Mississauga, Canada, March 20, 2019
The Triumph of Orthodoxy was celebrated throughout the Orthodox Church on Sunday, commemorating the Seventh Ecumenical Council’s victory over the heresy of Iconoclasm. Traditionally, hierarchs, clergy, and faithful of various jurisdictions in the diaspora join together for the festive celebration.
However, there were divided celebrations this year due to Constantinople’s interference in Ukrainian Church affairs and the consequent break in communion between the Moscow and Constantinople Patriarchates.
In Paris, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul served only with his own auxiliary hierarchs, although traditionally all Orthodox bishops in France gather at the Greek cathedral in Paris for the Sunday of Orthodoxy.
In a recently-released statement from the Serbian Church, it is recommended that hierarchs and clergy abstain from serving with clergy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as representatives of that Patriarchate have concelebrated with the Ukrainian schismatics. Accordingly, most Serbian hierarchs in America and Canada have instructed their clergy not to concelebrate with Constantinople clergy, His Grace Bishop Maxim of the Western American Diocese being the only exceptioin.
The resolutions from the February 22-23 assembly of the Serbian Eastern American Diocese note this lamentable state: “We express great regret over the misunderstanding and division among Orthodox brethren. These divisions and misunderstandings are most visible to us who live in the Diaspora and who have, until recently, had the opportunity to daily witness the unity of the Church through the joy of Pan-Orthodox gatherings. Sadly, this year the divisions are visible and require additional prayers of all of us for peace and unity.”
In Toronto, the ROCOR, Serbian, and OCA clergy from the Greater Toronto Area gathered together with their flocks on Sunday evening to celebrate Lenten Vespers and the Rite of Orthodoxy, reports the Serbian Diocese of Canada. 16 clergy served, with another 7 present, including His Grace Bishop Georgije, the retired Serbian bishop of Canada.
The service was held at All Serbian Saints Church in Mississauga (Western Toronto) and led by Archimandrite German (Bogojevic) of Holy Transfiguration Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Milton, Ontario. The service was celebrated in Church Slavonic, English, and Serbian. The church was filled with several hundred faithful who all received icons of St. John (Maximovitch) following the service.
More than 200 people then remained to hear a lecture by Very Reverend Fr. Jovan Marjanac on topics pertaining to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine: the history of Orthodoxy in Kievan Rus’ and of Ukrainian Orthodoxy in Canada. The lecture concluded with a reading of the Serbian Church’s official position on the Ukrainian crisis.
A panel discussion also highlighted the importance of upholding the sacred canons of the Church, regardless of nationality. According to the diocesan report, a parishioner from a local Greek parish under Constantinople assured everyone present that the vast majority of those in the Greek churches acknowledged that Constantinople has made a serious mistake.
Archimandrite German closed the evening recalling the shining examples of Patriarch Pavle of Serbia, Alexei II of Moscow, Metropolitans Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and Laurus (Skurla) and Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev) of ROCOR, and Sts. Mardarije, John (Maximovitch) and Nikolai of Zicha, and reminding all present that although Orthodox cannot pray with schismatics such as Philaret Denisenko and Epiphany Dumenko, we have an obligation to pray that the Lord would enlighten them and guide them to repentance.
In Chicago, ROCOR and Serbian clergy gathered at the Holy Resurrection Cathedral to celebrate the pan-Orthodox Vespers with His Eminence Archbishop Peter of Chicago and Mid-America of ROCOR, His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica and Midwestern America of the Serbian Church and more than 50 clerics, with several hundred faithful from various jurisdictions.
The homily was offered by Archimandrite Seraphim (Baltic), abbot of the New Gracanica Protection of the Mother of God Monastery, who gave practical advice on how to become true living icons of God and reminded all about the suffering people of God in Kosovo and Metohija.
After the service, Abp. Peter also called on all gathered to continue to pray for the Orthodox faithful of Ukraine who are suffering at the hands of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its schismatics and the Ukrainian state.
In North America, only Bp. Maxim of Western American did not take the Church’s recommendation to abstain from serving with Constantinople clergy. In a communique released concerning the pan-Orthodox concelebrations, Bp. Maxim writes that the clergy of his diocese are encouraged to continue the usual practice of serving with clergy from all jurisdictions, as the Serbian Church has not broken communion with any other Church.
He also criticizes the Russian Church’s decision to break communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Serbian hierarchy as a whole has never criticized the Russian Church’s decision.
However, going beyond his right to make decisions for his own diocese, Bp. Maxim also writes: “There are strange and contradictory attitudes coming from various sides whose messengers are somewhere claiming and somewhere suggesting that the Serbian church is supposedly recommending that we distance ourselves from those with whom, until now, we have been in communion.”
However, the Serbian Church’s official position statement (translating from the Serbian) stipulates precisely what Bp. Maxim is denying. Point 5 reads:
And finally, the Serbian Church is naturally compelled to recommend that its hierarchs and pious clerics refrain from liturgical and canonical communication not only with the above-mentioned Mr. Epiphany (Dumenko) and others like him, but also with the hierarchs and clerics who communicate with them, according to the principle of the sacred canons that those, who have communion with the excommunicated place themselves outside communion as well.
And, in fact, the English translation later published by the Serbian Church itself reads even stronger:
Finally, the Serbian Orthodox Church is, by necessity, forced to cease liturgical and canonical communion not only with Mr. Epiphanius Dumenko and his followers, but also with the hierarchs and clergy who concelebrate and enter into communion with them, in accordance with the canonical principal that he who enter into communion with someone who is outside of communion places himself outside communion.
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