Pilgrimage in Romania, and to Kyiv (2008)

Archbishop Seraphim : Report
Pilgrimage in Romania, and to Kyiv
14-29 July, 2008

By God’s mercy, I was once again asked to accompany a local family to Romania to visit some monasteries, and I willingly accepted. This time, however, the plans were adjusted. Before departure, it was announced that, sponsored by the Government of Ukraine, together with the Church in Ukraine, there would be a celebration of the 1020th Anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’ in the city of Kyiv. As a result, because of my responsibility as Chairman of the Department of External Affairs and Inter-church Relations, Metropolitan Herman blessed that I cut short my time in Romania and go to Kyiv for these celebrations.

As I have become accustomed, there were the usual complications involved in trying to make a pilgrimage : delayed flights, delayed connexions, problems with communication, and a rather later-than-anticipated arrival in Bucharest on Tuesday, 15 July. There, I was met by the two brothers who looked after me. Before going to the Patriarchal Hotel of Saint Andrew, we went first to the territory of the patriarchate, even though it was quite late. Since my last visit, I could see that there were very extensive renovations in progress. The entrance to the Patriarchal Palace was being renovated completely, and the cathedral was covered with scaffolding. While at the hotel, I observed briefly a programme of Trinitas TV (a television station now beginning to be offered, which is funded by the patriarchate). It seems that it is not yet available full-time. I know that there has also been (broadcast from Iasi) a full-time radio station, with education, services, music and commentary available. I heard later that this has now been moved to Bucharest, along with Patriarch Daniel. (Patriarch Daniel had previously been Metropolitan of Iasi.) I could not understand much of the programme, except that there was an interview of a priest about the Crossing of the Red Sea.

On Wednesday, 16 July, the beginning of the first real day in Romania, the first visit was to the Antim Monastery, near the patriarchate. Its abbot, Archimandrite Mihail (Stanciu), greeted us warmly on this third visit, and he shared the monastery’s noon trapeza with us in his usual friendly and respectful manner. He also gave us a copy of his book : The Sense of Creation : A Study of Cosmology in the Context of Saint Maximus the Confessor. On visiting the Temple, we venerated the relics of Saint Parasceva, and of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, and also two wonder-working icons of the Theotokos. After the visit, we drove out of the city through the heavy traffic (more than ever), to the Monastery of Saint Dimitrie of Câldarusani, built 400 years ago by Mattei Bassaraba. Here were the relics of Saint Dimitrie the Scholar, Metropolitan of Wallachia, formerly a monk of this idiorhythmic monastery. After attending Vespers, we had a guided visit to the museum, and then we visited the cemetery, where rests the well-respected Starets Sofian (Boghiu). We were told that Saint Callinic had said that one day, this monastery would sink. It rests on a peninsula in a lake. (Recently, while drilling for water, it was found that, not far below the surface of the land, there is a large cavern.) The main wonder-working icon of the Theotokos in this monastery is connected historically with Bassarabian monks. It is understood that, once Moldova and Romania would in the future be reunited, this icon would be sent there, to New Neamt.

Again, we returned to Bucharest, and we met yet more congestion. The driving experience showed that in Bucharest, any travel by auto requires patience and a very generous allowance of time. It took almost 2 hours to cover this distance of about 30 km on our return. Soon after we arrived, we went again to the Antim Monastery for supper, and another conversation with Abbot Mihail. He indicated that there are now about 800 monastic communities in Romania. It seems that the increase by about 300 in the last three years has in part to do with the departure of some small groups of monks from older monasteries, in order to establish new communities, often in more remote places. On the other hand, there were reports that amongst males (at least for the last couple of years), there has been a reduction in the numbers of those entering monastic life. This still must be balanced with the dramatic increase in numbers of communities. Of course, paying too much attention to numbers can be spiritually dangerous.

