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.