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Fr. Melchizedek Nominated on First Ballot In WPA

Only one name will be sent forward to the OCA Synod of Bishops from the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania's Special Assembly, held this afternoon, as its nominee to replace the late Archbishop Kyrill as Bishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. After a months-long search process that involved the whole diocese, Archimandrite Melchizedek (Pleska) received two-thirds of the votes of the assembled delegates (54 out of 81) on the first ballot, outdistancing both Fr. David Mahaffey and Fr. Juvenaly (Repass) who each received 12 votes. According to reports from those present, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia, locum tenens of the diocese, who presided over the Special Assembly, seemed surprised by the clear, decisive vote of the delegates - as were most of the delegates themselves. As one witness at the Special Assembly, who was also present at the 15th All-American Council in Pittsburgh this past week for the "surprise" election of Metropolitan Jonah, stated: "I am stunned. It has been an altogether extraordinary week. I guess the Holy Spirit didn't take the weekend off..."

The Synod must now hold an election to confirm or reject the nominee at one of its upcoming meetings. The Synod next gathers at the end of December, in Washington DC, for the installation of Metropolitan Jonah.

Fr. Melchizedek, who is in his mid-sixties, has been a monk in a monastery in Greece for the past decade. A former parish priest in the OCA (known before his tonsure as Fr. Tom Pleska), Fr. Melchizedek is a graduate of St. Vladimir's Seminary and a former dogmatics instructor at St. Tikhon's Seminary who entered the priesthood following a career in business as an appraiser in his family's real estate firm in Beavercreek, Ohio. As there were no Orthodox parishes in southern Ohio during his youth, his family would often take the long train ride to Cleveland for Pascha - but their weekly spiritual home was in a local Lutheran congregation. Once an OCA mission opened in Cincinnati in the early 1970's Pleska was chrismated, and so began his journey to Crestwood, South Canaan, parishes throughout Eastern Pennsylvania and New England, Greece and now, it seems, back to the Midwest.

- Mark Stokoe





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