Icon at centre of Orthodox celebrations in U.S.

Celebrations are underway in the United States to mark the re-unification of the Russian Orthodox Church with its affiliates abroad. The event will last for over a month and include church services and concerts.

With the blessing of Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow and All Russia, an official delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate travelled to New York to participate in the services.

During the Soviet era the Russian Orthodox Church split and it has taken years of negotiations for the two sides to get back together.

The “Reigning Icon of the Mother of God” was brought to New York’s St. Nicholas Cathedral on Saturday by members of the Russian delegation and clergy, giving a historic opportunity for Russian Orthodox Christians living in America to pray before an icon dear to the heart of every believer. 

Three months after the re-unification of the Russian Orthodox Church, a joint service was held to commemorate the long awaited move.

Ninety-year old Anastasia Popichak has been worshiping at St. Nicholas’Cathedral for 54 years, but she says Saturday marked a new beginning.

Anastasia Popichak, Russian Orthodox 
            Christian, New York
Anastasia Popichak, Russian Orthodox Christian, New York
“Tonight is a refreshing moment of getting together, understanding one another and knowing that we’re going to get stronger in the future,” she believes.

An official delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate led parishioners in prayer. The burning candles brought new light to the dozens of believers celebrating their long awaited reconciliation with parishioners abroad.

“This is a new and special period in the life of the Russian Orthodox Church in America. Parishioners can expect a joyful and pleasant event,” said Archimandrite Tikhon, of New York's Moscow Sretensky Monastery.

The Russian Orthodox Church separated almost 90 years ago. The split was caused by the 1917 revolution and the rise of communism. For decades faithful Russians in the country and abroad remained divided while sharing the same Christian beliefs. After surviving turbulent times and political interference, the believers in the religion are once again joining together in prayer and understanding.

“It is our responsibility to witness the unity that has happened by serving together and receiving holy mysteries from the same eucharistic cup,” Hieromonk Joseph from St. Nicholas Cathedral, New York, noted.

“I think if you understand one another better, people get along better,” Anastasia Popichak echoed.

As they look to the future, Russian Orthodox Christians say their new-found commitment to unity will continue to be celebrated at such services. Furthermore, with the spiritual practices and core beliefs that bind parishioners in the country and abroad, the loyalty and strength of this faith is only expected to grow stronger.