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December 10, 2011

OCA, ROCOR Metropolitans, hierarchs concelebrate the Divine Liturgy at ROCORs NYC cathedral

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, and His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy for the first time at the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign, New York, NY, on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

The celebration marked the first time in nearly 70 years that the primates and hierarchs of the OCA and ROCOR have concelebrated. It is noteworthy that the Liturgy was celebrated on the cathedrals Patronal Feast of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, which was present during the Divine Liturgy.

At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitans Jonah and Hilarion exchanged warm greetings and spoke of the historic significance and importance of the occasion.

I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity to come together, to pray together, to celebrate our brotherly love together as one Church. Truly, there is only one Church, said Metropolitan Jonah. God has called us to that love, to that communion with one another. It is my fervent prayer that from now on, we work together and cooperate together in many different projects and support one another in our common task.

God has seen fit over the past decades that our two Churches have received different ministries, each working in different communities of people, each bearing fruit for the Lord according to His will, and going after the vineyards which He has given to us to cultivate, Metropolitan Jonah continued. And now He has brought us together in a new way to constantly share in the same Eucharistic cup, working together in unity to cultivate this vineyard of North America and everywhere else that God calls us to, in preaching the Gospel of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Metropolitan Hilarion presented Metropolitan Jonah with the Order of Kursk-Root Icon, First Class, the highest award given by ROCOR. In turn, Metropolitan Jonah presented the OCAs highest award, the Order of Saint Innocent, Gold Class, to Metropolitan Hilarion.

I am tremendously grateful for this honor of the Kursk Order, Metropolitan Jonah responded. It is my joy and my honor to present you also with the highest order of the Orthodox Church in America, by the grace of God, the Order of Saint Innocent, Apostle to America. This gold medal is presented to Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, in grateful recognition of the alliance and recognition of the Orthodox Church in America.

Metropolitan Jonah also presented Metropolitan Hilarion with a hand-painted icon of Saint Jacob Netsvetov.

  Saint Jacob was the first native American priest to be ordained on the territory of North America, Metropolitan Jonah explained. He was half Russian and half Aleuta great missionary. He came returned from seminary in Russia to serve his people on the Aleutian Islands, after which he was sent by Saint Innocent to the mouth of the Yukon River, where he evangelized the Yupik people. At the end of his life he evangelized the Tlingit people. Saint Yakov is one of the greatest of the saints of Alaska, and his work is the foundation of so much of the Alaskan mission. It also is the foundation of our common work, because we are both sons of the Russian Orthodox mission and the continuation of that mission that was sent in 1794. We are both heirs of that common legacy. So it is a great joy to present to you this holy icon.

Concelebrating with the Metropolitans was His Eminence, Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA.

Members of the OCA Holy Synod who concelebrated were His Grace, Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West; His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania; His Grace, Bishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; His Grace, Bishop Michael of New York and New Jersey; and His Grace, Bishop Matthais of Chicago and the Midwest. OCA clergy concelebrating included [Archimandrite Christopher (Calin, Dean of the OCA, Diocesan Cathedral in New York;] Archpriest John Jillions, OCA Chancellor; Archpriest Eric Tosi, OCA Secretary; Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky, OCA Director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations; Archpriest Joseph Lickwar, Chancellor of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey; Archpriest Wiaczeslaw Krawczuk, Dean of the New York City Deanery; Archpriest Samuel Kedala, Dean of the New Jersey Deanery; Archpriest Chad Hatfield, Chancellor of Saint Vladimirs Seminary; and Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak.

ROCOR hierarchs who concelebrated were His Eminence, Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain; His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America; His Eminence, Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada; His Grace, Bishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe; His Grace, Bishop Peter of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America; His Grace, Bishop George of Mayfield, Vicar of the Diocese of Eastern America and New York; and His Grace, Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, Vicar of the Diocese of Eastern America and New York.

NEW YORK: December 10, 2011
Statement by the Synod of Bishops

Since the normalization of ties between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate in 2007, there have been numerous concelebrations between ROCOR and the Orthodox Church in America, including some at the hierarchical level. This year is marked by the first two concelebrations between the First Hierarchs of the Church Abroad and the Orthodox Church in America, and we state the following, in response to questions by the clergy and faithful:

The Russian Orthodox diocese in the New World was formed in Alaska, while Alaska was still part of the Russian Empire, in 1795. In the following century, after the United States obtained Alaska from Russia, more and more Russian Orthodox parishes were formed in the continental US, and the seat of the diocese, which eventually was to become a Metropolia, was moved to New York. The seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in 1917 made administration from Russia virtually impossible, and from 1921, with the formation of the Church Abroad administration in Yugoslavia, the American Metropolia was considered part of the ROCOR.

However, relations with the rest of the Church Abroad were complicated by the difference in background of those who had come to the United States before and after the Revolution: the earlier migrs had moved to America seeking a better life and a permanent new home, while those who fled from the communists had a strong attachment to Russia and in most cases, hoped to return one day, when the political situation there would change.

In 1925, Holy Patriarch Tikhon reposed after years of persecution by the Bolsheviks, and in the same year, the "Living Church" or "Renovationists" led by Alexander Kedrovsky, managed to gain control of St Nicholas Cathedral in New York City, winning a court case against Metropolitan Platon (Rozhdestvensky). The court found in favor of Kedrovsky, on the grounds that his group was "under a Holy Synod of Russia," but the Church Abroad was not. The death of Patriarch Tikhon also removed a unifying figure, and these factors and others led to a division between the American Metropolia and the Church Abroad. Despite a period of reconciliation from 1935 to 1946, the Metropolia and Synod separated again, largely over relations with the Church in Russia.

The reconciliation in 2007 between the Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate removed the main point of dissention between the two jurisdictions.

At that time, each side lifted the disciplinary suspensions that had been placed on clergy for joining the other. This meant that the canonical obstacles to concelebration had been rectified, and clergy from each could concelebrate with the other. Regardless of that, differences in the points of view and traditions between the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Orthodox Church in America are possible: they have occurred more than once in history between Orthodox hierarchies, and do not have any bearing on official relations. Meanwhile, in 1970, the Moscow Patriarchate had by its own initiative, unilaterally granted the title of "autocephaly" to the former American Metropolia, which changed its name to the "Orthodox Church in America". The full logical consequences of autocephaly would have been a single, canonical hierarchy for that given area, but this was never accepted by the other Orthodox Local Churches, most of which continued, and still continue, to have their own hierarchies in the United States. Nonetheless, the current situation does not constitute an obstacle to communion between the Orthodox Churches here.

ROCOR has always claimed to be only one part of the Church of Russia, and not to be the Church of Russia in Exilea Church of Exiles, at its inception, but not the Church in exile. This has always been confirmed by the decisions of the Bishops Councils. The Church Abroad has never claimed to be the only canonical Orthodox Church, or that the various Local Churches are not canonical Churches. ROCOR remains committed to its conservative, traditional positions, and so does the Moscow Patriarchate. Therefore we are not compromising any principles by normalizing relations with the rest of the Orthodox Church.

The Church Abroad was formed for the purpose of uniting the Russian communities outside of Russia, who desired to remain faithful members of the Orthodox Church of Russia, awaiting its revival, and from the beginning also carried on the missionary function of spreading the Orthodox faith among non-Russians, wherever possible. These roles remain unchanged.

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