We celebrated Divine Liturgy in this beautiful Cathedral, dedicated to the Holy and Life-creating Trinity, and glorified the Creator of all things for His great and rich mercies. On this bright day, we experienced great spiritual joy in realizing how abundant and valuable are the Spirit-bearing fruits grown from the seeds of preaching and heroic labors of Russian missionaries-apostles. They laid down their life for the blessed success of their witness to the Crucified and Risen Lord on American soil.
We give thanks to the High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ, for allowing us to take part in these historic festivities -- the celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Orthodoxy in America. We also thank Him for making it possible for us to follow the route once journeyed by the monks of the Valaam and Konev monasteries. With the blessing of the Governing Most Holy Synod and inspired by the desire to preach the Word of God, Russian monks crossed all of Siberia and the Far East to reach the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, lead by the great laborer, Archimandrite Joasaph (Bolotov). Here on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, they raised up the Holy Cross, as the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-called had once done, and established the foundation for the Orthodox Faith on the American continent.
In visiting the holy places of North America, we have bowed down before the relics of the Venerable Herman of Alaska, sung praises to the martyr for the faith in Christ, Hieromonk Juvenal, and prayed where the Apostle to America and Evangelizer Innocent (Veniaminov) labored, who later became the Metropolitan of Moscow and was glorified among the saints.
Likewise, we are happy to be here, in the San Francisco diocese, which commemorates the 125th anniversary of Orthodox witness and ministry in this beautiful city this year.
My special congratulations on this significant occasion go to the Archpastor of this God-protected city, His Grace Tikhon of San Francisco, and to the clergy and God-loving flock entrusted to his care.
When, in 1870, the Orthodox population of the Western states had significantly increased, the Ecclesiastical authorities of our Church decided to transfer the bishopıs seat from Novoarchangelsk to this city. Until 1905, San Francisco was the center and focal point of church life in North America. Many signfificant events occured in this brief period of history.
We know with what reverence and gratitude you remember the names of the great, praiseworthy, and ever-memorable hierarchs of Russian Orthodox Church who fruitfully labored in this diocese: John (Mitropolsky; 1870-1877), Nestor (Zass; 1878-1882), Vladimir (Sokolovsky; 1887-1891), Nicholas (Ziorov; 1891-1898) and now glorified among the saints Archbishop and later Patriarch of All Russia Tikhon (Bellavin; 1898-1907), during whose tenure the seat of the ruling hierarch was transferred to New York.
The ministry of these archpastors was truly sacrificial and fruitful. They gathered under their omophorion not Russians alone, but with the same love all people seeking spiritual nourishment: Albanians, Arabs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Serbs, and many others. Under their direct archpastoral supervision, the Orthodox Faith spread from here, San Francisco, to the entire United States of America. As a result of their tireless activity, two vicarates were established: of Alaska, in 1903, and of Brooklyn, a year later. In 1877, for the first time, a priest was sent from this diocese to Canada. This eventually led to the establishment of the Canadian Mission. At this time the Minneapolis Uniate parish with its rector, Archpriest Alexis Toth, rejoined the Russian Orthodox Church, which marked the beginning of the spontaneous return of Galitians and Carpatho-Russians to the bosom of the Mother Church.
Much can be said of the history of the glorious Orthodox witness in North America. As the Primate of the Mother Church, on behalf of the Holy Synod, bishops, clergy, and the entire fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church, I now wholeheartedly congratulate you, Your beloved Beatitude, you, dear Lord Tikhon, and everyone present here and partaking in our prayer and joyful celebration, of the glorious Bicentennial of Orthodoxy on the North American continent and the approaching 125th anniversary of the establishment of the San Francisco diocese.
Let us give thanks to the All-merciful Saviour for His great and rich mercies for all workers of the Orthodox Church in America by whose ardent labors the Holy Orthodox Faith has been established in this great country of yours forever and become the sacred heritage of American people.
I assure you, my dear archpastors, fathers, brothers and sisters, of the fraternal love all the children of the Russian Orthodox Church have for you. I prayerfully wish you the abundant mercies of heaven, the peace and graceful joy of the Holy Spirit the Comforter.
May the Lord preserve the Holy Orthodox Church in America, her Primate, the Most Blessed Metropolitan Theodosius, her archpastors, clergy, monks and lay people -- for many and good years!
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