Having gathered in Saint Mary of Egypt Church in Atlanta, Georgia, for the Lenten retreat and conference of clergy of the southern deaneries of the Eastern American Diocese, we, clergy and monastics, spending the past two days in fraternal interaction, attending the divine services and communing of Christ’s Holy Mysteries, raised up our prayers for the flock entrusted to us. We joined the clergy in the north of our Diocese in praying especially for our persecuted brothers and sisters of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, led by His Beatitude Onuphry, Metropolitan of Kiev & All Ukraine.
We lament the ongoing fratricidal conflict in Ukraine, which has now entered its second year, and continue to pray for a cessation of hostilities and resumption of peace. Our Diocese has several generations of clergy and faithful from both Russia and Ukraine, who grieve together over the lives lost and the hatred that this war has engendered. We remind everyone that the first of the First Hierarchs of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), was Metropolitan of Kiev & Galicia prior to the Russian revolution of 1917; the founder of our Diocese, Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), spent his formative years as a pastor in Volhynia and Pochaev; the spiritual heart of our entire Church Abroad, Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, was infused with the spirit of Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra; and our beloved First Hierarch, Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of blessed memory, grew up in the Ukrainian-Canadian Diaspora and regularly visited relatives in Ukraine.
These connections make our pain and alarm over the Ukrainian government’s continued persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and her faithful deeply personal. We have watched as crowds have been allowed to harass, jeer, and even physically assault the faithful at the Kiev Caves Lavra who came to defend the brotherhood and the faculty and seminarians of the Kiev Theological Academy from unlawful eviction by the state. We have also seen the many reports of increased forcible seizures of churches and persecution of the clergy and faithful by the schismatic followers of the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” in many parts of the country. Last week, we saw the inexplicable and troubling arrest of His Eminence, Metropolitan Pavel, deputy abbot of the Kiev Caves Lavra. These actions and the attempted eviction from the Lavra by the Ukrainian government have drawn condemnation from almost all of the Local and Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and we join our voices to theirs in entreating the Ukrainian authorities to charge their course of action and allow the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to perform its spiritual functions in peace. As patriotic, law-abiding, and dutiful citizens of the United States of America, we also entreat our Congress to take the necessary actions within its power to safeguard the religious freedoms of the clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Archpriest John Whiteford’s lectures on homiletics and the life and legacy of the Holy Hierarch Jonah of Hankou were moving and instructive, and all of the retreat participants – from senior priests to those newly ordained – gained valuable insight into the art of preaching and the life of one of the luminaries of Orthodoxy in the 20th century.
Presentations by Priest Peter Markevich and Reader Nicholas Chapman apprised us of life at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, which this year is celebrating its 75th anniversary. We call on our clergy and faithful to remember and support our diasporan seminary, which safeguards the spirit of the Church Abroad and where so many of our future pastors receive their formation.
In these final days of Great and Holy Lent, and on the eve of the great feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos, we pray for strength, hope, and inner peace for all Orthodox Christians as we prepare to join our Lord in His sufferings and, finally, celebrate His glorious Resurrection from the dead.
Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia