On Sunday, December 28, 2008, His Beatitude, the Most Blessed Jonah, Archbishop of Washington and New York, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, was enthroned at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, DC.
In attendance at the Enthronement were members of the OCA Holy Synod of Bishops and guests representing several Orthodox Churches in North America and abroad. “Unfortunately, because of poor travel conditions in some regions, not all of those who were to take part in the Enthronement were able to join us,” said OCA communications director, Archpriest Andrew Jarmus.
Among the guest hierarchs and clergy that were able to attend the Enthronement were His Grace, Bishop Mercurius, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, who represented His Eminence, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Patriarchal Locum tenens of the Church of Russia, His Grace, Bishop Ilia of Philomelion, representing His Beatitude, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres, and All Albania, and His Eminence, Archbishop Abel of Ljublin and Kholm representing His Beatitude, Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland.
Hierarchs from North American jurisdictions taking part in the Enthronement included His Eminence, Metropolitan Christopher of the Serbian Orthodox Mid-western Diocese, His Eminence, Archbishop Nicolae of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada, His Grace, Bishop Thomas of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America and His Grace, Bishop Jerome of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
“In addition to visiting hierarchs, we welcomed Fr. Mark Arey, the ecumenical officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who represented the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Archpriest Jan Polansky, representing the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia and Archimandrite Kirill Hovorun who represented the Church of Ukraine.”
“We were also honored to have with us the Russian Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency, Mr. Sergei Kislyak,” Fr. Andrew noted.
“Among other participants,” Fr. Andrew said, “we were looking forward to having Ancient Faith Radio [AFR] join us to broadcast events from the Enthronement on the Internet. Unfortunately, they were among those who were unable come to Washington because of complications with their travel plans. This was disappointing for both the OCA and AFR. However, OCA Communications will be providing AFR with audio files to post on their web site.”
Although unable to attend in person, His Eminence, Archbishop Leo of Karelia and All Finland conveyed his greetings in a message read at the Enthronement banquet. Archbishop Leo wrote that the election of Metropolitan Jonah revealed that the vocation of the OCA is to bring to Orthodoxy the hope that affairs in the Church do not always have to be conducted “in the same unproductive way” and hope “that the future can be good.” His Eminence said that much that is not possible in Orthodox churches elsewhere in the world can be done in North America, and he encouraged Metropolitan Jonah to continue the OCA’s tradition of “innovative continuity.”
In his banquet address, Metropolitan Jonah said that the Church can keep the message of hope alive only if all of its members keep their eyes fixed on Jesus Christ alone. He stated that the vision of the Church had been very narrow in the past and that it was time to broaden it to include the work of bringing all people into communion with the Father. He said that this will only be achieved as members of the Church become the living presence of Christ in the world, “going into highways and byways to bring in whoever may come.”
His Beatitude also stressed that Orthodox unity in North America is a goal to which all the faithful here must strive. He stated that unity is not only a canonical or institutional imperative, but the will of God. It is God who calls His faithful to put aside the things that separate them from one another. However, Metropolitan Jonah said, the task of achieving unity in North America must be carried out with utmost respect and love for the other Orthodox churches of the world who have faithful here.
His Beatitude called the Enthronement a celebration of new birth in the OCA. Making reference to the process of strategic planning mandated by the 15th All-American Council earlier this year, Metropolitan Jonah said that it was time for the OCA to overcome old ways of being Church and to reevaluate every aspect of its life. This process of reevaluation, he said, must involve the Holy Synod of Bishops, the Metropolitan Council and clergy and faithful from all corners of the Church. He stated that the thing most needful was to put aside personal opinions and preferences for the sake of the Church. “Overcoming ourselves,” His Beatitude said, “is a tremendous ascetic act.”
Metropolitan Jonah was born James Paffhausen in 1959 and was baptized into the Episcopal Church. His family later settled near San Diego, CA, where he was received into the Orthodox Church in 1978. After completing studies at UCSC, he attended St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY, from which he graduated with a Master of Divinity degree in 1985 and a Master of Theology in Dogmatics in 1988. He went on to pursue studies towards a Ph.D. at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, but interrupted those studies to spend a year in Russia.
In Moscow, while working at the Publishing Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, he was introduced to life of the Russian church, in particular monastic life. Later that year, he entered the Valaam Monastery, where he received a blessing to become a priestmonk. He was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood in 1994 and in 1995 was tonsured to monastic rank at St. Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA, having received the name Jonah.
Returning to California, Fr. Jonah served a number of missions and was later given the obedience to establish a monastery under the patronage of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. During his time building up the monastic community, Fr. Jonah also worked to establish missions in Merced, Sonora, Chico, Eureka, Redding, Susanville, and other communities in California, as well as in Kona, HI.
On Saturday, November 1, 2008, Fr. Jonah was consecrated Bishop of Fort Worth and Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of the South. On Wednesday, November 12, 2008, he was elected Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada at the 15th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America in Pittsburgh, PA.
“Going into the Council, the then-Bishop Jonah was not considered a likely candidate for the office of Primate, simply because he was new to the episcopacy,” Fr. Andrew said. “But on the evening before the election, he gave a presentation on the current state of the OCA, on where we have been in recent years and where we need to go. He spoke in such a forthright, honest and loving manner. By the time he finished, I think that for many the choice the following day was clear. Almost anyone in the room the day Vladyka Jonah was elected Metropolitan will tell you that the movement of the Holy Spirit in the process was palpable.”
More in formation on the Enthronement of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, along with photos and links to audio and video files will be posted on a special Enthronement page of the OCA.org web site as it becomes available.