Meeting of the Joint Commission on Pastoral Concerns in America

The first meeting of the Joint Commission on pastoral care for Russian-speaking believers, created in accordance with the blessing of His Holiness, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II and His Beatitude, the Metropolitan of All America and Canada Herman, took place here October 13-14, 2003.

The subject of discussion was the new reality in North America arising from the significant increase both of Russian-speaking immigrants and of temporary residents in America who are citizens of Russia and of other member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The Russian Orthodox Church was represented by His Grace Mercurius, Bishop of Zaraisk, vicar of the His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, Archpriest Nicholas Balashov, Secretary for Inter-Orthodox Relations of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, and Priest Alexander Abramov, a priest of St. Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in New York and a staff member of the Representation of the Moscow Patriarchate in the USA.

The delegation of the Orthodox Church in America was composed of His Grace Seraphim, Bishop of Ottawa and Canada, Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, and Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky, Assistant to the Chancellor for External Affairs.

In the course of a dialogue based on openness and mutual trust, the theological, canonical, and pastoral aspects of the above-mentioned problem were examined in detail. At the same time the representatives of the two Churches affirmed their readiness through common efforts to advance Orthodox unity on the North American continent. The necessity of this unity constituted the basis of the Tomos on the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in America.

The members of the Commission discussed practical steps for the co-ordination of the efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church in America to provide pastoral care to the Russian-speaking flock in the North America.

The next meeting of the Joint Commission is anticipated in Moscow in 2004.