New Western Rite Communities

His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of New York is in the process of receiving ten new parishes and eighteen new clergy into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, blessed to belong to the Western Rite.

They have existed for some years under the name of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of America (HOCACA), an independent group yet studying and seeking to live the Orthodox Faith under the headship of Mr Anthony Bondi, who has served as the group's archbishop. He and his assistant bishop will be received, ordained, and elevated to the rank of archimandrite. The ordinations of all of the clergy are hoped to be completed over the next few weeks, by the invocation of the Holy Spirit and at the hands of Metropolitan Hilarion of New York and Bishop Jerome of Manhattan. As is generally the case with these unions, the joy of union is the focus rather than the separation of the past and it seems that, as it right and proper, there will be no pressure for these new clergy and faithful to relinquish their previous understanding of their situation.

This group has been no stranger to the world of mainstream Orthodoxy and has had close relations for some time with a number of people in the Church Abroad and other Orthodox jurisdictions. I, for one, am glad to see these come to fruition as full sacramental unity and communion in the Holy Orthodox Faith. I welcome them, and hope that their witness may encourage more people teetering on the edge of Orthodoxy to find a home in the bosom of the Church through any of the rites blessed for use.

Here is the statement from the future Archimandrite Anthony, posted to the Occidentalis forum on the 10th of November, 2010:

Dear Brothers in Christ,

It is with great pleasure that I announce to you that the Archdiocese of New York of The Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of America, the Former Exarchate of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria has petitioned The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia to be received into its fold.

It was our intention to do this quietly, without fanfare, until all the clergy were received and ordained. The post made here unfortunately preempted that.

This is the culmination of a long journey, many prayers, and great patience. It will also require the humility of our bishops, priests and deacons to bow their heads for ordination in the Russian Church which we do with great joy for the sake of the unity of the Church. We have accepted the use of the Julian Calendar as we were already on it for the Paschalion and most of us have been greatly disturbed by the commercialization of Christmas. We will also be able to keep our Liturgy which is based on the Dom Augustine Liturgy. We will also be able to continue our practice of gathering each year in the Fall for a Conference/Retreat and now open it up to other Western Rite Clergy. The 2011 Conference will be held at St Mary's Villa, Sloatsburg NY, Tuesday October 25th to Friday October 28th.

So that we are clear, the parishes being received were non-canonical Orthodox, not Anglican. Most of us come from the Roman Church though some of us have spent time in the Anglican Church, Episcopal, Continuing, or Charismatic Episcopal. We all became Western Rite Orthodox.

Archbishop Anthony and Bishop Michael will resign the episcopacy and be ordained and elevated to be Archimandrites and His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion has asked former Archbishop Anthony to be Vicar/Dean of his group of Western Rite parishes. The historic significance of this is that the Orthodox Western Rite will have almost ten new parishes and, when all are received about 18 more clergy. We will have an informal group called The Fraternity of St Gregory.

Those clergy who have already been received into the Russian Church have experienced the warm welcome and generous kindness of Metropolitan Hilarion and Vladyka Jerome who have been paragons of patience in doing all of the required ordinations for us. The Russian clergy surrounding them have been most welcoming to their new Orthodox brothers who will be using the Western Rite.

Some have commented on the humility that it has taken for me and Bishop Michael to give up the episcopacy. Anyone who knows our history also knows that we did what we had to do to keep our group together and to offer a place for those who wanted to be Orthodox Western Rite as we awaited the time God would appoint for our entrance into the Russian Church. Conversations were being held with Moscow through Fr Daniil Sosoyev (RIP) who through his martyric death has accomplish what he could not finish in this life.

We wish to thank Father James of Christminster who urged us for years constantly to hope and pray, Fr Ambrose (NZ) who continued to fast and pray for us all and who encouraged us, Fr Michael for his encouragement, Fr David (FL) and Fr Ambrose (GOA) for their prayers. We wish also to acknowledge the ongoing novena to St John of Shanghai and San Francisco for the past 9 years and the maternal graces secured for us by the Holy Mother of God.

Finally, we remember the words of the old Western prayer: "O Lord Jesus Christ, who for the accomplishment of Thy greatest works, has chosen the weak vessel of the world that no flesh may glory in Thy sight...." may we who have been called to the work of bringing the West to Orthodoxy have the strength and grace to perform it by your prayers.

Archbishop Anthony
New York

2 responses:

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

This is good news indeed, God be praised !

Michael said...

I think it's wonderful. There's an air of excitement at the moment. What I find encouraging is that this group, already being established as a group, has its own annual conference which it is extending to other Western Rite clergy in its new home. I think that this is incredibly important. The Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate has something similar, I think, and a focus for cohesion like this may well be beneficial for the Western Rite people in the Church Abroad now that it is extending beyond a few scattered monastic communities. Monasteries are, to some degree, ok in isolation because of the nature of monasticism. However, once we start talking about parishes and missions, it becomes a different matter.

I'm so very pleased.

I made a point of mentioning that this group has been known for some time because I didn't want to give the impression that any poor judgement had been exercised here. I know that there are all sorts of crazy groups out there but there are many faithful, stable ones as well and I am sure that Metropolitan Hilarion and the Synod will extend proper caution and practise due scrutiny in all cases.

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