A regular session of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was held on May 5-7, 2009, in New York, in the presence of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, presided over by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion.
Participating in the meeting were its regular members: His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany; His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops; His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada; His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America, and His Grace Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, Deputy Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. Also participating at the invitation of the President were His Grace Bishop John of Caracas and His Grace Bishop George of Mayfield, Vicar Bishop of the Eastern American Diocese.
In his keynote address, the President congratulated the hierarchs on the Pascha of Christ, expressing his wish that they maintain the spiritual joy of the Resurrected Christ and turn to the Synod’s affairs with renewed strength.
Hearing a report by Bishop John on the situation in the South American Diocese, the Synod of Bishops decided to mark next year’s 50th anniversary of Resurrection of the Lord Cathedral in Buenos Aires with festive services, the opening of an exhibition of icons of the Mother of God from Russia and other events. Continuing his report, Bishop John recounted the problems the Diocese is facing, with its dire need for clergymen and psalm-readers.
Bishop Peter then reported on a matter delegated to him: the transfer of the remains of Bishop Konstantin of blessed memory, who died and was buried in the now-defunct Blanco, TX, monastery. It was decided to instruct Bishop Peter to arrange for his remains to be reburied in a Greek monastery some 30 miles from Blanco.
In his report, Archbishop Mark, Overseer of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, thanked the Synod of Bishops for appointing Archimandrite Joasaph (MacLellan) as the Head of the Mission in Jerusalem, stating that full ecclesiastical communion has been reestablished with the Jerusalem Patriarchate. On May 5 of this year, this fact was solidified by a concelebration at the Life-bearing Tomb of the Lord by His Eminence Metropolitan Aristarchos, Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Jerusalem Patriarchate and His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart, Vicar of the German Diocese.
It was also decided to form a commission to study the relationship with the Orthodox Church in America and to hold joint meetings to discuss the sources of the division between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the American Metropoliate. Included in this commission are Bishop George, President; Archimandrite Luke (Murianka); Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff, Secretary; Protopriest David Moser and Priest Peter Jackson. The commission is to study and present findings on the reasons for the division and to evaluate the mutual accusations, and propose methods of healing the separation.
Hearing a report by Protopriest Serafim Gan, who read a letter from GS Poltavchenko, Chairman of the Benevolent Council for the Rebirth of the Kursk-Root Hermitage, Plenipotentiary of the President of the Central Federal Region, His Eminence Archbishop German of Kursk and Rylsk and Governor AN Mikhailov of Kursk oblast, the Synod of Bishops expressed their agreement in principle to allowing the greatly-desired visit of the Hodigitria of the Russian Diaspora to the Fatherland. Examining and discussing the proposal by the Benevolent Council for a visit to Russia of the main holy icon of the Russian Church Abroad, the Synod of Bishops decided to form an organizing committee answerable to the First Hierarch and the Synod which would prepare this historic visit. In this committee are Fr Serafim, President; Priest Alexandre Antchoutine and Deacon Nicholas Olhovsky, Secretary. Recalling the will of the ever-memorable Metropolitan Laurus (+3/16 March, 2008), the Synod of Bishops appealed to Mr Poltavchenko with a request to guarantee the safety of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God for her return to the USA. In its decision on this matter, the Synod of Bishops expressed the hope that the transfer of the Kursk-Root Icon to Russia “would serve to the glory of God, the edification and renewal of the strength of the Orthodox people of Russia, the Abode of the Most-Holy Mother of God, whom our Church always strove to serve, with God’s help, preserving and increasing the great legacy handed down to us from our ancestors.” It is proposed that the miracle-working icon travel to Russia this September.
After consideration of a letter from Hegumen Seraphim of Holy Cross Hermitage, an affiliate of Holy Trinity Monastery, the Synod of Bishops decided “to grant the request of Hegumen Seraphim and to deem the former Holy Cross affiliate a monastery of the Eastern American Diocese, entrusting His Reverence with arranging for the election of its abbot.”
After discussing the situation surrounding St Andrew’s Russian Orthodox Church in St Petersburg, FL, the Synod of Bishops decreed not to grant this parish special status under the direct authority of the President, but, while removing it from the Southern Deanery of the Diocese of Eastern America and New York, to subject it directly to the Ruling Bishop. The directive of the Synod of Bishops to Protopriest Igor Chitikov, the parish rector, instructs him to immediately bring the statutes of the “Trust” in conformity to the Normal Parish By-Laws of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, since the present statutes do not correspond at all to the holy canons of the Church and its traditional order.
Having heard a letter from St Vladimir Society in New Jersey addressed to the Synod of Bishops, it was decided that this year and in 2010, to conduct plate collections throughout all the parishes of the Russian Church Abroad on the closest Sunday to the feast day of St Vladimir towards the renovation of St Vladimir Memorial Church of the 1000th Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia in Jackson, NJ.
The Synod of Bishops heard a report read by Captain Peter Sarandinaki, President of “S.E.A.R.C.H. Foundation Inc.” S.E.A.R.C.H. is a socio-scientific organization formed for the study of the fate of the children of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas, the last Russian Emperor, Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria. The organization aims to reestablish the truth about Russian history. Captain Sarandinaki participated in four expeditions to the outskirts of Ekaterinburg with the aim of seeking the remains of the Emperor’s children. These trips were made in 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2007.
The Synod of Bishops also heard reports from Protopriest Peter Holodny, Treasurer of the Synod of Bishops, who told of his recent meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, and presented a financial report; Protopriest Andrei Sommer on his work with youth; Nicholas A Ohotin, Jurisconsult of the Synod of Bishops on legal affairs and the renovation project of the Synodal building in New York.
The Synod of Bishops decided to form a Finance committee under the presidency of Bishop Peter of Cleveland, which is instructed to study the financial situation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and make recommendations for its improvement, and on the Synod building renovation project. A final decision on this project and the form it takes is postponed until the next meeting of the Synod of Bishops, which will take into account the opinions and decisions of the new Finance committee.