life, and instill within me hope for God's help. I palpably sense this assistance, and find the needed strength to bear the heavy burden of episcopal service.

The Lord showed me a great mercy when, after 12 years of service in America at the Synodal Administration of our Church, He sent me, in 1996, to serve in Australia and New Zealand. This is my first and only diocese, to which I was granted the duties of ruling bishop. The years before this, spent as a vicar bishop, that is, an assistant to the ruling bishop, gave me the needed knowledge and experience.

I cannot fully express the feeling of joy and satisfaction that I am here with all of you, in this diocese, so dear to my heart. I wish all of you great and wealthy mercies from our Lord Jesus Christ. I ask your holy prayers and invoke God's blessing upon you.

Thanks to all those who labored so to organize today's celebration: Fr Michael Boikov and his assistants, and also the magnificent choir, which have spent several months of hard work preparing the concert. A great thanks to all!