Sunday, July 31, 2011

Copts Reject Calls for an Islamist State

Coptic Orthodox political organizations are rejecting calls by Islamists at Friday's demonstrations on Tahrir Square to transform Egypt's January Revolution into a religious revolution, reaffirming their commitment to the establishment of a civil state with equality and freedom for all of its citizens. More here.

St. Frederick of Utrecht

Joyous feast! Today we commemorate the Holy Archbishop Frederick the Hieromartyr of Utrecht in the Netherlands. St. Frederick was spiritually formed and educated in Utrecht and ordained a priest there by Archbishop Ricfried of Utrecht to instruct converts.

In 825 the Saint was elected Archbishop of Utrecht and set about his new duties energetically, sending St. Odulf and other evangelists into the northern Netherlands to convert the pagans living there to Orthodoxy. In all St. Frederick shepherded his flock for 13 years. On 18 July 838 he was martyred by two assassins after celebrating the Holy Mass. It is unclear whether his murderers were sent by the wife of the reigning Carolingian emperor, whom he had reproved for her immorality, or by the pagans living in the northern Netherlands who resented the Saint's attempts to bring them to the Orthodox Faith.

More on St. Frederick's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Antiochian Orthodox Elect Three New Auxiliary Bishops for North America

Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) of New York of the Antiochian Orthodox Church and his auxiliary bishops have elected Archimandrites John (Abdalah), Anthony (Michaels), and Nicholas (Ozone) to the episcopacy. Axios!

Bishop-elect John is to be consecrated Bishop of Worcester with care of the New England region. Bishop-elect Anthony will be consecrated Bishop of Toledo with oversight of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese's Midwestern region. Bishop-elect Nicholas will follow in the steps of St. Raphael of Brooklyn and be consecrated Bishop of Brooklyn, in which capacity he will serve as auxiliary to Metropolitan Philip in his oversight of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese as a whole.

Of the three new auxiliaries Bishop-elect John is Arab-American, Bishop-elect Anthony is half Arab-American, half Serbian-American and a native Michiganian Orthodox Christian, and Bishop-elect Nicholas is Syrian. More on the election together with the new auxiliary bishops' biographies can be found here.

Pictured is one of the three new auxiliaries, Bishop-elect John (Abdalah) of Worcester.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Antiochian Orthodox in North America to Choose Three New Auxiliary Bishops

It was announced today at the ongoing convention of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America in Chicago that not two, but three auxiliary bishops will be "elected" by the "Local Synod" of the Archdiocese. Two will be appointed to the Midwestern and New England regions, whilst the only region without an auxiliary, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, will be passed over so that an auxiliary can be assigned to assist Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) of New York in his pastoral duties. More here.

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Visiting Montenegro

Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovic) of Pech has begun a pastoral visit to Montenegro today, which will be his first to the country's Eparchy of Budimlje and Niksic. More here.

Prizren Bishop Calls for Calm in Northern Kosovo

Bishop Teodosije of Raska and Prizren has called on the Kosovar authorities and his flock in northern Kosovo to refrain from resorting to violence in the wake of fighting over the control of border crossings between Kosovo and Serbia, saying that all of the outstanding issues between the Serbian and Kosovar governments should be resolved by negotiation. More (in Serbian) here.

Indian Orthodox TV Launched in the USA

The independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church's Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Yulios of Ahmedabad has launched a branch of Indian Orthodox TV in the United States during his recent visit to North America. More here.

Quote of the Day: Fr. Tryphon (Parsons) of Vashon

When in my mid-20s I decided to take up weightlifting and joined a traditional Italian family-owned weightlifting gym. On my first trip to the gym I clearly remember standing there, feeling intimidated by all the equipment and not knowing where to begin. After observing my feeble attempt at lifting a weight that was too heavy for a beginner, a professional weightlifter came over and offered to guide me in the use of the weights.

There was another young first timer, but he was too proud to let anyone tell him what to do. I, however, agreed to let the pro teach me. A year later this pro came over, complemented me on my progress, and quietly pointed out the odd shape of the other young man, the one who'd been too proud to allow someone else to tell him anything. This fellow looked oddly like an ape, muscular on the front of his chest, but nowhere else. He was so concentrated on looking good to himself he had failed to notice that he'd created a body that looked off-kilter.

Pride is like that in the quest for deepening our relationship with Christ. If we don't want anyone telling us what do to or pointing out areas of our lives that need change, [then] we can become off-kilter spiritually. The spiritual father gives direction and sets standards that, like the weightlifting instructor, are based on experience. If we become defensive we miss the opportunity to grow spiritually...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Milan Synod Archbishop to Visit Chisinau, San Francisco

Archbishop Abbondio of Como, auxiliary to Metropolitan Evloghios of the Old Calendrist Milan Synod, is set to visit Metropolitan Vladimir (Canterean) of the Moldovan Orthodox Church next month in Chisinau, after which he will make a pilgrimage to the relics of St. John the Wonderworker in San Francisco. The agenda for Archbishop Abbondio's meeting with Metropolitan Vladimir has not been announced, but doubtless pertains to the reception of the Milan Synod into the Moscow Patriarchate. More (in Italian) here.

OCA Representative to Russian Orthodox Church Placed on Leave of Absence

The representative of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) to the Moscow Patriarchate, Archimandrite Zacchaeus (Wood), has been placed on a leave of absence, de facto suspended from the exercise of his priestly ministry, and recalled to the United States by the OCA. More here.

