LONDON: October 23, 2012
The Capital of Great Britain Hosts 50th-Anniversary Celebrations of Sourozh Diocese 

On October 19-22, 2012, London was the host city for the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the founding of Sourozh Diocese. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the jubilee was headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. Also participating were hierarchs who gathered in London for the Conference of Russian Orthodox Bishops Serving in the Diaspora.

On October 19, as part of the celebrations, the choir of Moscow’s St Danilov Monastery gave a concert in the Anglican Church of St James in Picadilly. His Eminence Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh and Russian Ambassador to Great Britain Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko welcomed the guests. The choir sang liturgical works be renowned composers and other spiritual music. They also participated in divine services marking the anniversary.

On October 20, all-night vigil was performed at Dormition Cathedral of the Diocese of Great Britain of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk; His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of ROCOR; His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany and Great Britian (ROCOR), and Archbishop Elisey. They were joined by Protopriest Nikolai Balashov, Vice President of the Department of External Church Relations of the MP; Archimandrite Irenei, Dean of SS Cyril and Athanasius Institute for Orthodox Studies in San Francisco (ROCOR); Protopriest John Behr, Dean of St Vladimir’s Seminary (Orthodox Church in America), and other clergymen of the dioceses of ROCOR and Sourozh. Also praying at the service were His Eminence Archbishop Anatoly of Kerch; His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America; His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada; His Eminence Archbishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe; His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Egoriev, Director of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Administration of Foreign Institutions; His Grace Bishop Iov of Kashira, Administrator of Patriarchal Parishes in Canada; His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart; His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland; His Grace Bishop John of Caracas and South America; His Grace Bishop George of Mayfield, and His Grace Bishop Nestor of Korsun. Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash) of the Constantinople Patriarchate was also in attendance.

The main event was Divine Liturgy at Dormition Cathedral of Sourozh Diocese, celebrated by Metropolitan Ilarion; Metropolitan Hilarion; Archbishop Mark (ROCOR); Archbishop Elisey; Archbishop Kyrill; Archbishop Anatoly; Archbishop Gabriel; Archbishop Michael; Moscow Patriarchate Mark of Egoriev; Bishop Iov; Bishop Peter; Bishop John; Bishop George and Bishop Nestor.

The host of archpastors were joined in the service by Protopriest Benedict Ramsden of Sourozh Diocese; Protopriest Nikolai; Archimandrite Irenei; Protopriest John; Protopriest Serafim Gan, Chancellor of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR, and many clerics of Sourozh Diocese. Praying at the service was also Ambassador Yakovenko.

After the service, Metropolitan Ilarion greeted everyone on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, who had given his blessing for this great celebration of the Sourozh Diocese. Vladyka asked everyone to prayerfully remember the first bishop and founder of the diocese, Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom):

“Today, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sourozh Diocese, and looking back upon its history, our eyes fall first of all on this great archpastor, a man who stood at its founding, Metropolitan Anthony. When over a half century ago he arrived in this country and established first a parish, then a diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, circumstances were far different than they are now: there was not the multitude of multilingual people from various countries living here, but a small community of Russian émigrés, divided amongst themselves into two jurisdictions.

“I remember well the story told by Vladyka Anthony about the time when the community of the Moscow Patriarchate shared a church with a community of the Russian Church Abroad. It was headed by the future Metropolitan Anthony, who was then still a priest, while Fr Vitaly headed the parish of the Russian Church Abroad—he was later to become its First Hierarch. Every time Vladyka Vitaly came to church to celebrate divine services after the community of the Moscow Patriarchate had done so, he blessed the church again, as though it had been desecrated. It was under such circumstances that Vladyka Anthony’s service here began, this was the way of life for our divided community over the course of a very long time.

“Vladyka Anthony had the gift of prophecy, he saw many decades ahead in time and understood that it will be impossible to preserve Orthodoxy in this nation if it is limited to an exceedingly narrow circle of Russian émigrés. He took special pains to attract the English to Orthodoxy. He learned the English language and began to perform divine services in the local tongue; in addition to discussions in Russian, which he hosted on a regular basis, he devoted equal time to discussions in English, not only to convert Anglicans to Orthodoxy, but to open the path to those who wished to obtain Christ specifically within the bosom of the Orthodox Church, for he had a profound faith in its salvific nature.”

As Metropolitan Ilarion noted, Vladyka Anthony continued his service for many years, bringing people to Christ, and lived to see the time when a new wave of immigrants from Russia and the countries of the CIS flooded Great Britain. The Church was suddenly given new opportunities, and churches which were becoming empty were once again filled with worshipers. The Sourozh Diocese got its “second wind.” The President of the DECR went on to say:

“The Sourozh Diocese continues its ministry after the death of Vladyka Anthony, which he established himself. Bearing witness to this is today’s overflowing temple, as well as the ascetic efforts of the archpastors and pastors of the Russian Orthodox Church who serve in this cathedral and other churches of the diocese. Vladyka Anthony saw how the Sourozh Diocese expanded thanks to the newly-arrived immigrants to Great Britain, to Ireland, but did not live to see the reunification of the Church Abroad and the Church in the Fatherland. We believe that even today he gazes down upon this holy temple and upon today’s ceremonies. I think that his soul is overjoyed that the long-standing division has come to an end and the communities of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Church Abroad now lift praise to God with one mouth and with one heart.

