Farewell Remarks to Metropolitan Nikolaj on the day of the Consecration of St. Alexander Nevsky Cath

Presov, Slovakia

Your Beatitude, beloved Concelebrant and Brother in the Risen Lord:

It is with great joy that I have concelebrated with you and have shared in the solemn consecration of this beautiful cathedral built to the glory of God in honor of Saint Alexander Nevsky. This moment marks a historic step in the rebuilding and restoration of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and is testimony to the fervent prayers and deep faith of all the hierarchs, clergy, and faithful of this land.

My visit to the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia has passed all too quickly. It is difficult to express my gratitude for all that I have seen, all that I have heard, and all that I have experienced during our days together! How can I adequately express the joy we have shared in the concelebration of the Holy Eucharist, in our common prayer in the churches and monasteries in which you so graciously hosted us, and in meeting so many of your clergy and faithful of your Holy Church?

During this past week I have had the opportunity to personally encounter Orthodoxy’s rich historic legacy in this land as well as its recent flowering and renewal. As the fruit of the missionary labors of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the Holy Orthodox Church has deep roots in the Czech Lands and Slovakia. Today these missionary traditions continue to be realized as your church develops into a vital and vibrant part of your society and as a significant member of the international family of local Orthodox churches.

Over these past few days, I have become ever more aware of the many close and warm connections that exist between our two churches and peoples. Many of the faithful in the Orthodox Church in America trace there ethnic roots to this very region, and your Holy Church will always hold a special place in their hearts. Our two churches also face many of the same challenges in our modern and rapidly changing societies. It is my hope that as our two churches grow and develop, we will continue to find as many opportunities for collaboration and cooperation as possible, including in the areas of mission, philanthropy, education, the social and moral building up of our societies, and in the nurturing of constructive relations with other churches.

Your Beatitude: my visit to the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia must now come to an end. Please know that it has not only filled me with joy, but has also renewed me spiritually. The hospitality which you and your flock offered is appreciated more than words can express, and the opportunity to strengthen the bond of faith and love which we share has been a true blessing.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the memorable days which we have spent together and for the opportunity to share our common faith. And I anxiously await the moment when we shall meet again, hopefully soon, to once again concelebrate the bloodless sacrifice “on behalf of all and for all,” on behalf of our respective flocks, so devoted to proclaiming the Gospel and eager to live it at every moment of their lives!

Please know that you are always in my prayers and in the prayers and hearts of the hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America. While the miles may separate us in the days to come, the bond of love forged by our common faith in the risen Lord shall ever unite us as one body—the Body of Christ, the Holy Orthodox Church!

As I anticipate the next time we shall meet, I ask that you pray for me, dear brother and fellow minister, even as I pray for you! And may Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us so abundantly during our time together, continue to grant you health, peace, and prosperity now and for many, many years!