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MOSCOW/SERGIEV POSAD: October 24, 2007
Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff's Trip to Russia

Upon the instructions of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Mitred Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff visited Moscow on October 4, 2007, to participate in the work of a committee on the preparation of materials for the forthcoming Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, in which the bishops of the Russian Church Abroad will participate for the first time ever.

Archbishop Evgeny of VereyWith the blessing of its Primate, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, and at the invitation of the His Eminence Archbishop Evgeny of Verey, Rector of Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary, Fr Alexander also participated in the celebration of the feast day of St Sergius of Radonezh at Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra, as well as the 50 th birthday of Archbishop Evgeny, and finally the feast day of the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God at the Academy.

On Friday, October 5, at Sretensky Stavropighial Monastery in Moscow, Fr Alexander participated in the ceremonial greeting of the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate, which just returned from a round-the-world tour of the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with the "Reigning" Icon of the Mother of God and the Sretensky Choir. The choir had performed at the finest concert venues throughout the world, in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. Despite the late hour (almost midnight), cars and buses drove up, and under the peal of bells, the great, holy “Reigning Icon” of Russia and its escorts were welcomed.

His Eminence Metropolitan Onoufry served a moleben of gratitude before the icon along with Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), the Monastery Rector; and Protopriest Vladislav Tsypin, as Sretensky Choir sang. A trapeza was then offered, where all the participants were thanked.

On Saturday and Sunday, October 6-7, Fr Alexander headed all-night vigil and Divine Liturgy at Sretensky Monastery to a large gathering of worshipers who wished to pray before the Reigning Icon.

After Liturgy, Fr Alexander departed for Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra, where he participated in a meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.

At 3:30, akathists to St Sergius were served in all the churches of the monastery, followed by all-night vigils.

Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and BorovskThe next morning, Divine Liturgy was celebrated in all the churches, after which processions of the cross emerged from each one to the Sobornaya Square, where a common moleben was performed to St Sergius. Fr Alexander, at the invitation of Archbishop Evgeny, served at Pokrovsky Church in the Theological Academy, where Liturgy was celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk.

His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria attended the celebrations and concelebrated with Patriarch Alexy at Uspensky Cathedral. Later that day, Patriarch Theodore was honored at a reception at Moscow Theological Academy, where he viewed the exhibition in the Ecclesiastical Archeological Cabinet Museum.

That evening, all-night vigil was served at Pokrovsky Academic Church on the eve of the feast day of St John the Apostle and Theologian, which was also the 50 th birthday of Archbishop Evgeny.

The following morning, Divine Liturgy was celebrated by a host of hierarchs and clergymen, led by His Eminence Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, the Patriarchal Exarch of Belarus. Congratulations were then read to Vladyka Rector from Patriarch Alexy and the other attending hierarchs: Metropolitan Filaret; His Eminence Archbishop Konstantin of Tikhvin, Rector of the St Petersburg Theological Schools; and His Grace Bishop Feognost of Sergiev Posad, Prior of Holy Trinity-St Sergius Lavra, on behalf of the monastery brethren.

Greetings continued during the ceremonious trapeza, where letters from other theological school and important guests were read.

At 6 pm, a moleben of gratitude was served at the Academy Church for the mercies of God, which have been especially bountiful upon Archbishop Evgeny. After the moleben, His Eminence Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsa and Kolomensk congratulated him.

After the service, everyone proceeded to the Ecclesiastical Archeological Cabinet, where a sumptuous buffet was offered in honor of Vladyka Evgeny. At the event, civic leaders and other guests read their congratulations. Fr Alexander spoke on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, praising the efforts of Archbishop Evgeny in restoring church unity. Protopriest Alexander also read to the honoree a greeting from His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America.

Returning to Moscow on Friday, October 12, Fr Alexander read a lecture to the students of Sretensky Theological Seminary on the topic “Pastoral Theology According to Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky)” and fielded questions.

The following day, Fr Alexander headed back to the Lavra to participate in the celebrations of the feast day of the Academy Church, and also to attend the annual celebration of the Moscow Theological Schools.

On the feast day itself, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II officiated at Divine Liturgy along with a group of archpastors and clergymen. Before the service, Patriarch Alexy blessed new bells for the Academy Church.

The seminaries' celebration, or “Act,” followed the trapeza.

As reported by the official website of the Moscow Theological Academy ( http://www.mpda.ru/ru/school /news/index.php?id=906 ):

"The Annual Act opened in the large auditorium of the Academy, at which, in accordance with tradition, the achievements of the previous school year were presented.

“The Rector of the Moscow Theological Academies and Seminaries, His Eminence Archbishop Evgeny of Verey read a report on the work of Moscow's institutions, the Choir Directors' and Iconographers' Schools for 2006-2007, which was illustrated by photographs of the schools.

“The Head of the Cathedra of Ecclesiastical History, Professor AK Svetozarsky, read a lecture entitled 'The Patriarchs of the 20 th Century and Certain Challenges In Contemporary Church History,' dedicated to the 90 th anniversary of the restoration of the Patriarchy in Russia.

"His Holiness Patriarch Alexy congratulated the administration and the students of the MTA&S on their celebration. ‘The Moscow theological schools are always in my heart and my prayers,' said the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"The Primate of the Russian Church congratulated the Rector, Archbishop Evgeny, on his birthday, and awarded him the Medal of Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow of the Second Order, noting his many labors in the area of spiritual education and in the process of the unification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Church Abroad.”

Fr Alexander spoke on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, extending the greetings of Metropolitan Laurus and Archbishop Kyrill, emphasizing the importance of the role played by Archbishop Evgeny in the restoration of unity within the Russian Church.

On Tuesday, October 16, Fr Alexander participated in the working group headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad at the headquarters of the Department of External Church Relations.

During his visit to Moscow, Fr Alexander also met with meetings with the heads of offices of other Churches—Bishop Antony of Moravic, the Representative of the Serbian Orthodox Church; and Archimandrite Zaccheus (Wood), Representative of the Orthodox Church in America. During these meetings, concrete results of the reestablishment of church unity were discussed.

On Thursday, October 18, Fr Alexander departed for America.

Photo: Priest Alexei Kharlamov