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SAN FRANCISCO : May 9, 2006

The Second Day of the IV All-Diaspora Council

On Tuesday, May 9, 2006, the second plenary session of the IV All-Diaspora Council met in the large hall at the Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco, in the presence of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God.

Eleven bishops of ROCOR were present, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and the honored guest from the Serbian Orthodox Church, His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands, along with 126 delegates representing the clergy and laity.

At the beginning of the session, Protopriest Peter Perekrestov, the Senior Secretary of the IV All-Diaspora Council, read the minutes from the first day of the Council and then introduced His Eminence Archbishop Mark, President of the Commission on talks with the Moscow Patriarchate. The topic of his lecture was " The Path Towards Healing the Divisions in the Russian Church : The Pre-Conciliar Process."

"We have gathered here to discuss the current situation of our Russian Church Abroad and to make decisions which will have a decisive effect on our future," said His Eminence in opening his speech. "We are part of the one Russian Orthodox Church and never thought to separate ourselves from her and her enslaved people." The speaker went on to say that during her entire existence, the ROCOR strove to help the Russian Church as much as possible. She tried to help the Catacomb Church by ordaining Bishop Lazarus (Zhurbenko) to nourish the flock. Archbishop Mark noted that ROCOR did not wish to create a parallel ecclesiastical structure on Russian territory, but unfortunately, with time, she lost her way. The speaker noted that the consecration of Archimandrite Valentine (Rusantsov) of Suzdal to the episcopate was a mistake and the result of a blind love for Russia . With time, the Synod of Bishops of the ROCOR recognized that this action brought serious harm to the Russian Church, felt even to this day. Some time later the bishops of ROCOR accepted a group of priests in Siberia who were being persecuted, but did not establish a clear picture of the situation first. Among the former clergymen of the ROC/MP coming over to the ROCOR were a number of unworthy people. "The Serbian Church warned us of the danger of this path and said that the uncompromising position of the ROCOR was not without its flaws. In the 1990's, Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco and Western America of blessed memory urged us to take note of the positive changes in Russia, but unfortunately, we did not heed his advice then. In those years, said Vladyka Mark, many clergymen of the ROC/MP began to utter criticism of "Sergianism" and ecumenism, and ask why the glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia was being delayed. The Council of Bishops of the ROC/MP in 2000 brought to life a number of vital changes in the Church, which the bishops of ROCOR could not ignore. In 2003, a small delegation consisting of three bishops visited Russia. In May 2004, a delegation led by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus visited Russia for an official visit with His Holiness the Patriarch and members of the Holy Synod of the ROC/MP. Archbishop Mark stressed that one cannot expect of t he three-year negotiating process that full and consensual unity of mind could be achieved in all points. If we are ready to submit to the will of God, we will achieve unity, said Vladyka.

Archbishop Mark's speech evoked extensive debate which continued the rest of the time until lunch and then afterwards.

Members of the Commission on discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate then spoke at the afternoon plenary session. The opening speech, on the work of the joint Commissions of the ROCOR and MP, was made by the Secretary of the ROCOR's Commission, Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff (Holy Transfiguration Cathedral, Los Angeles, CA). A report on Church-state relations was read by Protopriest Nikolai Artemoff (Munchen, Germany). Priest Nikolai Savchenko (St Petersburg) and Archimandrite Luke (Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY), addressed the subject of how ecumenism was discussed by the Commissions. His Grace Ambroise of Vevey (Switzerland ) spoke on the canonical, administrative and property issues discussed during the negotiations.