Holy Synod Issues Statements on Sexual Abuse, Holy Land Crisis

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, presided over the spring session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America in Saint Sergius Chapel at the OCA Chancery here April 1-4, 2002.

At the opening session, Metropolitan Theodosius presented his request to the Holy Synod to grant him retirement in light of his ongoing health concerns, effective July 22, the first day of the 13th All-American Council. Members of the Holy Synod responded by issuing a resolution thanking Metropolitan Theodosius for his years of primatial service while granting his request for retirement. [The full text of the resolution, together with a press release on the Metropolitan’s retirement may be found at Holy Synod Resolution and a letter from Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, may be found at Letter from the Chancellor and appears in the March/April 2002 issue of The Orthodox Church newspaper. Both have been sent out to all parishes of the Orthodox Church in America.]

In addition to reviewing a number of reports from the various offices and administrative and ministry units of the Church, the members of the Holy Synod also issued a statement expressing their concern over the escalating crisis in the Holy Land.

“We deplore the continuing bloodshed and violence which afflicts the land hallowed by the life, death, and resurrection of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ,” the hierarchs stated, “and call upon all persons involved to work together for a just and peaceful solution to the many problems which are the source of the conflicts.”

The statement, the text of which is appears on the OCA web site at Statement on the Crisis in the Holy Land, also expresses the hierarchs’ concern over the desecration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which has become a focal point in the conflict.

In a second statement, members of the Holy Synod reaffirmed their position on allegations of sexual misconduct as outlined in the “Guidelines for Initial Response to Allegations or Charges of Sexual Misconduct” initially issued by the Holy Synod on March 28, 1994.

“We lament the horrible sin of sexual abuse at any age by any person and will not tolerate it,” the hierarchs stated, adding that “the Orthodox Church in America will comply with the civil laws of the jurisdiction in which any allegation is made in regard to reporting any incident and cooperate in any subsequent investigation.”

The hierarchs also pledged that the Orthodox Church in America “will also reach out to the victims and their families to provide for their spiritual well-being and healing, according to these guidelines and pastoral concern.”

The complete statement also appears on the OCA web site at Sexual Abuse Statement.

A discussion concerning the periodicity of the All-American Council was held by the hierarchs.

In other matters, the Holy Synod discussed the preparation of Synodal Affirmations for the 13th All-American Council, reviewed recent events in the life of the Orthodox Church throughout the world, and discussed numerous other concerns.

His Grace, Bishop Mercurius of Zaraisk, Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the United States, briefed members of the Holy Synod on various matters while expressing gratitude for invitations which he was received by the Orthodox Church in America. Bishop Mercurius administers 30 parishes on behalf of the Patriarch of Moscow.

Prior to adjourning, the hierarchs elected the Very Rev. Nicholas Liolin as Auxiliary to Metropolitan Theodosius with the title of “Bishop of Baltimore.” He will serve as the Administrator for the Diocese of New England and the Albanian Archdiocese. [See the related press release posted on the OCA web site at Election of Fr Nicholas Liolin.]

In addition to Metropolitan Theodosius, other hierarchs participating in the session included His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; His Eminence, Archbishop Peter of New York and New Jersey; His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South; His Eminence, Archbishop Herman of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania; His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and Romanian Episcopate; His Grace, Bishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest; His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco and the West; His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada; and His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka and Alaska.