His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan, Metropolitan of Buenos Aires and all Argentina, and Patriarchal Vicar of New York and all North America, writes :
Buenos Aires, April 12th 2014
Very Esteemed Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy,
Honorable Members of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees
and Beloved Faithful
of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
I wholeheartedly greet you on Lazarus Saturday, having experienced the tranquillity of the company of the Lord to His closest friend, and having shared His imperishable promise to Lazarus´ sisters, Mary and Martha, that He is the resurrection for whoever believes in Him!
Last Wednesday, I arrived back in Buenos Aires in order to celebrate Holy Week and Pascha with our parishioners in Argentina. Nevertheless, I did not stop working for your beloved archdiocese, and I will do until my functions as a vicar come to fulfilment, when the Holy Synod of Antioch elects a new Metropolitan in order to succeed to His Eminence, our beloved Metropolitan Philip of eternal memory.
I would like to share with you some aspects of my experience, during the two weeks I have spent with you, from Monday March 24th (arrival to the Archdiocese´s Headquarters) until Tuesday April 9th (Departure to Buenos Aires).
The first week was dedicated to the preparation of the funeral and reception of the Hierarchs, clergy and faithful who came from different parishes, churches and jurisdictions from the US, Canada and from abroad. We were blessed by the presence of the Hierarchs of the Holy See of Antioch, Their Eminences, Metropolitan Elias of Beirut, Metropolitan Antonio of Mexico, Metropolitan Sergio of Santiago (Chile), Metropolitan Damaskinos of Sao Paolo (Brasil), Metropolitan Ephrem of Tripoli, Metropolitan Ignatius of France and His Grace Bishop Ilia (Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Akkar). At the same time, many dignitaries, religious as well as civil, came to pray and pay their last farewell to His Eminence. The faithful seemed to have been moved by the prayers, celebrations, words, and the fraternal company and presence of all the brothers and sisters in a time of grief and mourning, but also a time of hope and faith.
The burial at the Antiochian Village was a time for me to meet with the Saliba Family, and later on to accompany Saiedna Philip to his new dwelling place, from where a "bridge" has been installed, i.e. a bridge of prayers: ours, for his eternal repose in peace; and his, for our salvation.
After the burial, during the second week, a series of administrative meetings took place at the Headquarters in order to insure the best continuity of the ongoing work of the archdiocese. The members of the concerned departments showed their best collaboration, dedication and cooperation in that regard. I feel grateful to all of them because they relieved me from a great responsibility by the way everyone carries on his work. A public announcement has been made about the timetable of the procedure that will take place in Chicago in order to prepare for the election of three nominees to the office of Metropolitan: The Local Synod meeting on May 13th; the Board of Trustees meeting on May 14th; and finally the Special Nominating Convention on June 5th.
Additionally, as agreed with the esteemed Hierarchs of the Archdiocese in our meeting of Saturday March 29th, I began a series of visits to the dioceses between Wednesday 2nd and Sunday 6th of April, as follows:
- Wednesday April 2nd: Celebration of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts at St. Nicholas Church at Bridgeport, CT, followed by a dinner with the parishioners in the church´s hall. His Grace, Bishop Nicholas, organized the visit and accompanied me and His Grace, Bishop John, along with our archdiocesan seminarians from Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.
- Thursday, April 3rd: meetings at the Chancery of the Diocese of Worcester and New England, lunch with members of the Board of Trustees from the region, followed by an almost four-hour clergy meeting. His Grace, Bishop John, who accompanied me in the visit, organized the visit.
- Friday, April 4th: Celebration of the last Akathist at the Antiochian Village, in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, followed by a general meeting with the SOYO members, Fellowship of Saint John the Divine members and other faithful present at the celebration. His Grace, Bishop Thomas, who accompanied me in the visit, organized this visit.
- Saturday morning, April 4th: Supplication Service to Saint Raphael with the SOYO members, followed by a Trisagion at the tomb of Saiedna Philip, and later on, a conversation with them at the Conference Center.
- Saturday afternoon, April 4th: (partial) Clergy meeting of the Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic in Pittsburgh at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, followed by Hierarchal vespers and attendance at the IOCC´s dinner in for the benefit of victims of the war in Syria at the church hall. His Grace, Bishop Thomas, who accompanied me in the visit, also organized this visit.
- Sunday morning, April 5th: Celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Livonia (Detroit), followed by lunch in the church hall with the parish council and founders of the church.
- Sunday evening, April 5th: Vespers at Saint George Church in Troy, MI, followed by dinner in the church hall with the parishioners. On this visit, His Grace, Bishop Anthony, accompanied me.
In fact, the purpose of these visits is, first, to come to know you as much as the short time of my functions as a vicar allows. I want to convey to you my sympathy for the falling asleep of Saiedna Philip, as well as words of hope and comfort during this transitional period. These visits are also an opportunity for me to come to listen to you, try to answer your inquiries, and prepare with you the "spirit" with which the Special Nominating Convention shall be conducted.
After Pascha, other visits will follow in order to cover the other dioceses. I will be visiting Wichita, Houston, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco from April 22nd till 29th. After that, I am hopefully planning to visit Washington DC from May 2nd till 4th, and later on Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, from May 9th till 11th. The hierarchs of each diocese will announce in due time the specific program for each city once it is confirmed.
At the end of this brief summary, I have a request to ask from you. There is a big need for solidarity between all of us, in order to insure that this transitional period be the expression of what the Church means to us, of how we want to serve it, and of how we want it to be for us and also for our children in the days, months and years to come.
May you have a blessed "journey" heading towards Jerusalem along with our Lord, crucified and resurrected among the dead for our salvation.
Metropolitan of Buenos Aires and all Argentina & Patriarcal Vicar of New York and all North America
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