Diocesan News

Assembly Convenes Sixth Annual Meeting in Chicago

02Chicago, IL--The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America convened its sixth annual meeting Tuesday, September 15 in Chicago, IL with 45 hierarchs in attendance. The day began with a celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Des Plaines, IL.

Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman of the Assembly, opened the meeting. His remarks can be read here in their entirety. General business followed, including acceptance of the minutes from Assembly V, a financial report from the Assembly’s treasurer, Metropolitan Antony, and brief reports from the Secretary of the Assembly, Bishop Basil, and the Chairman of the Committees, Bishop Maxim. Metropolitan Antony reported that a budget shortfall is expected and expressed his hope that the hierarchs would seek donations from the faithful to meet the shortfall. Bishop Maxim called attention to the committees that have been particularly active to-date: Agencies and Endorsed Organizations, Canonical Regional Planning, Ecumenical Relations, Financial Affairs, Legal Affairs, Pastoral Practice, Monastic Communities, and Youth.

The hierarchs then devoted several hours to canonical regional planning, the first of two such planned sessions. Each of the first hierarchs of the Assembly’s 12 jurisdictions expressed his opinion of a proposal that had been circulated in advance by the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning. The proposal by the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning focuses on three main areas of common work over the next three years: diverging pastoral practices among the jurisdictions; development of possible models for a canonical reorganized Church administration; and greater cooperation and integration of jurisdictional ministries and departments.

The hierarchs were allotted approximately 15 minutes each to express their views on the proposal. Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Archdiocese was not present; his statement was read on his behalf. Discussion on the opinions expressed will ensue in the opening session on Wednesday.

In the evening, the hierarchs joined more than 100 Chicago-area youth at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving and a question and answer forum with the bishops. Four hierarchs—Bishop Gregory (ACROD), Bishop Anthony (AOCA), Bishop Maxim (Serbia), and Archbishop Michael (OCA)—sat on a panel and answered questions from the youth. Questions touched on a wide range of topics, including what parishes can do to keep youth in the Church, anxiety and suffering, the possibility of Church unity, and the Church’s view of homosexuality. The event was videotaped and will be made available on the Assembly’s website in the near future. 

The Assembly wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the clergy and faithful of St John the Baptist and Holy Resurrection for their gracious hospitality in hosting the hierarchs. 

Source: http://www.assemblyofbishops.org

Патријарх српски Иринеј у Саборном храму у Њујорку

Његова Светост Патријарх српски г. Иринеј богослужио је 12. септембра 2015. године у Саборном храму Светог Саве у Њујорку.

Српском Патријарху Иринеју саслуживали су Преосвећена господа Епископи источноамерички Митрофан, жички Јустин и западноамерички Максим, као и више православних свештеника из Њујорка. Беседио је патријарх Иринеј. У парохијском дому приређена је трпеза и богат програм. Српском Патријарху добродошлицу је пожелео Епископ источноамерички г. Митрофан као и старешина Саборног храма, прота Ђокан Маjсторовић. Овом приликом, патријарху Иринеју је уручена на дар панагија, као скроман знак пажње и благодарности на посети.

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Патријарх српски Иринеј у Саборном храму у Њујорку

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Patriarch Irinej receives Doctorate Honoris Causa at St. Vladimir's

01Crestwood, NY - On Friday evening, September 11, 2015, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and President of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, welcomed His Holiness, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia to the seminary campus, where he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate during an academic convocation and delivered a well-received lecture. 

Patriarch Irinej’s visit came just days after he presided at the canonization of Saints Sebastian [Dabovich] of San Francisco and Jackson, the first American-born Orthodox priest, and Mardarije [Uskokovic] of Libertyville, the first bishop of the Serbian Diocese in America, which took place in Alhambra, CA on Saturday, September 5.

Accompanying Patriarch Irinej were His Grace, Bishop Maxim of the Western American Diocese; His Grace, Bishop Mitrophan of the Eastern American Diocese; and His Grace, Bishop Justin of Zica; dean of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the University of Belgrade protopresbyter-stavrophor Dr. Predrag Puzovic; Professor Dr. Bogoljub Sijakovic etc.

Metropolitan Tikhon and the seminary clergy, faculty, staff, students, trustees and guests welcomed Patriarch Irinej in the seminary’s Three Hierarch’s Chapel, where he venerated the relics of Saint Vladimir and the Holy Hierarchs Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom.  After the singing of the troparia of the newly glorified Saints Sebastian and Mardarije, Metropolitan Tikhon offered official greetings on behalf of the OCA Holy Synod of Bishops and presented the Patriarch with a panagia.

