For the first time since his election as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America in July 2002, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman was welcomed here by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Volodymyr of Kyiv and All Ukraine as he began his first official visit to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Saturday, August 2.
After exchanging greetings with Metropolitan Volodymyr and other hierarchs, Metropolitan Herman was interviewed by the Press Service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, expressing his pleasure for the opportunity to visit the Church of Ukraine and to strengthen its ties with the Orthodox Church in America.
On Sunday morning, August 3, Metropolitan Herman concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Metropolitan Volodymyr and other hierarchs in the Dormition Cathedral at Kyiv’s Monastery of the Caves, an expansive 11th century monastic compound on the banks of the Dniepro River, where the inhabitants of Kyiv were baptized in 988 A.D. after the Grand Prince Saint Vladimir adopted Orthodox Christianity as the state religion.
The magnificent cathedral, which had been destroyed during World War II, was rebuilt in the late-1990s and once again serves as the monastery’s main cathedral.
Thousands of faithful were present as Metropolitan Herman presented Metropolitan Volodymyr with an icon of Saints Vladimir, Tikhon, and Herman of Alaska in which relics had been embedded. Metropolitan Herman distributed icons of Our Lady of Pochayiv to the faithful at the conclusion of the Liturgy.
Later that afternoon, Metropolitan Herman, who was accompanied by Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Archimandrite Zacchaeus [Wood], and a small delegation from the Orthodox Church in America, prayed before the relics of innumerable saints in the nearly 1000-year-old near and far caves, built into the side of the embankment as underground burial catacombs for the monastery brotherhood. The caves also contain a number of small chapels dedicated to a variety of feasts and saints. Among the relics before which Metropolitan Herman prayed were those of Saints Anthony and Theodosius, founders of the monastery. Metropolitan Herman also met with Metropolitan Volodymyr, at which time he was apprised of the current situation of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which claims the allegiance of the vast majority of Ukrainians.
His Eminence, Archbishop Simeon accompanied Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation as they departed for the renowned Pochayiv Monastery in western Ukraine on Monday, August 4. En route, the entourage stopped at Korets, where they were welcomed to the Holy Trinity Women’s Monastery by Abbess Natalia and the sisterhood. One of the oldest monasteries in the region, Holy Trinity was established in 1571, and it was one of the few monastic communities permitted to function during the communist era, despite periodic pressures and persecutions. Home to nearly 100 nuns, the monastery has been instrumental in the reestablishment and revival of numerous women’s monasteries in the region, made possible by the fall of communism in the early 1990s. Before continuing the journey to Pochayiv, Metropolitan Herman venerated a wonderworking icon of the Mother of God enshrined in the monastery’s main cathedral.
Metropolitan Herman also made a brief visit to Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Kremenetz, where the Abbess, Mother Mirianella, welcomed him warmly. Kremenetz is also the birthplace of the late Metropolitan Leonty, Primate of the American Church from 1950 until 1965, and Saint Alexander Hotovitzky, the missionary priest responsible for the construction of Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York City in the early 1900s who died a martyr’s death in the Soviet gulags in the 1930s and was canonized in 1994.
Metropolitan Herman was welcomed at the Pochayiv Monastery by thousands of faithful, many of whom traveled on foot from neighboring villages for the celebration of the monastery’s patronal feast day. Later that evening, he attended the festal All-Night Vigil in the monastery’s massive Dormition Cathedral.
“While there are no written records detailing the establishment and early history of the monastery, local tradition holds that several disciples of Saint Methodius, Enlightener of the Slavs, settled in the region toward the end of the ninth century,” according to the Very Rev. John Matusiak, OCA Communications Director. “In 1340 A.D., a monk praying on Mount Pochayiv beheld a pillar of fire burning in the wilderness. Shepherds also saw the fire and joined the monk and his companions in prayer as the Mother of God, surrounded by fire and standing on a rock, appeared to them. When the apparition vanished, the monks and shepherds noted that the rock on which the Mother of God had been standing was marked by the imprint of her right foot, from which a spring of clear water flowed.”
While it is clear that the site grew in fame as a place of pilgrimage, the first accounts of formal monastic life in Pochayiv were not recorded until the 16th century.
