Posts tagged Germanos Shehadi
Yesterday, in my “This week in American Orthodox history” article, I mentioned the following event:
April 23, 1917: St. George Syrian Orthodox Church in Worcester, MA became the first official “Antacky” parish, declaring its loyalty to Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi. Informally, the Russy-Antacky schism began immediately after St. Raphael died in 1915, when his priests disagreed on whether to acknowledge the authority of Antioch or Russia. But the Worcester declaration marked the formal beginning of the schism, which divided the Arab Orthodox in America until the mid-1930s.
According to the parish history in its 1956 “Golden Jubilee” book, the Worcester church issued this declaration: “Just as the Disciples declared themselves dedicated to Christ in Antioch, so the people of Worcester declared themselves dedicated to the Church of Antioch.”
But Germanos wasn’t actually authorized by Antioch — he was acting independently, and Antioch wanted him to return to his see in Syria. So when the Patriarchate of Antioch created its own, official jurisdiction in America under Bishop Victor Abo-Assaly, the Worcester parish switched over, becoming one of the first churches to join the new Antiochian Archdiocese.
As you may recall, the Russy-Antacky schism wasn’t merely a simple two-way split. Well, it was originally — you had the Russy under Bishop (later Archbishop) Aftimios Ofiesh, and the Antacky under Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi. But by the end of the 1920s, four bishops claimed authority over the Arab Orthodox:
- Metropolitan Germanos, who lacked the blessing of Antioch (or anyone else, for that matter), but originally led the Syrians who preferred to be tied to Antioch rather than Russia;
- Archbishop Aftimos, who initially led the Syrians under the Russian Church, but who later formed his own jurisdiction and was disowned by the Russians;
- Archbishop Victor Abo-Assaly, the first primate of the Antiochian Archdiocese, which was formed in 1924; and
- Bishop Emmanuel Abo-Hatab, a former auxiliary to Aftimios, who took over the Russy parishes after the Russian Metropolia rejected Aftimios.
It’s particularly difficult to figure out just who was under whom during this period. The 1924 book The Syrians in America, by Philip Hitti, provides a valuable snapshot of how things looked just before the Antiochian Archdiocese was created. According to a directory at the back of Hitti’s book, the score was 31 priests for Aftimios against 24 for Germanos. (These numbers don’t include the five priests of the separate “English-Speaking Department,” which was also under Aftimios.)
But what happened after 1924? As far as I can tell, there aren’t any hard numbers. We just don’t know, for instance, how many parishes left Germanos for the officially sanctioned Antiochian Archdiocese, nor do we know how many parishes remained under Aftimios after the Russian Metropolia replaced him with Emmanuel. The Census Bureau conducted its decennial Census of Religious Bodies in 1926, but I haven’t been able to find the entry (or entries) for the Syrians/Antiochians, so I don’t know if the Census reflected the complex divisions.
My home parish, St. Mary in Wichita, was founded in 1932, right before the slate was wiped clean by the death of three of the four claimants, and the marriage of Aftimos. Several years ago, Bishop Basil of Wichita asked me under which bishop St. Mary was founded, and I honestly didn’t know. I asked the surviving elders of the parish, and none of them knew, either. It’s indicative of how complex that era was. Eventually, I dug up a newspaper article from 1956 that referenced Archbishop Victor as the founding hierarch, finally settling the question.
It’s possible (probable, even), that as the original claimants (Aftimios and Germanos) were supplanted by Victor and Emmanuel, they continued to visit some of their former parishes in some kind of unofficial capacity. I’ve heard stories about Aftimios showing up at Antiochian churches for years after his marriage. To complicate matters even further, after Aftimios left the scene, one of his associated bishops, Sophronios Beshara of Los Angeles, remained at large for the rest of the 1930s, and he apparently visited parishes and even ordained some priests. So to some extent, even after the Antiochians regrouped in the mid-1930s, you still had four claimants — Metropolitan Antony Bashir of New York and his friend/rival Metropolitan Samuel David of Toledo, plus the fringe holdovers Aftimios and Sophronios.
