OCA Holy Synod elects bishop for Mexican Exarchate during Spring Session

The Episcopate of the Orthodox Church in America, Syosset, NY.

SYOSSET, NY [OCA Communications] — Members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, meeting at the OCA chancery here March 28-31, 2005, elected Archimandrite Alejo Antonio [Pacheco Vera], dean of Holy Ascension Cathedral, Mexico City, as bishop of Mexico City.

The need for the election of a bishop to oversee the OCA’s Mexican Exarchate was expressed by His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South, who for many years has served as exarch for Mexico in the absence of a local resident bishop.

The Mexican Exarchate, which was received into the Orthodox Church in America in the early 1970s together with His Grace, Bishop Jose, numbers some 20,000 indigenous Mexican faithful. The exarchate, which has as its primary task the evangelization of Mexican nationals, enjoys positive relations with Mexico’s Antiochian and Greek Orthodox communities.

Bishop-elect Alejo will serve as auxiliary to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman. His consecration to the episcopacy will be celebrated at Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery, South Canaan, PA, on Friday, May 27, and Saturday, May 28, 2005, during the annual pilgrimage and centennial celebration of the monastery’s establishment.

In other hierarchical matters, the members of the Holy Synod accepted the request for retirement of His Eminence, Archbishop Peter of New York and New Jersey, who has been on a leave of absence since the spring 2004 session of the Holy Synod. His retirement becomes effective April 30, 2005.

Archbishop Peter initially shared his desire to retire in October 2004, at which time he informed the Holy Synod of his desire to retire before its spring session. Metropolitan and the members of the Holy Synod expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the Archbishop for his many years of dedicated service to the Church.

In light of Archbishop Peter’s retirement, the members of the Holy Synod decided to establish the new Diocese of Washington and New York, comprised of the former Diocese of New York and New Jersey and the Diocese of Washington, effective April 30, 2005. The move signals a return to the diocesan boundaries and structure that had existed until 1981, when the Diocese of Washington was created as the seat of the OCA Primate.

Metropolitan Herman will serve as ruling bishop of the Diocese of Washington and New York and bear the title of Archbishop of Washington and New York, Metropolitan of All America and Canada.

Concurrently, Metropolitan Herman requested that the vacancy in the office of ruling bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania be announced. The hierarchs immediately initiated the process of preparation for the election of a ruling bishop for the diocese.

The hierarchs also initiated the process of preparation for the election of a ruling bishop for the Diocese of New England, in response to a request by delegates to that diocese’s assembly. The diocesan see has been vacant since the early 1990s. His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Boston and the Albanian Archdiocese, currently serves as temporary administrator of the diocese.

In other matters related to the Church’s episcopacy, the hierarchs agreed to initiate the processes necessary to provide vicar bishops for the Archdiocese of Canada; the Diocese of Dallas and the South; and the Diocese of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska. This decision was made at the request of the ruling hierarchs of these dioceses.

Metropolitan Herman opened the session on Monday evening, March 28, at which time he addressed the hierarchs. In his report, he highlighted his recent activities, including his positive attempts to strengthen relationships between the Orthodox Church in America and the sister autocephalous Churches and his visits to the OCA’s dioceses. He commented on noteworthy events in the life of the Church in 2005, including the centennial celebration of the establishment of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, the 35th anniversary of the OCA’s autocephaly, the 35th anniversary of the glorification of Saint Herman of Alaska, and the convocation of the 14th All-American Council in Toronto, ON, Canada July 17-22, 2005. He thanked the hierarchs for their dedicated service to the faithful of their respective dioceses and the Church in general.

Metropolitan Herman also announced the appointment of the Very Rev. Eugene Vansuch, rector of Saint Nicholas Church, Bethlehem, PA, as the new executive director of the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards. Father Vansuch, who succeeds the Very Rev. Joseph Fester, will assume duties on June 1, 2005.

Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, chancellor, reported on the ongoing work of the OCA chancery and its various ministries. He emphasized the positive response to the recently redesigned OCA web site, adding that the work of the department of communications, together with that of the departments of Christian education, evangelization, and youth ministry, continue to expand in new directions. He also reviewed a number of matters related to the All-American Council.

In other matters the members of the Holy Synod

  • approved a request from the Board of Theological Education to form a committee, consisting of representatives from the OCA’s three seminaries, to review the current program of theological education to ensure that requirements and materials include the most current expectations and resources. In a related matter, the hierarchs expressed concern that, in view of the seminaries’ current high enrollment, ordination to the priesthood be limited to Orthodox seminary graduates, and that the late vocations program be limited to the preparation of deacons. The hierarchs also recommended that the board propose a higher entrance age for late vocations candidates.
  • heard a detailed report from the preconciliar commission and the All-American Council project team and approved the tentative council schedule.
  • decided, in response to a comprehensive report from His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada, vice-chair of the department of external affairs and interchurch relations, and the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, assistant to the chancellor for external affairs and interchurch relations, to join Christian Churches Together in the USA, a new entity that hopes to serve as a forum for Christians to relate to one another concerning common issues.
  • decided, in response to a letter from His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow and All Russia, to enter the names of saints recently canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church into the calendar of the Orthodox Church in America.
  • heard the report of the Very Rev. Dimitri Oselinsky, treasurer, in which it was noted that in recent years voluntary contributions beyond the anticipated income from diocesan contributions fell short of the anticipated amounts. They also heard a report by Mr. David Lucs, special appeals coordinator, who was asked to assist the dioceses in strengthening the response to the appeals in their respective parishes.
  • heard the report of Mrs. Michelle Jannakos, Church ministries coordinating secretary, on the work of the Church’s numerous departments.
  • requested that the Very Rev. John Dresko, chairman of the department of stewardship, prepare and distribute to the hierarchs a proposal for the “fair share” funding the OCA’s budget in an effort to draft a final document for consideration by delegates to the 14th All-American Council, in response to the resolution on funding passed at the 13th All-American Council.
  • heard the report on the OCA’s personal assistance, health and life insurance, and pension programs by Mrs. Elizabeth Kondratick, who noted that the most recent actuarial review indicates that the pension plan is in good financial condition. Retired clergy will continue to receive 65% of their highest five earning years of active ministry.
  • reviewed final plans for the two-month pilgrimage of the wonderworking Sitka Icon of the Mother of God in the fall of 2005. The icon will visit numerous parishes throughout the “lower 48” with the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska.

During the four-day session, the hierarchs attended the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, celebrated by His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of South Canaan, on Wednesday, March 30. Responses were sung by students from Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY, who joined the hierarchs at a breakfastafter the Liturgy. The following morning, the feast of Saint Innocent Veniaminov, the hierarchs also attended the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, celebrated by Metropolitan Herman. Following the Liturgy, a Memorial was celebrated for the repose of those individuals who had been instrumental in receiving the tomos of autocephaly in 1970, including His Beatitude, Metropolitan Ireney; Protopresbyters Joseph Pishtey, Alexander Schmemann, John Meyendorff; Fr. John Skvir; Fr. John Turkevich; and Mr. Stephen Kopestonsky. A Service of Thanksgiving was also held for those involved in that historic event who remain active in the Church today, including His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius; Protopresbyter Daniel Hubiak; the Very Rev. John Nehrebeki; and Mr. Constantine Kallaur.

In addition to the hierarchs mentioned above, other participants in the spring session included His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and Romanian Episcopate; His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco and the West; His Grace, Bishop Irineu of Dearborn Heights, auxiliary of the Romanian Episcopate; and His Grace, Bishop Benjamin of Berkeley, auxiliary of the Diocese of the West. His Eminence, Archbishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest, was unable to participate due to the death and funeral of his mother, who passed away on the eve of the opening of the session.

Click here for photos of the Holy Synod of Bishops Spring Session.