On February 2, 2013, the Hall of Church Councils of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow was the setting for the opening of the Holy Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, which includes archpastors of the Moscow Patriarchate in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Latvia, Lithuania, Tajikistan, Turkmenia, Uzbekistan, Estonia, as well as the countries of the “distant diaspora,” from dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church. In all, 290 archpastors from 247 dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church are taking part.
Divine Liturgy at Christ the Savior Cathedral preceded the opening of the Council where all the participants prayed. Presiding over the Church Council, in accordance with the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church, is the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
The Presidium includes the regular members of the Holy Synod: His Beatitude Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine; His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir of St Petersburg and Ladoga; Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk; His Eminence Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsa and Kolomensk; His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir of Kishinev and All Moldova; Administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Varsonofy of Saransk and Mordva; His Eminence Metropolitan Ilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department of External Church Relations; and also His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander of Astanai and Kazakhstant; His Eminence Metropolitan Vikenty of Middle Asia, who were included as regular members of the Holy Synod on October 5, 2011, whose candidacy was confirmed later by the Council of Bishops.
Included in the Presidium were also those invited to participate in the winter session of the Synod: His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir of Omsk and Tauride; His Eminence Metropolitan Veniamin of Penza and Nizhny-Lomovsk; His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Khust and Vinogradovsk; His Eminence Archbishop Simon of Murmansk and Monchegorsk, and His Grace Bishop Savva of Tiraspol and Dubossarsk.
Also, in accordance with the decision of the Holy Synod of January 30, 2013 (Journal No. 8), in recognition of the importance of the participating in the work of the Council of Bishops of representatives of autonomous and self-governing parts of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Presidium likewise included: His Eminence Metropolitan Daniel of Tokyo and All Japan; His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York; His Eminence Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia, and His Eminence Metropolitan Kornily of Tallin and All Estonia.
The Council of Bishops includes diocesan bishops and their vicars, individuals heading Synodal institutions and theological seminaries or those who have canonical jurisdiction over their parishes. In accordance with the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church, other vicar bishops may participate in the meetings of the Council with non-voting status.
A moleben was performed before the plenary session of the council. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia read the beginning prayer.
The attendees adopted the regulations and agenda of the Council and confirmed the mandate, editorial and counting committees, and elected the Council’s secretary.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill read the keynote address covering the life and work of the Russian Church before the Council.
The Council will draw attention to draft documents prepared by the members of the Inter-Council Presence:
On January 30, 2013, the Holy Synod made a decision to submit for deliberation by the Council a draft Regulations on the Material and Social Support of Clergymen, Church Servers and Employees of Religious Organizations of the Russian Orthodox Church and Their Families, and a draft amendment and supplement to the Regulations [Ustav] of the Russian Orthodox Church in accordance with decisions adopted by the Holy Synod of 2011-2012, and also on the directives issued by the Council of Bishops of 2011. In addition, the members of the Council will discuss a draft Regulations on Awards of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Greetings were received by the Council from Russian President Vladimir Putin; Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovish; Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Prime Minister Vlad Filat of the Moldovan Republic.
Press Service of the Council of Bishops