December 13, 2011
New York City: Historic Joint Concelebration by Hierarchs of OCA & ROCOR in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign

On Saturday, December 10, on the feast day of the Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign, hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) held an historic concelebration of the Divine Liturgy on the patronal feast day of the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign.

His Beatitude Jonah, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America & Canada, celebrated the Divine Liturgy, co-served by His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York. The first concelebration of the Primates of the OCA and ROCOR was held this year on the feast of Sts. Cyril & Methodius at St. Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral, and the joint service by the Primates in the Cathedral of the Sign fortified their renewed liturgical communion.

The Primates were co-served by the following hierarchs of the OCA, the Moscow Patriarchate, and ROCOR:

- His Eminence Mark, Archbishop of Berlin, Germany, and Great Britain
- His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco & Western America
- His Eminence Justinian, Archbishop of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA
- His Eminence Gabriel, Archbishop of Montreal & Canada
- His Grace Michael, Bishop of Geneva & Western Europe
- His Grace Peter, Bishop of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago
- His Grace Tikhon, Bishop of Philadelphia & Eastern Pennsylvania
- His Grace Benjamin, Bishop of San Francisco & the West
- His Grace Melchisedek, Bishop of Pittsburgh & Western Pennsylvania
- His Grace Michael, Bishop of New York & New Jersey
- His Grace Matthias, Bishop of Chicago & the Midwest
- His Grace George, Bishop of Mayfield, Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese
- His Grace Jerome, Bishop of Manhattan, Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese

Upon completion of the Liturgy, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, addressed His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, saying:

 "Your Beatitude, beloved in Christ Metropolitan Jonah, on this most radiant and grace-filled day, I greet you and your brother bishops and clergy and faithful with the feast of the Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign, whose Kursk Root copy, the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora, was discovered over 715 years ago. Today is a day of great joy, when under the protection and the blessing of the Mother of God we gathered together and celebrated the Bloodless Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ together, after many years of regrettable separation. Today, we have the concelebration of the bishops of your Synod, and the bishops of our Synod: this is a very joyful and historic day. We recall the words of King David, "How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity!" (Psalm 132:1). And we give thanks to God for bringing us together in concord, in brotherly love, and we pray that we will always be able to concelebrate and participate in Church life together for the glory of God and for the propagation of the Orthodox Faith on this continent and throughout the world."

Bearing in mind his zealous efforts and labours, Metropolitan Hilarion presented the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America "The Synodal Order of the Sign of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, 1st Class."

In response, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, replied:

"Your Eminence, I am profoundly grateful for this high honor, and for this opportunity to come together, to pray together, to serve together, to celebrate our brotherly love and unity together as one Church. Truly, there is only one Church! God has called us to that unity with love and in communion with one another. It is my fervent prayer that from now on we will work together and cooperate on many different projects, supporting one another in our common paths. God has seen fit over the past decades that there be two Churches, each attending to different ministries, each working with different communities of people, each bearing fruit for the Lord according to His Will and in the Vineyards He had given to us to cultivate."

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, presented the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad with the "Order of St. Innocent, Enlightener of America." Metropolitan Jonah also presented Metropolitan Hilarion with an icon of St. Jacob (Netsvetov) the Confessor, who labored in Alaska and was glorified by the Orthodox Church in America. "This icon perhaps most expresses the spirit of the Orthodox Church in America," said Metropolitan Jonah.

"St. Jacob was the first Native American priest to be ordained in the territory of North America. He was half-Russian and half-Aleut, and he was a great missionary. St Jacob was one of the greatest of the saints of Alaska, and his work is the cornerstone of so much of the Alaskan Mission, which is the foundation of our common work. We are both sons of the Russian Orthodox Mission, we are both the continuation of that Mission, begun in 1794. We are both heirs of that common legacy, and so it is with great joy that I present you this holy icon."

As reported by the official site of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, the Consul General of the Russian Federation in New York, A.K. Yushmanov, then greeted the Primates of the Russian Church Abroad and the Orthodox Church in America, expressed his sincere joy and deep satisfaction at the important event that had just taken place – the renewal of prayerful communion between the two Churches.

"The relationship between the Russian government and Orthodoxy in America has varied greatly over time," noted Yushmanov. "There was a rather long period when the Russian Empire generously aided the realization of an Orthodox Mission among the native population of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, supporting the construction of churches and parish schools for Russian émigrés in America, and providing a salary for parish clergy. Such was the beginning of the Russian Metropolia – now the Orthodox Church in America.

"The events of 1917 in Russia had as their result, in addition to much else, the creation of the Russian Church Abroad, which became a spiritual shelter and place of comfort for many hundreds of thousands of Russian exiles. And so, both the Orthodox Church in America and the Russian Church Abroad are no strangers to the Russian people."

The Consul General of the Russian Federation expressed his hope that today, when a large number of our compatriots receive spiritual nourishment in the bosom of either the Orthodox Church in America or the Russian Church Abroad, the Russian government will remain invested in finding subjects for dialogue and collaboration between the two Churches.

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