Leader's visit gladdens Watervliet congregation
Metropolitan Herman, head of Orthodox Church in North America, helps
By SCOTT WALDMAN, Staff writer
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First published: Monday, April 7, 2008
WATERVLIET -- There was no police escort or lottery for tickets. But
a religious visit of monumental importance to some local worshippers
took place Sunday in an unassuming brick building in the middle of a
St. Basil's Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday hosted a visit by
Metropolitan Herman, the head of the church's 700 parishes,
communities and monasteries in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
An enthusiastic crowd of about 100 people gathered to worship with
the 76-year-old primate. The brightly colored church interior rang
with song and was cloudy with incense smoke.
"This is like, if the Pope were to show up," said parishioner Mark
Wolosen, as lines formed to receive communion from the leader.
The primate's visit comes during a time of Lenten fasting for Russian
Orthodox Christians, who celebrate their Easter -- called Pascha --
on April 27. He urged the congregation to focus on the spiritual
aspect of their fast.
He also attended a Saturday evening service at St. Basil's, while a
dinner was held in his honor after the Sunday Mass so congregants
could ask for his blessing.
Wolosen said the spiritual leader travels frequently from his Long
Island headquarters to member parishes, and last visited the Capital
Region two years ago. He said the primate attempts to visit each
congregation at least once every other year.
Pope Benedict XVI, spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church,
makes his first American visit later this month. While on a much
smaller scale, the primate's stop Sunday in the Capital Region was no
less significant to the faithful who gathered there for the nearly
William Rentz, the congregation's president, said it was "an
awakening" to have such an important figure in the church make a
personal connection with local parishioners. He said the visit drew
necessary attention to the holiness of this period in the church's
"When you hear it from your metropolitan," he said, "you get a deeper
understanding of it."
The church's origins in America date to the 18th century, when
Orthodox monks first arrived in Alaska. European immigrants helped
spread the church and its teachings throughout the country by the
1900s. In 1970, the American orthodoxy was granted self-governing
status by the mother church in Russia.
Herman was enthroned as His Beatitude Metropolitan Herman in
September 2002. He succeeded Metropolitan Theodosius, who retired
after suffering a series of strokes.
Scott Waldman can be reached at 454-5080 or by e-mail at