Ethiopian Orthodox Celebrate Emancipation Day in Trinidad

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church of St. Peter in San Fernando, Trinidad, has hosted early celebrations of Trinidad and Tobago's Emancipation Day, organizing a procession in San Fernando with dancing and drumming. Trinidad is home to the Caribbean's oldest Ethiopian Orthodox church, which was established in the 1950s as part of the Addis Abeba Patriarchate's missionary work amongst the island's Rastafarians. More here.

Russian Authorities Resettle Bolivian Old Believers in Primorye

A resettlement program launched by the Russian government to resettle Old Believers living abroad in Siberia has moved a group of Old Believers living in Bolivia to Primorye in the Russian Far East. Their are also discussions underway between the Russian government's immigration authorities and Old Believers in Bolivia and in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay concerning their resettlement in Siberia as well. More here.

Kiev Patriarchate Commemorates Anniversary of the Baptism of Rus'

In celebration of the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus' and in honor of the feast day of St. Volodymyr the head of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Philaret (Denysenko) of Kiev, celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Kiev's Cathedral of St. Volodymyr before leading a festal procession from the cathedral to the squares of Holy Wisdom Cathedral and St. Michael's Golden-domed Monastery in central Kiev. Patriarch Philaret concelebrated the services with other hierarchs and clergy of the Kiev Patriarchate. More (in Ukrainian) here.

Montenegrin Metropolitan Rejects Government Commitment Dialogue as Farcical

The head of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radovic), has condemned the Montenegrin government's commitment to dialogue over the issue of church unity in Montenegro as a farce, noting that in the aftermath of the recent visit of the Russian Orthodox Church's Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) leaders in the Montenegrin government began denouncing the latter's statements on the canonicity of the Church of Montenegro as attacks on Montenegro's sovereignty. More (in Serbian) here.

Kiev Patriarchate Appeals to Ukrainian Orthodox Church for Unity Dialogue

In an appeal to the hierarchy of the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church the Holy Synod of the Kiev Patriarchate has accused the Moscow Patriarchate of remaining a tool of state interests in the former USSR and called for the beginning of a serious dialogue aimed at the establishment of a united, independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church centered in Kiev. (The Kiev Patriarchate has apparently forgotten that its own patriarch was himself closely associated with the Soviet regime and was raised to his rank with the collusion of the post-Soviet Ukrainian government.) More here and (in Ukrainian) here.

International Celebrations for the Anniversary of the Baptism of Rus' Held in Kiev

In celebration of the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus' in 988 and in honor of today's feast of St. Vladimir Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II (Gudushauri-Shiolashvili) of Mtskheta-Tbilisi, and Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) of Kiev together with the participation of Metropolitans Vladimir (Canterean) of Chisinau and Philaret (Vakhromeyev) of Minsk and hierarchs of the Russian, Georgian, Romanian, Cypriot, Ukrainian, and Belorussian Orthodox Churches concelebrated the festal Divine Liturgy on the square of the Kiev Caves Lavra's Cathedral of the Dormition.

The services were celebrated in a mixture of Georgian, Greek, and Slavonic, with choirs from Georgia and Ukraine singing the responses. Today's celebrations marked the first time that a ruling patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church has visited and served in Kiev. More (in Russian) on today's celebrations can be found here.

Copts, Secularists to Join Friday Protests

Coptic Orthodox and secularist political movements have announced that they intend to participate in demonstrations tomorrow on Tahrir Square alongside Islamist organizations, which had called for protests on a 'Friday of Identity' to defend a supposedly Muslim Egyptian national identity. It appears that the demonstrations will now be in support of 'popular will,' though whether all the Islamist groups originally intending to participate agree with the new designation. More here.

Photo of the Day: Patriarchal Divine Liturgy at the Kiev Caves Lavra

Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of the Russian Orthodox Church, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II (Gudushauri-Shiolashvili) of the Georgian Orthodox Church, and Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church during their concelebration this morning of the festal Divine Liturgy in honor of the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus'. More pictures of the celebratory services, which took place on the square in front of the Kiev Caves Lavra's Cathedral of the Dormition, can be found here.

St. Vladimir the Equal-to-the-Apostles of Kiev

Joyous feast! С праздником! Today we commemorate Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev, known as 'the Equal to the Apostles' for his baptism of all of Rus' in 988 following his own conversion to the Orthodox Faith. Although the son and grandson of the pagan Grand Princes Igor and Svyatoslav of Kiev, St. Vladimir was also the son and grandson of Orthodox Christian women - Grand Princess Malusha and Grand Princess St. Olga the Wise.

At his birth St. Vladimir was named by his mother 'the peaceful ruler' (Volodymyr in old Slavonic and modern Ukrainian). Despite his Orthodox ancestry St. Vladimir was strongly pagan, at the time of his succession to his father in Novgorod (Rus' having been divided between Svyatoslav's three sons) fiercely campaigning against his Orthodox brother Grand Prince Yaropolk of Kiev in 1978 and overthrowing him to become the sole ruler of Rus'.

St. Vladimir continued to reign as a pagan until the late 980s when Emperor Basil of the East Romans appealed to Rus' for help in putting down a rebellion against his rule. When St. Vladimir demanded in return that Basil's daughter Anna be sent from Constantinople to be his wife the reluctant emperor agreed on the condition that the grand prince be baptized, and so St. Vladimir was baptized as Basil and married to Anna in the Crimean city of Chersonessus (today Korsun) in 988.