Suffice it to say that there were a bunch of Arab bishops running around in the 1920s and ’30s, and we don’t have a clear understanding of exactly where to draw the lines. And of course, we’re talking here about just one mid-sized group of ethnic Orthodox people; the much larger Greek and Russian groups were just as divided, as were the Romanians, Ukrainians, and pretty much everyone else. Which is why it’s fair to say that we (well, me, and a lot of other people) understand the 1890-1920 period quite a bit better than we understand 1920-1960. But 1920-1960 is critical to understanding our present situation in America, and it’s a period begging for further study.
April 3, 1904: On Palm Sunday, Fr. Nicola Yanney was ordained to the priesthood by St. Raphael Hawaweeny. Fr. Nicola was a young widower living in Kearney, Nebraska. His wife had died during childbirth in 1902, just days before her husband’s 29th birthday, leaving behind three other children. In August of 1903, the Syrian Orthodox of Kearney decided that they wanted a priest, and they asked the 30-year-old Nicola to take the position. The next year, he went to Brooklyn and studied under the soon-to-be Bishop Raphael. In March 1904, Raphael was consecrated, and a few weeks later, he ordained Fr. Nicola — the first ordination ever performed by St. Raphael. Fr. Nicola was given responsibility for a vast territory; in addition to his regular pastoral duties in Kearney, he visited seven other states in his first eight months on the job. His life was difficult and inspiring — far too much to summarize here. I highly recommend reading the biographical article on Fr. Nicola written by Fr. Paul Hodge and published here at OrthodoxHistory.org.
April 2, 1922: St. Raphael’s remains were interred at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Brooklyn. After his 1915 death, St. Raphael’s body had been placed in a crypt in his Brooklyn cathedral, but a few years later, his successor Bishop Aftimios Ofiesh decided to move the cathedral to a new building, and Raphael’s body was moved to the cemetery. Decades later, it was transferred to the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA.
April 2-4, 1924: [The following was written by Aram Sarkisian] The Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America convened in Detroit for the 4th All-American Sobor. The Sobor opened with a Presanctified Liturgy and Molieben at All Saints Russian Orthodox Church on the city’s east side, but for lack of space moved downtown to the parish house of St. John Episcopal Church for its plenary sessions.
The 4th All-American Sobor was convened for several reasons, much of it having to do with the general turmoil the Archdiocese had experienced in the wake of the Russian Revolutions of 1917. The most notable of its decisions is the oft-cited “Declaration of Autonomy,” in which the Archdiocese invoked Patriarchal Ukaz #362 of November 1920, in which Patriarch Tikhon gave leeway to dioceses to temporarily govern themselves when communication and regular contact with the authorities in war-torn Russia became insurmountable for normal church life, until such time as normal relations could be established.
In an April 12th telegram to Patriarch Tikhon announcing the decision, it was stated that this action was taken “as a way of self-preservation,” a somewhat imperfect solution to an intensely difficult set of questions facing the church in North America. And, thus, the jurisdictional body which would become known as the Metropolia was formed, which would in turn receive its autocephaly from Moscow in 1970 and rename itself the Orthodox Church in America.
April 7, 1934: Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi died in Beirut. Met Germanos had come to America twenty years earlier as a visitor, raising funds for an agricultural school in his archdiocese in what is today Lebanon. But then St. Raphael, the Syrian bishop in America, fell ill and died, and the popular Germanos decided to remain in America. The Syrians splintered, and one faction — the “Antacky” — recognized the authority of Germanos. The other group — the “Russy” — favored Bishop Aftimios Ofiesh, who served under the Russian Church. Germanos’ position was pretty shaky, because his own Patriarchate of Antioch refused to bless his work in America and instead ordered him to return to his archdiocese. Germanos held out, but then in 1924, the Patriarchate sent an official delegation to America and established the modern Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. This seriously undermined Germanos’ position, and most of his “Antacky” parishes naturally switched over to the official Antiochian jurisdiction. Germanos hung around in America for another nine years before finally returning to Syria in late 1933. The 62-year-old Germanos soon fell ill and died several months later. In addition to his role in the Russy-Antacky schism, he is most remembered for two things: (1) he briefly oversaw a Ukrainian jurisdiction in Canada, and (2) he was renowned for his beautiful singing voice.
