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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Time to Reflect

Now that some of the dust has cleared from the recent restructuring of the Western Rite in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, one has the leisure to ponder.

All I wish to ponder on (in written form) today, is the situation in which our Western Rite communities find themselves today. Sufficient for the day is the trouble of the day, as our Saviour taught.

1. The Western Rite communities in our Russian Church, remain Western Rite and remain intact. So far, there are no specific changes for them to implement.

2. The Metropolitan issued an epistle to the Western Rite communities about their future and about their continuance as Western in rite. No one knows whether this epistle is the same as the epistle which the Synod had mandated be produced. 

3. The Commission will do its work. The results are not yet known.

4. No one knows how long the moratorium against admitting new WR clergy will last. This places all the potential applicants, as well as the "Beacon" ordinands, in a most difficult position. They need every ounce of love, fellowship, and moral support we can muster during their difficult time of waiting. May the Most Holy Mother of God herself attend to their distress and sorrow, none of which was caused by them.

5. The former Yahoo discussion group for Western Rite clergy has been disbanded and all past posts have been deleted. A new discussion group for WR clergy has been opened, and I am happy to say that after a few short months of banishment from the old group, I can again yahoogroup with my fellow ROCOR clergy, who like me are blessed to the Western Rite. The Beacon ordinands are all invited to the new group. The tone on the new group is respectful, which is a joy to see.

6. A new discussion group has been established for the wives of WR ROCOR clergy. We wish them well and we can benefit from their input and their invaluable service to Christ's Holy Church. You can't have a good priest (or deacon!) without a good matushka. Our matushki are the invisible strength, yea, the secret weapon, of our Church.

7. The 2013 Western Rite Conference has been canceled. A member of the Commission informed me that he was unaware whether there is interest among the WR clergy to meet with one another or celebrate alongside one another, this year.  [Ed. - Since this post July 23, there has occurred a discussion amongst our WR clergy regarding an informal meeting this year. Check back on Oremus blog for an impending post regarding this matter.

8. So far, only one clergyman is known to have left the Russian Church following the Synod decisions, and that is Archimandrite Michael (Kinsfather) of San Antonio, Texas. All others in the Western Rite continue to serve in the Western Rite.

This blog certainly has had an increase in readership from down about 50 to 70 readers per day up to 350 to 600 readers per day. July 20, for example, it had 468 views. All are welcome to make comments, but be aware that anonymous commenting is not permitted. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Letter to WR Clergy and Communities, July 15, 2013

=========== transcription of letter from Metropolitan July 15, 2013 =============

75 E. 93rd Street, New York, NY 10128 Tel.: (917) 848-9706, (917) 543-5199.

July 15, 2013
No. 7-12 / 13

To the Clergy and the faithful of the Western Rite communities of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia:

Christ is in our midst!
The Synod of Bishops has convened and discussed ways in which the Western Rite communities could better be integrated into the larger Church structure in order to promote a closer sense of unity, fellowship, and participation in the fullness of Orthodoxy within the Church. To that end, the Synod of Bishops has made some administrative changes that will help the Western Rite communities work toward and achieve that unity, fellowship, and participation in the rich spiritual life of the Church as we work together to serve the Lord in His vineyard and build up the Kingdom of God in Holy Orthodoxy.
The Western Rite vicariate structure and administration model that were previously in place, as well as those formerly in charge and holding administrative roles such as Pastoral Vicar and the Vicar Bishop, have been released as a result of these decisions of the Synod of Bishops, in order to more effectively implement this new vision for the continued spiritual growth and existence and strengthening of the church communities in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
To this end, all Western Rite communities will be directly under the oversight and omophorion of the President of the Synod of Bishops, Metropolitan Hilarion. A committee has been formed and blessed by the Synod of Bishops to assist the clergy and communities in implementing and monitoring measures for their well-being and growth.

Holy Scripture reminds us, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Psalm 132).

While it is inevitable and somewhat natural for people to feel apprehension or uncertainty in times of change as we move forward, we feel that this decision and emphasis on bringing the current Western Rite communities into closer integration with the fullness of the Church will spiritual enrich the faithful and witness to Holy Orthodoxy to the world.

+ Hilarion [signature]
Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

And here is a scan of the original letter:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Change Comes to the ROCOR Western Rite

First, the Decision of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad is shown below. Under it, my commentary and observations. 