After his return from the Crimea St. Vladimir ordered the baptism of his capital and of all of Rus'. The inhabitants of Kiev consequently went down to the Dnieper River and were baptized there by Metropolitan St. Michael of Kiev and the city's clergy. After the country's baptism pagan idols, temples, and shrines were torn down, often being replaced by churches and, later on, monasteries. In Kiev itself St. Vladimir built a church dedicated to his patron, St. Basil the Great, on the site of a temple to the god Perun, whilst at the place of the martyrdom of some of Kiev's Orthodox he built the Church of the Tithe dedicated to the Dormition.

So it was that Rus' was baptized and transformed into the largest of the nations belonging to the Orthodox Catholic Church. Thanks to St. Vladimir's influence leaders of the Bulgar Turks living on the Volga, the Pechenegs, and even the distant Norwegians were also converted to Orthodoxy during his reign. Having labored throughout his life to unify Rus' as an Orthodox nation, St. Vladimir reposed on this day in 1015 after ruling for 37 years.

May St. Vladimir's blessing and prayers be with us all! More on his life can be found here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

St. Philip's Tomb Discovered in Turkey

Italian archaeologists have discovered the tomb of the Holy Apostle Philip in the Turkish town of Pamukkale (ancient Hierapolis), where the Apostle was martyred by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago. More here.

Palestinian Orthodox Metropolitan Backs Calls for Preservation of Jerusalem Cemetery

Metropolitan Theodosius (Hanna) of Sebaste of the Jerusalemite Orthodox Church has added his voice to calls from Palestinian and Israeli Arabs that the destruction of the Holy City's historic Mamilla Cemetery be halted. The cemetery, which is the burial place of many Palestinian Arab residents of Jerusalem, is being razed to make way for the 'Museum of Tolerance.' More here.

Kinshasa Metropolitan Visits Greece

Metropolitan Nicephorus of Kinshasa of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church has begun a visit to Greece, yesterday celebrating the Divine Liturgy in St. Parasceva's Church in the northern Greek city of Berea. The metropolitan, who is responsible for much of Central Africa, will be in Greece for several days before returning to the DRC. More (in Greek) here.

Kiev Patriarchate Holy Synod Meets, Calls for Jubilee Council

Meeting on the same day as the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church the Holy Synod of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church accepted Bishop Mikhail (Bondarchuk) of Poltava back into the jurisdiction of the Kiev Patriarchate from the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, electing him as Bishop of Dubno and auxiliary to Metropolitan Yevsevey (Polityla) of Rivne. The Holy Synod also elected Igumen Afanasiy (Jaworski) to the episcopacy to serve as an auxiliary in the Eparchy of Sumy.

Lastly, the Holy Synod decided to organize its own Jubilee Council this fall to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the proclamation of autocephaly by ex-Russian Orthodox patriarchal candidate Metropolitan Philaret (Denysenko) of Kiev and Patriarch Mystyslav of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. More (in Ukrainian) here.

Russian, Georgian Orthodox Patriarchs Meet in Kiev

Meeting in Kiev yesterday Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow and Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II (Gudushauri-Shiolashvili) of Mtskheta-Tbilisi confirmed the close ties between the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches despite the political tensions between the Russian and Georgian governments over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

While the patriarchs agreed that the newly independent Transcaucasian states remain part of the canonical territory of the Church of Georgia, it was apparent that disagreements over how to approach the care of the Abkhazian and Ossetian Orthodox faithful remain as it was left to future negotiations to decide details in the pastoral oversight of the Churches of Abkhazia and Ossetia, the first of which is served primarily by Russian Orthodox clergy and the second of which has submitted to one of the Old Calendrist synods in Greece.

On issues concerning the Orthodox Churches as a whole discussed at the Kiev meeting the patriarchs were in agreement. More on their talks can be found here and here.

Russian Orthodox Holy Synod Meets in Kiev to Create Dioceses, Elect Bishops

Following the arrival of Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow yesterday in Kiev a session of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church was convened at the Kiev Caves Lavra under his chairmanship. Participating in the meeting were Metropolitans Volodymyr (Sabodan) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Vladimir (Kotlyarov) of St. Petersburg, Philaret (Vakhromeyev) of the Belorussian Orthodox Church, Yuvenaliy (Poyarkov) of Krutitsa, Vladimir (Canterean) of the Moldovan Orthodox Church, Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, Ioannikiy (Kobzyev) of Luhansk, and Varsonofiy (Sudakov) of Saransk; Archbishops Feofan (Galinskiy) of Berlin, Manuil (Pavlov) of Petrozavodsk, Iona (Karpukhin) of Astrakhan, and Rostislav (Dyevyatov) of Tomsk.

During its session the Holy Synod reviewed the recent pastoral travels of Patriarch Kirill as well as the decisions of the Jubilee Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It also established a metropolitanate for the Orthodox Church in Central Asia, uniting within its care the existing Eparchy of Tashkent, the newly erected Eparchies of Bishkek and Dushanbe erected during the same session, and the patriarchal deanery of Turkmenistan. Archbishop Vikentiy (Morar') of Yekaterinburg was then elected Metropolitan of Tashkent and Central Asia.

New dioceses were established in the Russian Far East, the Urals, and southern Russia. In Primorye the Eparchies of Nakhodka and Arsen'ev were created out of the Eparchy of Vladivostok, with Igumen Nikolai (Dutki) being elected Bishop of Nakhodka. (Archbishop Venyamin of Vladivostok was designated locum tenens of the Eparchy of Arsen'ev for the time being.) In the Urals the Eparchies of Kamensk and Nizhniy Tagil were erected on the territory of the Eparchy of Yekaterinburg, with Archimandrite Innokentiy (Yakovlev) and Igumen Serafim (Kuzminov) being elected as Bishops of Nizhniy Tagil and Kamensk respectively. And lastly, in southern Russia the Eparchies of Shakhty and Volgodonsk were created out of the Eparchy of Rostov-na-Donu, with Archimandrite Korniliy (Sinnyayev) and Igumen Ignatiy (Deputatov) being elected Bishops of Volgodonsk and Shakhty respectively.

