Diocese of Los Angeles and the West (Antiochian)
The Diocese of Los Angeles and the West of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America was established as the Western Region of the archdiocese on May 5, 1964 by the then Bishop Antony (Bashir). Upon the granting of self-rule to the archdiocese by the Patriarchate of Antioch in 2001, the Western Region was raised to the dignity of a diocese. The diocese encompasses eight western states of the United States and three western provinces of Canada. His Grace Bishop Joseph (Al-Zehlaoui), formerly the auxiliary bishop of the Western Region, was enthroned as bishop of the new diocese at St. Nicholas Cathedral, Los Angeles, California on Sunday, September 12, 2004, by Metropolitan Philip, the ruling hierarch of the archdiocese.
When he first stepped onto American soil in 1920, little did Archdeacon Antony Bashir know that he would plant the seeds that would blossom into the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West. That year, the future Metropolitan-Archbishop of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America came to Portland, Oregon on a visit with Metropolitan Gerasimos (Messara). Shortly thereafter, Archdeacon Antony was secured to minister to the Antiochian flocks yearning for Jesus Christ throughout the United States and Canada as a priest and hierarch. As the latter, Metropolitan Antony (Bashir), organized and established the collection of parishes in the west as the Western Region, the predecessor of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West.
Founding of the First Parish in the Western Region
It was in Portland, Oregon, that those seeds of Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in the western United States bore the initial fruit with the establishment of St. George Church in 1930. This was soon followed by the founding of the community of St. George in Los Angeles, California in 1933 (which later gave way to St. Nicholas in 1950). St. Nicholas in San Francisco, California was established in 1938, followed by the birth of St. George in Phoenix, Arizona in 1949, thus giving the region four parishes in three western states. The Orthodox Church in the west continued to grow as the faithful continued to establish parishes for the purpose of worship and fellowship.
On May 5, 1964, Metropolitan Antony declared St. Nicholas of Los Angeles to be the Cathedral of the Western Region, the see of the metropolitan (and later, the diocesan bishop) for the western United States and Canada. Its pastor, Father Paul Romley, was named the first dean of the cathedral and exarch of the Western Region clergy.
Though the passing of Metropolitan Antony in 1966 was indeed a sad one, a new hierarch took charge of the flock in the west and throughout all of North America. Metropolitan Philip (Saliba)) was consecrated in Lebanon on August 14, 1966. His first visit to the flock was in the Western Region, as he returned to preside over the Archdiocese Convention hosted by St. Nicholas of San Francisco. Metropolitan Philip then visited the western churches before heading for New York to be enthroned on October 13, 1966.
By 1975, with the joyful reunification of the Archdioceses of New York and Toledo, Ohio, the number of parishes grew to ten and now included the state of Nevada. Though small in stature at this point, the Orthodox Christian witness and ministry shone brightly out west. We shared in the joy of the "Antiochian Holy Year" in 1977 when we welcomed Patriarch ELIAS IV (Muawad) to the Western Region Parish and Family Life Conference, hosted by St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles.
By 1985, the Western Region had grown to a total of 15 churches. Also declared an “Antiochian Holy Year