NEW YORK: July 12, 2013
An Extraordinary Session of the Synod of Bishops is Held

On Wednesday, July 10, 2013, an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops of
the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was held, presided over by its
First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New
York. Participating in the meeting were permanent members of the Synod of
Bishops: His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany; His Eminence
Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America; His Eminence Archbishop
Gabriel of Montreal and Canada, and His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland,
Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America.

Deliberating on the matter of Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, the Synod of Bishops
made a decision as follows:

"During a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, presided
over by the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, A DECISION WAS MADE: on
the activities of Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, Vicar of the President for the
Administration of Western Rite Parishes.

After exhaustive deliberation, IT WAS DECREED:

1) To halt the ordination of new clergymen for parishes adhering to the Western

2) To censure Bishop Jerome for his willfulness in administering the parishes
adhering to the Western Rite, and in performing various ecclesial services not
approved by the Synod of Bishops, and for criticizing his brethren in letters to
clergy and laity.

3) To deny recognition of the ordination of a group of individuals by Bishop
Jerome during a single divine service, and to regularize them following a
thorough examination of the candidates.

4) To release Bishop Jerome from all duties, including those of Vicar of the
President in administering Western Rite parishes, designating him as retired
without the right to serve in the Synodal Cathedral "of the Sign" in New York,
or to perform ordinations or award clergymen, and designating his place of
residence at St Vladimir Memorial Church of the 1000th Anniversary of the
Baptism of Russia in Jackson, NJ.

5) To bless Bishop Jerome to perform divine services within the confines of the
Eastern American Diocese with the consent of its Ruling Bishop.

6) To release Monk Anthony (Bondi) from all of his administrative duties and
from the spiritual ministry to the Vicariate of Western Rite Parishes.

7) To establish a commission to examine the means of integrating clergymen and
communities of the Western Rite into the liturgical life of the Russian Orthodox
Church, consisting of: Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York,
President; Bishop George of Mayfield, Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese;
Protopriest David Straut of the Eastern American Diocese, and Protopriest
Anthony Nelson of the Mid-American Diocese.

8) To address an epistle to the clergymen and communities of the Western Rite
regarding the need for them to adopt the order of divine services of the Eastern
Orthodox Catholic Church, while preserving, when necessary, certain
particularities of the Western Rite.

9) To emphasize our adherence to the rules and traditions of the Eastern
Orthodox Catholic Church in general and of the Russian Orthodox Church in

10) To deem this decree immediately valid and to submit it to the members of the
Council of Bishops in the form of a questionnaire for confirmation."

The meeting concluded with the singing of "It is Truly Meet."

=================== end Synod document ================ ==

My comments: The most notable feature of this document is what is in part 8), which mentions WR clergy and communities adopting "the order of divine services of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church, while preserving certain particularities of the Western Rite." This could easily be taken to mean that WR shall cease in the ROCOR. However, there are many unanswered questions. Does "order of divine services" signify the Eastern Liturgy, or something more generic such as "the essential requirements and rules of Eastern liturgics?" The older forms of Roman rite fulfill almost all, if not all, the conciliarly-enacted requirements for Eastern liturgics. Do "particularities of the Western Rite" include such things as the Roman rite Ordinary and Canon of the Mass, or is it a reference to use of Western musical styles in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, e.g.? What part 8 truly means, will not be clear until the coming epistle's contents become known.

I do not take this document to signal the end of the Western Rite in the ROCOR, but rather the inauguration of a cautious period in which the boundaries for the Western Rite will be determined. The way is still open for all Western Rite clergy of the ROCOR to continue in their service to the Church. Pending receipt of the epistle expected in future, there is nothing in this document (as it seems to me) which would prevent WR priests from carrying on as usual this Sunday, using the liturgy they know.

Bishop Jerome and Monk Anthony were formerly assistants to the Metropolitan and no longer are. This may not impact the typical Western Rite priest much, as to the performance of his sacred duties. He will surely have to ask the Metropolitan about things he would formerly ask the assistants about.

The path of service to the Church has not been closed to either Bishop Jerome or Monk Anthony, although they have received different duties than before.

So all hangs on the coming epistle. And who knows when it will appear? In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with all the Western Rite clergy and faithful of our Church, who may be feeling that their world is ending. Please know, brothers and sisters, that it is changing, but not ending. You have our love, prayers, support, and acceptance. Don't be discouraged.

And so we go forward in faith.

It is of interest that the Western Rite Vicariate is referred to in the document, and nowhere in the document is the Vicariate.dissolved or closed. Apparently, the Vicariate continues to exist, but without a named vicar. 

- update: It is now confirmed that the Vicariate as a structure no longer exists. Each Western Rite community is directly under the omofor of the Metropolitan.