St Raphael was consecrated Bishop of Brooklyn on March 13, 1904, by St Tikhon and Bishop Innocent of Alaska (not to be confused with the earlier St Innocent). What follows is a little article I wrote on the consecration. My plan is to include the article in a book I hope to publish on the early history of American Orthodoxy.
The first thing to know about Bishop Raphael’s consecration is the crowd – the enormous, crushing crowd. Two thousand people – some worshippers, some sightseers – were crammed like sardines into the cathedral on Brooklyn’s Pacific Street. Throw in a generous portion of incense and hundreds of burning candles, and the place was one hot, dense mass of humanity. “There were half-smothered cries of women and children,” one newspaper reported.[i] As you might expect, at least three women fainted and had to be carried out of the building.[ii]
Adding to the chaos were the newspaper photographers, one of whom chose to take a picture at the moment of consecration. From the New York Sun: “[T]he photograph fiend, who apparently respects religion no more than any other material for a subject, startled the congregation and the clergy by exploding a flashlight cartridge. The building was soon filled with smoke, making the rest of the ceremony very indistinct for some time.”[iii]
Anyway, it was quite a ceremony. No less than four canonized saints participated – Raphael, Tikhon, Alexis Toth, and Alexander Hotovitzky. Afterwards, there was a big dinner, attended by a lot of people (between 150 and 500; the newspapers don’t agree, though I’m inclined to believe the smaller figure). It was a fast day, but that didn’t stop the feasters from having an impressive menu. From the New York Tribune: “The menu was vegetables, oysters and lobsters, Damascus artichokes, fried fish, lettuce salad, peas a la Syriene, cabbages a la Turque; desserts, mishabbak, cornstarch; fruits, apples and oranges; Turkish coffee.”[iv] Presumably no one left hungry.
As far as the general public was concerned, the consecration was a decidedly Russian affair. The newspapers referred to it as being at the Tsar’s orders, and at the celebratory dinner, the Tsar was toasted and the Russian national anthem was sung. One of the first public acts of the new Bishop Raphael was to visit the Russian ambassador in Washington.[v]
These facts did not please the local Greeks one bit. They saw it as an act of Russian imperial expansion, and it contributed to the growing Greek fear that Russian Church aimed to spread its influence across Orthodoxy worldwide. The Greek consul in New York chose not to attend the consecration, and his absence itself made headlines.[vi] A few weeks later, on Holy Friday, Bishop Tikhon tried to visit Holy Trinity, one of the Greek churches in New York. Fr. John Erickson writes, “He was barred from entering by its angry trustees, who feared a Russian takeover of their parish properties.”[vii]
The Greeks may not have been happy with the consecration, but the Episcopalians certainly were. Bishop Tikhon invited his good friend, the Episcopal Bishop Charles Grafton of Fond-du-Lac, Wisconsin to attend. That fact alone means little; non-Orthodox religious leaders are often invited to witness such events. But Grafton’s invitation was different, at least in the eyes of the Episcopalians themselves. Supposedly, Bishop Tikhon’s invitation included a request that Grafton actually participate in the ceremony as the third consecrator, along with Tikhon and Innocent![viii] In reality, it is highly unlikely that Tikhon actually intended for Grafton to be one of the consecrators. Such an act would require full communion between the Orthodox and the Episcopalians, and, as later events would prove, Tikhon was unwilling to unilaterally declare such a union. He had great respect for the Episcopalians and Grafton in particular, and he may even have privately believed in the legitimacy of their holy orders, but he by no means would have permitted Grafton to actually participate in the service.
In any case, Grafton proved unable to come due to illness, but a delegation of other Episcopalians came in his stead. Some of Grafton’s representatives were allowed to stand in the altar itself during the ceremony, just as was Bishop Tikhon and his delegation at the “Fond-du-Lac Circus” a few years earlier.
Of course, Raphael’s consecration meant the most to his own Syrian flock. They now had a bishop, and officially, they were now a vicariate of the Russian Diocese. Unofficially, though, things were much less clear. While making clear that Raphael was a bishop of the Russian Church, Patriarch Meletios of Antioch felt it his “most important duty” to bestow his blessing on the consecration, and he said that he and the rest of the Antiochian Holy Synod “still consider him as a member of our body.”[ix] For his part, Bishop Tikhon, while also affirming Raphael’s membership in the Russian Church, stated his “certitude” that Raphael “would never break the most intimate spiritual ties with his mother Church of Antioch,” and he asked the Patriarch to guide and advise the new bishop.[x]
Bishop Raphael himself was rather ambiguous when he spoke to his flock about his jurisdictional allegiance. He said that his consecration was “by the order and permission of Melatois [sic], the Patriarch of Antioch”[xi] and that “Patriarch Melatois [sic] counted the new parish of Brooklyn, New York, as one of the parishes of Antioch.” He went on to say that Patriarch Meletios declared that he “had instituted the new diocese as one of the dioceses pertaining to the See of Antioch and thus it is in actuality, notwithstanding its nominal allegiance to the Russian Holy Synod.”[xii]
After Raphael’s death, such ambiguities would become points of serious contention among his orphaned flock. But in 1904, they were of little significance; the important fact was that the Syro-Arabs now had their own bishop, who would prove to be among the greatest American Orthodoxy has yet seen.
[i] “Crowd Uncontrollable,” Boston Globe (March 14, 1904), 5.
[ii] “New Bishop of Greek Church Consecrated,” New York Times (March 14, 1904), 9. Also cf. “Third Russian Bishop,” Washington Post (March 14, 1904), 1.
[iii] “New Bishop Consecrated,” New York Sun (March 14, 1904), 10. Also cf. “Ordain Raphael Bishop,” New York Tribune (March 14, 1904), 3.
[iv] New York Tribune (March 14, 1904).
[v] Cf. “Social and Personal,” Washington Post (March 17, 1904), 7 and “In Society,” Washington Times (March 17, 1904), 6.
[vi] Cf. “Greeks Angry at the Czar,” New York Sun (March 15, 1904), 12 and “Fear Russian Rule of Church,” New York Tribune (March 15, 1904), 6.
[vii] Erickson, Orthodox Christians in America, 73.
[viii] C. Lewis Leicester, “What Might Have Been,” The Christian East 13:2 (Summer 1932), 79-80. Quoted in Andre G. Issa, The Life of Raphael Hawaweeny, Bishop of Brooklyn: 1860-1915 (unpublished M.Div. thesis, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, May 1991), 46.
[ix] Patriarch Meletios to Bishop Tikhon (March 11/24, 1904), translated from the Russian by Fr. John Meyendorff in “Notes and Comments: The Patriarch of Antioch and North America in 1904,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 33:1 (1989), 83-86.
[x] Bishop Tikhon to Patriarch Meletios (April 1904), reprinted in Issa, 49-50.
[xi] Al-Kalimat (The Word) 1, 2, reprinted in “Hanna et al v. Malick et al, 223 Mich. 100, 193 N.W. 798 (June 4, 1923), Northwestern Reporter 193, 802.
[xii] Al-Kalimat 3, 95-96, reprinted in “Hanna v. Malick.” An alternate translation renders this statement, “And so it is indeed, though in name it belongs to the Russian Holy Synod.” Issa, 62.