On Thursday, 17 July, we departed from Bucharest in the late morning. We had planned to make a couple of stops, but the traffic was very slow (including plenty of construction) ; so we made our way in our little Dacia extended cabin pick-up truck (called a papuk, that is, a slipper) through Wallachia, to Pitesti, and to the Carpathian Mountains. Many people were surprised that a bishop would travel in such a vehicle, but it could manage difficult roads that “nicer” cars could not. On the very narrow and winding highway, we passed a dam and tunnel in these mountains, which had been built by the father and mother of the wife of one of these brothers. The father was one of the primary engineers, and the mother a support-level engineer. Also in this pass are the remains of a famous castle belonging to Vlad Tepes (commonly known by his patronymic “Dracula”. This name belongs also to one of the Bessarabian royal houses). Passing over the mountains and descending to the plains of Transylvania, we came at last to the Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Sâmbata, which was founded in the 17th century by the Martyr Prince Constantine Brâncovianu. It was already late, but the old, small Temple was opened for us so that we could pray, as was the “chapel” (pareclis). This chapel happens to be much bigger than the historic old Temple. There, I saw in the western-wall frescoes (amongst other personalities) the familiar face of our Bishop Irineu (Duvlea). He had been the starets (that is, abbot) of this monastery during its major renovations. He was asked after by some of the persons we met. The monastery of 40 monks has auxiliary buildings, including an ecumenical conference centre which seems to have been prepared for the purpose of conversations and dialogues with Roman Catholics in particular (because there are many Roman Catholics in this area of Romania). After we were given supper, it was time to rest, and we were lodged in the building of the Academy of Sambata (outside the monastic enclosure), which is the one used for this ecumenical centre. At this particular time, there was an interesting display of the work of young student iconographers, who worked with egg-tempera both on wood and on glass, in the Transylvanian manner.

On Friday, 18 July, the Hours began at 0600 hrs, and the Divine Liturgy at 0700 hrs in the pareclis, which we attended. The Divine Liturgy (just as I have experienced it elsewhere) was very carefully served by three priests. One of the concelebrants was Archimandrite Teofil (Ionescu), who has been blind from birth, and who has lived for 55 years in the monastery. He speaks French excellently. It was touching how the other priests were careful to lead him, in such a way that one would not necessarily notice the blindness of the one. Indeed, he required the help only very occasionally. Later, he told us that he had been ordained exceptionally, and it is obvious that this exception was very fruitful. He is 80, and full of joy, overflowing with joy in his love for Christ. He hears very many confessions throughout the day, as do others similarly gifted in other monasteries.

From here, we travelled about 8 hours through Transylvania, passing many towns and cities, monasteries, churches, many sheep, cattle, horse-drawn carts, and very interesting landscapes, including views of the ruins of various castles. We also passed over a second dam (of a different sort) which produces a lake behind it, at the end of which is the village and monastery of Petru Voda. This dam had been built by the aid of the same parents. The monastery is popularly named from the village. The Monastery of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel of Petru Voda numbers some 80 monks at present. A few kilometres distant is the dependency of Saint Panteleimon’s Women’s Monastery, with about 80 female monks. We arrived much earlier this time than at the last visit, and we were received by Starets Protosingel Iustin (Pârvu), now 88 years of age. He received us in the manner of a loving father, who made certain personally that we had enough to eat, and that we found our sleeping-places. He had been, as usual, hearing confessions apparently endlessly. While the queue of persons waited, they were singing spiritual songs. Once again, it was noticed that mobile phones do not work within the precincts of the monastery, but only in the field across the road. We retired, then, for a couple of hours, in preparation for the beginning of services at midnight.

On Saturday, 19 July, beginning at 0100 hrs, we prayed with the monks, and the rather many other pilgrims. The services lasted about 5 hours. The services were in the pareclis, instead of the Temple, because the pareclis had just been consecrated, and the Divine Liturgy must be served in it for 40 days afterwards. This new chapel is well-iconographed, by the monks ; and the service, which happened to be for Saint Seraphim of Sarov, was both long and beautiful. I did not serve (although I had been requested to do so), because it was late in the evening when we arrived, and I felt that it was too late for making such arrangements with the bishop (Metropolitan Teofan) by telephone. The chapel was full, and there were many receiving Holy Communion. Afterwards, there was time for a rest, and then breakfast. We also prepared our belongings.

On his return from an anointing, Father Iustin asked us to visit Saint Panteleimon’s Monastery (which we had hoped for), and we promptly did so. The Abbess Iustina (formerly a physician) took us to the Temple, where the sisterhood gathered, and she asked me to say something to them, which I did. Then, we were taken to see the new hospital, which is already filled with homeless widows and a few ill nuns, and several women who are dying. In another section is the orphanage, which numbers 20 children. The hospital (like an auxiliary hospital or hospice) also has facilities for doing dentistry, and giving minor medical treatments. This hospital is open to villagers (some kilometres distant). There is a priest-monk there, who serves as chaplain. It was a joy to sense the peace, and also to see the joy expressed on the faces of all the persons there, of all ages, monastic or lay. Then we were given lunch, and there was an extended spiritual discussion about the Christian life, and how to survive amidst the difficulties of modern society. After some time, we left the nuns in order to return to the main monastery, where Father Iustin had asked me to come to his cell for a conversation. This conversation lasted an hour or so (through an interpreter), before we were able to make our departure for the Putna Dormition Monastery. This was a distance of only 200 km, which we managed to cover in less than 4 hours.