On Tuesday, August 5, Metropolitan Herman venerated the wonderworking icon of the Pochayiv Mother of God, the relics of Saints Job and Amphilokhy, and the rock on which the footprint of the Mother of God is still seen, after which he presided at the festal Divine Liturgy in the Dormition Cathedral. Only a small percentage of the estimated 20,000 pilgrims were accommodated in the cathedral, with the throng of faithful spilling over into the surrounding courtyards and hillside. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, Metropolitan Herman greeted the faithful, noting the common bonds of faith that unite Orthodox faithful throughout the world and noting the love for the Pochayiv Mother of God shared by Orthodox Christians in North America. Metropolitan Herman, the concelebrating local hierarchs, and well over 150 clergy led the festal procession that followed the Liturgy.
Later the same day, Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation left for Chernovtsy, where His Eminence, Metropolitan Onufrey, welcomed them at his residence at the city’s Cathedral of Saint Nicholas.
Metropolitan Onufrey briefed Metropolitan Herman on the situation of the Church in the region, where about half of the population is of the Orthodox Faith. For much of the 1990s, western Ukraine had been the site of major conflicts between the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which was legalized after the fall of communism, and the Orthodox Church, which itself had experienced two schisms. Many Orthodox Church properties had been given to the Greek Catholics, while schismatic Orthodox groups also laid claim to many properties. While the situation today is greatly improved, tensions and suspicions remain in the region, especially with the defection of many faithful to Greek Catholicism.
Metropolitan Onufrey hosted Metropolitan Herman at Chernovtsy’s Holy Spirit Cathedral, where they venerated the miraculous bleeding icon of Christ the Savior that was temporarily enshrined in the cathedral as it was being taken to various locations on pilgrimage. Outside the cathedral, Metropolitan Herman was interviewed by television station TVA, during which he spoke of the origins of Orthodox Christianity in North America and the spiritual ties that bind Orthodox faithful throughout the world.
On Wednesday, August 6, Metropolitan Onufrey accompanied Metropolitan Herman to the village of Boyany, where they attended the Divine Liturgy concelebrated by Father Kondratick, the other clergy members of the OCA delegation, and numerous local priests in the Church of the Nativity at the women’s Monastery of the Mother of God. The Liturgy was served in English, Ukrainian, and Romanian, the latter language being spoken by much of the region’s population. After the Liturgy, the Abbess, Mother Seraphima, formally greeted Metropolitan Herman.
Metropolitan Herman also visited the orphanage at Holy Ascension Monastery in the village of Molnytsya. Established several years ago and served by some 40 nuns from the monastery in Boyany, the orphanage ministers to five dozen young children born deformities. In the orphanage church, dedicated to the Icon of the Mother of God, the “Joy of All Who Sorrow,” Metropolitan Herman was moved as he viewed a fresco of his patron, Saint Herman of Alaska, after whom the orphanage’s rector was also named.
Metropolitan Onufrey also accompanied Metropolitan Herman to the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in the village of Khreschatik. Established in the 17th century but closed during the anti-religious pogroms of the 1930s, the monastery was reopened in 1991 and is the region’s oldest surviving monastery. They also visited Holy Assumption Monastery, which was recently established in the village of Kulivtsi, Saint Anna Women’s Monastery, built on the site on which the popular local saint was martyred in the 13th century, and other churches and monastic communities in the region.
On Thursday, August 7, Metropolitan Herman and the OCA delegation returned to Kyiv, where Metropolitan Herman was interviewed for the “Orthodox World” radio program. After offering an overview of the Orthodox Church in America’s history and current ministries, Metropolitan Herman spoke of the pastoral care extended to the countless recent Orthodox Christian immigrants who continue to arrive in North America while emphasizing the unique, multi-ethnic ministries conducted by the Orthodox Church in America.
In his many speeches and addresses, Metropolitan Herman emphasized the importance of remaining faithful to the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, headed by Metropolitan Volodymyr, in light of the ongoing difficulties created by schismatic groups. He also encouraged the faithful to remain steadfast in their love for Christ and, despite challenges, to always share their love with others, as Christ first loved them. Metropolitan Herman continually shared his joy in seeing the genuine revival of Church life, and especially monasticism, in Ukraine, despite decades of persecution by the Soviet regime.
Currently in Kyiv, Metropolitan Herman will return to the United States on Wednesday, August 13, after meeting with the US and Canadian Ambassadors to Ukraine, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, and a number of other religious and civic leaders.
Full coverage of Metropolitan Herman’s official visit may be found on the OCA web site at http://www.oca.org and will be featured in the September-October 2003 issue of “The Orthodox Church” newspaper.