PERMANENT CONFERENCE OF UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX BISHOPS
BEYOND THE BORDERS OF UKRAINE
The 2017 meeting of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine (PCB) was conducted on 30 June – 2 July 2017 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada at the Consistory Office and the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. Participating in this year’s meeting were His Eminence Metropolitan Yuriy of the UOC of Canada (All Canada and the Central Eparchy), His Eminence Metropolitan Antony of the UOC of the USA (and Eastern Eparchy) and all the Church in Diaspora, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel of the UOC of USA and Diaspora (Western Europe) and His Grace Bishop Andriy of the UOC of Canada (Eastern Eparchy). Unable to participate in the meeting were Bishop Ilarion of the UOC of Canada (Western Eparchy), due to illness and Archbishop Jeremiah of the South America Eparchy (UOC of USA).
The hierarchs in the first instance of their meetings greeted each other at the Intendance Day celebrations for their respective nations – Canada Day 150, 1 July and USA Independence Day 241 – 4 July. Appreciation was expressed foremost to God Almighty for the blessings of the existence of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church Beyond the Borders of Ukraine and the guidance of the Holy Spirit upon all the hierarchs gathered and those who preceded them, throughout the history of the two jurisdictions represented. They expressed greetings to not only their own faithful but to the citizens of both the USA and Canada beseeching God’s continued blessings upon them all. The hierarchs especially stressed that the present upward trend in the economies of both nations should benefit all the citizens of the two nations and that no one be left out of those benefits – especially those who struggle each day to sustain themselves and their families.
Both the UOC of Canada and the UOC of the USA will celebrate their centennials throughout the year of 2018. The bishops shared the plans that have already been developed and initiated in conjunction with these celebrations and extended invitations to each other to participate in especially the main celebration of 100 years of existence in each Church. The main UOC of USA celebration will take place in July 2018 surrounding the Feast of Equal to the Apostles St. Volodymyr. The UOC of Canada main celebration will take place during a Special Sobor of the Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in August 2018, the site of the foundation of the Church. All the bishops expressed the great desire to make celebrations that will draw generations of the faithful together give glory and thanksgiving to God that even throughout the more than 100 years of Tsarist and Soviet repression, suppression and oppression of our native Ukraine and her Holy Orthodox Faith, we were able to preserve the rich and long spiritual legacy and have been blessed with the ability to assist the Church reborn in Ukraine since the declaration of Ukrainian Independence in 1991.
Each of the bishops took the opportunity to share the events of current life in their respective Eparchies around the world. This part of the mostly annual meeting of the is always one of the most enjoyable and beneficial points on the agenda because the opportunity to learn what has been successful – or not – in each Eparchy can be of great benefit to the other bishops in developing their own plans for eparchial life. Of particular interest here are the lives of St. Andrew Seminary in Winnipeg, Manitoba and St. Sophia Seminary in South Bound Brook, NJ. Both seminaries, in addition to recruiting seminarians from Canada and the USA, do so from Ukraine with the hope that our clergy ranks will always be sufficient for the needs of our parish communities. Plans will be developed over the coming years for the exchange of students and professors between the schools for semesters or special short-term courses. There is much that can be learned from one another during such exchanges. Following the repose of Metropolitan Constantine – UOC in Diaspora and the retirement of Archbishop Ioan – Western Europe, Metropolitan Antony was elected as the new Metropolitan and he appointed Archbishop Daniel to replace Archbishop Ioan in caring for the Western Europe and Great Britain Eparchies of the Church in Diaspora. They discussed the life of the Church in Diaspora and the sense of rejuvenation being experienced by the clergy and faithful.
The hierarchs further discussed with some concern, the life of the Church in Ukraine in recent years. A few years ago on the first anniversary of the Maidan in Kyiv all the bishops were present in Kyiv at the invitation of the President of Ukraine to examine the possibilities for ecclesiastical unity in the nation. Literally dozens of meetings took place at that time and since seeking such unity, but it remains an elusive goal, which can only be achieved by good will and faith amongst all the hierarchs in Ukraine. Unity cannot be “forced” by anyone upon the jurisdictions of Ukraine. The PCB members stand willing to assist in any way to keep the process alive and during their prayers Divine Liturgy on Sunday, 2 July, they prayed for the unity of the Church and the ability of all Church leaders in Ukraine to move beyond personal agendas and finally come together befor the Altar of the Almighty.
Metropolitan Antony gave a moving report about his participation in the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church, which took place in Crete in 2016. He was part of the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the very first Ukrainian Orthodox hierarch to participate in a Great Council of the Holy Orthodox Church in history. The PCB members had all read the documents published by the Great and Holy Council, which have been published in both English and Ukrainian. The discussion during the present meeting concerned the relationships between the various Orthodox and Autocephalous Orthodox Churches represented at the Great Council, in particular the ability of Metropolitan Antony to discuss the ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine with many of the nearly 300 hierarchs at the Great Council. In fact, Ukraine was a significant issue discussed among the hierarchs because on the first day of the Council, the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada has passed the resolution requesting the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant Autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine. Such discussion was not part of the official agenda of the Council, but of great significance to many of its bishops-delegates.
The final event of the PCB -2017 conference was the celebration of Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Metropolitan Cathedral in Winnipeg, the cathedral of His Eminence Metropolitan Yuriy. In July 2016 vandals broke into the church and set a fire in the vestry causing over one million dollars in fire, smoke and water damage to the beautiful and historical structure known throughout all Winnipeg and all Canada for its imposing cupolas, which could be seen from long distances as they rose up and above all the surrounding buildings just North of the city center. Since the fire, the faithful have not been able to worship in the Church itself. Many precious icons in the Altar area, the iconostas and all the chandeliers had to be removed and are still not restored and reinstalled. The icons on the walls of the Altar area and the Altar itself, which was not significantly damaged have been replaced and restored and the entire Church interior has been repaired and repainted. On this day, the cathedral parish family was able to return to worship in the Church. The iconostas and other items will be returned in several months, but the ability to pray in the space was a tremendous emotional and spiritual experience for the bishops and the faithful.
The service began outdoors before the cathedral with a Moleben and Small Blessing of Waters. This was followed by a procession around the Church with Metropolitan Yuriy carrying the holy relics and antimins and the other bishops blessing the church with Holy Water: the Nation of Canada, the City of Winnipeg and finally, all the faithful on each side of the Church. The procession entered the Church after the blessing of the fourth (Western) side of the Church and proceeded into the Holy Altar. The entire Church was again Chrismated with Holy Chrism and blessed with Holy Water on the newly repaired walls of the interior. The beautiful singing of the Choir in the marvelous acoustics of the Cathedral – rather than in the parish social center beneath the Church – affected every person praying that day. Archbishop Daniel and Bishop Andrij offered inspirational sermons calling the faithful to personal spiritual renewal to accompany the physical renewal of their church edifice. A luncheon followed the service in the social center and Metropolitan Antony challenged the faithful present to do all they could to ensure that the pew, both downstairs and in the balcony would be filled in one year, which would be the best way to celebrate the Centennial of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.
The hierarchs express their deep gratitude to V. Rev. Taras Udod, Chair of the Consistory Presidium for the great hospitality provided to all the participants of the PCB – 2017.