OCA Canonization Commission to resume its work

After several years of inactivity, and with the blessing of the Holy Synod of Bishops, the Canonization Commission of the Orthodox Church in America is resuming its work and activities.

“The members of the Holy Synod, at their recent spring 2010 session, reiterated the Commission’s mandate to begin detailed studies of the lives of Metropolitan Leonty [Turkevich] and Archbishop Arseny [Chahovtsev] and to discern whether the Church should officially proclaim them as saints,” said Alexis Liberovsky, Commission secretary. “The task of the Canonization Commission is not simply an intellectual undertaking relying on human reasoning and ‘proofs,’ but rather it is the prayerful discernment of the will of God for His holy Church. Canonization, or glorification, is the recognition by the Church of what God has already revealed.”

[Information on the process of canonization/glorification may be found on the OCA web site at www.oca.org/FS.NA-Document.asp?SID=4&ID=82 and www.oca.org/FS.NA-Document.asp?SID=4&ID=83.]

Metropolitan Leonty [1876-1965] came to America as a young priest in 1906 to assume duties as rector of the seminary in Minneapolis, MN, which had been established by Saint Tikhon, at the time Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America. As a delegate from the North American Diocese to the All-Russian Church Council of 1917-18 in Moscow, he had experienced first-hand the horrors of the Russian Revolution. Upon returning to America, he sought to incarnate the conciliar spirit and groundbreaking decisions of the Moscow Council into the life of the Church in America in his every action. After the death of his wife, he became Bishop of Chicago in 1933. In 1950, he was elected Metropolitan of All America and Canada by a nearly unanimous vote. Many who knew him remember his personal holiness.

Archbishop Arseny [1866-1945], initially a married priest in Russia, became a monk after the death of his wife. Two years after his arrival in America in 1903, with Saint Tikhon’s blessing, he established Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, PA. In 1908-10, he served as dean of Orthodox parishes in Canada. After returning to Russia, he eventually ministered to the military forces during the Russian Revolution and Civil War. In 1920, he was evacuated to Serbia, where he served in the Serbian Church. At the request of the Orthodox faithful in Canada, he was consecrated Bishop of Canada in 1926. During his archpastoral ministry in Canada, he was hailed as the “Canadian Chrysostom” for his eloquent preaching. After retirement from active episcopal service, he became the founding rector of Saint Tikhon’s Pastoral School, soon after renamed Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, and continued in this position until his death in 1945.

“For many years, Archbishop Arseny has been venerated throughout the OCA Archdiocese of Canada, where miracles have been ascribed to his intercession,” said Mr. Liberovsky, “In response to this popular veneration, several years ago His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada established an Archdiocesan Canonization Committee in Canada, which conducted extensive research.”

Archbishop Seraphim subsequently presented the results of the Canadian Committee’s work to the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops who, in turn, forwarded the information and resources to the OCA Canonization Commission, which will now begin its own study of this and any other pertinent materials.

“The Canonization Commission has been aware for some time of the controversy surrounding Archbishop Arseny arising from allegations of serious moral transgression and unethical behavior, which has recently been publicized on the internet,” Mr. Liberovsky noted. “These allegations, which Archbishop Arseny challenged in the courts a century ago, and attendant issues require further study and verification.

“As the Canonization Commission begins its painstaking work of study and discernment under the direction of His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate, Chair, the Commission requests the prayers of the hierarchs, clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America, so that its labors might be well-pleasing to God,” Mr. Liberovsky added. “Following what is expected to be a lengthy process, the Commission will present its findings and recommendations to the Holy Synod, which has final authority in matters of canonization.”

Anyone wishing to submit information or documentation on Metropolitan Leonty or Archbishop Arseny that would assist Commission members in their work is invited to direct it to the Commission’s attention. In particular, the Commission would welcome first-hand testimonies and primary documents. The Canonization Commission may be contacted at PO Box 675, Syosset, NY 11791; .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); or 516-922-0550 ext. 121.

Other Canonization Commission members include His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, Vice-Chair; His Grace, Bishop Irineu of Dearborn Heights; Archpriests David Brum, Sergei Glagolev, Joseph Frawley, Remus Grama, and Basil Rhodes; Priest John Hainsworth; Drs. Peter Bouteneff and David Ford; George Soldatow; and Kathryn Szalasznyj.