We arrived in Putna soon after the beginning of Vigil, and we met Archimandrite Melchisedek in front of the entrance to the monastery. This visit had been expected for some time, and all necessary permissions had been received. He escorted us to our rooms, and afterwards he took food with us. Then we went to the Dormition Temple for Matins. The Temple is being frescoed, and the work is nearly completed. After venerating the relics of Saint Stephen the Great, and the wonder-working Icon of the Theotokos, I entered the Altar, and assisted at the remainder of the Vigil. I was glad to see Archimandrite Melchisedek tonsure 8 men as rasophors (during the Great Doxology). One of them had not long ago received a Ph.D. in the USA. At the end of Vigil, it was time to retire. The Putna Dormition Monastery numbers about 100 monks, and it is very near the Ukrainian border, and not far from Chernivtsi (Cernauti) in Ukraine.

On Sunday, 20 July, the Feast of the Prophet Elias, I was collected from my room by Archimandrite Melchisedek at about 0830 hrs, and we crossed to the Temple for the episcopal entrance, the veneration of the relics of Saint King Stephen the Great, the Entrance Prayers, and vesting in the Altar. The relics of Saint Bishop Ghenadie are also in this Temple. The serving was, of course, in the Romanian manner, and this serving was as always very carefully done, as was the singing. The Putna Dormition Monastery is known for its good, traditional singing ; and the Temple was full of standing and kneeling faithful. This is how it is there regularly. It was given to me to preach, which I did after the clergy-communion (as is the custom there). At the end of the Divine Liturgy, it was given to me to anoint all those present (which means several hundred persons) and we left the Temple at 1345 hrs for dinner in the trapeza for special guests. There was some discussion about the recent election of the new Metropolitan of Iasi, Teofan, who succeeds there the now Patriarch Daniel. Metropolitan Teofan had not at first been considered to be a candidate, but he was nevertheless chosen. There seemed to be a hopeful attitude about the new metropolitan. After a break for rest, at 1700 hrs I attended Ninth Hour, Vespers, Moleben to the Theotokos, and Small Compline. I was taken to the monastic trapeza for supper, and then (from about 1945 hrs to 2230 hrs) I gave a presentation on monastic life in North America, on The Orthodox Church in America, on Orthodox life in North America, and then I answered many questions. Retiring was late.

On Monday, 21 July, I and others left at 0700 hrs with Starets Melchisedek, in order to serve the Divine Liturgy at the Old Agapia Dormition Monastery, along with Metropolitan Teofan of Iasi and Moldavia. This celebration was concerned with the lives of the two newly-glorified Priest-monks Saints Raphael and Parthenius. I was being sent to this celebration on behalf of Archbishop Pimen of Suçeava, who was away in Vienna for a heart-treatment. Since I was representing Archbishop Pimen (with the blessing of the metropolitan), he put me in second place. In all, we were six bishops serving, along with at least 40 priests and three deacons. I was given the obedience to offer a word after the Gospel, and Metropolitan Teofan spoke after the clergy-communion. Before I spoke, the metropolitan informed the faithful that this is the historic, traditional moment for a homily. Then there was the reading of the Synodal Act of Glorification for the Priest-monks Raphael and Parthenius, who were monks of the Old Agapia Monastery. Saint Raphael was a wonder-worker of the late 16th century, and Saint Parthenius a wonder-worker of the early 17th century. According to the Pateric for Moldavia, the relics of both were incorrupt, and there are written testimonies of this. However, because of invasions, the relics were hidden in the mountains in a now forgotten place.