Mr. Alex Machaskee, SVOTS Board Chair, led the hierarchs and attendees into the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium, where Metropolitan Tikhon opened the academic convocation, at which Archpriest Dr. John Behr, Dean, presided.  Father John offered a biographical sketch of Patriarch Irinej, after which the text of the Doctorate Honoris Causa was read.  After the Patriarch was invested with the academic hood and doctoral cross, he delivered his lecture, titled “Theology as a Hope for the Future of the Church.” [The full text of Patriarch Irinej’s lecture appears below.]

Patriarch Irinej, the 45th Patriarch of Serbia, was enthroned in his present position in January 2010.  He was ordained as a hieromonk in 1959.  After his consecration to the episcopacy, he served as Bishop of Moravica and Nis prior to his election as Patriarch.  He also was both a professor and rector of Prizren Seminary.

Theology as a Hope for the Future of the Church

Address of His Holiness, Irinej
Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Serbian Patriarch
on the occasion of the Presentation of the Doctorate Honoris Causa at St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary
September 11, 2015

Your Eminences, Most Blessed President of the Board of Trustees, Very Reverend Dean, Very Reverend Chancellor, Executive Chair of the Board, Esteemed Professors, Dear Students, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very grateful for the honor you are giving me this evening.  The bestowal of an honorary doctorate shows that, in effect, you are receiving me into your academic family, together with Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory, who also received an honorary doctorate from you.

Such a reception, I would venture to say, obliges me to be mindful of the many gifts our Orthodox Church of Serbia has received from this school.  For many decades the School of St Vladimir’s, thanks to Fr. John Meyendorff and Fr. Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory, with its theological “climate,” has been for many of our countrymen a real seminary, a “nursery,” and a point of reference.  For over seventy-five years you have been nourishing the global Orthodox Church with criteria of a theological orientation, deeply marking the consciousness of the Orthodox Church.

In this spirit I submit for your consideration certain reflections on the way the Christian Church understands its theological witness in the beginning of the new millennium.  The customary brief lecture that I shall now deliver is titled: Theology as a Hope for the Future of the Church.

I.  Theology as a Hope for the Future of the Church

As the unforgettable St. Justin of Ćelije said, “if the Church of Christ does not solve the profound questions of the human spirit, it is not necessary.”  This School has preserved theology as the primary expression of the Church’s experience without ignoring either sociological concerns or the natural sciences. It is a theology that, through its patristic and liturgical foundations, claims to have a vision of cosmic transformation, of a transfiguration of the world and the conversion of the human individual into a true person living in the image of the Holy Trinity.  We cannot train Orthodox theologians without opening up their eyes to all aspects of existence. But, this can be done only with a sound Dogmatic theology. As the late Fr. Georges Florovsky said, “Without sober guidance, without the stable element of sound doctrine, our feelings would but err and our hearts would be blinded.”

However, we cannot decide on these criteria unless we answer the question: What kind of hope does the Church offer?  The Church is a place where the God-man has instilled His mode of being through His incarnation and resurrection. That mode leads us to the level of person (relation and self-offering) and not the level of individuum (self-sufficiency and self-protection).  Only a person can live life as a self-offering being; the individuum is not capable of sharing.  The greatest good is not the happiness of the individual, but a life of gratitude and self-offering.

In our Christian tradition God is revealed, known, and communicated as a perfect communion of the Three Persons, and not simply as a “being” or impersonal Principle or Power.

When St Nicholai of Žiča spoke here on February 2, 1953, about the “The Orthodox Doctrine on Causality”, he said:

“Our religious mysticism is nothing misty, nothing nebulous, nothing obscure or mystified. It is our clear and perennial doctrine of causality.  If we have to call this doctrine by an ism, we may call it personalism.... Both naturalism and materialism are a teaching of blind fatalism without the smallest door of escape or the smallest window for sunshine.  We Orthodox Christians must resist this blind fatalism, as all Christians should do, and defend our intelligent doctrine of personal causality of and in the world". [“The Orthodox Doctrine on Causality”, Православна Црква и узрочност у свету”, предавање на Световладимирској академији у Њујорку, 2. фебруара 1953, Сабрана дела XIII, стр. 385, 386/или на српском: 396.]

