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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. 


Unknown said...

I see your point, but they word this document to strongly suggest that WR parishes will become ER, with only a few forms and customs being permitted. I will remember the RWRV in my prayers.

It almost looks like any parishes that want to remain WR will need to be AWRV, unless the synod comes back with an epistle that is less harsh than this decree.

Fr. Aidan said...

Using language which seems tantamount to ending the existence of Western Rite, may send a comforting signal to those Orthodox bishops and clergy and faithful of all jurisdictions who were scandalized, or might have become scandalized, by the uncanonical ordinations. Still, it appears to be more tough rhetoric for public consumption (the chief audience being worldwide Orthodoxy) than anything which enters into any liturgical specifics. The words "Bogosluzhbnogo ustava" are the key words, and they do not mean "Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and Byzantine Rite Hours." The English translation can obscure what the Bishops actually wrote. WR parishes are continuing on exactly as before.

Fr. Aidan said...

That was supposed to be "Bogosluzhebnogo."

Unknown said...

I'm sorry to hear this, many friends I had in the RWRV. It's sad the hostility and prejudice that the WR faces. I truly wish to see a fully restored pre-Schism WR with all of it's uses given credence.

I would petition Antioch if I were in ROCOR at this time, it seems to be the only place in canonical orthodoxy it can survive.

Bb said...

Thank you for this, Father Aidan.

I think that many of us jumped to the most negative conclusion, and that not everybody exercised the discretion to keep quiet about it pending clarification and the unfolding of actual events. Sadly, the internet is now awash with condemnations of our bishops by people who, by their own words, betray an ignorance of basic Orthodox ecclesiology or the inner-workings of ROCOR.

I eagerly await further news.

Fr. Aidan said...

Unknown, I don't allow "Anonymous" comments here, but yours says "Unknown" instead of "Anonymous." If you can let us know who you are, your name, and so forth, then I will keep your comment "up."

To Subd. Michael: Yes, I think it's really a mountain out of a mole hill. Absolutely no change has (yet) come to the RWRV except the retiring of two assistants to the Metropolitan. Dom James (Deschene) remains an assistant to the Metropolitan for WR Monastic Affairs, and no one has been asked to change anything liturgically.

The emphasis on Eastern liturgics is nothing new; it was voiced by the Metropolitan himself at the 2011WR Conference. I wonder how many priests actually did what the Metropolitan said he wanted the WR clergy to do--learn the ER. Learn ER does not mean abandon WR.

The not yet existing "epistle," I predict, is going to result in a big sigh of relief for WR priests.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your measured response. Time will tell.

Athair Ambrois said...

Many are confused by Section 8. It seems the entire Orthodox internet is unable to understand it whether in the Russian or English version. One wag informs us that “Section 8" is a colloquialism in American English referring to the part of the military regulations that authorize discharges by reason of insanity or mental instability.”

Fr. Aidan said...

Section 8 is inscrutable.

The thing about Section 8 being taken from a military manual, seems extremely far-fetched and outré. Without any text being provided, I don't believe a word of that. Just too outré to simply give credence to. And from an anonymous person? Nope.

Theodore said...


Herb Swanson said...

We shall see. We can only pray for the peace and unity of Christ's beloved Church. We must always hope and trust that the Holy Ghost is our guide, and that we are following in the right direction. It seems to me that ROCOR is the best and proper place for the WR: may they prosper there. I am confident in Christ that ROCOR fully appreciates the heritage and value of WR. Peace be unto all.

Fr. George said...

Athair Ambrois talks about 'section 8' as being a military term. He's right about that, but it's not appropriate in our context. A Section 8 Discharge is a type of Unsuitability Discharge for Mental Conditions like bed-wetting, (formerly) homosexuality, or just plain 'nuttiness'.