Minsk, September 30, 2019
The 30th anniversary of the Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church was celebrated with a grand open-air Liturgy in Minsk on Sunday, September 29. The Exarchate was created at the 1989 session of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Patriarchate in Russia.
The service was celebrated on the square in the front of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Minsk by His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Zaslavl, 17 other hierarchs from the Belarusian Russian, Ukrainian, Russian, Lithuanian, and Polish Orthodox Churches, clergy of the Belarusian Church, and various guests in holy orders.
The festive service was attended by local abbesses, seminarians, volunteers from Orthodox youth brotherhoods, and pilgrims from all throughout Belarus and beyond, and a number of public officials.
Prayers were read for the preservation of the unity of Orthodoxy and for peace in Ukraine, and to thank God for the Divine gifts and grace sent down upon the inhabitants of Belarus over the past 30 years and for the work of the Belarusian Exarchate.
Following the homily before Communion, the message of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on the occasion was read out, as well as messages from His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret, the former head of the Belarusian Exarchate, and Met. Pavel, the current head.
Pat. Kirill highlighted the great changes that have occurred over the past 30 years both in the life of the Exarchate and in the country in general, including the restoration of churches and monasteries, the building of new parishes, and the establishment of educational and social ministries.
In a recent interview with ctv.by, Met. Pavel of Minsk noted that the Exarchate ha 15 dioceses, more than 2,000 priests and deacons, more than 1,600 parishes, and 35 monasteries.
Pat. Kirill also encouraged the people to continue to be faithful to Christ the Savior and to preserve the purity of the Orthodox faith.
All participants were treated to a meal following the service and icons with a commemorative inscription, and a choir concert and Orthodox fair were then held in the square in front of the cathedral.
Speaking at the meal, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, noted how much religious life has grown in Belarus following the fall of the Soviet Union. What was once a diocese headed by one bishop has grown into an entire Exarchate with its own Synod, and with various missionary and charitable activities.
Both Met. Philaret and Met. Pavel were given the highest award of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church yesterday as well—the Order of Sts. Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves—for their labors for the Church in Belarus.
An extensive photo exhibition on the Exarchate’s history was opened the same day at the Minsk Theological Academy.
In his interview with ctv.by, Met. Pavel also reiterated that the Belarusian Church is in no need of autocephaly, or any other administrative changes. The Belarusian primate made similar statements in January, for which Archbishop Daniel of Constantinople’s Ukrainian Church in America mocked him as being afraid of the spiritual growth of his flock.