Church in USA where sailors of Russian cruiser “Variag” prayed celebrates its patronal feast

Philadelphia, December 26, 2017


On December 13, St. Andrew’s Cathedral of Philadelphia solemnly marked its patronal feast, reports

The cathedral is one of the Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA, currently administered by Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk. The cathedral clergy concelebrated with guests from the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia who brought with them a priceless gift: the relics of 18 saints from monasteries in Moscow and Odessa, as well as from the St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell (New Jersey). Archpriests Serge Lukianov and Boris Slootsky transmitted the sacred objects with the blessings of the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion of New York and Eastern America. “We ordered the reliquary especially from Sofrino in preparation for the celebration,” said the rector, Mitered-Archpriest Mark Shinn.

St. Andrew’s “Naval” Cathedral in Philadelphia is inscribed in the most glorious pages of the Russian Navy. Among the first parishioners at the end of the nineteenth century were Russian sailors who came to America in order to return to the Motherland on the most up-to-date battleships of their time. At William Cramp and Sons Shipyards in Philadelphia, the illustrious ships “Variag” and “Retvizan” were built for the Russian Navy. An exhibit in the cathedral’s permanent museum is dedicated to the heroic feat of the “Variag.” It is precisely this part of history that should and can bring these two great countries together.


Nowadays, the cathedral provides for the needs of a numerous Russian-speaking immigration which has been growing steadily since the 1990s. Fr. Mark Shinn is an American convert to Orthodoxy. Russians “open their souls” to him, often unable to guess that their priest is not a new immigrant like themselves, so thoroughly has Fr. Mark mastered the Russian language and at first sight in no wise differs from the parish clergy of Russia or Ukraine. He himself, half- jokingly, says, “I am not a typical American: I was born and raised in Europe.”

Only a few minutes’ walk from the cathedral stands another Patriarchal Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church. Descendants of Carpatho-Russians who emigrated from the Austrian Empire at the end of the 19th century come to St. Michael the Archangel Church, where their ancestors were married, and pray to God in the maternal language understandable to them – the English language. Here, the services are in English and the Julian Calendar is observed. The parish is not narrowly ethno-centric—its doors are open to all. St. Michael’s Church is known as a friendly parish for all who are interested in Orthodoxy.

Yet another Russian parish in Philadelphia, in honor of the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Joy of All Who Sorrow,” is part of the Diocese of the Russian Church Abroad. Its history is bound up with the first and second waves of emigration, when the church became a spiritual refuge for those who found themselves outside of Russia’s borders as a result of the Revolution and the Second World War.


Philadelphia is a city uncommonly rich in Orthodox churches by American standards. There is a large Greek cathedral in the historical section of the city, where every building is a reminder of the time when the USA obtained its independence. Among the city’s parishes of the Orthodox Church in America, the Albanian church of St. John Chrysostom stands out in particular, both for the fact that it is situated in the business center of the city and is visible from the offices of its skyscrapers, and for the fact that there are not many Albanian churches. In the first half of the 20th century, an Albanian Diocese was founded within the American Church. It preserved Albanian Orthodoxy at a time when in Albania itself the faithful were being executed and placed in concentration camps. The local Albanian Church was totally destroyed during the local Soviet rule of the country.

Services are in English in the Church of St. John Chrysostom. Only the Trisagion Hymn and the “Our Father” are sung in Albanian. Here Albanians pray together with Serbs and with Americans who have come to Orthodoxy from Catholicism as well as many others. Fr. Brooks Ledford pays special attention to the upcoming generation. Sometimes during the sermon he sits down on the steps of the solea in full vestments, while the children sit around him as he explains to them the teachings of the Gospel.

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