The Church is the work of God in history and, thus, It, within Itself, must be a reflection of the Triune God. In the image of the crucified and resurrected Christ, who “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the Church also receives the tragic and sinful experiences and failures of man, for it is the Body of the Crucified Lord.  In order to save the world, the Church must pass through the reality of death. As St. Paul says, death takes place within us (the Apostles), so that life can begin inside you (i.e., the Corinthians and members of the Church). (cf. 2 Cor. 4:6-12).  This is what real saints do. Without this identification with the tragic destiny of the world, there is no salvation of the world.

The Holy Eucharist demonstrates that the Church exists for the entire creation and not simply for itself or humanity.  So, by expanding their horizons, the Orthodox seminaries and schools should be open to all human concerns in social and everyday life, just as the merciful Samaritan helped the wounded man by pouring wine and oil upon his wounds (cf. Luke 10:34).  One of the many gifts that Fr. Alexander Schmemann exhibited during his long ministry to the Church and which has impressed most of us very much was his ability to combine his liturgical interests with a remarkable theological mind. For him theology and Liturgy were inseparable twins.

In the light of the Eucharist we see other aspects of our ecclesial life. Conciliarity, as an Eucharistic manifestation of the catholicity of the Church, preserved us from being simply a “multiverse” (polycephaly) of Orthodox Churches containing an indefinite number of autocephalies, each with its own canon laws of functioning but with a difficulty to speak on all issues with one voice.  If the 21st century becomes “the century of the synodality,” this difficulty might be prevented.  Through the tradition of synodality (catholicity, sobornost) an opportunity is provided to every individual church to confirm its faithfulness to the Eucharistic Body of the one Christ.

It is important today to move from mimicking tradition and “recycling” theology (a mere repetition of accepted definitions) to opening our ears so that we may hear “what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7) and receive from Him the yeast that “leavens” the whole of history.

All this was the task of Fathers George Florovsky, John Meyendorff, and Alexander Schmemann. A sense of their blessed presence is so strong. Together with St. Paul, I urge: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)

II.  SVS –Serbia Exchange and Its Importance for the Future

Let me turn to the next point of this evening: the exchange that took place between St. Vladimir’s Seminary and the Serbian Orthodox Church.

I want to express my gratitude to St. Vladimir's for hosting so many Serbian students  who always looked at this institution with admiration, for it is indeed one of the most important theological centers in the entire Orthodox world, a place where that can broaden their horizons and serve the Church in the best way in our times.

In the above-mentioned talk St Nicholai of Žiča, he characteristically said something that, in my opinion, faithfully describes the spirit and direction of St. Vladimir's educational atmosphere: “Christianity is a religion not so much of principles, rules and precepts, but primarily and above all of personal attachments, in the first place an affectionate attachment to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and through him to other members of the Church, the living and the dead.... The benefits we are drawing from such personalism in the doctrine of causality are manifold... It helps us enourmously toward educating and forming strong personal, or individual, characters. It inspires us with a spirit of optimistic heroism in suffering, self-sacrificing, and in enduring martyrdom for Christ's sake beyond description, as testified in our Church history” (Ibid., p. 390).

But it is not only the students. It is a well-known fact that this institution is proud of the Serbian members of its Board of Trustees, Brian Gerich, Mitch Zunich, Leon Lysacht, Bishop Maxim, and Alex Machaskee.

In addition to previous history, a new chapter opened with the cooperation between St. Vladimir's and the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Belgrade.  While it started a long time ago, it was recently ratified with an agreement and the new project was named the “St. Nikolai of Žiča and South Canaan and St. Justin of Ćelije Serbian House of Studies at Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.”  We are glad to read that the purposes of this House of Studies are: to promote a sustained presence of Serbian Orthodox theological traditions in America; to promote a sustained dialogue between Orthodoxy in Serbia and America; to provide the highest level of education, incorporating Serbian theological traditions (heritage, history, liturgy), for the service of the Serbian Orthodox Church in America; to provide an experience of Orthodoxy in the West for theological students from Serbia and a place for research for faculty from Serbia; to be a liaison-center for Serbian alumni in the US and throughout the world; and, to conduct events throughout the year promoting its work.

III.  Relevancy of Orthodoxy in America

The “yeasting” of Orthodoxy currently taking place in the Americas invites us to participate in it in order to provide an impetus for a contemporary and creative ecclesial self-awareness.  The Church as a whole must use this yeasting as an occasion for self-examination and self-criticism.