The Holy Synod also accepted the retirement of Metropolitan Feodosiy of Omsk and elected Metropolitan Vladimir (Ichim) of Tashkent as Metropolitan of Omsk, Archbishop Cyril of Yaroslavl as Archbishop of Yekaterinburg, Archbishop Panteleimon of Rostov as Archbishop of Yaroslavl, and patriarchal auxiliary Bishop Mercurius of Zaraisk as Bishop of Rostov. Responding to requests from Metropolitan Sergey of Voronezh and Archbishops Viktor of Tver and Nikon of Uga, the Holy Synod elected Archimandrites Andrei (Tarasov), Adrian (Ulyanov) and Nikolai (Subbotin) as Bishops of Ostrog, Bezhetsk, and Birsk to serve as auxiliaries of the Eparchies of Voronezh, Tver, and Ufa respectively.

More (in Russian) on the Holy Synod's meeting today and the decisions it took can be found here and here.

Photo of the Day: Supplication on St. Vladimir's Hill

From left to right, Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II (Gudushauri-Shiolashvili) of the Georgian Orthodox Church during today's thanksgiving on Kiev's Vladimir Hill in celebration of the Baptism of Rus'. More pictures can be found here.

Quote of the Day: From the Didache

The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God, Who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the nations do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop to be Reburied in Seattle Church

The Synod in Exile of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church under Patriarch Merqoriyos of Addis Abeba has blessed the request of St. Gabriel's Church in Seattle, Washington, to have its recently reposed shepherd, Archbishop Abune Zena Marqos, reburied in the church itself. More (in Amharic) here. Abune Zena Marqos, one of the senior hierarchs of the Synod in Exile, fell asleep a year and a half ago on 13 February 2010.

Serbia, Kosovo Tensions Rise

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo rose to new levels overnight as Kosovar police launched attacks intended to seize control of border posts in northern territories still controlled by the surviving remnants of Kosovo's Serb minority. More here.

Pope Shenouda Orders Investigation into Divorce Demands

Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of the Coptic Orthodox Church is having the demands of pro-divorce, pro-remarriage demonstrators in Cairo investigated to discern whether they should in fact have been allowed to divorce by the Church due to their individual situations. (Currently, only a change in faith or adultery are causes for the Church to grant a couple divorce.) More here.

Antiochian, Russian Orthodox Hierarchs Meet in Moscow

Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of the Russian Orthodox Church yesterday received Metropolitans Antonio of Mexico City, Damascene of Sao Paulo, and George of Homs and Archbishop Niphon of Philippopolis of the Antiochian Orthodox Church at his residence in Moscow. During their meeting the hierarchs discussed relations between the Antiochian and Russian Orthodox Churches as well as the significant pastoral work undertaken by the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Latin America, which is the largest of the Local Orthodox Churches present in the region, and the issues facing the Orthodox Churches in the Middle East in our times. More here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Historic Suzdal' Church Damaged by Fire to be Restored

An 18th century wooden church in Suzdal', Russia, that was recently damaged in lightning strikes will be restored to its original as the blueprints and designs necessary to do so are available. During the lightning strikes part of the church caught on fire, with the central dome collapsing due to the strikes. More here.

Kursk-Root Icon to Visit Oldest Monastery in North America

With the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad the wonderworking Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God will be at the feast day celebrations of the Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, this coming August. More here.

Hieromonk Buried Alive in Ukraine

An hieromonk serving in central Ukraine has been murdered by being buried alive. It is unknown who killed the priest, who had been traveling to a village to visit his spiritual children there. More here.

Sash of the Mother of God to Visit Russia

One of the most treasured relics of the Orthodox Church, the sash of the Mother of God, will be visiting Russia from Mount Athos this fall. More here.

Georgian President Confirms Support for Church

During a recent visit to Kutaisi's ancient Cathedral of the Dormition, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili reiterated his government's support of the Georgian Orthodox Church, noting its assistance in the cathedral's renovation as well as the renovation of some 500 other Georgian Orthodox churches and monasteries. More here.

Metropolitan Hilarion Suggests Self-Government for Orthodox Church in Montenegro

It has emerged that during his recent Montenegro visit the Russian Orthodox Church's Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk suggested to Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radovic) of Cetinje that he should request some sort of self-governing status from the Serbian Orthodox Church for the Orthodox Church in Montenegro to help reduce the tensions between itself and the Montenegrin government. More here.

Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Begins Visit to Ukraine

Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church has begun his visit to Ukraine to participate in the upcoming celebration of the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus'. During his time in Kiev Patriarch Ilia will reportedly discuss with Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of the Russian Orthodox the possibility of his making a pastoral visit to the Orthodox Church in Abkhazia, which has vocally rejected the jurisdiction of the Church of Georgia. More here.

Metropolitan Elpidophoros Visits New England

Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Brusa, one of the many hierarchs of the Constantinopolitan Orthodox Church in Turkey without a living diocese, has made a pastoral visit to the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, touring one of the Metropolis' summer camps with Metropolitan Methodios (Tournas) of Boston and ordaining a clergy at Brookline's Holy Cross Seminary. More (in Greek) here.

