At their Spring Session at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America here March 27-30, 2000, members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America unanimously agreed “to number the ever-memorable Bishop RAPHAEL [Hawaweeny] among the saints for veneration by the faithful.”
The decision to proceed with the Rite of Canonization, scheduled to take place at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA May 28-29, 2000, followed an intensive three-year study of Bishop RAPHAEL’s life, works, and ministry by the Joint Canonization Commission composed of representatives of the Orthodox Church in America and the Englewood, NJ-based Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.
“Bishop RAPHAEL’s legacy is especially strongly felt in the Antiochian Archdiocese, where pious veneration of him has been intensifying tremendously in recent years,” the Commission noted in its report to the Holy Synod of Bishops. “This veneration has been strengthened by the discovery of his almost incorrupt remains ten years ago when they were transferred, along with the remains of other hierarchs, from a cemetery in New York to Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA.”
The report, issued after the Commissions March 10, 2000 meeting, emphasized that “the veneration of Bishop RAPHAEL has never been encouraged or promoted by the hierarchy or clergy, but has spontaneously developed among the faithful, who have entrenched it into Church life. Many people flock to his remains in Antiochian Village to pray for his intercession.”
After a thorough review of the Commissions report, members of the Holy Synod of Bishops signed a formal Proclamation on the Glorification of Our Holy Father, Bishop RAPHAEL. Also signing the Proclamation as a witness and representative of His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, was His Grace, Bishop ANTOUN, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese.
“Although of Arabic ancestry, Bishop RAPHAEL lived in several places among Greeks, Russians, and Americans of diverse backgrounds,” the Proclamation states. “While in America, he was a vicar bishop in the Orthodox Diocese, assisting Saint TIKHON and his successors in their visionary multi-ethnic organization of the North American Church. As his greatest labors took place in America and bore fruit here, it is fitting that the Orthodox Church in America should glorify Bishop RAPHAEL.”
The Proclamation also established the day of Bishop RAPHAEL’s repose, February 27, as the date of the saints annual commemoration, and called for the composition of liturgical services in his honor. He will also be commemorated on the Feast of All Saints of North America, observed annually on the second Sunday after the Great Feast of Pentecost. A detailed life of Bishop RAPHAEL is also in the final stages of preparation.
It was also decided by members of the Holy Synod that the Primates of the world’s autocephalous Orthodox Churches will be informed of Bishop RAPHAEL’s glorification for inclusion in their respective calendars.
Born in Beirut in 1860 to parents of Syrian background, Bishop RAPHAEL was ordained to the diaconate at the Halki Theological School in 1885 and to the holy priesthood at the Kiev Theological Academy in 1889.
His education and travels in numerous countries enabled him to learn several languages, preparing him for missionary labors in America where he ministered to people of diverse national origins. In 1904, after nine years of priestly ministry in North America, he was elected to the episcopate. His was the first Orthodox episcopal consecration to take place on the North American continent.
“Bishop RAPHAEL obviously had the confidence of his superiors, for they demonstrated it by entrusting him with greater and greater responsibilities,” reads the Holy Synods Proclamation. “More importantly, he was a man of prayer and a seeker after holiness. He produced an Arabic language Prayer Book for use in his parishes. ...He established thirty parishes and staffed them with priests, and he was among the first to encourage the use of English in Church services.”
Bishop RAPHAEL also was the author of several books and the founder of The Word magazine, which still serves as the official organ of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.
According to Mr Alexis Liberovsky, Canonization Commission Secretary, “His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, notes that particles of Bishop RAPHAEL’s relics will be made available for the glorification services.
The fact that many clergy and faithful of the Antiochian Archdiocese have already made plans to attend the glorification services at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery was also noted with joy by the Joint Canonization Commission.”
His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will preside at the Rite of Canonization. Concelebrating with him will be His Beatitude, Metropolitan SAWA of Warsaw and All Poland, members of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, and guest hierarchs. It is anticipated that at least two Auxiliaries of the Antiochian Archdiocese, His Grace, Bishop BASIL and His Grace, Bishop DEMETRI, will also concelebrate at the canonization.
His Eminence, Archbishop KYRILL of Pittsburgh of the Orthodox Church in America and His Grace, Bishop BASIL of the Antiochian Archdiocese, together with three priests and one layperson, served on the Joint Canonization Commission which laid the foundation for Bishop RAPHAEL’s glorification.