April 7, 1947: Fr. Georges Florovsky arrived in New York aboard the Queen Elizabeth. Later this week, we’ll be publishing an article by Matthew Baker on this event.
Editor’s note: The following article was written by Isabel Hapgood and appeared in the New York Tribune on March 8, 1915. It is the most complete surviving description of the funeral of St. Raphael, who died on February 27, 1915. Hapgood herself had known St. Raphael for nearly two decades, from the time that he first arrived in America.
The first Syro-Arabian Bishop in America was buried yesterday in a tomb beneath the Syro-Arabian Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn, which forms his monument.
Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny was born in Damascus, a pure Arab. [In fact, St. Raphael's family was from Damascus, but he was born in Beirut. - Ed.] From the Patriarchal Theological School, at Khalki, he went to Russia and became so identified with the spirit of the country that he was wont to say, “In soul I am a Russian.” He went in a monastery at Kiev for six years, and then was professor of Arabic at the University of Kazan. A desire for active work brought him to America.
In Russia he was ordained, and it was under the auspices of the Holy Synod that he labored here. On several occasions the Patriarch of Antioch offered him the rank of Metropolitan in his native Syria. It is probable that had he returned he would have become Patriarch, but he felt that his work was among the 25,000 Syro-Arabians here, whom he had organized into thirty parishes.
He came to this country in 1895. His first church was on the second floor of a house in Washington Street, Manhattan. How the floor bore up under the masses of worshippers, especially when the Russian Bishop held services there on his infrequent visits from San Francisco (then the seat of the Russian diocese), I never understood. Another dispensation of Providence was required to avert a catastrophe when we adjourned to the floor above and enjoyed a genuine Arab feast, ending with Arab coffee flavored with rosewater from Syria. All the partitions and supports below had been removed to make space in the church.
Bishop Nicholas, now Archbishop of Warsaw, remarked to me on one occasion: “I know now exactly how Louis XIV felt when he had to eat in public!”
After the feast a couple of handsome young fellows (ladies’ tailors by their American profession) in Albanian costume performed the famous sword play over the oilclothed floor, upon which dressy lengths of ingrain carpet had been loosely laid, with such vigor that they literally cut the gas jets, partly smashed the fixtures and had to be separated by the umpire, who interposed with a dagger — more Providence!
One day a pistol flew from one of the swordsmen’s sashes across the room and landed at my feet — that illustrates the vigor of the proceedings. I captured it and refused to return it until the end of the session — and thereafter, instead of sitting at the side of the room, I took a safe seat by the side of the Russian Bishop.
A few years passed and Father Raphael was able to move his church to a building on Pacific Street, near Hoyt Street, which later on became a cathedral. That was in 1904. Early that year he was raised to the rank of Archimandrite, and in May of that year he was consecrated Bishop, and became the second Vicar of the Russian Archbishop.
Ordinarily three bishops are required for consecration. In this case, owing to its exigencies, only two officiated, the Most Revered Tikhon, Archbishop of Aleutia and North America, now Archbishop of Vilna, and the Right Rev. Innokentz, first Vicar, later Bishop of Yakutsk and Viluisk, and now Archbishop of Tashkent, in Turkestan. That is, I am sure, the only ocasion [sic] when a Bishop of the Orthodox Eastern Church has been consecrated in America, and a wonderful service it was.
The Russian Ambassador, not being able to come, sent his representative, who sat at the right hand of the new Bishop at the banquet which followed. As the only representative of America and the Episcopal Church, I was placed at his left hand, opposite the consecrating prelates, and was called on for a speech after the Ambassador’s representative had conveyed his formal message.