The acknowledgement before the world of the sanctity of St. Sebastian and St. Mardarije points to the truth that the future of the Orthodox Church depends largely on the so-called “Diaspora.”  As the “Jews of the Diaspora” in the second and third century paved the way for the then “ecumene” (the Greek and Roman world) to accept the Word Incarnate (they also played a definitive part in clarifying the Christian faith and giving it shape).  So also, the “Orthodox of the Diaspora” are probably the only reliable link with today’s “ecumene.”  It was thanks to the Jewish Hellenizers that Christianity had its first opening in the purely Greek-Roman world, and that the first mixed Christian communities of Jewish Hellenizers and Greek Christians sprang up at Antioch. Something similar is happening today in the New World.  The Orthodox in USA opened unexpected avenues for dialogue between Orthodoxy and Christians of many kinds in the increasingly pluralistic world of our time. For the sake of further strengthening and establishing of our church life and witness in America, it is necessary to declare the unity of all Orthodox people through keeping communion with each other and for this purpose the bishops of all Orthodox peoples in America have been working together in a common episcopal assembly for North America.

Our younger generation can take the example of St. Sebastian:  a child born in San Francisco who was instrumental in opening new avenues for dialogue between the Church and the world; eventualy he became a saint, and demonstrated that any child in this country can achieve holiness.

We are convened here on a heartrending day, September 11, when a tragedy of tremendous proportions with unforeseeable consequences for the entire world took place.  The terrorist acts incite the justified indignation of all people who value human life, freedom and justice.  Our Serbian people have also witnessed terror and deep sorrow since Serbia, the country and its people, has lived,  a true martyrdom in the last sixty years:   we experienced the inhumanity and horror of both the Marxist-communist and the capitalist-“liberal” aspects of historical materialism.  But the martyrdom of the Serbs at the westerners’ hysteria over Milosevic resulted in the appear­ance of young generations open to theology, sensitive to the key issues of cosmic-theory, of ethos and mentality, through the relational experience of the Church—a cross-resurrectional testimony to the True Life in Christ.

In these perilous and uncertain times, the barbarity perpetrated against Christians, Muslims, and vulnerable communities in the Middle East by the self-named Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as other jihadist groups has claimed numerous innocent lives and driven countless people from their homes. In this regard, our Orthodox Church calls for the immediate cessation of military action, liberation of captives, and establishment of peace in the region through dialogue, because Christians in the Middle East are a leaven of peace; so peace for all people also means peace for Christians. So many instances of persecution against Orthodox and other Christian populations both in Syria and in Kosovo have gone unnoticed and unreported by the U.S. media. In these countries Christians are at best second-class citizens, and are sometimes even treated as aliens in their own countries, denied basic civil rights and the protection of law. Let us hope that this trend and narrative which is common in the Western societies will be reshaped and let us pray for the return of refugees and for the survival and protection of the remaining Christian population.

Conclusion:  Hope for the Future

Theology in our times must be inspired by visions such as that of Fathers Florovsky, Meyendorff, and Schmemann in continuing to bear witness, to confess, and to proclaim the Mystery of Christ, the transformation of the entire reality of the salvation of the world, with the communal and “catholic” character of the Eucharist as a “gathering in one place,” which ends with our participation in the Supper of the Kingdom.

When late Patriarch Pavle visited St Vladimir’s Seminary, he gifted the school with an icon of St Sava of Serbia. Please, allow me to present my gift—the icon of Saints Sebastian of San Francisco and Mardarije of Libertyville.

St. Maximos’ words apply well to the lives of our two newly glorified saints, Sts. Mardarije and Sebastian: “It is not the man who worships God with words alone who glorifies God in himself but he who for God's sake bears hardship and suffering in the quest for virtue. Such a man is glorified in return by God with the glory that is in God, receiving through participation the grace of dispassion as a reward for virtue.” (St. Maximus, Second Century on Theology, 72, Philokalia, vol. 2, p. 155).

Let us pray that the two new American Saints, “wise as serpents and simple as doves” (Mt 10:16) will be new wellsprings of holiness for the grace-thirsty land of America. May they also strengthen St. Vladimir’s Seminary for many years.

Source: OCA; SOC



His Holiness Patriarch Irenej Visits Cathedral of ROCOR in San Francisco

20150908 patriarch visit rocor featureOn September 8, 2015, the Feast of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, a very special event took place in the life of our diocese. His Holiness IRENEI Patriarch of Serbia visited our Diocesan Cathedral of the Mother of God dedicated to Her Icon “Joy of All Who Sorrow” in the company of many Serbian Orthodox bishops, clergy, seminarians from the theological seminary in Prezren and others.