After the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, there was a procession down the mountain to New Agapia, and then there was a dinner given for the major guests by the nuns of New Agapia. Old Agapia numbers 40 nuns, and New Agapia 400 nuns. After this dinner, there was a brief rest period, and then there was an hour given for talking with as many nuns as could attend. At least half the total number was present. Because of the warm day and the small trapeza, Metropolitan Teofan blessed that we gather on an open, grassy space under some trees, on a hill above the monastery. He began the conversation with a fatherly commentary on the importance of reading the Scriptures, and then he gave me to say something, and also to answer questions about monastic life in North America. My translator at this time was the Archpriest Constantine (once of the Diocese of New York, then of Putna, and now a personal aide to Metropolitan Teofan). The whole experience was encouraging. In every way, Metropolitan Teofan was very hospitable, friendly and open. After all the conversations, we left at about 1730 hrs, and arrived back at Putna at 1930 hrs, for supper. On returning to Canada, I learnt that our Mother Nil (in Rawdon) had known Metropolitan Teofan when he was a student in France, and when he would sometimes serve at the Protection Monastery in Bussy-en-Othe. She told me that she had already, then, greatly respected him.

On Tuesday, 22 July, Starets Melchisedek departed very early for the village of Salash (65 km distant in the near mountains, where I had served 2 years previously), to help with work on a bell-house and other church buildings there. I attended the Divine Liturgy from before 0700 hrs, and at 0930 hrs went to breakfast and a conversation with some of the monks. Immediately afterwards, from about 1000 to 1315 hrs, I talked to and with a group of 45 young people, who were present at the monastery from a seminary in Moldova. There was interest in Orthodox life in the West, the usual questions about Father Seraphim Rose, questions about how to cope with the invasion of the sects, and about the sorts of conditions associated with (attached to) the various sorts of “aid” that is given to Romania from the West (particularly from the European Union). During this time, a general rain began, the first since my arrival. After lunch, there were many more conversations. Afterwards, I was taken by Father Hrisostom to the Cell of Saint Daniel of Sihastria, nearby (it is carved into a great boulder). After that visit, we went to the Annunciation Sihastria-Putna Monastery (a neighbouring and smaller monastery about 3 km distant). This very old monastery (renewed only 8 years previously) has many established buildings, and 37 monks. The abbot, Father Nectarius, invited us for a small refreshment and conversation. Here, as elsewhere, it was expressed that the monks perceive that in the context of current Church life, the Church seems to be under a cloud, or wrapped in fog. Perhaps the Church is wrapped in both a cloud and a fog-bank. Then we returned to Putna for a quick supper, and for the weekly Tuesday Protection Vigil. This vigil has been regularly served for some years, since the late Patriarch Teoctist had requested that it be served weekly during a particularly tense period. Because those problems were resolved peacefully, and because the Church faces difficulties often, Putna has not ceased serving this Vigil of the Feast of the Protection since that time. The service began at 1900 hrs, and ended at about 2230 hrs. It was beautiful, as usual, and heavily attended by pilgrims, of which there are many every day.

On Wednesday, 23 July, I went to attend the Divine Liturgy at 0700 hrs, again on a day of rain. I was told that this was finally a summer sort of rain (frequent heavy thundershowers), and that previous rains had been more like those of autumn. The brotherhood begins to worship at 0430 hrs, but the Starets blessed my arrival in time for the Divine Liturgy. During the services, I have noticed that the faithful who are coming to Holy Communion are doing as is done in some Canadian parishes with Bukovinian origins : holding a lit candle, they approach the Chalice. At the chalice, one of the monks takes the candle from the communicant (obviously in case of fire). It was good to be able again to see Father Teofilact, a monk who has been in this monastery since 1947, and who is now 82, albeit now in weakened health. After the Liturgy, I was taken up onto the scaffolding in the first, inner narthex area of the Temple. The frescoing of the Temple is nearing completion, and I was given to survey the progress (which has been considerable in 4 years). The only iconographer now is Mihail Morosan, his brother Andrei having reposed 6 months previously. It is said that this Temple probably lost its frescoes during one of the historically troubled times. Then, after a short break, Starets Melchisedek took me, with Father Hrisostom (the driver), Father John (the interpreter), and Father Timothy (the photographer) to several Temples, and we ended in Suçeava. As we drove, we passed a large German-owned lumber-mill. There is great concern about the clear-cutting of forests, and the resulting floods which are associated with such enterprises. While we had previously been driving through the mountains, this clear-cutting was obvious to us in some places. The company says that it is also taking wood from Ukraine for processing. Ukraine is quite near this place.