In course of time Bishop Raphael came to know many of the Episcopal clergy, and was highly respected by them. His later alienation from them is regarded as having arisen under misapprehension. By his own people he was cherished as the man to whom they owed their beneficent organizations. The Young Turk element quarrelled with him for reciting the formal prayer for the Sultan, as the ruler of Syria, in the services, and several attempts were made on his life. At times he was obliged to go about with a guard, and I met him in the Syrian restaurants dining with a guard on duty. But he lived down their enmity.
Bishop Raphael died, after an illness of three weeks, from dropsy, kidney trouble and heart disease, worn and gray as a man of seventy with his toils and sufferings.
For a week he lay in state in his cathedral, and morning and evening requiem services were held by the Right Rev. Alexander, Bishop of Alaska, assisted by Russian and Syrian clergy. A wonderful service, picturesque in setting.
Across the foot of the open coffin was draped the purple episcopal mantle, with its crimson velvet “tables of the law.” Over the face lay a sacramental veil of white and silver brocade, embroidered with a gold cross. At the head of the coffin stood pontifical candles, but no longer lighted, as during pontifical service. They were tied with black ribbons, so that their tips spread abroad, reversed and unlighted. Between them, leaning against the head of the catafalque and the coffin rose the crozier. Behind, on a folding lectern, lay a purple velvet cushion, on which were placed the orders and decorations which the Bishop had received, many from Russia. The holy doors in the centre of the ikonostasis, with its many ikoni, were closed and draped in black and gold, purple and silver. All about the walls were more ikoni, and huge floral pieces surrounded the coffin. One of the set pieces was an armchair, of white artificial flowers, with sprays of lavender flowers and surmounted by a canopy or arched gateway of palms, violet tulle and white flowers.
At the evening requiems the church was always filled. Many women waited for hours to secure front seats in the little gallery. More women thronged every step of the stairs. The Syrian priests, in passing, kissed the dead Bishop’s hand, after kissing the cross. The Russian Bishop and priests passed without saluting cross and hand.
The gospels were read night and day, instead of Psalms, as with a layman, by relays of clergy. The Syrians relieved one another at frequent intervals, and showed the finest, most varied forms of intoning.
Bishop Alexander who, by command of the Holy Synod, has charge of the vast Russian Diocese of North America until the newly appointed Archbishop shall arrive, stood at the services motionless (“like a candle” is the Russian term.)
Thursday evening, at the close of the services, a picture was taken of the dead Bishop and the circle of celebrating clergy. After the clergy had retired, representatives of all the Syrian societies, including women, made addresses from the chancel platform about the great work which Bishop Raphael had accomplished for his people in America.
Saturday morning, after the liturgy had been celebrated in Old Church Slavonic and Greek by Bishop Alexander and his clergy, and in Syrian by the Syrians, while the choir of the Russian Theological Seminary from Tenafly, N.J., sang their part in Slavonic, two requiem services were held, the first by the Metropolitan Hermanos Shehadah, of Selveskia Mount Lebanon [should be Baalbek - ed.], Syria (his black, waist-long hair concealed beneath his black cassock and cloth of silver pall) and the Syrian clergy; and the second by Bishop Alexander and a few Russian priests, the seminary choir singing. The Syrian clergy no longer kissed the dead Bishop’s right hand. That lay at rest forevermore. The raised left hand supported a large cross, and this alone was saluted.
Yesterday morning, at 10 o’clock, the liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Alexander, standing at the right of Metropolitan Hermanos, on their eagle rugs upon the dais at the head of Bishop Raphael’s coffin. As was customary, Bishop Alexander was vested on the dais in magnificent vestments of silver brocade. Metropolitan Hermanos wore gold brocade and the tall Metropolitan’s mitre of crimson velvet and gold, from whose crest rose a diamond cross. The choir of the Russian St. Nicholas Cathedral sang, except during the brief intervals when the Syrians chanted.
