Metropolitan Herman Begins First Official Visit to the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia

—Continuing his series of primatial visits to the autocephalous Sister Orthodox Churches, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will arrive at Prague’s Ruzyne International Airport on Saturday September 18, 2004 for his first official visit to the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

Metropolitan Herman and a delegation from the OCA will be met by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Nikolaj, the Church’s Primate, and His Eminence, Archbishop Krystof, after which they will make their way to the Monastery of Saint Procopius of Sazava in Most. Later in the day they will visit Holy Cross Church, Teplice, Czech Republic.

On Sunday, September 19, Metropolitans Herman and Nikolaj and Archbishop Krystof will concelebrate the Divine Liturgy at Prague’s historic Saints Cyril and Methodius Cathedral. The cathedral, a landmark in the city center, is widely known as the site of the martyrdom of Saint Gorazd Pavlik and his companions during the country’s Nazi occupation. That afternoon, Metropolitan Herman will visit Saint Vladimir Church, Marianske Lazne, and the historic Tsarist-era Saints Peter and Paul Church in Karlove Vary.

Metropolitan Herman will meet with Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, and visit the US and Canadian embassies in Prague on Monday, September 30 before visiting the Monastery of the Dormition in Vilemov. The following day he will serve the Divine Liturgy in Brno and visit churches in Milukcice and Hruba Vrbka en route to the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava.

Mr. Pavol Hrusovsky, chairman of the Slovak Parliament and Mr. Milan Cic, head of the Slovak President’s office will welcome Metropolitan Herman to Slovakia on Wednesday, September 22. While in Bratislava Metropolitan Herman will also visit the US Embassy and the city’s new Orthodox church.

On Thursday, September 23, Metropolitan Herman will meet with the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia in Presov, the Church’s primatial See; visit the Orthodox theological faculty; and call upon the city’s mayor and the president of the Presov region. The following day he will visit parishes in Giraltovce, Kobylnica, Giraltovce and Svidnik and Saint Nicholas Orphanage in Medzilaborce. Later the same day he will visit Strazske and Michalovce, where he will celebrate a Service of Thanksgiving in the city’s Saints Cyril and Methodius Cathedral and meet with members of the diocesan staff and the city’s mayor.

On Saturday, September 25, Metropolitan Herman will celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Kosice, where he will also meet with the city’s mayor and the region’s president. He will also concelebrate the Divine Liturgy, during which the consecration of the new Saint Alexander of Neva Cathedral will be celebrated on Sunday, September 26. Prior to his return flight to New York later the same day, he will meet with representatives of Slovakia’s other faith communities.

“The Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia traces its roots to the missionary efforts of the Byzantine brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, in the tenth century,” said the Very Rev. John Matusiak, OCA Communications Director. “It was granted autocephalous status in the 20th century, only to suffer tremendously after the fall of communism and the breakup of Czechoslovakia into two separate nations.

“In the 1990s, the Greek Catholic Church laid claims to many Orthodox churches, monasteries and theological schools, especially in eastern Slovakia, forcing the Orthodox faithful to literally rebuild their Church brick by brick,” Father Matusiak added. “With the election of the present Metropolitan Nikolaj as the Church’s primate after the repose of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Dorotheus of Prague and All Czechoslovakia, the Church’s primatial see was moved to Presov in eastern Slovakia, where the majority of the faithful are centered. In recent times, the Church has reached out to countless Orthodox immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, Romania and elsewhere, especially in the Czech Republic, and has experienced a substantial number of conversions.”

Accompanying Metropolitan Herman as members of the official OCA delegation are His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada; His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Boston and the Albanian Archdiocese; Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick, OCA Chancellor; Archdeacon Alexei Klimitchev; Mr. David Wagschal, Secretary for the OCA Department of External Affairs; and Messrs. Peter Ilchuk, John Mindala, and Mark Petasky. Also traveling with the delegation are the Very Rev. Daniel Ressetar, Harrisburg, PA; and Mr. Martin Paluch.