A delegation from the Orthodox Church in America, lead by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, returned from an official visit to the Church of Russia on May 4, 2009.
Accompanying Metropolitan Jonah were His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada; the Very Rev. Alexander Garklavs, OCA Chancellor; the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, OCA Director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations; and Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov.
Metropolitan Jonah arrived in Russia on Saturday, April 25, and was met at the airport by a delegation headed by His Eminence, Archbishop Hilarion of Volokalamsk, the newly appointed chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department of External Affairs. Later that day, the delegation visited Moscow’s Donskoi Monastery, where they prayed before the relics of Saint Tikhon, the Patriarch of Moscow and Enlightener of North America.
The following day, on the Sunday of Saint Thomas, Metropolitan Jonah concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at Christ the Savior Cathedral with His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill, and participated in the consecration of Archimandrite Tikhon (Zaitsev) as Bishop of Podolsk. Metropolitan Jonah also concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Kirill in the Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral on the eve of his return to the US.
On Monday, April 27, the delegation visited Trinity-Sergius Monastery and the Moscow Theological Academy, where Metropolitan Jonah distributed copies of the Orthodox Study Bible sent by the OCA to three Russian theological schools. Archimandrite Zacchaeus, OCA Representative in Moscow, had distributed Study Bibles at the Kyiv and St. Petersburg theological academies earlier in the year.
While in Moscow, Metropolitan Jonah and the delegation also visited the Novospassky Monastery, where they venerated the wonder-working “Vsetsaritsa” Icon of the Mother of God, and the Stretensky Stavropegial Monastry and Seminary.
In St. Petersburg, Metropolitan Jonah was received at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy by the school’s rector, His Grace, Bishop Amvrossy. He and the delegation also visited Saint John of Rila Monastery, where they prayed before the relics of Saint John of Kronstadt, the chapel of the Blessed Saint Xenia of St. Petersburg in the Smolensk Cemetery, and the Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
Metropolitan Jonah and the delegation spent two days visiting the Valaam Monastery and surrounding sketes as the guest of His Eminence, Archbishop Pankraty of Troitsa, the monastery’s superior. It was at the Valaam Monasery that Metropolitan Jonah received his monastic formation during the year he spent in Russia after completing theological studies at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary in the early 1990’s.
Returning to Moscow, Metropolitan Jonah celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the OCA’s Representation Church of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr on Saturday, May 2, where he was welcomed by Archimandrite Zacchaeus and the parish faithful. That afternoon, he visited the Saint Tikhon Orthodox Institute, where he presided at the annual Saint Innocent Readings and delivered a paper on the life and missionary activities of Saint Innocent during his time in America. Metropolitan Jonah and the delegation also were guests of Archbishop Hilarion at the Church of the Resurrection in central Moscow, in which the wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God “The Joy of All Who Sorrow,” is enshrined.
In addition to their formal visits, Metropolitan Jonah and delegation members met informally with several Church and secular leaders, including the US Ambassador to Russia, Mr. John Beyrle, and Russian State Deputy Sergei A. Popov, Chairman of the Committee for Public Associations and Religious Organizations of the State Duma of the Russian Federation.
The highlight of the visit was Metropolitan Jonah’s meeting with Patriarch Kirill.
“One of my main goals was not only to serve together with the Patriarch, but to become acquainted with him personally, but to establish a working relationship with him and with Archbishop Hilarion, the head of the Department for External Church Relations,” Metropolitan Jonah said in an interview with the Russian religious news agency Blagovest-Info. “First and foremost, I wish to express my respect for our Mother Church and personally to Patriarch Kirill. He renders very great support to the Orthodox Church in America; we have identical views on many things, not only in America, but in the Orthodox world in general.”
Prior to his return to the US, Metropolitan Jonah and the delegation members visited at Moscow’s Epiphany Patriarchal Cathedral, where they venerated the relics of Saint Alexis of Moscow and the wonderworking Icon of Our Lady of Kazan. Metropolitan Jonah also celebrated a panikhida for the repose of the late Patriarch Aleksy of Moscow and All Rus, who is entombed in the cathedral.
This visit to the Church of Russia marked Metropolitan Jonah’s first visit to a sister Orthodox Church since his election as Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada at the OCA’s 15th All-American Council in November 2008.