At a layman’s funeral the clergy wear black velvet and silver; at the funeral of a priest or bishop, no mourning is worn and the flowerlike vestments of the priests, mingling with the magnificent floral pieces, produce a very brilliant effect. The Syrian deacon wore pink brocade with a stole of blue and gold. As only 500 people were allowed by the authorities inside the cathedral, there was space for the ceremony of processions to and from the altar. At 12 o’clock the liturgy ended. At 1:30 the funeral began.
The singing was now done for the Syrians by the boys’ and girls’ choir of the Sunday school, wearing white vestments with lavender crosses, the girls, with mortarboard caps, occasionally assisting the clergy. The Russian singing was done by the clergy, assisted by the adult members of the choir. In all there were about forty priests, Russian and Syrian, who chanted, the Russians led by Archdeacon Vsevolod, of the Russian Cathedral, with his magnificent voice.
Among the hymns, which show the spirit of the service, were:
“Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of thy servant and establish him in Paradise. Where the choirs of the saints, O Lord, and of the just, shine like the stars of heaven, give rest to thy servant, who hath fallen asleep, regarding not all his transgressions.”
“Forasmuch as we all are constrained to that same dread abode, and shall hide ourselves beneath a gravestone like to this, and shall ourselves shortly turn to dust, let us implore of Christ rest for him who hath been translated hence.”
In the Eastern Church there are several orders of burial. One is for a child under seven years old, in which no mention is made of sin, because a child’s soul “is not grown,” as the Russians say, until he is seven. Another is for adult laymen; a third, for those who die in Easter week, in which there are almost no songs of mourning, but all are songs of the joy of the Resurrection; the fourth, for dead priests, has five epistles and five gospels. These were read by the Syrians and the Russians alternately, as were the many hymns, most of which were written by St. John of Damascus.
Then at last the clergy made addresses, Father Basil Kerbawy, dean of the cathedral, Father Sergius Snegyeroff and others, in praise of the Bishop. Father Kerbawy reduced the congregations to tears. Bishop Alexander made the last speech, directly addressing the dead as he stood by the coffin.
After “Memory Eternal” had been proclaimed in Syrian and in Old Church Slavonic, with the addition of the Bishop’s title and name, the procession formed. It is customary to carry the body of a Bishop around the outside of the church and to hold a brief service on each of the four sides before going to the graveyard. This constituted the funeral procession in the present case, as its route was along Pacific Street to Henry Street, thence to State Street, then to Nevins Street and back along Pacific Street to the cathedral.
The procession formed in the following order: Cronin, political leader of the district; squad of mounted police; twenty to thirty small boys in white tunics, with lilac crosses and flowers; the Cathedral committee (honorary pall-bearers); girls, singing hymns; Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society; the Homsian Fraternity; the Syro-American Political Club; members of the various Syrian diocesan parishes; the United Syrian Societies; cathedral Sunday school pupils, carrying crosses, candles and church banners; coaches with floral offerings; Archimandrite [Aftimios] Aphaish of Montreal, carrying the cushion with the late Bishop’s orders; finally, St. Joseph’s Society of Boston.
The dead prelate was borne in an open coffin by the priests, the snowflakes drifting down upon his splendid mantle of purple, crimson and white, his golden mitre, and the white brocade sacramental veil which covered his face. The body was followed by the Orthodox clergy, both Syrian and Russian; last came Bishop Alexander of Alaska. The family of the deceased, parishioners and friends followed, women joining, although it is not the custom to do so abroad.
Directly beneath the altar the Bishop had built for himself a vault. On the return of the procession masses of the flowers were carried into the crypt, and the clergy surrounded the bronze coffin into which the mahogany casket was lowered. The Metropolitan Hermanos made the final address before the coffin was closed, and a most distressing scene of grief ensued. Not only the clergy, but many parishioners, cast earth upon the body of their beloved Bishop.
Attend an American Orthodox parish today, of any jurisdiciton, and you’re likely to hear prayers offered for the President of the United States (and, in some parishes, for the other branches of government as well). The first evidence I’ve been able to find of such prayers is from the journal Christian Union, 10/4/1871:
Bishop Johannes, of the Russo-Greek Church on the Pacific coast, has ordered the prayer for the President of the United States, contained in the Liturgy of the Episcopal Church, to be used by the Greek Priests. The Russo-Greek Calendar has also been modified so as to make it conform to that of Western Christendom in several essential important points.
