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Orthodox Church in America elects new head

Archbishop Herman, head of the Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, on Monday was elected the new spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church in America.

Now known as Metropolitan Herman, he replaces Metropolitan Theodosius, who is retiring after 25 years as ruling primate because of poor health.

Metropolitan Herman defeated Bishop Seraphim, head of the Archdiocese of Canada, on the second ballot after a first round did not produce a winner.

Metropolitan Herman will be formally installed at St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Washington in September. He did not speak publicly Monday, but was expected to give his first address as primate today.

He was born Joseph Swaiko in Briarford, Pa., on Feb. 1, 1932. He attended Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh, where he received a degree in business administration. Subsequently, he served in the Adjutant General Corps of the U.S. Army and was stationed in Labrador, Canada.

In 1994, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop.

Voting in the election were 641 clergy and lay delegates at the OCA's 13th All-American Council. The Holy Synod of Bishops then gave final approval.

The Orthodox Church in America, which has Russian roots, has about 3-million followers in 2,500 parishes across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Its central office is in Syosset, N.Y.

OCA members will look to Metropolitan Herman for leadership on issues such as strengthening evangelism efforts among immigrants to the Americas from traditionally Orthodox Christian lands in Europe and the Middle East.

Also, Metropolitan Herman was to immediately begin presiding over discussions on funding the church's expanding ministries.

"There are many who are dissatisfied with the longstanding per capita assessment system, by which parishes annually remit . . . an amount based on the number of parish members," said the Very Rev. John Matusiak, an OCA spokesman.

"While a lot of work has gone into exploring more expedient methods of funding the overall ministry, it is difficult to determine whether delegates will adopt a different method."

Metropolitan Theodosius, 68, had suffered strokes and taken a four-month medical leave last year. He announced his retirement in April.

The Orthodox Church in America traces its history to the arrival of Russian missionaries in Alaska in 1794. More than three decades ago, the Orthodox Church in Russia granted the OCA self-governance.

The OCA comprises several administratively independent, yet doctrinally and sacramentally united, jurisdictions, most of which maintain close ties with Orthodox churches abroad.

The head of the U.S. Greek Orthodox church is appointed through Orthodoxy's worldwide leader in Istanbul.

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