On Wednesday, July 10, 2013, an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was held, presided over by its First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York. Participating in the meeting were permanent members of the Synod of Bishops: His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany; His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America; His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada, and His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America.
Deliberating on the matter of Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, the Synod of Bishops made a decision as follows:
“During a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, presided over by the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, A DECISION WAS MADE: on the activities of Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, Vicar of the President for the Administration of Western Rite Parishes.
After exhaustive deliberation, IT WAS DECREED:
1) To halt the ordination of new clergymen for parishes adhering to the Western Rite.
2) To censure Bishop Jerome for his willfulness in administering the parishes adhering to the Western Rite, and in performing various ecclesial services not approved by the Synod of Bishops, and for criticizing his brethren in letters to clergy and laity.
3) To deny recognition of the ordination of a group of individuals by Bishop Jerome during a single divine service, and to regularize them following a thorough examination of the candidates.
4) To release Bishop Jerome from all duties, including those of Vicar of the President in administering Western Rite parishes, designating him as retired without the right to serve in the Synodal Cathedral “of the Sign” in New York, or to perform ordinations or award clergymen, and designating his place of residence at St Vladimir Memorial Church of the 1000th Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia in Jackson, NJ.
5) To bless Bishop Jerome to perform divine services within the confines of the Eastern American Diocese with the consent of its Ruling Bishop.
6) To release Monk Anthony (Bondi) from all of his administrative duties and from the spiritual ministry to the Vicariate of Western Rite Parishes.
7) To establish a commission to examine the means of integrating clergymen and communities of the Western Rite into the liturgical life of the Russian Orthodox Church, consisting of: Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, President; Bishop George of Mayfield, Vicar of the Eastern American Diocese; Protopriest David Straut of the Eastern American Diocese, and Protopriest Anthony Nelson of the Mid-American Diocese.
8) To address an epistle to the clergymen and communities of the Western Rite regarding the need for them to adopt the order of divine services of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church, while preserving, when necessary, certain particularities of the Western Rite.
9) To emphasize our adherence to the rules and traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church in general and of the Russian Orthodox Church in particular.
10) To deem this decree immediately valid and to submit it to the members of the Council of Bishops in the form of a questionnaire for confirmation. ”
The meeting concluded with the singing of “It is Truly Meet. ”
As soon as it was published on 12th July 2013, the decree of the Synod of Bishops gave rise to many discussions, especially online. Beside personal opinions of various people, the key question is how to understand the decision (especially #8). Some comment that this marks the beginning of the end for the Western Rite in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Others think that the Western Rite itself will continue within ROCOR, but managed in a different way. “I do not take this document to signal the end of the Western Rite in the ROCOR, but rather the inauguration of a cautious period in which the boundaries for the Western Rite will be determined”, writes Father Aidan. The document is significant, but it is too early to assess what its long-term impact will be. Probably the announced epistle to the clergymen and communities of the Western Rite will shed more light.