Coptic Orthodox Threaten to Sue Egyptian Interior Ministry

The Coptic Orthodox Church has announced that it will sue the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior if it does not initiate legal proceedings against those responsible for the New Year's bombing of All Saints' Church in Alexandria. More here.

Azerbaijan to Finish Church, Renovate Mosque in Serbia

The Azerbaijani government has committed to assisting in the completion of the construction of the Church of St. Parasceva in Novi Sad, Serbia, and the renovation of the Bajrakli Mosque in Belgrade as part of its efforts to promote closer political and economic ties between itself and Serbia. More here.

Orthodox Church Registered in Botswana

The Orthodox Church in Botswana has been recognized by the government of Botswana, allowing for it to expand its pastoral and missionary work in the country under the leadership of its Bishop Gennadios of Gaborone. More (in Greek) here.

New Bishop of Krusevac Consecrated

This past weekend, during the Sunday Liturgy at St. George's Cathedral in Krusevac, Serbia, Bishop-elect David (Perovic) of Krusevac was consecrated to the episcopacy by Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovic) of Pech and other hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church and then enthroned as the first ruling bishop of the recently restored Eparchy of Krusevac. Axios! More (in Serbian) here. More pictures can be found here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

St. Olga the Wise

Joyous feast! С праздником! St. Olga the Equal-to-the-Apostles, was the wife of Grand Prince Igor of Kiev and grandmother of Grand Prince St. Vladimir of Kiev. Already during Grand Prince Igor's reign Orthodoxy was becoming widespread in Rus', although neither Igor nor the Saint embraced the Faith at that time. After her husband's death St. Olga became the regent for her son Grand Prince Svyatoslav of Kiev. During her regency St. Olga regularly traveled throughout Rus' to ensure the peace and development of the realm.

In 954 St. Olga, having entrusted the government to Svyatoslav, left at the head of a large diplomatic mission to Constantinople. Awed by the beauty of the city and its many churches, St. Olga accepted baptism at the hands of Patriarch Theophylact under the name Helena, with Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrigenitus becoming her godfather. Despite this close spiritual relationship the emperor refused St. Olga's request to have a metropolitan elected for the Orthodox Church in Rus' and she left the imperial city in disappointment.

Despite her failure to have a shepherd sent to Kiev for the Orthodox there, upon her return from Constantinople St. Olga set about energetically strengthening the life of the faithful in Rus' by sponsoring the construction of a number of churches, the most famous amongst them the future Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom. During this time paganism also rallied, with some of those newly baptized being martyred and a bishop sent to Rus' from the Church of Rome being chased out of the country.

St. Olga ultimately died in sorrow in 969 having served in effect as co-ruler with her son and having failed to have Rus' converted en masse to the Orthodox Faith. Her funeral was served by Kiev's clergy, after which she was buried in one of the city's churches. Her relics were soon glorified by miracles and after the Baptism of Rus' St. Olga became even more widely venerated throughout newly Orthodox Rus'.

More on St. Olga's life can be found here. May her blessing and prayers be with us all!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Coptic Orthodox Church Seeking Unified Personal Status Law for Non-Muslim Egyptians

In response to recent protests over its ban on divorce the Coptic Orthodox Church is reported to be seeking the implementation of a unified personal status law proposed in 2009 for Egypt's non-Muslim citizens. Under the 2009 draft divorce would only be permitted for non-Muslims in the case of adultery. More here.

St. Joseph of Damascus

Joyous feast! St. Joseph the New Hieromartyr of Damascus was born in the Syrian city at the end of the 1700s under the Turkish Yoke. As a youth he became zealous for learning and quickly became well known by the Orthodox living in Damascus and so loved that in 1817 he was ordained to the priesthood at the age of twenty-four and assigned to the patriarchal cathedral in Damascus.

St. Joseph enjoyed the favor of both the patriarch who ordained him, Patriarch Seraphim of Antioch, and his successor Patriarch Methodius. He was also well loved by the Antiochian Orthodox faithful in Damascus thanks to his sermons, so much so that some called St. Joseph a new Chrysostom. When Damascus was struck by yellow fever the Saint worked tirelessly to comfort and care for the sick without regard for his own life and so became even more deeply loved by the Damascenes.

Because of his great learning St. Joseph attracted students desiring to study under him and eventually formed a patriarchal theological school in Damascus. The Saint also engaged in dialogue with the members of the then newly formed Melkite Catholic Church, bringing many of them back to the Orthodox Faith by strengthening them in their support of the Apostolic Faith and the Julian calendar when the Melkite Catholic Patriarch Clement forced the Gregorian calendar and various latinizations upon his flock. St. Joseph's influence within the Melkite Catholic Church was said to be so strong that had he not been martyred it would not have survived his lifetime because of the number of its member who were returning to Orthodoxy.

In 1860 a great persecution of all the Christians in Damascus and its region took place, with many of the Antiochian Orthodox taking refuge at the patriarchal cathedral. St. Joseph traveled along the city's rooftops from his home to get to the cathedral and strengthen the faithful there with both sermons and communion. When the cathedral was finally attacked St. Joseph was martyred together with the faithful gathered there on 10 July. For this reason we also commemorate today St. Joseph's companions in martyrdom, whose names are not known to us.

More on St. Joseph's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarchate Appoints Bishop Daniel of Dragovitia as Auxiliary for North America

At the recently held diocesan convention of the Bulgarian Orthodox Metropolitanate of New York, also known as the Diocese of the USA, Canada, and Australia, it was announced that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has assigned Bishop Daniel (Nikolov) of Dragovitia to serve as auxiliary to Metropolitan Joseph (Bosakov) of New York in his oversight of the patriarchal Bulgarian Orthodox Church of North America due to its significant growth, largely thanks to the reception of a number of convert parishes and missions in the United States, over the last decade. More here.

