Voices from Russia

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Guess Who WASN’T Invited to Dinner?

patriarch bartholomew

Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis (1940- ) is visiting New York City as part of his trip to the USA. He met with all the Orthodox First Hierarchs in the USA… except for Metropolitan Hilarion Kapral of the ROCOR. Why?

On Tuesday, 27 October, Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis of the EP held an audience in New York City for “the Orthodox Primates of the USA” in the words of oca.org. The URL for the entire article is:

http://www.oca.org/news/1979

How wonderful! How grand! How… MISLEADING! There was an “Orthodox Primate” (“First Hierarch” is a more correct translation from the Greek or Russian) missing!

GUESS WHO?

Metropolitan Hilarion Kapral, Archbishop of New York and Eastern America, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, that’s who. This meeting took place in the seat of his see. Some shall protest, “This was a meeting of the SCOBA hierarchs”. Yes… but, Jarmus did not state that. He stated that Bartholomew met “the Orthodox Primates of the USA”… that is the direct quote from oca.org. Besides that, it took him TWO DAYS to post this. I would have had it up immediately after the meeting… that is what a conscientious and dutiful person does. Jarmus is not only a lazy dogsbody incompetent; he doesn’t know how to use the English language. JP is a fool to engage such a sort as “Director of Communications” (Jarmus, apparently, is literate enough to cash an OCA pay-cheque, though!). In addition, Jarmus did not see to it that the proper people posted photos of the event (digital cameras exist, sir… we can post photos from them on that very day).

However, my task today is not to excoriate Jarmus for his (usual and expected) inept bungling. Do note well that Vladyki Hilarion was not invited to this great love-feast and Dixie-Fry of “the Orthodox Primates of the USA”. He IS the ranking bishop of the MP in the US… yes, the ROCOR is autonomous… but, it IS a part of the Patriarchate of Moscow and all the Russias (Vladyki Hilarion did take part in the last MP Archpastoral Council in Moscow, after all). This was a highly interesting omission on the part of the EP handlers of Patriarch Bartholomew. Bart did not plan this… no superior in any organisation handles such detail… that is handed over to underlings (who often have their own axes to grind and agendas to advance). There was no mention of a separate meeting with Vladyki Hilarion on the official ROCOR website. He was in Atlanta GA on Monday 26 October, but, there is no further news of his whereabouts after that date on the ROCOR site. Could a meeting between Vladyki Hilarion and Bartholomew have occurred? Perhaps… but, there is no posting on any website that confirms such a meeting.

Why was Vladyki Hilarion not at the meeting of “the Orthodox Primates of the USA?” Jarmus’ slip in grammar is probably not completely innocent. There is a possible explanation for this… one that is not very edifying (after all, we are talking of human-beings with real emotions, not soulless automata). More recent arrivals may not remember it, but, there was a bitter and acrimonious conflict between the OCA and the ROCOR from 1965 until (circa) 2000. ADS fomented this… as so many other cancers in the Church were. Trust me, this dispute was deep and it caused grievous wounds to both parties. It was one of the major causes of the decline in membership that both bodies suffered in this period (the other major reason was that gossip ran rampant in many parishes… typically, our parishes are so small (often, fewer than 200 parishioners, all told) that such personal silliness and spitefulness causes greater harm than in larger organisations). Both bodies hid this by not issuing accurate membership figures. We only have two citations from reputable “public figures” on this… Jonathan Ivanoff of the OCA stated officially that membership had declined 6 to 12 percent per annum for at least a decade. Alexander Lebedeff of the ROCOR stated that very few of the students that had gone through his church-school classes were still in the Church, and that New Russians (post-1991 Russian immigrants) made up 80 percent of the membership of the larger urban parishes of the ROCOR. In short, this was one of the most severe self-inflicted wounds in American Orthodoxy.

Obviously, the sentiments of that period are not dead. It is clear that the EP planners were in touch with people such as Lyonyo Kishkovsky of the OCA. LK could have gently reminded them to invite Metropolitan Hilarion as a courtesy… no doubt, what he did was more sinister. He simply did not mention him, and the Greek parties went ahead with planning, not realising that LK was omitting a key figure in American Orthodoxy by his silence. This raises questions about how deep the reconciliation between the OCA and ROCOR truly is and what the MP is going to do to resolve the present disunity in Russian Orthodoxy in the US and Canada. It also raises doubts on SCOBA itself… for the ROCOR is part of the MP, no? The reconciliation did not happen yesterday… it occurred in May 2007, over two years ago.

Of course, there were always personal contacts between Russian Orthodox people… in Washington DC, a priest at the OCA parish and a priest at the ROCOR parish were brothers-in-law. Amongst ethnic Russian people, friendships and family ties proved stronger than the “official” conflict (which was, basically, a private feud between ADS and Grabbe). However, we lost many of our children due to the disedification caused by the antics of the combatants. The most fanatic were  amongst the convert cohort… the worst were SVS in Yonkers and Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston. I remember an OCA priest claiming in 1984 that ROCOR was not Orthodox and that no other Local Church admitted them to communion (admittedly, he was one of the MP priests that went to the OCA after Feodosy Lazor became First Hierarch of the OCA in 1977). This priest is still active… and he is an authority-figure, interestingly enough.

I might add that a pall of silence from official quarters covers this haemorrhage. No one is not allowed to speak of it… nor can one speak of its major cause… it has gone down the memory hole. True, some public figures have spoken of it… but, nothing of substance happens as a result. My view is clear… we must have frankness on the actions of public figures in the past… otherwise, we learn no useful lessons and we shall repeat our previous mistakes (and they are usually worse the second or third time around). Mark down well that no one in the higher levels of Orthodoxy in the US wishes to speak of past errors… and, often enough, those of us who bring such up face accusations of disloyalty and slander. I would say that a membership decline has occurred… and that it is mainly due to our own freely-chosen actions. We have to discuss this openly to prevent such happening again. If we do not… trust me, the scandals of the past shall hold no candle to the scandals that we shall be handed in future.

Metropolitan Hilarion was not at the New York meeting with Bartholomew… that’s a fact. He belonged there… that’s a fact (he IS a First Hierarch, after all, of a larger establishment than some of those represented at the fete). The fact that he was not there was a scandal. Jonas Paffhausen was there… and the autocephaly of the OCA is not accepted by the EP. Hilarion Kapral was not there… and the EP considers the ROCOR a canonical church body. THAT’S a contradiction in terms, friends and neighbours. I looked at the official itinerary of Bartholomew and there was nothing about a meeting with Hilarion (are they to meet after the Patriarchal liturgy in New York City on Sunday? There is nothing to show such).

As Alice said… things get curiouser and curiouser. I’ll say this… events in Orthodoxy are never boring or dull… there’s always an odd twist to them, isn’t there?

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Saturday 31 October 2009

Albany NY

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