His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America opened the first day of the Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs of North and Central America at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel here on Wednesday morning, May 26, 2010.
Among the 60-some hierarchs present were His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, and ruling and auxiliary bishops of the Orthodox Church in America.
Following opening prayers invoking the Holy Spirit to guide the hierarchs in their deliberations, Archbishop Demetrios, who chairs the Assembly as Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch, addressed his brother hierarchs, outlining common concerns while reviewing the events that led to the historic gathering.
“We strive for unity because the Lord asked of us to be one, but diversity and differentiation are not to be feared,” Archbishop Demetrios said. “They are gifts that are to be used for the glory of God. Our unity cannot exist to destroy such differentiation; rather, our unity is meant to flourish as a result of our natural diversity, be it linguistic, cultural or ethnic.
“Is this not exactly the condition of our universal Orthodoxy today?” he asked. “Of course, problems related to unity, or to differentiation, or to both, always existed in the Church, starting already in the time of the Apostles, as the Book of the Acts of the Apostles testifies. This is a valid observation for us today.
“We come together to face the problems that have arisen in our region, where the Orthodox Faith has flourished for generations,” Archbishop Demetrios continued before reflecting on various issues facing Orthodox Christianity in North and Central America and elsewhere around the world. “As we have grown and established ourselves, situations have been created that need our attention and our wisdom.”
Archbishop Demetrios went on to review the work of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference held in Chambésy, Switzerland in June 2009 in response to the extraordinary Synaxis of the Heads of the Autocephalous Churches convened earlier by His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
[The complete text of Archbishop Demetrios’ address may be found on the web site of the Greek Archdiocese at http://www.goarch.org/news/addressassembly.]
Also addressing the Assembly was its first vice-chair, His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and its second vice-chair, His Eminence, Archbishop Justinian of the Russian Orthodox Church, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the United States of America.
[The complete texts of their addresses may be found on the web site of the Antiochian Archdiocese at http://www.antiochian.org/node/23042 and the web site of the Eastern American and New York Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia at http://www.eadiocese.org/News/2010/05/abpjustaddress.en.htm respectively.]
Sessions will resume on Thursday morning, May 27.
The Assembly will conclude on Friday, May 28, on which the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral.
[A gallery of photos appears on the web site of the Greek Archdiocese.]
Prayer/Petition During The Episcopal Assembly
O All Merciful God! Grant our Hierarchs gathered in Episcopal Assembly to grow in wisdom and strength, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to increase in love for each other, deepening Christian fellowship so that conciliar decisions may build up a canonically united Orthodox Christian Church of the Americas. May their work be guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and may the Spirit of unity and love, of compassion and mutual respect, inspire each to contribute toward the building up of the Body of Christ for the glory of Thy name, for Thou hast ordered us to do all things for Thy glory. Bless Thy people, uniting them for the building up of Thy Holy Orthodox Church of the Americas. O generous Creator; hear us and have mercy. For Thou art a merciful God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.