May 31, 2010
New York, NY: The Episcopal Assembly through the eyes of Russian Archpastors

On Friday, May 28, upon completion of the three-day Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America, Eastern American Diocesan Media Office correspondent Reader Peter Lukianov held interviews with Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the USA, Bishop Job of Kashira, Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in Canada, and Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, about their impressions of the Assembly’s work.

Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA

- What are your impressions of the Episcopal Assembly that just came to a close?

I felt that the Orthodox Church, independent of the continent on which She finds Herself living and growing, independent of the language She uses, is guided by One Holy Spirit. These are not idle expressions or dutiful phrases; this is truly what I experienced personally in the work of the Episcopal Assembly. I felt that it was truly brethren in Christ that had gathered together, and it was very dear to me to participate in this, what I am sure is an historic undertaking, because the bishops had the opportunity to pray with one another, to see one another, to discuss questions of the utmost importance, and to feel that there really isn’t that much that differentiates us, after all, and further, that by closing our ranks, we can do a great deal in this country for the glory of God.

- In your opinion, what was the greatest accomplishment of this Assembly?

That we were able to demonstrate the unity of canonical bishops of the Orthodox Church. It was made known to the world that the Church exists, the episcopate exists, and that behind that episcopate stand the clergy and Orthodox laity, and I would like for these meetings to take place with regularity, as was hinted at, that in one year, on the week of Holy Pentecost, we will meet once more. I think that without unity our Church cannot exist, and now we were able to show that the Church can thrive even outside the boundaries of any one jurisdiction. We gathered together as hierarchs of different jurisdictions, but as it turned out, we could truly feel the fullness of a single Orthodox Church, regardless of jurisdiction. And this council of bishops was truly the fullness of the Orthodox Church of America.

- Some of our readers are worried by phrases such as "21st Century Orthodoxy," and many are worried that the Orthodox Church here in America could certainly become as the Protestant church, that is, leaving Her roots, and transforming into something different. How would you respond to this?

Both in the 21st, and in the 22nd, and we know not how long the Church of Christ, or the whole world, will continue to exist. For me this is an unbendable law of nature; while the Church of Christ exists, the world will exist. Without Christ’s Church, the world will cease its existence; it will truly be the Second Coming of Christ. For that reason I would say the following: it is not for us to know the times or the seasons when this will transpire, but this fear for the decline of the Church and the emasculation of Her spiritual essence, is felt not only by a zealous laity. For decades was nurtured an atmosphere of distrust among the laity for the clergy and the bishops; I will tell you that the same believing heart beats in the chest of a bishop, the same thoughts that disturb you, dear, beloved, zealous Christians! We share these thoughts; we see all of this, and surely, you understand, even more, and sense these same dangers and challenges of the modern age. But we want for the Church, no matter how long She continues to exist, to always remain faithful to Christ, faithful to the ideals of Orthodoxy, while simultaneously speaking in a language accessible to the world, so that She might be understood. And we, the bishops, are responsible for the development of the order of life in the Church in such a way that the Church will continue to remain the salt of the earth and a light unto it. But let the outside world take us for little fools; we are, in essence, fools to the whole world that hates Christ. But he who believes on Christ will not fear these insulting words, when they call us fools. God help them!

Bishop Job of Kashira, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in Canada

- What are your impressions of the work of the recently concluded Episcopal Assembly?

The council proceeded in a spiritual, prayerful, and calm manner. The striving of all the participant hierarchs toward love and unity was palpable; there is great benefit in this for the Church. This is the confession of our Symbol of faith – one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church – this was the principal outcome of the council. We were all together, all in the Holy Spirit, and it was sincere. Not all of the issues or questions were resolved, but the main thing was unity. The second thing was true, selfless brotherly love, reminiscent of the golden rule of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, that reigned and lorded over the participants of the council.

- They say, Vladyka, that the bishops of Canada will now gather in a separate assembly. Will you take part in both or only in Canada?

I don’t know how this will take place, inasmuch as the Assembly resolved to address a written appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew, asking that he give his blessing for the creation of a separate Episcopal Assembly in Canada. When this takes place then we will fulfill his blessing with the agreement of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. It would be nice if the Canadian Assembly could be established as a subsection of the American, and would preside over those several questions facing and specific to the Church in Canada. That is my opinion, but let God determine how it shall be.

Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese

- What are your impressions of the recently concluded Episcopal Assembly?

The most important thing was that we were all together. Some people may ask, "What was the topic?", or "What issues were you going to discuss?" But I reply that the most important issue is, will we able to have this Pan-Orthodox hierarchal conference or not? And as it turns out, we could, and this means a great deal. This was especially true for those of us who remember how it was several years ago in the Church Abroad; were this ten or twenty years ago, of course, we would not have been there. The fact that we were together, that we felt ourselves to be brothers, and that today at the Liturgy we all had an opportunity to commune before one altar, from one Chalice, I feel means a great deal.

- What do you feel was the principal accomplishment of the Assembly?

Mutual trust, I think, because although these hindrances were officially abolished, now we know one another personally, meet with one another, greet one another. And so now this all takes on a human face.

- Some think that the participation of our hierarchs in these assemblies runs counter to the tradition of ROCOR, and say that such an assembly as this one can ultimately destroy our legacy. How would you reply to these people?

Until 1965, we participated in similar meetings, we had solid inter-Church relationships; this was under Metropolitan Philaret and Metropolitan Anastassy. Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), meanwhile, traveled to Romania for the enthronement of the first Romanian Patriarch in 1925, just as the Romanian Church adopted the new calendar. In the description of this event no mention was made of the calendar, so when was the tradition broken? It is hard to find such a moment.

- Were the bishops of the Church Abroad greeted namely as ROCOR hierarchs, or as hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate? That is, was the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church one, or were there separate delegations from the Moscow Patriarchate and the Church Abroad?

There was one delegation, and inasmuch as Archbishop Justinian is the representative of the Patriarch, he had the primacy of place among us, and fulfilled his role masterfully.

  Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese

See also

New York, NY: The Meeting of the Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America is Brought to a Close

New York, NY: Address of Archbishop Justinian at the Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America

New York, NY: Hierarchs of the Eastern American Diocese participate in the Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America