Archbishop Justinian Visits Michigan

Archbishop Justinian (Ovchinnikov) of Narofominsk, representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to the American Orthodox Church (OCA), has begun a pastoral visit to the parishes of his exarchate's central deanery, concelebrating the divine services with local clergy (from the Antiochian, Russian, and American Orthodox Churches) in East Lansing, Michigan, and Battle Creek, Michigan, and also visiting the women's Monastery of the Dormition in Rives Junction under the OCA's Romanian Orthodox Episcopate in America. More (in Russian) here, here, and here.

Georgia Encouraging Afrikaner Immigration

As part of its efforts to rebuild the Georgian economy the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili is encouraging disgruntled Afrikaner farmers from South Africa to immigrate to Georgia and start new lives there. There are already some Afrikaners who have moved to the country and even received citizenship. More here.

Bulgarian Orthodox Church Reaffirms Ban on Clergy Running for Office

The Sofia Patriarchate has sent a reminder to the clergy of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church throughout Bulgaria reminding them of the Church's ban on clergy running in elections or actively being involved in political campaigns. The reminder was issued after the central administration discovered campaign fliers featuring candidates serving as Bulgarian Orthodox clergy. More (in Greek) here.

Romanian Orthodox Church Glorifies Sts. Andrew of Sibiu, Simeon of Balgrad

At its meeting yesterday the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church formally glorified Metropolitans Andrew (Saguna) of Sibiu and Transylvania and Simeon (Stefan) of Alba Iulia (then Balgrad) and Transylvania. More (in Romanian) on that decision here.

St. Andrew (Saguna) was born to Aromanian parents in central Hungary. After completing his theological studies the Saint moved to Sremski Karlovci where he served as a professor at the seminary there as well as in the administration of the Orthodox Church of Austria-Hungary, eventually being elected Metropolitan of Sibiu and Transylvania. In Transylvania St. Andrew successfully campaigned for the establishment of the Church there as a self-governing entity, creating a conciliar structure that would influence the later structures of the national Church of Romania and becoming a leader of the Romanian nationalist movement in Austria-Hungary. More (in Romanian) on his life can be found here, here, and here.

St. Simeon (Stefan) of Balgrad was elected Metropolitan of Balgrad and Transylvania in the 1600s, having previously served as a theological professor in the city. During his oversight of the Orthodox Church in Transylvania the first full edition of the New Testament in Romanian was printed in Alba Iulia. This edition was reissued as recently as 1998. More (in Romanian) on his life can be found here and here.

Pictured is St. Andrew (Saguna) of Sibiu.

Ethiopian Orthodox Church, IOCC to Provide Aid to Famine Refugee Camps

The Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church is preparing to join efforts to care of the thousands of Somali refugees gathering in camps in Ethiopia as the famine ravaging the eastern regions of the Horn of Africa deepens. In partnership with International Orthodox Christian Charities the Church hopes to help address sanitation issues in the camps and provide healthcare specialists to treat the camps' residents. More here.

Photo of the Day: Our Lady of Kazan Church in Saransk

The Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Saransk, Russia, which Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) consecrated yesterday on its patronal feast as part of his ongoing pastoral visit to the Republic of Mordovia.

Quote of the Day: From the Life of Patriarch Paul of Pech

Once, approaching the Patriarchate, His Holiness Paul noticed many cars near the entrance and became interested in whose they were. He was told that these cars belonged to hierarchs. To this the Patriarch replied with a smile: "If they, who know the Savior’s commandment about unacquisitiveness, have such cars, just imagine what kind of cars they would have if there this commandment did not exist!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ukrainian Catholic Church Developing Patriarchal Institutions Without a Patriarchate

In a recent interview Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Church commented on the growing institutional presence of his jurisdiction in Kiev, saying in part that his predecessor, Major Archbishop Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, "Did not demand a patriarchate, but...built it." He went on to say that he would continue the work of building up the patriarchal institutions of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the hope of having the Vatican grant the church patriarchal status in the future. More here.

Moscow, Kiev Reject Crimean Cossack Calls for the Dissolution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kiev Metropolitanate have rejected calls by a Cossack organization in the Crimea for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's dissolution and direct union with the Russian Orthodox Church, reaffirming the autonomy of the Church of Ukraine and its jurisdiction over the whole of Ukraine. More here.

Serbian Religious Organizations Call for Implementation of Property Restitution Law

Representatives of Serbia's historic religious organizations, among them leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church in Serbia, and the Muslim community, have renewed calls for the Serbian government to fully implement its law on the restitution of property stolen from religious organizations during the Communist era. More (in Serbian) here.

Memorial Chapel for Plane Crash Victims to be Built in Karelia

The government of the Republic of Karelia, a member of the Russian Federation, is sponsoring the construction of a memorial chapel on the site of a recent plane crash near the Karelian capital, Petrozavodsk, that killed forty-seven. More here.

Metropolitan Hilarion Meets with Montenegrin Metropolitan, Officials

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has begun his visit to Montenegro, on his first day meeting with Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radovic) of Cetinje and Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic to reassure both the Orthodox Church in Montenegro and the Montenegrin government of the Russian Orthodox Church's recognition and support of the canonical Church of Montenegro against the claims of nationalist schismatics led by a defrocked clergyman of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Metropolitan Hilarion is expected to meet today with Montenegrin Prime Minister Igor Luksic upon the latter's return from Serbia. More here.

