NY: The Episcopal Assembly through the eyes of Russian Archpastors
On Friday, May 28, upon
completion of the three-day Episcopal Assembly of North and
Central America, Eastern American Diocesan Media Office correspondent
Reader Peter Lukianov held interviews with Archbishop Justinian of
Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the USA,
Bishop Job of Kashira, Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in
Canada, and Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, about their impressions of the
Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes
in the USA
What are your impressions of the Episcopal Assembly that just came to
I felt that the
Orthodox Church, independent of the continent on which She finds
Herself living and growing, independent of the language She uses, is
guided by One Holy Spirit. These are not idle expressions or dutiful
phrases; this is truly what I experienced personally in the work of
the Episcopal Assembly. I felt that it was truly brethren in Christ
that had gathered together, and it was very dear to me to participate
in this, what I am sure is an historic undertaking, because the
bishops had the opportunity to pray with one another, to see one
another, to discuss questions of the utmost importance, and to feel
that there really isn’t that much that differentiates us, after all,
and further, that by closing our ranks, we can do a great deal in this
country for the glory of God.
- In your opinion, what was the greatest accomplishment of this Assembly?
That we were able
to demonstrate the unity of canonical bishops of the Orthodox Church.
It was made known to the world that the Church exists, the episcopate
exists, and that behind that episcopate stand the clergy and Orthodox
laity, and I would like for these meetings to take place with
regularity, as was hinted at, that in one year, on the week of Holy
Pentecost, we will meet once more. I think that without unity our
Church cannot exist, and now we were able to show that the Church can
thrive even outside the boundaries of any one jurisdiction. We
gathered together as hierarchs of different jurisdictions, but as it
turned out, we could truly feel the fullness of a single Orthodox
Church, regardless of jurisdiction. And this council of bishops was
truly the fullness of the Orthodox Church of America.
- Some of our readers are worried by phrases such as "21st Century
Orthodoxy," and many are worried that the Orthodox Church here in
America could certainly become as the Protestant church, that is,
leaving Her roots, and transforming into something different. How
would you respond to this?
Both in the 21st,
and in the 22nd, and we know not how long the Church of Christ, or the
whole world, will continue to exist. For me this is an unbendable law
of nature; while the Church of Christ exists, the world will exist.
Without Christ’s Church, the world will cease its existence; it will
truly be the Second Coming of Christ. For that reason I would say the
following: it is not for us to know the times or the seasons when this
will transpire, but this fear for the decline of the Church and the
emasculation of Her spiritual essence, is felt not only by a zealous
laity. For decades was nurtured an atmosphere of distrust among the
laity for the clergy and the bishops; I will tell you that the same
believing heart beats in the chest of a bishop, the same thoughts that
disturb you, dear, beloved, zealous Christians! We share these
thoughts; we see all of this, and surely, you understand, even more,
and sense these same dangers and challenges of the modern age. But we
want for the Church, no matter how long She continues to exist, to
always remain faithful to Christ, faithful to the ideals of Orthodoxy,
while simultaneously speaking in a language accessible to the world,
so that She might be understood. And we, the bishops, are responsible
for the development of the order of life in the Church in such a way
that the Church will continue to remain the salt of the earth and a
light unto it. But let the outside world take us for little fools; we
are, in essence, fools to the whole world that hates Christ. But he
who believes on Christ will not fear these insulting words, when they
call us fools. God help them!
Job of Kashira, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in Canada
What are your impressions of the work of the recently concluded
proceeded in a spiritual, prayerful, and calm manner. The striving of
all the participant hierarchs toward love and unity was palpable;
there is great benefit in this for the Church. This is the confession
of our Symbol of faith – one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church
– this was the principal outcome of the council. We were all
together, all in the Holy Spirit, and it was sincere. Not all of the
issues or questions were resolved, but the main thing was unity. The
second thing was true, selfless brotherly love, reminiscent of the
golden rule of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, that reigned and lorded over the
participants of the council.
They say, Vladyka, that the bishops of Canada will now gather in a
separate assembly. Will you take part in both or only in Canada?
I don’t know how
this will take place, inasmuch as the Assembly resolved to address a
written appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew, asking that he give his
blessing for the creation of a separate Episcopal Assembly in Canada.
When this takes place then we will fulfill his blessing with the
agreement of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. It would be nice
if the Canadian Assembly could be established as a subsection of the
American, and would preside over those several questions facing and
specific to the Church in Canada. That is my opinion, but let God
determine how it shall be.
Bishop Jerome of Manhattan,
Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese
- What are your impressions of
the recently concluded Episcopal Assembly?
The most important thing was
that we were all together. Some people may ask, "What was the
topic?", or "What issues were you going to discuss?"
But I reply that the most important issue is, will we able to have
this Pan-Orthodox hierarchal conference or not? And as it turns out,
we could, and this means a great deal. This was especially true for
those of us who remember how it was several years ago in the Church
Abroad; were this ten or twenty years ago, of course, we would not
have been there. The fact that we were together, that we felt
ourselves to be brothers, and that today at the Liturgy we all had an
opportunity to commune before one altar, from one Chalice, I feel
means a great deal.
- What do you feel was the
principal accomplishment of the Assembly?
Mutual trust, I think, because
although these hindrances were officially abolished, now we know one
another personally, meet with one another, greet one another. And so
now this all takes on a human face.
- Some think that the
participation of our hierarchs in these assemblies runs counter to the
tradition of ROCOR, and say that such an assembly as this one can
ultimately destroy our legacy. How would you reply to these people?
Until 1965, we participated in
similar meetings, we had solid inter-Church relationships; this was
under Metropolitan Philaret and Metropolitan Anastassy. Metropolitan
Anthony (Khrapovitsky), meanwhile, traveled to Romania for the
enthronement of the first Romanian Patriarch in 1925, just as the
Romanian Church adopted the new calendar. In the description of this
event no mention was made of the calendar, so when was the tradition
broken? It is hard to find such a moment.
- Were the bishops of the
Church Abroad greeted namely as ROCOR hierarchs, or as hierarchs of
the Moscow Patriarchate? That is, was the delegation of the Russian
Orthodox Church one, or were there separate delegations from the
Moscow Patriarchate and the Church Abroad?
There was one delegation, and
inasmuch as Archbishop Justinian is the representative of the
Patriarch, he had the primacy of place among us, and fulfilled his
Office of the Eastern American Diocese
York, NY: The Meeting of the Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America
is Brought to a Close
York, NY: Address of Archbishop Justinian at the Episcopal Assembly of
North and Central America
York, NY: Hierarchs of the Eastern American Diocese participate in the
Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America