It’s not clear what those calendar changes were, but obviously, the prayers for the President were part of a broader program to make Orthodoxy more American.
Four decades later (and exactly 99 years ago today), a Greek fruit dealer in Boston decided that the local Greek parish (and, apparently, Greek churches throughout the country) should also pray for US leaders. From the Boston Globe (7/14/1911):
That the ritual of the Greek church in this country be changed so that prayers would be for “the President, his family, the governors and their families,” instead of the customary for “King George of Greece and his family,” was the object of a petition filed yesterday in the office of Clerk Darling in the U.S. circuit court.
Constantinos D. Dimary of 46 Curve st, a fruit dealer, prepared the document, writing it on a 20-pound brown paper bag with a pencil. There is considerable legal phraseology in the document, as Dimary studied law in Greece. He feels that the country which has been adopted by his countrymen should get the blessings of his church.
What exactly Mr. Dimary hoped to accomplish by filing a petition in court is beyond me. Did he expect the court to compel Greek churches to pray for the US President? It’s one thing to bring up such a thing to your parish priest (or local bishop, but the Greeks didn’t have one in 1911), but to seek the aid of the courts is a little extreme. I don’t know what became of this petition (although I can guess that it didn’t get very far), and I’m not sure how the Greeks of Boston responded. I know we’ve got quite a few Greek Orthodox readers from the Boston area; can any of you shed more light on this odd incident?
One more note along these lines. In 1920, the Antiochian Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi — leader of the “Antacky” faction of Syrians — published a collection of Orthodox hymns, with music, in English, under the title The Paradise. Among those hymns was one that went like this: “God bless the President of the United States, and its people with peace and prosperity, God keep this peace and prosperity, forevermore, forevermore, forevermore. Amen.” This, it appears, was used in Met Germanos’ parishes during the Divine Liturgy, where once upon a time the Eastern Roman Emperor was commemorated.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
UPDATE (7/14/2010): After I published this article yesterday, Isa Almisry found an example of prayers for the US President in 1870, which is earlier than the Bishop John Mitropolsky example related above. From Isa:
The New York Times records on November 25, 1870, that “servives were conducted by Bishop PAUL, formerly Bishop of Alaska, who is on his way to Russia, to assume his new position as Bishop of Siberia. Rev. Mr. BJERRING also officiated. The litany was said by the Bishop, while prayers for the Emperor and Empress of Russian, and for the President and people of the United States were offered by the pastor.”
This past Saturday was February 27, the 95th anniversary of the death of St. Raphael Hawaweeny, the great Syrian Bishop of Brooklyn. His death set off more than a week of commemorations in the Syrian Orthodox community. Telegrams immediately went out to Syrian parishes all over the country. In fact, the news spread so quickly that the Kearney Daily Hub was able to run a notice in time for its evening publication, the very day of St. Raphael’s death. “Rev. [Nicola] Yanney was in receipt of a telegram this afternoon announcing the death of Bishop Raphael, head of the Syrian church,” the paper reported.
Yanney and his fellow Syrian clergy had to make hasty arrangements to travel to Brooklyn for the funeral, and the visiting Antiochian Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi rushed back from Montreal. The Russian Bishop Alexander Nemolovsky hurried to Brooklyn to serve a Divine Liturgy. A solemn procession escorted St. Raphael’s body from his home to the cathedral, where it would lay in state until the funeral on March 7. In the meantime, clergy began a round-the-clock reading of the Bible, never leaving the saint’s body unattended. The community sprung into action, convincing the Board of Health to grant them special permission to bury their bishop in a crypt within his cathedral.
It must have been a painful and poignant time and place to be an Orthodox Christian. Bishop Raphael’s orphaned flock would splinter in the years to come, but at the beginning of March, 1915, they were completely united by the death of their beloved bishop.