We stopped first at Malinuti, to see the restoration works on the Church of Saint Nicholas. Almost adjacent to this is the Church of Saint Stephen the Great, the Temple being used pro tem at least. The Saint Nicholas Temple was built by Saint Stephen the Great. Its frescoes (from 1499) are being restored, and many are in excellent condition and beautiful. The restoration was begun by a Japanese organisation, but it is now under the Ministry of Culture’s responsibility. Then we drove to Patrauti, to the Church of the Holy Cross. This was one of the earliest Temples constructed by Saint Stephen, in the context of the struggles with the Ottoman Empire. It has a significant fresco of a cavalcade of soldier-saints on the western wall (including also Saint King Stephen and Saint Constantine the Great), who are all following the Archangel Michael, who is in turn pointing to, and leading them to the Holy Cross. This was a sign of the determination of Saint Stephen to meet Islam spiritually, and under the protection of the Holy Cross. The Temple of the Holy Cross is very small, and once was the Temple of a monastic community. Now, it is part of a parish. The bell-house (rather old also, but of wood) holds a collection of cemetery Crosses, many of which (interestingly) have a circle around the upper portion, in the manner of the Celts. In the iconography of the various Temples from the 15th-16th centuries (around the time of Saint Stephen), there is a constant pictorial theme : the connexion between Saint Stephen and the Royal House in Constantinople (he had married a Paleologos). He tried, in various ways, to help the Patriarch of Constantinople under the Ottomans, through circuitous means. He also supported Mount Athos, Jerusalem, and Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai.

We stopped first at Malinuti, to see the restoration works on the Church of Saint Nicholas. Almost adjacent to this is the Church of Saint Stephen the Great, the Temple being used pro tem at least. The Saint Nicholas Temple was built by Saint Stephen the Great. Its frescoes (from 1499) are being restored, and many are in excellent condition and beautiful. The restoration was begun by a Japanese organisation, but it is now under the Ministry of Culture’s responsibility. Then we drove to Patrauti, to the Church of the Holy Cross. This was one of the earliest Temples constructed by Saint Stephen, in the context of the struggles with the Ottoman Empire. It has a significant fresco of a cavalcade of soldier-saints on the western wall (including also Saint King Stephen and Saint Constantine the Great), who are all following the Archangel Michael, who is in turn pointing to, and leading them to the Holy Cross. This was a sign of the determination of Saint Stephen to meet Islam spiritually, and under the protection of the Holy Cross. The Temple of the Holy Cross is very small, and once was the Temple of a monastic community. Now, it is part of a parish. The bell-house (rather old also, but of wood) holds a collection of cemetery Crosses, many of which (interestingly) have a circle around the upper portion, in the manner of the Celts. In the iconography of the various Temples from the 15th-16th centuries (around the time of Saint Stephen), there is a constant pictorial theme : the connexion between Saint Stephen and the Royal House in Constantinople (he had married a Paleologos). He tried, in various ways, to help the Patriarch of Constantinople under the Ottomans, through circuitous means. He also supported Mount Athos, Jerusalem, and Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai.

From there, we drove to Suçeava, to the Monastery of Saint George, to venerate the relics of the Martyr John the New. This Temple is from before the time of Saint Stephen, and it is very large. There, the frescoes are far-advanced in their restoration. We visited also the pareclis of the monastery, which is also in the process of being frescoed by Mihail Morosan. Leaving the monastery, we stopped briefly at a small nuns’ monastery which is in a state of disrepair, and which was committed to Archimandrite Melchisedek to put in order. Afterwards, we drove back to Putna. There, we had supper, and I, along with Fathers John and Timothy, were driven the 3 km to the Sihastria-Putna Monastery, where I was to speak with the brotherhood. This lasted from 2000 to 2230 hrs, when we returned to Putna for the night.

