The Visit of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus to the Parishes of Argentina and Venezuela


On November 27, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, arrived in Buenos Aires. A group of clergymen from the capital of Argentina greeted their First Hierarch at Ezeiza International Airport, who brought with him the miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. All-night vigil was performed by Metropolitan Laurus in Holy Trinity Cathedral, the oldest Orthodox Church in the southern hemisphere, along with the clergy of Buenos Aires. The choir sang magnificently under the direction of Priest Alejandro Iwasjewicz.

On Sunday, November 28, divine liturgy was celebrated by Metropolitan Laurus at Holy Trinity Cathedral. On the occasion of the First Hierarch's visit, services in churches in the southern suburbs of Buenos Aires and the Cathedral were canceled so that the clergy could concelebrate with His Eminence and serve a moleben before the Kursk Protectress. The celebratory mood of the worshipers was bolstered by the singing of the choir under the direction of Ksenia Sergeevna. In his sermon, concurrently translated into Spanish by Protopriest Yaroslav Belikow, who accompanied the Metropolitan, the First Hierarch remarked upon the importance of preparation for the holiday of the Nativity of Christ through fasting, for Advent began that very day. At the end of his sermon, Vladyka Laurus said that the rumors circulating throughout Argentina that the miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God was to be handed over to Russia in the near future were entirely false. This icon is the Hodigitria [protectress], the Guide of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and must remain abroad.

After liturgy, a mosaic icon depicting the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God and St John of Shanghai and San Francisco was blessed. Beforehand, Metropolitan Laurus said that this event was providential, for St John during his life very much loved the Mother of God, and now the consecration of an icon of him together with the Mother of God was being performed in the presence of that very Icon which the saint was traveling with when he died.

At 4 o'clock, an akathist was served before the Icon in Slavonic and Spanish.

On Wednesday, December 1, Metropolitan Laurus met with the clergy of Argentina. Protopriest George Petrenko flew in from Brazil for this meeting. Vladyka Laurus said at the beginning of the meeting that Bishop Alexander, the Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of South America, could not attend this meeting because of his health. Metropolitan also asked that the clergymen participating in the meeting write a letter to their ruling bishop expressing their support in this difficult time for him. Vladyka Laurus then told of the history and progress of the discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate. The clergymen expressed their concern over the insufficient and unclear information they were receiving on ecclesiastical matters, especially concerning these talks. Vladyka responded to the questions posed to him regarding "Sergianism," communism, ecumenism, administrative questions, the daily life and legal processes involving the Moscow Patriarchate. Everyone was very much saddened by the latest news regarding the aged Metropolitan Vitaly, who name is being used by persons of ill conscience. A few members of the clergy in Chile, Brazil and Venezuela had fallen under their influence. The question of fulfilling the ranks of the clergy in Argentina and Venezuela was raised at the meeting, since there vacancies in important parishes in these countries. It was determined at the meeting to ask the Synod of Bishops to clarify the canonical status of our relations with the Moscow Patriarchate since 1927 and to provide the clergy and flock accurate information on the progress of the talks. The clergy thanked His Eminence Vladyka Laurus for bringing the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora, and also for his archpastoral visit to their Diocese, and for the possibility to speak personally to him about long-standing questions. The meeting ended with a prayer and the singing of Many Years to the First Hierarch and the ailing Metropolitan Vitaly and Bishop Alexander.

On Thursday, December 2, Metropolitan Laurus visited the churches of the southern outskirts of the capital. The Kursk-Root Icon was first brought to the Church of the Protection of the Most-Holy Mother of God in Temperley, where a moleben and akathist were served to the Mother of God. The same services were then performed at the Church of Holy Martyr Hermogen, Patriarch of Moscow, in the suburb of Quilmes. These two churches are ministered to by Protopriest Igor Bulatov and Deacon Vladimir Oleynik. Every Sunday liturgy is alternately served in one church and an obednitsa [hours and reader's service] in the other. This poses a serious problem for worshipers, and especially for the clergy. Fr Igor has been forced to conduct services in this manner for many years, which he performs with great love for the flock of Christ.

On Friday, December 3, the First Hierarch served at all-night vigil at the Church of St Sergius of Radonezh in the northern suburb of Villa Ballester. The heartwarming magnification of the Entrance to the Temple of the Most-Holy Mother of God filled the church. After the service, Mitred Protopriest Vladimir Schlenew invited Vladyka Laurus and the worshipers to a trapeza luncheon in the hall of the Diocesan School, of which Fr Vladimir is the Director. During dinner, Vladyka had a discussion with those who gathered.

On the feast day of the Entrance, Metropolitan Laurus performed divine liturgy in the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ. It was particularly cramped in the church, since the service was attended by students from the St George's Pathfinders School, which canceled class that day for the holiday. In his sermon, Vladyka Laurus called everyone's spiritual gaze upon the preparation for the soon-to-be-born Savior. After the moleben before the Protectress of the Russian diaspora, Mitred Protopriest Vladimir Skalon, Senior Clergyman of the Cathedral, thanked His Eminence for his visit and the spiritual consolation he brought to the entire flock in Argentina. Fr Vladimir thanked Metropolitan for his labors and efforts directed towards the unity of the Russian people. Fr Vladimir also noted that the Russian Church Abroad always sensed itself a full-blooded part of the Russian Church, and the healing of wounds brought about by the horrors of the 20th century is a natural process.