Tajikistani Ban on Minors Attending Services Passes Parliament

The Tajikistani Parliament has passed a bill banning minors from attending services in mosques or churches. The proposed law is intended to halt the growing strength of Islamic fundamentalism in Tajikistan, but would also affect the country's large Orthodox Christian minority. As the bill was proposed to the legislature by the Tajikistani president it is expected to be signed into law shortly. More here.

Sitka Icon of the Mother of God

Joyous feast! The Sitka Icon of the Mother of God is one of the oldest of North America's wonderworking icons. The Icon was painted in the style of the Kazan Icon by Vladimir Borovikovskiy in the 18th or early 19th century, with a portrayal of God the Father blessing included above the Mother of God and the Christ Child. In 1850 the employees of the Russian-America Company purchased the Sitka Icon and donated it to the newly completed Cathedral of St. Michael in Sitka, Alaska.

Since its arrival in North America the Sitka Icon has had numerous healings and miracles attributed to it by the local Orthodox faithful. The Mother of God is portrayed especially peacefully in the Icon, but the artistic elements of the Sitka Icon aside faithful entering churches where the Icon has rested have been immediately struck by the imminence of the Mother of God, of her peace-giving presence amongst those coming to venerate her image. This peacefulness is apparent even to some Evangelical Protestants, who have been known to keep a copy of the Sitka Icon despite their rejection of the veneration of the saints and images.

Although originally placed on the iconostas of St. Michael's Cathedral the Sitka Icon is now enshrined in another part of the cathedral and regularly visits the faithful in Alaska and other parts of the United States. More on the Sitka Icon's history can be found here. May the Mother of God's protection and intercessions be with us all!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Montenegrin PM Visits Serbia, Speaks on Montenegrin Orthodoxy

Montenegrin Prime Minister Igor Luksic has begun a state visit to Serbia to discuss relations between Serbia and Montenegro, generally deemed to be at a historic low, and negotiate joint infrastructure and economic projects. Commenting on recent issues between the Montenegrin government and the Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Luksic stated that it was not his government's intention to alter the canonical foundation of Orthodoxy in Montenegro, but rather to encourage the unity of the Church of Montenegro to strengthen the Montenegrin state. More here and here.

Metropolitan Hilarion Begins Visit to Serbia, Montenegro

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has begun a 3-day visit to Serbia and Montenegro, meeting with Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovich) of Pech, members of the lesser Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the Serbian minister of foreign affairs shortly after his arrival today in Belgrade. More on that here.

During his visit to Montenegro Metropolitan Hilarion is expected to work to reconcile the Montenegrin government with the Orthodox Church in Montenegro, with meetings scheduled with the Montenegrin president and prime minister and with Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radovic) of Cetinje. More on that here.

Unrest Embroils Cyprus

Cyprus has been embroiled in unrest following an explosion that killed 13 people and knocked out the country's main power plant. A recent government agreement with Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus to buy electricity from the island's north until the damaged power plant can be brought back online has deepened public protests against the Cypriot government, with Archbishop Chrysostomos II (Demetriou) of the Cypriot Orthodox Church saying that he would prefer to "make do with a torch" than use electricity supplied by Northern Cyprus. More here.

Assyrian Patriarch Meets with Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan in New York

Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV of the Assyrian Church of the East has received Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Mor Cyril (Aphrem) of Teaneck during his pastoral visit to Assyrian parishes in metropolitan New York. During their meeting the two hierarchs discussed the past and present trials faced by their churches as well as their hopes for future rapproachement between the two sister churches. More here.

Patriarch Cyril Begins Visit to Mordovia

Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow has begun a pastoral visit to the Russian Orthodox Church in Mordovia, a member republic of the Russian Federation. The patriarch was welcomed to Mordovia by Metropolitan Varsonofiy (Sudakov) of Saransk and Mordovian President N.I. Merkushkin, after which Patriarch Kirill blessed a newly opened pilgrimage center of the Mordovian capital's Monastery of St. John the Theologian. More (in Russian) here and here.

Pictured are women and girls in traditional Mordvin clothing welcoming Patriarch Kirill to Mordovia at the Saransk Airport.

Patriarch Daniel, Metropolitan Hilarion Meet in Bucharest

As part of his recent visit to Romania Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has met with Patriarch Daniel of the Romanian Orthodox Church at the seat of the Bucharest Patriarchate in the Romanian capital. During their lengthy meeting the hierarchs discussed issues in relations between the Local Orthodox Churches as well as the existing problems in relations between the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Churches, in particularly the activities of the schismatic Metropolitanate of Chisinau and Bessarabia on the canonical territories of the Moldovan and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches. More here and here.

Catholicos-Patriarch Anton II of Mtskheta Glorified

The Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church has glorified Catholicos-Patriarch Anthony II (Bagrationi) of Mtskheta and eastern Georgia, the last head of the Mtskheta Patriarchate prior to its abolition by the Russian Empire, as a martyr. St. Anthony's feast day has been established as 21 December (3 January by the new style). More here.

St. Hedda of Winchester

Joyous feast! St. Hedda served as Bishop of the West Saxons or Wessex in southwestern England in the 7th century, having been elected to the episcopacy from the Monastery of St. Hilda where he had labored as a monk. Initially dwelling in Dorchester, St. Hedda later transferred his seat to the town of Winchester.

