The Orthodox Church is, as established by Christ, a Hierarchical Church, governed by the Holy Episcopacy and the ranks of her Clergy. Just as the Church herself is the Body of Christ God, and not a mere human institution, so too the hierarchy of her clergy is also divinely fashioned, following the pattern set forth by Christ and handed down in unbroken succession through the Apostles and the Holy Fathers of the Church throughout her history.
The Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland has at its Head our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and is under the pastoral care of His Grace Bishop Irenei of Richmond and Wetern Europe (Richmond being the traditional section of London after which the Ruling Hierarch of the Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland has been named). Bishop Irenei tends to the flock of the Dicoese as a member of the Holy Synod of Bishops, under the presidency of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion is the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, President of its Holy Synod, and spiritual father of the Church Abroad. His parents – his father Alexei Kapral, and his mother, Euphrosynia (née Kasyaniuk) – were from the village of Obenizha in Volyhn, Ukraine. In 1929, during the Polish occupation, the local populace was persecuted and oppressed by Poles attempting to turn Western Ukraine into a Polish province. Thus, the 19-year-old Alexei and his young wife decided to emigrate to Canada. At the time, the Canadian government afforded immigrants the opportunity to obtain large tracts of land in Western Canada; it was there that the young family settled. Upon their arrival in the province of Alberta, the Kapral family received 160 acres of untilled land, as well as $100 in cash, a hammer, and an axe with which to build themselves a home. In the developing Spirit River region there were some 200 Ukrainians, and in view of the oncoming cold, they quickly built themselves houses. The great economic crisis of 1929-30 affected the settlers, making an already hard life even more difficult. To find work, Alexei Kapral had to travel far from home, and he earned but 25 cents per day. Nonetheless, the family grew ever larger – five boys and two girls filled the house with children’s voices, speaking Ukrainian at home. Their parents also spoke Russian and Polish The youngest member of the family was Igor, the future Metropolitan Hilarion. He was born on January 6, 1948, in Spirit River , and spent his childhood in the country. Later he transferred to another school in Blueberry Creek, but returned to finish high school. In 1966, he found a spiritual father, the Right Reverend Sava (Saracevic), Bishop of Edmonton, a Serb who greatly revered our Holy Hierarch St John (Maximovich, +1966).
From his youth, Igor felt drawn to the Church, and loved to read books and periodicals on religion and morals. In 1967, when Igor Kapral was 19 years old, he entered the Holy Trinity Theological Seminary in Jordanville, NY, USA . On graduating from the Seminary in 1972, he entered the Holy Trinity Monastery as a novice. On December 2, 1974 he was tonsured a rassaphore monk with the name Hilarion, in honour of Venerable Schema-monk Hilarion of the Kiev Caves, the famous Metropolitan of Kiev. On December 4, 1975, Archbishop Averky (Taushev, +1976), for whom the future Vladyka served as a cell-attendant, ordained him Hierodeacon. In 1976, Bishop Laurus of Manhattan ordained him Hieromonk. The same year, Fr Hilarion received a Master’s degree in Slavic studies and Russian literature from Syracuse University. The future Metropolitan worked simultaneously as editor of the English-language version of the magazine Orthodox Life, and as a typesetter for the monastery press.
On December 10, 1984, His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky, +1985) and nine other bishops officiated at the consecration of Hieromonk Hilarion to the episcopacy. As Bishop of Manhattan, Vladyka Hilarion was also responsible for the parishes of Pennsylvania, and was also appointed the Deputy Secretary of the Synod of Bishops by the Council of Bishops. Ten years later, thanks to the archpastoral efforts of Bishop Hilarion, the number of parishes in the Eastern American Diocese grew to 64. Visiting parish after parish, Vladyka drew the love and respect of all those who met him. Holding a position of responsibility in the administrative center of the Church Abroad, Vladyka Hilaron was also an active participant in the main events of its history. In 1995, Bishop Hilarion was given the title Bishop of Washington as he continued to live in New York, but due to problems in the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand after the retirement of the ailing Archbishop Paul (Pavlov), and in recognition of his pastoral talents, Vladyka Hilarion was elevated to the rank of Archbishop and appointed Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand.
In 2003, Vladyka Hilarion was awarded the right to wear the diamond cross. During the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 2006, he was appointed First Deputy President of the Synod of Bishops. In 2008, following the repose of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, Archbishop Hilarion was elected First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, a post he has filled while continuing to be Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. From December 2016 until September 2018, he also served as Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland.
Bishop Irenei was born in Okinawa, Japan, where he lived the first year of his life before moving to the United States. The majority of his childhood was spent in the USA, with time spent in Germany, France and the UK, and a portion of his schooling taking place in Brussels, Belgium. Baptised as Matthew, he had a love for the Scriptures and the heritage of Christianity from a young age; and as that developed into a keen devotion to the Church Fathers and languages, he took degrees in Classics and Religion, ultimately obtaining his doctorate in the Church Fathers and becoming a Fellow in Theology at Oxford, and later Chair of Theology and Religious Studies at Leeds Trinity University.
