The Diocese of Geneva and Western Europe Holds its Diocesan Conference at the Church of St Barbara

The XVII Diocesan Conference of the Western European Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was held from Saturday, October 29, through Monday, October 31, in Vevey, Switzerland. Participating were His Grace Bishop Ambroise of Vevey and His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart, along with all the clergymen of the Diocese (except those who were unable to attend because of pastoral duties), Abbess Makrina of Lesna Convent of the Mother of God, accompanied by Nun Evfrosinia, and also representatives of the laity from all parishes.

The Conference began with a moleben in the Church of Holy Great Martyr Barbara, conducted by Protopriest Pavel Tsvetkoff, Protodeacon Peter Figurek and Protodeacon Michel Vernaz. The Conference was held at an auditorium near the church, and devoted mainly to the dialog between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate. In his speech, entitled "To Fulfill the Calling of Our Church," His Grace Bishop Ambroise, recalling the meaning of Ukase No 362 issued by St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, examined the themes of the discussions by listing the differences outlined by the Council of Bishops of the Church Abroad in 1987. Among these questions—to date not completely resolved—are the problems of the attitude of the Church towards the state and the problem of ecumenism. As for the latter, His Grace Vladyka Ambroise noted that the Conference of Autocephalous Orthodox Churches held in Moscow in 1948 condemned this movement "with abundant bases in theological proofs." If since 1961, the Moscow Patriarchate, under pressure from the Soviet government, embarked upon the path of ecumenism, it is still important to remember that their "interfaith activities over the last few years have gradually diminished." Still, the Patriarchate retains membership in the WCC, even as the Georgian and Bulgarian Churches have withdrawn. That is why, noted Vladyka Ambroise, "in February of next year, we will closely observe the General Assembly of the WCC." His lecture also touched upon the basic principles of autonomy in the Moscow Patriarchate, which the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia could employ in its existing framework. In conclusion, Bishop Ambroise stressed that "steps taken towards the Church in Russia signify joint work towards the reestablishment of the wholeness of the Russian Church."

The parish delegates, both clergy and laity, discussed various questions reflecting the concerns of the flock over speedy reconciliation, since the period of the division between the two Churches lasted almost eighty years. During the discussion, both bishops were able to express their thoughts in these matters.

On Saturday evening, all-night vigil was performed, followed by dinner, during which the delegates spent time becoming better acquainted. On Sunday morning, Divine Liturgy was headed by Vladyka Agapit along with the attending clergymen, while the choir, directed by Olga Igorevna Englert, was bolstered by the Conference delegates. Liturgy was attended by a large gathering of worshipers, and many partook of the Divine Gifts.

After a common meal, discussions continued, and Vladyka Ambroise announced the list of clergymen and laymen who will represent the Diocese at the All-Diaspora Council in San Francisco in May 2006: Protopriest Pavel Tsvetkoff (Geneva), Priest Quentin de Castelbajac (Lyon), Protodeacon Andre Meillassoux, and Johann Meier. In addition, two others will participate in the Council from this Diocese—Viktor Artzimovich and Bernard le Carreau—the former as a participant in the previous All-Diaspora Council in 1974, and the latter as a lecturer.

Although the Conference concluded in the second half of the day with the reading of the Appeal to the flock of the Diocese, the clergymen remained for another day for a pastoral meeting.

The general mood of the Conference was calm and possessed a spirit of conciliarity, with the recognition of the prime importance of prayer as a means of attaining ecclesiastical peace.