Diocesan Assembly and Great-Lenten Retreat of the Diocese of Montreal and Canada

On March 24-25, 2009, the Diocesan Assembly of the Diocese of Montreal and Canada took place in Montreal, as well as a session of the Diocesan Council and of the Brotherhood of Saint Job of Pochaev.  The annual Great-Lenten retreat also took place.  The meetings and the divine services were headed by His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada.  On March 24, a short memorial service was served for the ever-memorable Emperor Paul I Petrovich, who was brutally assassinated, and the fifth First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Laurus, the date of whose repose falls in March. 

The participants in the Diocesan Assembly of the Canadian Diocese adopted the following resolution: 

of the Diocesan Assembly of the Canadian Diocese

We, the sacred ministers, clerics and laymen of the unified Canadian Diocese, assembled at the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in the divinely saved city of Montreal, offer up praise unto the Lord, Who has made it possible to gather in this fraternal meeting—the first since the appointment of His Grace Vladyka Gabriel to the cathedra of Montreal.  Thereby was brought to an end the period of the temporary separation of the Eastern and Western Deaneries of the Canadian Diocese, which was difficult for all.  Over the course of eight years, His Grace Bishop Gabriel, as instructed by the Synod of Bishops, governed the eastern part of the diocese, while western Canada was entrusted to His Eminence Archbishop Kirill of San Francisco and Western America.  Now the long-awaited unification of the Diocese has been effected under the omophorion of Bishop Gabriel.  For this day, so joyous for all participants, the fraternal meeting, headed by our ruling hierarch—the first in many years—clergymen came from the Western Deanery of the Canadian Diocese: from Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver.  The session was conducted in the spirit of love and readiness to bear one another's burdens, according to the wonderful words of the Apostle, which His Grace cited in his speech.  Discussions and dialogue helped us all not only to find the strength for further shared labor for the good of the Diocese and our whole Church, but also to strength our hearts in prayer, in the hope of greeting that greatest and most mystical Feast of Feasts, the holy Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Everything in the course of our sessions advanced the peaceful and positive discussion of all questions concerned with the daily life of our Diocese and the difficulties we are still facing.  In this the help of God has not abandoned us.  The affairs of the Diocese are gradually being put in good order, the number of parishioners is gradually increasing; and, thank God, those who, unable to endure the upheavals of the early 2000s, departed from us, are now returning to the fold of the Church without any fanfare. 

At our sessions we discussed, from every aspect, one of the key events in the history of the Church of Russia—the recently concluded Pan-Russian Local Council.  In its work, which culminated in the election of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, delegates from the Russian Church Abroad, including our Canadian Diocese, took part for the first time.  The Diocesan Assembly extends to His Holiness Kirill its congratulations on the occasion of his conciliar elevation to the cathedra of the Patriarchs of Moscow.  The patriarchal ministry is an obedience, simultaneously very great and very onerous, which the Lord Himself lays upon an archpastor.  The responsibility of one who presides over and cares for the entire Church of Russia and the whole Russian Orthodox people, both in the homeland and in diaspora, is so great that that no man could bear it without the special help of God.  It is namely this constant support from the Lord that the participants in the Diocesan Assembly desire for His Holiness, the newly-elected Patriarch.  The Diocesan Assembly in Canada humbly entreats His Holiness the Primate to preserve his flock from all manner of temptations by withdrawing the Church of Russia from participation in the World Council of Churches. 

Having listened to the in-depth report of Protopriest Vladimir Morin (London, Ontario), dedicated to questions of how to strengthen the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church in the homeland and abroad, the Diocesan Assembly resolved that, for a better understanding of the processes taking place within the fold of the Church, a deeper understanding of them is essential, which is practically impossible without a constant acquaintance with basic church periodicals.  In the homeland, this is The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate; and among us in the diaspora, it is the newspaper Orthodox Russia, which is being issued under a new editorial board.  As ordered by His Grace Bishop Gabriel, subscription to these periodicals, through the diocesan chancery, is obligatory for all parishes of the Diocese of Canada. 

In is precisely a lack of acquaintance with the state of affairs in the homeland that partly explains all the misunderstandings of which opponents of the unity of the Church of Russia are trying to take advantage.  To this may also be added the engrained habit of "looking for enemies" that Fr Vladimir mentioned in his report.  All of this can be dispelled only with a closer acquaintance with what is going on in our homeland, where the rebirth of the Church, along with the ever-growing yearning of the people of Russia to return to the path of Holy Russia indicated by our venerable fathers and holy hierarchs, is plain to be seen by anyone who wishes to see. 

The Diocesan Assembly and the Diocesan Council also discussed the question of Orthodox schools outside the boundaries of Russia and the churching of those who live in the diaspora.  It was emphasized that, under the conditions of the heterodox cultural milieu, in which our children and younger generation constantly exist to all intents and purposes, Orthodox (and first and foremost, parish-church) schools, take on a significance not simply important, but exceptional.  The families of our parishioners, no matter their desire, cannot cope on their own with the influence of the cultural milieu that surrounds us, which is customarily dominated by views and concepts opposed to the values of Orthodoxy, and of Russian Orthodoxy in particular. 

In conclusion, the participants in the gathering appeal to those who have departed from us, possibly out of ignorance and an inclination towards impetuousness and self-will characteristic of the human race. 

In the heart of the believing Orthodox Russian there is not, nor can there be, opposition to Church unity.  All disagreements over this question, if and when such arise, concern only the search for the right path to this unity, the means of its attainment in the spirit and truth of Christ.  What this uniquely consists of is the "sign that shall be spoken against" (Luke 2:34).  Yet to avoid these contradictions one must listen and commune with the conciliar wisdom of the Holy Orthodox Church, which is given by the Lord only within the fold of the Church, and nowhere else.  Answers to the persistent prayerful request of one who seeks the Truth are given by the Lord only within His Church, and only through the lawful hierarchy called by His grace, which possesses apostolic succession.  It is not to be found in any "alternative jurisdictions", for it does not exist among them. 

Now the Canadian Diocese is again one.  But our joy is only partial, because division persists.  We believe that the Spirit of conciliarity, that is of true wisdom, through the ardent prayers of us all, will descend upon the hearts of those who have departed, and they will reach the right decision—to return.  Then the fullness of unity will be manifest, which will serve the good of the Church not only within the boundaries of our Canadian Diocese, but of the whole Russian Orthodox Church.


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