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Now is the time when those faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition must keep clearly before them the great events that, God willing, are to take place on the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord, 17 May 2007. Then, the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church, that based inside Russia and that based outside Russia, will enter into canonical communion with one another after an eighty-year interval, forced on them by the godless persecutors and powerbrokers of this world. Not being deflected from our common goal by temptations, either from the left or from the right, we must not falter or fail in arriving at the task that the Lord God has set before us.

As a result of the above, the proposition for an Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, under the care of both parts of the reunited Russian Orthodox Church, comes a little closer to reality. The first steps required for the rebirth of the Local Orthodox Church in Western Europe can be considered. However hesitant these first steps may be, all of us who belong to the Russian Orthodox family, whatever our national background, can make some constructive contribution towards this new reality. In this respect, we should all surely strive to become more and more aware of the Orthodox roots of Western Europe, not only in terms of history, but also in terms of geography.

Thus, just as the restoration of Russian Orthodox unity has been built on our common veneration of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Communist Yoke, so it has long seemed to us that the unity of a future Local Orthodox Church in Western Europe must be built around our common veneration of the Martyrs and Confessors of the West. For instance, on a local level, it has already been suggested that, in order to cement the recovery of eucharistic communion from May 2007 on, the Sourozh Diocese in the British Isles under Bishop Elisei, and the ROCOR Diocese in the British Isles under Archbishop Mark, should hold a joint pilgrimage in honour of the holy martyr Alban of Verulamium.

The City of St Albans is located just to the north of London, the place of residence of the vast majority of Russian Orthodox in these islands. Its Cathedral was built on the place of martyrdom of St Alban and once held the holy relics of this Protomartyr of Britain. As such, his significance is special, for ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’. For ROCOR, we cannot forget that when the last saint to appear in these Islands, St John the Wonderworker, Archbishop in London (17/30 June), left us in 1962, he said: ‘I entrust you to the care of your Protomartyr St Alban’. For us, it is no coincidence that the most ancient saint of these islands is commemorated only a few days after the most recent to have set foot in these islands. For the Sourozh Diocese, we cannot forget that the Russian Church inside Russia has been renewed by the blood of its tens of thousands of Martyrs. And the Old Martyrs and the New Martyrs alike rejoice with the angels in heaven.

Is it not possible that a joint pilgrimage could be organized, with the blessing of both hierarchs? There, in the Cathedral of St Albans, on the afternoon of Saturday 7 July, (two days after 22 June/5 July, the commemoration of St Alban according to the Russian Orthodox calendar) is it not possible that a service of intercession in Slavonic and English could be held in common praise of the First Martyr of these islands? We note that that day is also the Nativity of the Forerunner John the Baptist, ‘the voice crying in the wilderness’. Surely, this act of unity, ‘crying in the wilderness’ of the contemporary world with all its temptations and disunity, would be a step towards making visible our unity that is in the saints. For, in the words of the holy martyr Alban, we too ‘worship and adore the living and true God Who created all things’.

Fr Andrew

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