“Vladyka Anthony always insisted that Orthodoxy in this country is not simply a religion of Russian émigrés, it is not a new faith which only came to the British Isles as a result of the immigration of the 20th century. He always said that the roots of the Orthodox Church in Great Britain were the ascetic feats of the saints of the ancient, undivided Church, who are even today venerated in the Sourozh Diocese.”

Vladyka Ilarion then gave Archbishop Elisey an icon of All Saints of Britain and Ireland on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.

Metropolitan Hilarion then delivered a congratulatory word. “Today, on behalf of the episcopacy, clergy and flock of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, I wish to congratulate Archbishop Elisey, his clergymen and parishioners, all of you, dear brothers and sisters, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Sourozh Diocese. This is an important, and a jubilant, event. We wish you mercies from our Lord God for the strengthening and flourishing of your diocese. We will always remember you and today’s celebrations,” said Vladyka.

Archbishop Rowan Williams sent a congratulatory message, read by Rev. Jonathan Goodall, Secretary of the Archbishop on Inter-Church Relations. The letter said, in part:

“As before, the Sourozh Diocese plays an exceptionally important role in the religious life of this nation, and this occurs not only thanks to the clergymen who are inspired by the example of the blessed memory of the late Metropolitan Anthony, but thanks to all those who have discovered the Christian and Orthodox faith in the efforts of the Sourozh Diocese, and then shared this treasure with other believers in British society (one should note in particular the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius).

“Under the shifting conditions of life in recent years, the Sourozh Diocese nourishes many thousands of people who come to Great Britain and makes its contribution to the witness of Christianity here in the United Kingdom.”

Thereafter, a memorial bas-relief by the Russian sculptor S. Bychkov was unveiled before the narthex, depicting Metropolitan Anthony of blessed memory. A commemorative litany was then performed at the site.

The Russian Embassy in Great Britain then hosted a reception to mark the diocese’s anniversary. Ambassador Yakovenko congratulated all who gathered on this great jubilee and presented a Royal Postage stamp with the depiction of Dormition Cathedral in London, issued to mark the anniversary.

Metropolitan Ilarion then greeted everyone, noting that: “The anniversary of the Sourozh Diocese is not simply a celebration, it is an event that touches upon a great many people, and it is no accident that here, within the walls of the Russian Embassy, representatives of other Orthodox jurisdictions have gathered together, as well as representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, and British and Russian society.”

The President of the DECR expressed thanks to the Russian Ambassador for his cooperation when he served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. In recognition of his achievements, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill deemed proper to award Mr Yakovenko with the Medal of St Daniel of Moscow (III Degree), which Metropolitan Ilarion gave him, congratulating him, incidentally, on his birthday.

Archbishop Elisey also congratulated Ambassador Yakovenko and thanked him for his service to his compatriots and to the church community.

He added that this anniversary is connected with memories of the past and confidence in the future: “We wish to point out to all Britons that Orthodoxy is not something new here, but the it was the very faith of the saints glorified on British land in the first centuries of Christianity.” Archbishop Elisey then presented a book on the saints of Britain and Ireland, published by the Sourozh Diocese in Russian for the first time.

Prince Michael of Kent was in attendance at the reception, as well as the archpastors and clergymen who celebrated divine services; Archbishop Athanasios of Tropaeou, Vicar of the Thyateira of the Constantinople Patriarchate; Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster (Roman Catholic Church); Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain; ambassadors of various Orthodox Churches, representatives of Christian communities and other Orthodox participants in the celebrations.

That evening, London’s Cadogan Hall was the venue of a ceremony in honor of the anniversary. Archbishop Elisey welcomed the audience, then inviting Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk, who gave a speech:

“It seems to me that the future of the diocese lies in developing the legacy left by Vladyka Anthony. First of all, we must develop the international character of the diocese, which reflects the multinational character of the entire Russian Orthodox Church. Vladyka Anthony always insisted that Orthodoxy is neither Russian, nor Greek, but a faith we received from Christ and the Apostles and which can be preached in many languages.

“Today, the Sourozh Diocese is markedly different than it was fifty years ago. I think that over the next fifty years it will experience equally great changes. I would like to express hope that the diocese will continue to be open to all people regardless of their nationality or language, just as now.  Hope that by the efforts of its archpastors, pastors and righteous laity, it will continue the work begun by Vladyka Anthony, and that for thousands of people, the Sourozh Diocese will open the path to Christ.”

Vladyka Ilarion then gave Patriarchal ecclesiastical awards to worthy clergymen and laypersons. The Medal of St Sergius of Radonezh (I Level) was given Vicar of Sourozh Diocese, Archbishop Anatoly of Kerch. The Medal of St Danil of Moscow (III Level) was given to the senior clergyman of the diocese, Protopriest Benedict Ramsden; the Medal of St Evfrosiny of Moscow (III Level) to Mr T Nosov, Warden of the cathedral; and medals and Patriarchal decrees of blessing to other clergymen and benefactors of the diocese. Archpastoral decrees of blessing were then given by Archbishop Elisey.

A concert followed, at the end of which a documentary was shown: “Sourozh. Erasing Borders,” by Alexey Mikhalev.

Press Service of the DECR.

 


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