Dear Clergy, Monastics, Clergy Widows, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:
During the past year, the faithful of our Church have been kept informed of the physical condition of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, who had suffered a series of strokes at the end of 2000 and the beginning of 2001. As a result of these strokes, and in an effort to prevent further incidents, His Beatitude’s physicians recommended that he take a four-month medical leave of absence.
Out of concern for the Church, as well as his own personal well-being, His Beatitude requested that the Holy Synod of Bishops grant him a temporary leave of absence from his primatial and archpastoral duties, beginning May 1, 2001. The members of the Holy Synod of Bishops granted his request and appointed His Eminence, Archbishop Herman of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania to serve as Temporary Administrator of the Orthodox Church in America during that period.
At the conclusion of his leave of absence on September 1, 2001, His Beatitude’s physicians agreed that he was out of immediate danger and fully capable of returning to his primatial duties. Of course, His Beatitude’s physicians continued to monitor closely his physical condition, and they remained satisfied by the progress that he had made.
His Beatitude has maintained a full schedule of administrative and archpastoral duties since returning to active ministry, overseeing the day-to-day life of the Church in general, maintaining a full schedule of diocesan and parish visitations, presiding at numerous liturgical celebrations, and undertaking official visits. The duties and responsibilities placed upon his shoulders, however, have grown tremendously. Given his limited physical abilities and strength, His Beatitude found it necessary to place greater demands upon his brother bishops and staff who, in his own words, “have always responded willingly, with grace, and with a dedicated and loving personal concern.”
In his love for the Church, his awareness of the demands of the primatial office, and his desire to see the Church blessed with a Primate who can lead with strength and assuredness, on April 2, 2002 His Beatitude requested that the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops give him their blessing to retire from the office of Metropolitan of All America and Canada and that they grant him the status of retired hierarch. His Beatitude’s decision was made after much prayer, personal reflection, and deep consideration of his ongoing physical limitations, not uncommon among those who had suffered strokes. He also expressed his desire to ensure that the Church will continue to fulfill its mission to proclaim the fullness of the Gospel with zeal and intense commitment.
After His Beatitude read a statement informing the hierarchs of his desire to retire, the Holy Synod of Bishops, with deep concern, accepted His Beatitude’s request on April 2, 2002 and agreed that his retirement from the office of Metropolitan would become effective after the opening session of the 13th All-American Council, slated to be held in Orlando, Florida July 21-26, 2002. During the same All-American Council, the election of His Beatitude’s successor will take place. At a special session of the Holy Synod scheduled to take place on May 24, 2002 at Saint Tikhon Monastery, the hierarchs will review and finalize procedures for the canonical election and installation of the new Primate.
I am sure that this news will be met with great sadness, by the countless individuals who have been touched by His Beatitude and his ministry during his twenty-five years of tireless service as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. The selfless love and the tireless concern he has consistently displayed to our hierarchs, clergy and countless faithful have, and continue to be, a source of deep strength for us. Having worked closely with His Beatitude over these many years, I was often amazed by the pace he maintained, by the myriad details and duties of his position, and by the ongoing and ever-increasing demands and burdens placed upon his shoulders.
I ask you to join the members of our Holy Synod of Bishops and the countless clergy and faithful of our Church in praying for His Beatitude as he enters a new phase in his life and ministry. And it is our prayer that the celebrations at the forthcoming 13th All-American Council, marking his 25th Anniversary as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will provide an appropriate venue at which we will express our deep and abiding thanks for the countless sacrifices he has made on our behalf and for the continual blessings he has brought into our lives.
Asking your continual prayers for His Beatitude, our beloved Metropolitan, and for the Holy Church, I remain
Yours in Christ,
Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick
Chancellor, Orthodox Church in America