For the first time since his election as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America in July 2002, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman visited the Orthodox Church of Russia June 2-6, 2003 at the invitation of His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy II.
Metropolitan Herman, who was accompanied by Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, was met at Moscow’s Sheremetevo Airport by His Eminence, Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, and other hierarchs and clergy on Monday, June 2. Later the same day, he met with Archimandrite Zacchaeus, OCA Representative to the Moscow Patriarchate and Dean of the Representation Church of the Great Martyr Catherine, and the clergy and staff of the parish. He also was hosted by Metropolitan Kyrill at a dinner at his residence, during which time the hierarchs had an opportunity to discuss matters of mutual concern in an informal setting.
On Tuesday, June 3, Metropolitan Herman traveled to Sergiev Posad, a short drive from Moscow, where he visited the Holy Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra, Russia’s most important monastery. In addition to visiting the monastery’s historic churches and other shrines, Metropolitan Herman venerated the relics of Saint Sergius of Radonezh and Saint Innocent Veniaminov, the 19th century Alaskan missionary hierarch who had later been elected Metropolitan of Moscow. He also visited the Moscow Theological Seminary and the Moscow Theological Academy, where he addressed the students. In his address, Metropolitan Herman spoke fondly of the close relationship between the Churches of Russia and America, making reference to the many things the churches share in common. He also discussed the impending return of the wonderworking Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God, which has been in the United States since 1949 but is slated to be returned to the monastery in Tikhvin, in which it was originally enshrined, in the summer of 2004.
After a visit to the Sofrino Church supply factory, Metropolitan Herman returned to Moscow, where he attended a dinner at the Danilov Monastery for a number of clergy and other honored guests including representatives of other Orthodox Churches, and the Consul General of USA.
On Wednesday, June 4, Metropolitan Herman celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the Leavetaking of Holy Pascha Saint Catherine’s Church, after which he presided at the blessing of a new cross which will adorn the temple. After a luncheon at the Hotel Balchug, he met once again with Metropolitan Kyrill before celebrating the Vigil for the Great Feast of the Ascension at the Theophany Patriarchal Cathedral. A dinner with the cathedral clergy followed the Vigil, which was attended by a large number of faithful.
On the Great Feast of the Ascension on Thursday, June 5, Metropolitan Herman presided at the Divine Liturgy in the recently rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Russia’s “national cathedral.” Other hierarchs who served with Metropolitan Herman included His Eminence Metropolitan Juvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna, Chairman of the Canonization Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate; His Eminence, Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate; His Grace, Bishop Niphon of Philippopolis, Representative of the Patriarchate of Antioch to the Moscow Patriarchate; His Grace Bishop Alexei of Orekhovo-Zuevo; and His Grace Bishop Mercurius of Zaraisk, Administrator of the Moscow Patriarchal in the USA. The massive church was filled with faithful from across the Moscow region. Following the Liturgy, he was honored at a luncheon for concelebrating hierarchs and clergy. Later the same day, Metropolitan Herman met privately with Patriarch Aleksy.
Before his return flight to the United States on June 6, Metropolitan Herman met with US Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Alexander Vershbow, at the US Embassy.
“Originally, Metropolitan Herman had hoped to visit the Russian Orthodox Church during Bright Week, but plans were postponed due to the widely-reported health issues being faced by Patriarch Aleksy,” according to the Very Rev. John Matusiak, OCA Communicatons Director. “Metropolitan Herman was anxious to meet personally with Patriarch Aleksy and to assure him of the ongoing prayers of the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America for his health, which is reportedly improving.”