Archbishop Peter Thirty Years!

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God;  consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7) Abp-Peter-30yrs.JPG (29063 bytes)

1968 - 1998

Thirty years! It is a long period of time. For Christians, is is also a symbolic period of time. It gives us pause to reflect on what has occured, on the journeys that have been completed and on the accomplishments that have been achieved. For His Eminence, Archbishop PETER, the past thirty years have been devoted to the fulfillment of his call to serve the Church as Bishop. For thirty years, he has been engaged in leading his spiritual children, in officiating liturgical celebrations, in teaching, exhorting and administrating. There is, in the Church, no greater responsibility nor greater task. The archpastoral ministry requires spiritual discipline, dedication to prayer and service, learning, competence, sensitivity and skill. It is a spiritually demanding vocation before God for which only a very few special men are selected. Archbishop PETER was chosen for, and accepted, this high calling. Today, thirty years later, we congratulate him, celebrating and giving thanks to God. The members of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey are especially blessed to have had Archbishop PETER as our spiritual shepherd for almost twenty of his thirty-year episcopal ministry.

Archbishop PETER’s life has been full and rich. He was born as Paul L’Huillier on December 3, 1926 in Paris, France. In his youth he became interested in Eastern Christian theology, and while enrolled at the St. Denys Institute in Paris, he embraced the Orthodox faith in 1945. In addition to studies at St. Denys, His Eminence did graduate work at the University of Paris and received a Licentiate of Theology from the Moscow Theological Academy in 1962. From the same institution, he earned the prestigious Doctorate of Canon Law degree in 1985. His doctoral dissertation has recently been published and received critical accolades (The Church of the Ancient Councils -- The Disciplinary Work of the First Four Ecumenical Councils, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1996).

The Archbishop began his ecclesiastical life on August 30, 1954 when he was tonsured Monk PETER. On September 4 and 5, 1954, he was ordained hierodeacon and hieromonk by Archbishop BORIS, Exarch of the Russian Patriarchate in Europe. His priestly work took place at two Orthodox Churches in Paris, Three Hierarchs and the Church of our Lady the Joy of Those who Sorrow. In 1960, Archbishop PETER was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite. Thirty years ago, on September 12, 1968, on the Feast of St. Alexander Nevsky at the famour St. Alexander Nevsky Monastery (Lavra) in St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad), Archbishop PETER was consecrated Bishop of Chersonese. Participating at that consecration were the Metropolitan of Leningrad, NIKODIM (Rotov) and Metropolitan ANTHONY (Bloom) of Sourozh.

The "apostolic" character of Orthodoxy is primarily asserted in its archpastoral ministry. The consecration of Archbishop PETER was significant not only because as bishop he became a spiritual successor to the apostles, but because it also expressed the missionary and evangelical aspects of Russian Orthodoxy. While those aspects could not blossom,as they should in Russia, they were cultivated in the West.

Similarly, Archbishop PETER’s coming to North America was also important. As bishop, he was a member of the mother Church which granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America. In 1979, he was invited to come to the young autocephalous church by His Beatitude Metropolitan THEODOSIUS. He was designated as the Bishop of Brooklyn until 1981, when he was installed as the Bishop of New York and New Jersey. In 1990, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America bestowed on him the title of Archbishop of New York and New Jersey.

Archbishop PETER has been a great asset to the Orthodox Church in America. His linguistic fluency (in four languages), his academic and collegial contacts, his extensivve background in the Orthodox canonical traditions, his knowledge about the varieties of ethnic and national Orthodox customs, all of these have made him one of the most qualified and astute Orthodox hierarchs worldwide. It has been fortunate for the Orthodox Church in America that he has chaired the External Affairs Department for many years. His dealings within the international Orthodox community often bring him face to face with other notable hierarchs and Church leaders, many of who he has known personally. This has helped establish beneficial relations between the Orthodox Church in America and other Orthodox Churches. His Eminence has also been Canonical Advisor for the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA). He has been active in promoting Orthodox unity and Orthodox presence in North America since coming to this country.

No less important has been Archbishop PETER’s academic career. He lectured at the Institute of St. Denys, Paris, France, from 1949 to 1950. From 1952 to 1962, he taught at the Three Hierarchs Seminary in Villemoisson, France. He was a Professor at the Catholic University in Paris from 1966 to 1978. He has been Adjunct Professor of Canon Law at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, New York, since 1979. As a specialist in Orthodox Canon Law, Archbishop PETER occupies a prominent position. He is often sought as an expert in this field by other Orthodox jurisdictions and is invited to represent the Orthodox Church at various conferences, meetings, and ecumenical dialogues.

His thirty years of episcopal service have coincided with many important events in the history of the Orthodox Church in this century. During these years, His Eminence has been a constant and dedicated leader and guide. True to the words of his spiritual namesake, the Holy Apostle Peter, His Eminence has "tended the flock of God that is his charge, not by constraint but willingly, nor for shameful gain but eagerly" (1 Peter 5:2).

Archbishop PETER has been involved in many areas of the Church and in all of them he has made a significant mark. He has been a respected and valued colleague for the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America and for the many pan-Orthodox forums in which he participates. He is a wise and consoling father for his priests, a learned and devoted teacher for his students, and a discerning and dedicated hierarch for his diocesan flock. We who have been under his omophorion express our sincere respect and congratulations to His Eminence on the occasion of the Thirtieth Anniversary of his Episcopal Consecration. We pray that Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, will continue to grant him "peace, safety, honor, health, and length of days, to rightly define the word of His truth, " for many years!

Eis polla eti despota!

[This article was first printed in Jacob’s Well, Newspaper of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, Orthodox Church in America, Fall/Winter 98-99, pp. 4-6.]


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