Every second Saturday of the month, Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ.
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Every Sunday - 9am Divine Liturgy in English (fully or mostly) at the Holy Family Cathedral

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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Archbishop Kyrill (Dmitrieff). Letter from the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops to the Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America / OrthoChristian.Com

On Tuesday, December 9, 2013, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, during a regular meeting, deliberated on the results of the previous September’s Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. During the discussion regarding the proposal to reorganize the Orthodox dioceses in North and Central America, the President of the Synod of Bishops stressed that the Russian Church Abroad is under the canonical authority of its dear and great Mother, the Russian Orthodox Church, and is obligated to minister to its multitude of devoted flock finding itself abroad and wishing to remain in her bosom. The members of the Synod of Bishops, agreeing with the opinion of their President, noted that Orthodoxy in America is not prepared for reorganization of Orthodox dioceses in America. In connection with this, the ROCOR Synod of Bishops instructed its Secretary, His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, to send the following letter to the President of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America explaining the position held by the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in this matter.

Here is a link to a post from Fr Andrew Stephen Damick on the blog Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, providing a very thorough assessment of the matter theologically and canonically from an Orthodox point of view: ROCOR Says Overlapping Dioceses are Canonical: An Ecclesiological Analysis
The communication to the wider community of Orthodox bishops in the Americas considerably varies what Orthodox normally say - for instance, that the principle of "one place, one bishop" is integral to Orthodox and Catholic ecclesiology and must be respected as sacrosanct, or that no patriarch can conduct ecclesiastical activity in another's - is America not in the West and thus under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of the West (whatever that term means), seeing how much store was set by the title when it was dropped from the list of the Pope's offices because Benedict XVI judged it obsolete? Or that the Roman See cannot establish dioceses in the territory of the "local autocephalous Russian Orthodox Church", even to minister to its own faithful, whereas the Russian Orthodox Church - both ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate's direct jurisdiction has liberally permitted itself to found dioceses across the world. Clearly the matter of care to and responsibility/jurisdiction with regard to the diaspora for a globalised community of churches in a globalised world is difficult to reconcile with the ecclesiological and canonical principles we have all received.

But it does strike us that ROCOR's response, whatever its interpretation of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference (which surely was pragmatically recognising the status quo realities of overlapping Orthodox jurisdictions throughout the world  ad interim, not on principle), that there is a marked similarity between its decision not to ignore/abandon parallel jurisdictions for pastoral, cultural and historico-theological reasons (and its reluctance to harmonise or integrate its structures with those of other jurisdictions increasingly not serving as ethnic chaplaincies for a first generation diaspora but as an Orthodox Church for Anglophone Americans with a Russian religious tradition in the background, or outsiders attracted to that tradition) and the way in which the Catholic Church has been seeking - not just in the New World but in Western Europe and other parts where the Latin Roman Catholic Church has grown to pre-eminence has grown out of the missions - to adhere to the canonical convention of "one place, one bishop" at the same time as allowing for cross-territorial, personal jurisdictions for defined groups of peoples. Ad Gentes 20 seems to allow for the Church locally to exist in different forms in a missionary context until an integration can develop; in our own country (the UK) a remarkable phenomenon - a particular Church seeking to embody elements of the English-language Anglican religious patrimony and tradition, estranged from the Catholic Church for 450 years - provides a parallel, overlapping jurisdiction with the existing Catholic dioceses through a personal jurisdiction relating to defined groups of people spread across the country and its dioceses, in collaboration and union with which, however, it is designed to exist. Also, the long-standing Ukrainian Catholic Exarchate in Great Britain was last year made a permanent eparchy - the Eparchy of the Holy Family of London - with the first Catholic bishop "of London" since 1552, exercising pastoral care, liturgical and sacramental life, and evangelisation freely across the territory of the dioceses of two Bishops' Conference (Scotland and England & Wales) to the Ukrainian Catholic faithful, and to other Catholics and indeed others coming to it, on the basis not of overlapping territories but of personal jurisdiction with defined responsibilities for identifiable groups of people in personal parishes, but in close fellowship with the local Catholic bishop of the place - not just London!

Evidently, the ROCOR bishops, even from different starting points, are attuned with what the Catholic Church is seeking to provide for (and we believe this will increasingly respect the jurisdiction of Eastern Catholic patriarchal churches outside their territory and conform the activity of Latins to the prerogatives of the Eastern Churches within it) - through a considered application of principle, pragmatism and inclination.

Read the full ROCOR Statement by the Bishops in America here:

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