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The Wrong Hilarion

The news that certain members of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) want the Moscow Patriarchal Bishop Hilarion of Vienna to become their next Metropolitan is not altogether surprising. True, this brilliant linguist, musician and scholar has begun to abandon his naïve views of the 1990s, as experience and reality bear fruit. Nevertheless, he still stands to the left of the Russian Orthodox mainstream.

Without in any way denying the great talents of the youthful and pro-Catholic Bishop Hilarion, we would suggest that at the November turning-point in its short history, the OCA look elsewhere for a new Metropolitan.

First of all, it needs someone who understands not just English, but also the North American cultural mentality. Its Metropolitan should therefore be someone who was born in North America.

Secondly, since the OCA’s canonicity has been rejected from the beginning by several Local Orthodox Churches, the OCA also needs to review the very reason for its existence. Its new Metropolitan should be someone who has experience as a monk and a Metropolitan, who is in canonical communion with the other Orthodox Churches and enjoys the respect of the Moscow Patriarchate, which in its darker Soviet days gave the OCA its still much-disputed autocephaly.

Thirdly, the candidate should be one who can solve the absurd situation in North America in which the Moscow Patriarchate alone effectively has three different jurisdictions on that territory: the Patriarchal parishes themselves, ROCOR and the OCA.

It is our suggestion that the only candidate who meets all the above criteria is Metropolitan Hilarion of New York and Eastern America, the head of ROCOR.

Of course, some will say that Metropolitan Hilarion is far too busy. But there is no reason why he cannot delegate much of his work to Bishop (the future Archbishop?) Seraphim, the Canadian representative of the OCA. Together with faithful OCA bishops like Archbishop Job and Bishop Tikhon, the canonically-disputed OCA could disappear and become part of ROCOR in North America. As for the Patriarchal parishes, apart from a few stavropegic dependencies (podvoria) which the Moscow Patriarchate may wish to keep, the majority of these too could merge into ROCOR in North America.

Members of the OCA can be assured that in Metropolitan Hilarion they could not find anyone more open and more sincere in aiding English-language pastoral work in North America. Of course, it is also true that some factions in the OCA, for example those who would like Bishop Basil Osborne to become their next Metropolitan, would be too shocked to find their path back to the Tradition and canonicity through ROCOR. If that is the case, these Protestant-minded individuals could perhaps find a better home in the Antiochian Archdiocese in North America. ROCOR has itself found in the last two years that the voluntary departure of extremists, who had infiltrated her in recent decades and brought an alien mentality into her, has brought many blessings.

May God’s will be done for the sake of all.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips

18/31 October 2008
Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke

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