As the 45th Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church His full title is His Holiness the Archbishop of Pec (Pech), Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci (Karlovtsi), Serbian Patriarch Irinej. As a young man upon completing his theological education and military service, His Holiness was tonsured a monk in 1959. He then became a professor at the Theological Seminary in Prezren, and later its Rector, in the meantime completing postgraduate studies in Athens. His Holiness was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of Moravica (Moravitsa) in 1975 and soon after that was elected Bishop of Nis (Nish). After heading that diocese for 35 years, he was elected Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2010.


Historic Weekend in Western Diocese Comes to a Close

angier 150906 st stevens hierarchal liturgy 2738"How beautiful and what a great blessing it is to be gathered here in church, in God's house," His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej exclaimed with joy at the conclusion of the Holy Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on the third and final day of this year's Diocesan Days. And truly what a blessing it is each and every year when the entire diocese - the clergy and laity - come together and gather in one place, around one altar, around their hierarch on that most sacred day of Sunday, the Lord's Day, for the Holy Eucharist. This year the faithful of the Western American Diocesan had the added joy of having the first hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, lead them in that eucharistic joy.

In his homily following the gospel reading, His Grace Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West interpreted the morning's gospel reading of the marriage feast and the need for us to lead such lives that our garments be without blemish when we too are called to the feast. The bishop touched upon St. Sebastian's many great qualities and the great blessing of his glorification that he be an example not only to the Serbian community, but to all Orthodox. He thanked Bishop Maxim and presented him with an icon of St. Sebastian holding the Russian church he grew up in as a child in San Francisco. 

The faithful who filled the church for the morning's liturgy filled both the main hall and patio for the banquet. The host priest, Protopresybter-Stavrophor Nikola Ceko, emceed the program which included a performance by the Phoenix singing group "Breza" and a reading of the life of St. Sebastian by Zeljka Gortinski. A wonderful moment during the banquet was the bestowing of the Order of St. Sava to Ron Radakovic and Brian Gerich, two instrumental members of the Western American Diocese and active members of their respective home parishes. His Holiness, in his keynote address, could not contain his delight at the gathering, not only of the Serbian community, but the pan-Orthodox community which gathered this weekend for the canonization of not only a Saint of Serbian origin, but for the entire Orthodox Church. It is true, the patriarch noted, we are divided administratively, but we share one faith, we are one church! 

The Diocese of Western America, with the glorification of the new St. Sebastian, established a new award of recognition, the Order of St. Sebastian which, during the banquet, was bestowed to two very active parishioners and stewards of the church, Pance Smirkovic from the St. Petka Church in San Marcos and, His Grace Bishop Maxim surprised the receipt of the third Order of St. Sebastian, Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Nikola Ceko, for his many years of dedicated and selfless service.

With the conclusion of the banquet, the rest of a very beautiful Sunday afternoon was spent in fellowship. Many of the faithful who came from the different diocesan parishes departed and began their journeys home, while other local guests stayed for the final evening meal with His Holiness, guest hierarchs, and clergy.  


"In the Footsteps of Saint Sava" Canonization of St. Sebastian of San Francisco and Jackson

angier 150904 st sebastian canonization 1557The beautiful and spacious St. Steven's Cathedral in Alhambra was too small to receive all the faithful who came from many directions to witness the canonization of St. Sebastian of San Francisco and Jackson on Saturday, September 5, 2015. The parking lot was nearly full before Matins even began.  Visiting clergy from the pan Orthodox community could not contain themselves in expressing their great joy at being given the opportunity to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Diocesan clergy as well as visiting clergy from the Diocese of Eastern America, New Gracanica and Midwestern America, as well as Canada, not to mention the many clergy from the Pan-Orthodox community of greater Los Angeles formed a long line, escorting His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej and all the hierarchs into the overfilled church with many faithful standing at the front steps, as well beside the church where seating and television screens were prepared for the faithful to be able to watch the liturgy from outside the church. 

In addition to the Serbian Patriarch, the participating hiearchs were: His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, His Eminence Archbishop Alejo Mexico City and all Mexico, His Grace Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West, His Grace Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk, vicar of the Moscow Diocese,  His Grace Bishop Sava of the Georgian Patriarchate in the US, His Grace Bishop Daniil of the Bulgarian Diocese, His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica and Midwestern America, His Grace Bishop Mitrophan of Eastern America, His Grace Bishop Justin of Zicha, His Grace Bishop Grigorije of Hercegovina and host hierarch His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America. 

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