Ordained a Deacon on the Feast of the Dormition in 2007, Fr Matthew was tonsured a monastic in the Brotherhood of St Ignatius (ROCOR), the tonsure taking place at St Tikhon’s Orphanage Church in San Francisco (the home of St John the Wonderworker), being given the name of St Irenaeus the Hieromartyr of Lyons — to whose life and works the new Hierodeacon Irenei had dedicated much of his own scholarly work. The following Sunday (the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent, dedicated to St John of the Ladder) he was ordained Hieromonk at the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin. On the Feast of St Tikhon of Zadonsk, 2011, Hieromonk Irenei was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite by decision of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. He was elected Bishop of Sacramento by the Holy Council of Bishops in July of 2016, and consecrated to the Holy Episcopacy on the Feast of the Theotokos, 'Joy of All Who Sorrow', at the cathedral of the same name (where St John's relics lie) in San Francisco, California.
By resolution of the Council of Bishops of the ROCOR at its session in May 2017, Bishop Irenei was appointed to administer the Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland, together with His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, the First Hierarch of the Church Abroad, while at that time continuing to serve as Vicar Bishop of the Western American Diocese. At its meeting on the eve of the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, 7th / 20th September 2018, the Holy Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia appointed Bishop Irenei as Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as the Diocese of Western Europe, with the title Bishop of Richmond and Western Europe. Travelling a great deal in conjunction with his duties, Bishop Irenei has a great love for visiting parishes and especially for working with youth, encouraging them in their love for the Church and the Orthodox Faith.
Bishop Irenei is the Synodal Secretary for Inter-Orthodox Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and in this capacity is a regular permanent member of the Holy Synod. His has also served as the Dean for Monastic Life of the Western American Diocese of the ROCOR (appointed 2012); a member of the Education Department of the Western American Diocese and of the ROCOR (appointed 2014); and of the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission of the Moscow Patriarchate (appointed 2016). In 2012, the new Sts. Cyril & Athanasius Institute for Orthodox Studies began operation with the blessing of the Holy Synod, with then-Archimandrite Irenei as its director, and which he operated until the time of his episcopal consecration (thereafter handing it over to a permanent administration). Since 2012 he has served on the Secretariat of the Assembly of Bishops of the United States, and worked in close cooperation with hierarchs of the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate in matters relating to the Episcopal Assemblies and other inter-Orthodox contexts. From 2014, then-Archimandrite Irenei assisted in the founding of the new men’s monastery in Sonora, California, dedicated to the memory of St Silouan of Mt Athos, and at the official foundation of the monastery on the Saint’s feast day in 2015 was appointed its Abbot, which role he retains.
In due course we shall provide information on the history of the Bishops that have headed the Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland.
The immediate predecessor to the current hierarchy of the Diocese was His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany, who was also Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland from 1986 to 2016. Archbishop Mark was born in Eastern Germany in 1941. His family managed to move to the West in 1954, settling in Frankfurt am Main. He studied Slavic Languages and completed his Doctorate in Ancient Russian Literature. He entered the Orthodox Church in 1964, later enrolling in the Theological Faculty of the University of Belgrade. He came under the influence of the renowned Serbian Orthodox Theologian, Father Justin Popovic and he decided to enter the monastic life, becoming Brother Mark in 1975, having been tonsured by Bishop Paul of Stuttgart. He was ordained priest in 1976. Father Mark was consecrated as Vicar Bishop of Munich and Southern Germany, and he moved the bishop's residence to the Monastery of St Job of Pochaev where he revived the monastery along Athonite lines. He has energetically ruled the Diocese of Germany and brought about much church construction and building up of parish life. While Ruling Hierarch of our Diocecse, his initiatives included the building of our own beautiful Cathedral in London. As he said at his consecration, "...building the Kingdom of God in oneself and in one's parishioners ... acquiring experience and practice in the inner unseen warfare ..." is what... "places Holy Orthodoxy immeasurably higher than all religions and idiologies calling themselves Christian." After serving as Ruling Bishop of our Diocese (in addition to that of Germany) for thirty years, His Eminence Archbishop Mark petitioned the Holy Synod to be released from the governance of Great Britain and Ireland, and presently remains Ruling Hierarch of Berlin and Germany, as well as the Vice-President of the Synod of Bishops and the Hierarch responsible for the ROCOR Ecclesiastical Mission in the Holy Land.
Welcome to the web site of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland. We invite you to explore the host of information provided here, and above all to visit one of our parishes to join us in prayer to the Holy Trinity in a land where Holy Orthodoxy was introduced in Apostolic times.