Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Agreement on the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America, the “Metropolia”.
The agreement was the result of a number of meetings between senior bishops and clergy of the two churches which began in the early 1960’s.
On March 31, 1970 at the residence of Metropolitan Ireney in Syosset, New York, now the Chancery, a meeting took place between His Eminence Metropolitan Nikodim of St. Petersburg (Leningrad), and His Eminence Archbishop Kiprian of Philadelphia and their delegations. The Russian delegation included Archpriest Vitaly Borovoy, representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to the WCC, Archpriest Livery Voronoff, professor at the Theological Academy of Leningrad and Hieromonk Kirill, now Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. The American delegation included Protopresbyter Joseph Pishtey, Chancellor, Archpriest Alexander Schmemann, Archpriest John Meyendorff and Archpriest John Skvir.
Writing on the events of that day, Dr. Constanine Kallaur, a member of the Orthodox Church in America’s delegation to Moscow to receive the Tomos of Autocephaly in May 1970, described the meeting of March 31, 1970 in the following way:
“The last and final meeting was held at the Metropolitan’s residence in Syosset on March 31, 1970. They labored on the final version of the agreement which was signed just before midnight as they did not want the document to have the date of April 1st.
Fr. Schmemann, in giving his impressions of all the negotiations, characterized them as “difficult, sometimes painful, more than once reaching what seemed a breaking point.” He further added that the sincere desire on the part of all and particularly on the part of Metropolitan Nikodim to reach an agreement rescued these negotiations more than once and finally brought them to a successful conclusion.”
May the memory of His Eminence Metropolitan Nikodim of St. Petersburg (Leningrad), and His Eminence Archbishop Kiprian of Philadelphia, and all those with them who held fast to the vision of Saint Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow, Enlightener of the Aleuts, who we commemorate today, be eternal.
Read more about the road to the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America here.