On Thursday, 24 July, I again rose to attend the Divine Liturgy. Then, near noon, we departed for a visit to several “painted monasteries” in the area. First, we went to Suçeavita, then to Moldovita, and finally to Voronet. All these monasteries were established in the time of Saint King Stephen, or of his son Petru Rares (which is to say in the 15th-16th centuries). There is a general restoration of the iconography in progress, and the frescoes (both interior and exterior) are fresh-looking, beautiful and awe-inspiring. They are prayerfully and wonderfully painted, with a programme characteristic of the time of Saint Stephen. Included in every Temple are : the Last Judgement on the exterior western wall ; Saints Constantine and Helen ; various military saints ; the votive scene showing who built the Temple and offered it to the Lord ; and many more. Common to all, also, is the demonstration by Saint Stephen (or his son) that the clear intention is to perpetuate the Orthodoxy of pre-conquest Constantinople. All the monasteries we visited were of women, and under the care of Archimandrite Melchisedek, who serves as the Exarch for them of Archbishop Pimen. He cares for at least 8 such communities. In some cases, these historic monasteries pose problems because of the number of visitors, or the condition of the structure itself. Sometimes, separate monastic quarters are constructed nearby, so as to minimise the stress of daily use on the old structures. During this day, the rain (which had been heavy) became torrential, and perhaps unprecedented. This was more than just summer rain. Streams rose, flooding began, and power-failures began also. The storm continued unabated into, and through the night (this perhaps was the remains of a hurricane). On returning late to Putna (the visits were not without being prolonged by hospitality and conversations), we ate quickly, and there was a conference with the brotherhood and the visiting Moldovan seminarians, until almost 2300 hrs. During this conference, there was a power failure. Thus, we all retired to bed by candle-light. During the night, there was considerable thunder and lightning (which began already before the conference), and it persisted until at least 0300 hrs. There were general power failures, and this continued through the following morning.

On Friday, 25 July, I arose for the Divine Liturgy for the last time on this visit at the Putna Dormition Monastery. At the end of the Liturgy, I met the Priest-monk Adrian, 96 years old, a living Confessor, who had been tortured in prison, and who had been part of the Burning Bush Movement. (The Burning Bush Movement began in 1945, and it was focussed on the Antim Monastery in Bucharest. Most of the members were priests, monks, intellectuals. The main focus was the spiritual life and the practice of the “Prayer of the Heart”. The aim was to revive a truly Orthodox Christian Romania through watering its spiritual roots in prayer and in the Gospel, and it had a great effect. Its members were harshly persecuted with the arrival of communism. Its membership produced many New-martyrs and New-confessors.) Afterwards, we went to breakfast in the guest-house, and then we walked about the area to inspect the damage. We could soon see that the Monastery of Sihastria-Putna had become isolated because of a washed-away bridge, and there were roads that were inundated, as well as homes and fields. It was reported that more than 20 litres of rain per square metre had fallen, and the same was yet to come again. It was painful to see. Because of deforestation, there were also land-slides in some places, of course. Nevertheless, some of the previously-constructed precautionary drains had functioned well enough, and some tree-planting had helped hold the soil nearby.

By the time we had returned to the Dormition Monastery, we found that Bishop Miletii from Chernivtsi had arrived to collect me (he speaks some Romanian). Archimandrite Melchisedek welcomed him, and he then walked with him and showed him some of the monastic buildings, while I heard a confession. Then followed lunch, and further touring of the work-shops and the cemetery, and then it was time to leave. In the typical style of Orthodox hospitality, we were delayed in departing as long as possible because of talking and eating. Then came the drive to the border, and we passed over the very swollen Siret River. The border took extra time because of computer failures. We then arrived in Chernivtsi, where we were greeted by Metropolitan Onoufry at the metropolis (residence and offices). After a brief interval, there was time for eating, during which Bishop Miletii left by auto for Kyiv. We then retired for the night.

On Saturday, 26 July, I was given breakfast early in my room, and then we departed for the aeroport. On arrival, we were met by 2 senators, friends of Metropolitan Onoufry. We all then flew to Kyiv on the regular flight. After arriving in Kyiv, we were taken to the Nationalnii Hotel, where we were to be accommodated. This, and the Hotel Kyiv nearby gave hospitality to all the delegations attending this, the 1020th Anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’. The two patriarchs were housed in a large residence across from both hotels. After preparing ourselves in appropriate attire, we went out to a restaurant in the nearby Podolia (an older area, lower down the west bank of the Dnieper), and we then returned to the hotel for some further organisation. This included meeting Archbishop Gurii, who was to be my “guardian angel” during the impending celebrations, until my departure. Our van then took us to the aeroport, where we met Metropolitan Volodymyr, many other bishops and clergy, and also Prime Minister Yanukovich. In due time, we greeted Patriarch Aleksy II on his arrival. This was followed by a very rapid move to the Kyiv Pecherskaya (Caves) Kyiv Lavra, where big crowds were waiting to greet Patriarch Aleksy and Metropolitan Volodomyr. It was a time also for the rest of the Ukrainian bishops and many Russian bishops as well to greet one another. I found that I knew many of both. Many other invited bishops were accompanying Patriarch Bartholomew I. After the greeting and the initial moleben in front of the Ouspensky Sobor (Dormition Cathedral), Patriarch Aleksy and the metropolitans went into the sobor briefly. The other bishops, having found each other in the crowd, then departed for Saint Sophia’s Sobor. At the sobor, there was an outdoor reception, à la fourchette, and a speech by President Viktor Yushchenko, and by Patriarch Bartholomew I. Both speeches were principally pleasant greetings. Then it was time to return to the hotel. It was at this time that I met Father Vladimir Alexeiev, one of our delegation, who serves in New York. It seemed to me that the local organisation was quite good.

