Metropolitan Jonah concludes official visit to the Moscow Patriarchate - 05/04/09
Moscow, May 5. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, has concluded his official visit to the Russian Orthodox Church. On the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women, he concelebrated Divine Liturgy with His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill, at Cathedral of the Dormition in the Moscow Kremlin.
In an interview given to the official web portal Patriarhia.ru, the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America emphasized the most important aspect of his visit – the opportunity for personal contact with His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill and other representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. “We discussed how we will continue to serve and work together in the future. In the course of our discussion, we affirmed that there are no big problems between us. And although certain complications do, indeed, arise in world Orthodoxy as a whole, it appears that we are of one mind.”
Metropolitan Jonah pointed out that the reception of the OCA delegation was according to protocol, in full accord with the autocephalous status of the Orthodox Church in America, and emphasized that in discussion of complex issues pertaining to the lack of recognition of such status by Constantinople and several other Local Orthodox Churches, he feels the unfaltering support on this issue of His Holiness, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, as well as the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk.
In responding to a question pertaining to the future of Orthodoxy in America, His Beatitude noted the position of those Local Churches that do not recognize the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America, and observed: “If they wish to make certain decisions about our life, this would be possible only with our agreement. Otherwise, it would be a great sin against us.”
Among the most important tasks that the American Church now faces, His Beatitude stressed, was the task of mission, spreading Orthodoxy in the United States and Canada, in which traditional Protestantism and Catholicism are undergoing a deep crisis of secularization. The Primate also pointed to the importance of founding new monasteries in America, and expressed the hope that representatives of the American clergy would have the equal opportunity, together with their brothers from the Russian Church, to receive appropriate ecclesial training in the postgraduate program now being set up by the Moscow Patriarchate.
Metropolitan Jonah described the composition of the Orthodox Church in America in the following way: “Approximately sixty percent of our flock are Americans who have come to Orthodoxy. 30% are former uniates, and approximately 10% are Russian immigrants. We have so many Americans because a significant part of our flock consists of those who live in Alaska and Mexico, many of whom are Native American Indians. We are not a Russian Church, we are the Local Orthodox Church, which receives everyone and is open to everyone. For this reason, even though Russians make up a part of our flock, they are not the majority.”
His Beatitude also touched on the consequences of the economic crisis that has also affected the American Church. “For all of us, both there and here, this is a difficult time. We also depend on contributions, but we do not have the system of church sponsorship that exists in Russia. Today, as a result of the crisis, contributions are down some 20%,” Metropolitan Jonah noted. In his interview, the Metropolitan spoke of his own path into the Church, and underscored the special significance of the monastic-ascetic tradition of Valaam, both for himself and for American Orthodoxy as a whole.
Before his departure for the airport, His Beatitude visited the Cathedral of the Epiphany of the Lord in Elokhovo, where he was greeted by the Rector, Protopresbyter Matthew Stadniuk, who had lived in the United States in the 1970’s, when he was assigned to St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York City as the Representative of the Patriarch. The Metropolitan then venerated the holy relics of Metropolitan Alexy of Moscow (+1378) and served a pannihida at the grave of Patriarch Alexy II.
Photographs courtesy of Patriarhia.ru and St. Catherine’s Church, Moscow.