Archimandrite Alexander [Pihach], 64, was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery here on Tuesday, October 18, 2016. His Eminence, Archbishop Irénée of Ottawa and Canada presided at his Funeral and the Divine Liturgy that preceded interment.
As reported earlier, Archimandrite Alexander, a Saskatoon native, unexpectedly fell asleep in the Lord on the night of October 7, 2016 while visiting the rectory of Christ the Savior Sobor here, where he was the guest of Archpriest Vasyl and Matushka Oksana Kolega.
Archimandrite Alexander had faithfully served as Dean of the Orthodox Church in America’s Representation Church of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr and as OCA Representative to the Patriarchate of Moscow since his appointment by the Holy Synod of Bishops on November 30, 2012.
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon and Archbishop Irénée concelebrated the Panikhida and Divine Liturgy at Toronto’s Christ the Savior Cathedral on October 12-13, after which Archimandrite Alexander’s body was transferred to Saskatoon.
On Sunday, October 16, a nine-day Panikhida was celebrated at Moscow’s Saint Catherine Church. Concelebrating with the parish’s Archpriest Christopher Hill were Archpriest Nicholas Boldireff, who in retirement is attached to Saint Seraphim Church, Richmond Hill, ON; Archpriests Valentin Vasechko and Hegumen Theophan [Lukianov], representing the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations; Archpriest Nikolai Shibalkov; and Deacon Dmitry Hasratian.
Prior to the service, Father Christopher read Metropolitan Tikhon’s message of condolence to the parish’s clergy and faithful.
“The falling asleep of Archimandrite Alexander touches our lives with sadness,” Metropolitan Tikhon wrote. “We feel deeply that Father Alexander has been taken from us, that he has departed from this life. At the same time we confess that he continues his journey and proceeds through death towards the One Who is our Resurrection and Life—the Risen Christ.
“The repose of Father Alexander took place far from Moscow, far from the parish and parishioners of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr Church,” Metropolitan Tikhon continued. “Yet his peaceful and gentle ministry is felt by you not only as a memory, but as a spiritual presence and blessing…. In his pilgrimage on earth and his ministry in the Church of Christ, Father Alexander touched many lives in Moscow and in Canada. We remember him with gratitude.
“It is natural that we speak of those who have died in the past tense,” Metropolitan Tikhon concluded. “We say Father Alexander was a gentle and kind priest, we say he was a faithful servant of the Church, we say he was a man of faith. The past tense, however, is profoundly wrong and misleading. Everything Father Alexander was, he is now in the presence of the Risen and Living Christ. Our prayer for the repose of Father Alexander is not merely our memory of him, it is our living communion with him and with one another in love, in service, and in faith.”
A short address was delivered by the Ambassador of Canada to the Russian Federation, John R. Kur, who according to Father Christopher “had become a firm friend of our parish in the years Father Alexander served as its Dean.” On October 17, Ambassador sent a letter of condolence to Metropolitan Tikhon, in which he related his presence at Sunday’s Panikhida.
“On Sunday, 16 October 2016 in Moscow, I attended the memorial service for Archimandrite Alexander [Pihach], Dean of the Church of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr In-The-Fields and Representative of the Orthodox Church in America to the Moscow Patriarchate,” Ambassador Kur wrote. “At the service, I was deeply honoured to address the clergy and congregation in paying solemn final respects to Father Alexander, whose sudden loss comes as a shock to us all.
“We fondly remember Father Alexander’s quiet and kind demeanour, his cheerful smile, his buoyant laugh, his scholarly wisdom and his gentle spirit,” he continued. “At Father Alexander’s invitation, I attended many services at the Church of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr over the past three years as a representative of the Embassy of Canada in Moscow, and I was always made to feel truly welcome.
“I myself saw the dedication, commitment and good-will that Father Alexander brought to his pastoral duties, along with his passion for the historic restoration and preservation of the Church of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr,” he noted. “My colleagues and I at the embassy shall deeply miss Father Alexander as a fellow Canadian, as a sage counselor and confidant, and as a builder of fraternal bonds between the peoples of Canada and Russia.
In conclusion, Ambassador Kur extended his deepest sympathies to Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Irénée and the Orthodox Church in America on “the loss of your devoted and trusted Representative to the Moscow Patriarchate.
“My heartfelt condolences also go to Father Alexander’s family in Canada, and to his many friends and parishioners both in Canada and Russia,” Ambassador Kur concluded. “We all mourn and grieve the passing of Father Alexander, whose memory we shall affectionately cherish. May he rest in peace, and may his legacy continue to inspire us for years to come.”
On behalf of the Ambassador of the USA to the Russian Federation, John Tefft, a brief address was read by Anthony Godfrey. Ambassador Tefft also had sent a condolence message that was read at services conducted in Toronto.
“On behalf of the people of the United States, allow me to extend my sincere condolences to the Orthodox Church in America, the Archdiocese of Canada, and to Father Alexander’s colleagues, family, and friends,” wrote Ambassador Tefft. “As the Dean of the Church of Saint Catherine in Moscow, Father Alexander served humbly and faithfully, earning a reputation as a kind and selfless servant in Russia as he already had in North America. He delighted in telling visitors the story of the beautiful and historic church, its place in Orthodox and Russian history, and its modern rebirth. His sense of humor was ever present – as were his devotion and passion for the Church in which he served. His life and legacy will continue to be an example to us all.”
A message condolence was received from His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’.
“Please accept my condolences on the untimely death of Archimandrite Alexander,” wrote Patriarch Kirill in a letter addressed to Metropolitan Tikhon. “Archimandrite Alexander, who was a devoted servant of the Altar of God and an exemplary worker in Christ’s Holy Church, contributed to the strengthening of relations between our Holy Churches. He honorably carried out his responsibility and obedience as the Representative of the Orthodox Church in America to the Moscow Patriarchal Throne and the Rector of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr. I pray that God will have mercy on the soul of His departed servant who reposes in the abode of the righteous. Eternal memory!”
Metropolitan Tikhon also received condolences from His Grace, Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA.
“I would like to express to you, to the clergy of the Church of Saint Catherine, and to the staff of the Representation of the Orthodox Church in America my condolences in connection with the sudden death of Archimandrite Alaxander,” Bishop John wrote. “With much warmth I remember my association and our collaborative relationship with Father Alexander, who fittingly fulfilled his obedience and thereby facilitated fraternal dialogue between the Russian and the American Churches. Together with Your Beatitude I pray for the repose of the soul of the newly departed Archimandrite Alexander. May eternal and grateful memory of him be of assistance to his relatives, to his spiritual children, and to all who were close to him to bear the sorrow of the loss.”