During all-night vigil on Sunday, Vladyka Laurus prayed in Holy Trinity Cathedral.

On December 5, the First Hierarch officiated at divine liturgy in Holy Trinity Cathedral. After the final moleben before the miraculous Icon, the Rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Protopriest Valentin Iwasjewicz, thanked Vladyka Laurus for his care for his distant but beloved flock, and also for his explanation of the present church situation, which is not always clear to everyone.

At 2 pm, Metropolitan Laurus had a meeting in the Cathedral hall with the lay flock of the Russian churches in Argentina. At first, Vladyka told of the origins and progress of the negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate on the possibility of Eucharistic communion, and also of a few moments during his official visit to Russia last May. Then the First Hierarch responded to questions. These touched upon ecumenism, "Sergianism," daily life within the Moscow Patriarchate, the timeliness of the talks, information given to the faithful and the forthcoming All-Diaspora Council.

He told everyone who gathered that ecumenism is a serious matter, and without a resolution of this, Eucharistic communion would not be achieved. "Sergianism" is a word that does not exist in theology. It was a term coined for the cooperation of the Church with God-battling government. The Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate of 2000 (without the use of the word "Sergianism") condemned such cooperation; still, the Moscow Patriarchate does not feel that it is possible to condemn the person of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) himself, for he has already appeared before the judgment of God. The matter of the "Declaration" of 1927 is on the agenda of the talks. As for the daily life of the Church, one can see a great many distortions not only in the Moscow Patriarchate, but also in our own Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. This is the crux of the matter; that we living abroad cannot and must not decide such problems in the Homeland, as those living there cannot decide our problems abroad. That is why we must retain complete administrative independence. It must be said that most of the questions were already answered in the press, still, this information does not reach many people. Those in attendance expressed their gratitude to the Metropolitan for the chance to be heard, and they asked that the official position of our Synod of Bishops be more clearly and succinctly expressed in the official Synodal press.

That evening, the Metropolitan headed for the graduation ceremonies of the St George's Pathfinder's School. Many Russian-language people living in the world have no parish schools, and the Pathfinder's School in Argentina remains the sole patriotic Orthodox school of its kind. Upon Vladyka Laurus' arrival with the Kursk-Root Icon, Fr Yaroslav, a graduate of the School, served a moleben of gratitude for the end of the school year. The School Director, G.L. Lukin, thanked Metropolitan Laurus for attending the ceremonies. Mr Lukin said that almost 50 years ago, in March, 1955, Archbishop Athanasius (Martos, +1983) served a moleben before the opening of the school year, and now, a half-century later, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is attending the graduation ceremonies for the first time. The School has accomplished a great task over its lifetime, which is seen by its fruits: one bishop and several clergymen of our Church have studied in its classrooms. Metropolitan Laurus thanked the Director and all the teachers for their selfless and difficult labors in the education of young people in love for the Church and for Russia. Before the unofficial part of the program and the traditional bonfire, Vladyka Laurus left to prepare for his trip to the airport, scheduled for 4 am the following morning.

Vladyka Metropolitan was seen off by all of the clergy of Argentina.

On Monday, December 6, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus arrived in the capital of Venezuela, Caracas. He and his escorts were met by Protopriest Paul Wolkov and G.G. Rudin, a grandson of the hero of the Cruiser "Varyag." They headed for St Nicholas Church, where Metropolitan Laurus was greeted by the ringing of bells, bread-and-salt and flowers. Fr Yaroslav served a moleben before the Kursk-Root Icon. Afterwards, Vladyka Laurus told of the progress of the talks with the Moscow Patriarchate on the possibility of restoring Eucharistic communion, but those in attendance were more troubled about the situation in Venezuela, where there is only one priest who is advancing in years. They asked Metropolitan Laurus to intervene for the appointment of at least one other priest. Unfortunately, parishioners of the town of Valencia were caught in traffic as a result of a terrible storm. Still, they came right to the home of G.G. Rudnev, where the miraculous Icon was, accompanied by Fr Yaroslav and Protodeacon Victor Lokhmatow. Praying before the Icon of the Mother of God, the visitors stayed for a long conversation covering various church matters.

The following morning, Metropolitan Laurus, along with the Kursk-Root Icon, left South America, for that Friday, December 10, was the feast day of the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign in New York, dedicated to the Hodigitria of the Russian diaspora.

It should be noted that of invaluable assistance in the beauty of the services for the duration of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus' visit to South America was Protodeacon Victor Lochmatow. His Eminence was also escorted by Subdeacon Vladimir Barros of the Synodal Cathedral, Reader Nicholas Olhovsky, the cell-attendant of the First Hierarch, and Protopriest Yaroslav Belikow.

Protopriest Yaroslav Belikow

Clergyman of the Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco, Director of the High School of SS Cyril and Methodius