On Sunday, 27 July, I departed the hotel at 0745 hrs, to be taken by Archbishop Gurii to participate in the serving of the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy at the Volodymyrska Gorka, a level, grassy place on the upper west bank of the Dnieper River, and facing to the east. As always, security was very strict. Nevertheless, there were very large numbers of people who attended, although most were kept away at a substantial distance from the clergy. Patriarchs Bartholomew and Aleksy were officially greeted at 0830 hrs. Both patriarchs were vested together, and then the Divine Liturgy began. It was served in Slavonic and in Greek, and with some blending of the typikons. Every Local Church was represented (except Cyprus and Japan). Present also were Archbishops Ieronymos of Greece and Anastasios of Albania. Besides these Heads of Autocephalous Churches who were themselves present, there were also the Heads of Autonomous Churches : Metropolitans Volodymyr of Ukraine, and Filaret of Byelorus. As might be expected, there were small problems because of different languages and customs, but all did go well. Following this, there was a dinner provided at the Brotherhood Trapeza of the Lavra. As usual, there were speeches and gift-giving, which commenced soon after the beginning of dinner. Then, at the conclusion, Patriarch Aleksy gave a passionate word about the absolute need for Orthodox unity. After this, the meal ended, and the time arrived for the departure of Patriarch Bartholomew with his rather large delegation. Because it was so late, the delegations were not expected to be present at the Vigil, so there was time for some rest, and some conversations. By this time, there were news reports about considerable flooding in western Ukraine (around Ivano-Frankivsk), as well as in Romania (in Maramures and Moldavia). It has been said that this was the biggest storm in at least 100 years. In Kyiv, however, the day began cloudy, and then began to be sunny. In the evening, our Archpriest Oleg Kirillov arrived from Toronto, and he came to greet me.

On Monday, 28 July, we departed the hotel before 0900 hrs for the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy at the Kyiv Caves Lavra, to serve in front of the Ouspensky Sobor, with Patriarch Aleksy, Archbishop Anastasios, Metropolitan Volodymyr (his name-day), Metropolitan Filaret, and at least 100 bishops. Amongst these, there were serving on this day those bishops and priests who could stay on of the delegations of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Poland, Czechia, and the OCA. The day was again sunny, and the whole Divine Liturgy was both grand and pleasant. This was followed in due time by a dinner, again at the Brotherhood Trapeza. Then came some congratulatory speeches for Metropolitan Volodymyr on his name-day. It was here that Archimandrite Zacchaeus, the third member of our delegation, having arrived from Moscow, found me. Then we returned briefly to the Palace “Ukraine”, for a national celebration with singing, dancing, recitation, and instrumental pieces, which lasted for two hours. Then we moved on quickly to the Hotel Rus’, for the final formal, public name-day banquet. At the close of the dinner, after another two hours, we returned to our hotel, where I was interviewed by a newspaper editor for over an hour, and it was finally time to retire.

On Tuesday, 29 July, we were preparing for our departure. I had breakfast with Archimandrite Zacchaeus, and there were some conversations with some other persons as they were departing. I then hurried to collect my bags, as departure time was at 1300 hrs, and I said my good-byes. Then Archpriest Oleg Kirillov and I were taken by Igumen Nicholas to the aeroport. Our return to Toronto, by Aerosvit, was peaceful and uneventful, and we gave thanks to God.

Pilgrimages as a bishop are not just the same as pilgrimages by lay-persons. Although sometimes “doors” may open that are otherwise mostly closed, it is not so easy for a visiting bishop not to be treated as a “delegation” from abroad, even when he is alone. As a lay-person, there are different obstacles to face (sometimes great ones), but such a person may be freer to pray. Local or distant, I recommend visiting monasteries, holy places, holy icons, holy persons. One is renewed, and encouraged in the heart.