Primate of Czech-Slovak Orthodox Church to visit Diocese of Alaska

Met Christopher and Abp Benjamin
Metropolitan Christopher and Bishop [now Archbishop] Benjamin in the Czech Republic, 2011.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Christopher, Archbishop of Prague and Primate of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, will begin a two week visit to the Diocese of Alaska on July 28, 2012.

The visit will mark the second time a Primate of one of the world’s autocephalous Orthodox Churches has visited the Diocese. In 1993, His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow visited the Diocese and participated in celebrations marking the opening of the Bicentennial of Orthodox Christianity in North America.

In a recent press release issued by the Diocese of Alaska, it was announced that Metropolitan Christopher and his delegation will visit the Alaska Native villages of Nondalton, Napaskiak, Tuluksak, Kwethluk, Eek, and Quinhagak, as well as the cities of Anchorage, Bethel and Kodiak. They also will participate in the annual Saint Herman Pilgrimage to Spruce Island August 7-9.

Traveling with Metropolitan Christopher will be Archpriest Josef Hauzar, Chancellor of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia; Archpriest Milan Gerka, Secretary of the Holy Synod; Tatiana and Alexandra Strelcova, chairs of the Department of Religious Education; and Andrew Chrast, interpreter.

The invitation to visit Alaska had been extended by His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin, Administrator of the Diocese, during his visit to the Czech Republic in 2011.

On Sunday, July 29, Metropolitan Christopher and the delegation will visit Anchorage’s Saint Innocent Cathedral, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and the chapels at Eklutna village. Later, they will participate in groundbreaking ceremonies at Saint Juvenaly Mission, Wasilla; spend two days on the shores of Lake Clark as guests of Mr. Robert Gillam; and visit Nondalton for the blessing of the newly renovated church. Mr. Gillam is generously providing air transport to the delegation during their entire visit to Alaska. They also will bless ground for a new church in Tuluksak, which will be named in honor of Saint Prince Rastislav of Moravia; visit the grave of Matushka Olga Michael in Kwethluk; bless the newly constructed church in the village of Eek; and visit Quinhagak, site of the martyrdom of Saint Juvenaly and his Athabaskan Indian companian in 1798. After attending the annual Church conference in Napaskiak and blessing ground for a new church at Oscarville, they will fly to Kodiak for the annual Saint Herman Day celebrations and pilgrimage.

Metropolitan Christopher heads a Church with over 1,200 years of Orthodox history, tracing its roots to 865 AD, when an invitation by Saint Prince Rastislav, Moravia’s second known ruler, resulted in the arrival of the Byzantine missionaries, Saints Cyril and Methodius. After the fall of communism, the breakup of the former Czechoslovakia, and the massive demographic shifts sweeping Europe during the 1990s and 2000s, the Czech and Slovak Church witnessed an influx of immigrants from other historically Orthodox countries—Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. The Church has built many new churches and ordained clergy to meet the needs of its increasingly diverse membership.

In related news, a comprehensive schedule of services and events for the annual Saint Herman Pilgrimage August 7-9 appears on the web site of the Diocese of Alaska.