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MIAMI: December 8, 2012
Russian Orthodox Florida Greets its First Hierarch

It was with special piety that the Orthodox Christians of this sunny state planned for the visit of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York. This trip always proves a source of spiritual joy for his flock, because the common prayer of all to God for the Orthodox parish, the city, the authorities and the local population, invoked Gods blessing for the entire region. The power, significance and importance of this event is probably understood by all nationalities and confessions. But His Eminences visit this time is of particular significance, as he brought invaluable relics for the Church of St Matrona of Moscow to Miami.

By Divine Providence, the First Hierarchs Florida itinerary changed. Because of the sudden death of Protopriest Damian Criscella of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Hilarion departed New York for Florida on Sunday evening, November 25, 2012, On Tuesday, November 27, the believers of the Eastern American Diocese gathered at St Vladimirs Church in Miami for the funeral of Fr Damian. The funerary Liturgy and burial was led by His Eminence.

The rest of Vladyka Hilarions week was tightly scheduled, interesting and productive.

On Friday, November 30, His Eminence visited the newly-opened school Paideia Classical Academy for the Orthodox Christians of Florida. The director and teachers told him about their achievements and hopes for the future, asking the First Hierarch to bless and pray for them.

On Saturday, December 1, at 10 am, Metropolitan Hilarion gave the Church of St Matrona of Moscow in Hallandale (near Miami), an invaluable gift: a portion of the relics of St Nicholas the Miracle-worker and an icon of St Matrona, gifts from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Metropolitan Hilarion and other clergymen performed a moleben to St Nicholas in the presence of a great multitude of worshipers, and that evening the Primate of the Russian Church Abroad performed all-night vigil.

On Sunday, December 2, Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Church of St Matrona, at which Vladyka Hilarion officiated, along with Archimandrite Alexander (Belya), the parish rector, Archimandrite Isaac (Chakley), Prior of Holy Trinity Monastery of Khust-Gorodilovo in Ukraine, Protopriest Ernest Rapsun and Protopriest Nikolai Masniuk from the Czech Republic, Hieromonk Nicholas Perekrestov from New York and Priest Josaph Lukash of the Orthodox Church in America. After Liturgy, which filled everyone with great joy, His Eminence warmly greeted the many parishioners who came to piously welcome the holy relics. Vladyka in particular noted the zealous and fruitful labors of Fr Alexander, who over the course of only a year decorated the church with the help of faithful helpers, introduced a regular cycle of divine services, and established a vibrant parish life. The parishioners of the Church of St Matrona and visiting worshipers openly and earnestly expressed their spiritual elation at being given the chance to venerate the holy relics and gave thanks to their First Hierarch for his general archpastoral ministry and prayerful support.

Particularly noteworthy is that some 800 people came to venerate the relics of St Nicholas and icon of St Matrona in a single day.

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