During St. Hedda's episcopacy King Ina of Wessex convened a national council of bishops and elders to enact a code of laws by which to govern the West Saxon kingdom, with St. Hedda and another saint of his day being credited with a great deal of the code's provisions. St. Hedda reposed not long after this in 705, and his tomb quickly became known as a place of miracles.

More on St. Hedda's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pope Shenouda Confirms Church's Commitment to Dialogue Between Egypt and Ethiopia

Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria has met with the newly appointed Egyptian ambassador to Ethiopia and again expressed his hope that the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches can play a role in bringing about rapproachment between Egypt and Ethiopia over the redistribution of the Nile River's waters to provide for both the countries' water needs. More here.

Pope Theodore Visits Ormylia Monastery

As part of his ongoing visit to Greece Pope Theodoros II (Horeftakis) of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church has visited the women's Monastery of the Annunciation in Ormylia near Mount Athos. During his time at the Ormylia Monastery Pope Theodoros met with the abbess and sisterhood of the monastery as well as the abbot of the Simonopetra Monastery on Mount Athos, of which Ormylia is a dependency. More (in Greek) here.

In Memoriam: Fr. Arsenie (Papacioc)

Romanian Orthodox confessor Archimandrite Arsenie (Papacioc) fell asleep this morning at the monastery in Romania where he resided at the age of ninety-seven. Born in 1914, Fr. Arsenie undertook tertiary studies in Bucharest before embracing the monastic life in the 1940s and being tonsured a monk in 1950, later that same year being ordained to the priesthood.

In 1958 Fr. Arsenie was arrested by the Communist authorities and imprisoned for six years in several jails. After his release the confessor served in Transylvania for over a decade before, in 1976, becoming the spiritual father for St. Mary's Monastery in Techirghiol, Romania, where he reposed. May Fr. Arsenie's memory be eternal! More (in Romanian) here.

Syriac Orthodox Catholicos Meets with Indian PM

The head of the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church, Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Thoma I of the East, has met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in an effort to enlist the Indian government's support in the settlement of property disputes between parishes of the Syriac Orthodox Church in India and the independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. More (in Arabic) here.

Photo of the Day: Funeral of Metropolitan Dionysius of Chios

Metropolitan Dionysios of Chios being carried in his coffin to Chios' metropolitan cathedral for the funeral service.

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Bishop Consecrated for Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church

Two hierarchs associated with one of the schisms from the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, one of them formerly under the Kiev Patriarchate (more on that here), and the head of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Bishop Sviataslau (Lohin) of Navahrudak, have consecrated Archimandrite Serafim (Chykity) as Bishop of Vilnius to assist Bishop Sviatoslav in his shepherding of the 10 parishes of the BAOC in Belarus and the Belorussian Diaspora. The consecration took place in Brooklyn's Cathedral of St. Cyril of Turov. More (in Belorussian) here.

Turkish University Prepares to Offer Syriac Courses

Artuklu University in the southeastern Anatolian city of Mardin has begun preparations to offer an intensive course in the Syriac language and, in the long run, to open a department specializing in the Syriac language and Suryoyo culture. More here.

Cleveland Cathedral Prepares to Celebrate 100th Anniversary

Preparations are underway to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Cathedral of St. Theodosius of Chernigov in Cleveland, Ohio. The celebrations will be held in early September and will be led by Bishop Matthias (Moriak) of Chicago and Midwestern America of the American Orthodox Church. More here.

Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia Meet in Zagreb

Over the weekend the Hierarchical Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia met under the presidency of Metropolitan Jovan of Zagreb to discuss issues in the pastoral life and work of the Church. Particularly noteworthy amongst the issues facing the Orthodox Church in Croatia are those dating to the civil war following the collapse of Yugoslavia, which have left the homes of many of the faithful together with many parish churches damaged to this day. More (in Serbian) here.

St. Elizabeth the Royal Martyr

Joyous feast! Today we commemorate the martyrdom in Alpayevsk of St. Elizabeth the Royal Martyr and her companions, the Royal Martyrs Sergius, John, Constantine, Igor, and Vladimir and the New Martyr Barbara.

St. Elizabeth, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England and the older sister of St. Alexandra the Royal Martyr, was a German princess who converted to Orthodoxy after her marriage to a member of the Russian imperial family. Following her husband's assassination she withdrew from the world to found the women's Community of Sts. Mary and Martha, which was dedicated to caring for the sick and poor.

During the October Revolution St. Elizabeth was arrested by the Bolsheviks and exiled to the Ural Mountains, where she together with her companions in martyrdom were killed by being thrown down into an abandoned mine shaft. The survivors were finished off with grenades through into the shaft by their murderers. St. Elizabeth could be heard singing the Cherubicon as she died.

More on St. Elizabeth's life can be found here. May her blessing and prayers be with us all!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In Memoriam: Metropolitan Dionysius of Chios

Metropolitan Dionysios of Chios of the Constantinopolitan Orthodox Church in Greece has fallen asleep at the age of eighty-four. The newly reposed metropolitan was born on the Greek island of Evia and studied law and theology before being ordained to the deaconate and serving as such in the Greek Navy and Athens.

In 1960 the future metropolitan was ordained to the priesthood and given oversight of the Greek chaplaincy before being elected in 1979 as Metropolitan of Chios by the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople. In total Metropolitan Dionysios served his flock faithfully for more than three decades.

Metropolitan Dionysios was hospitalized in Athens and reposed in the Greek capital. His funeral is to be served later this week by Archbishop Jerome II (Liapis) of Athens in Chios' metropolitan cathedral. More (in Greek) here. May Metropolitan Dionysios' memory be eternal!

Holy Royal Martyrs of Rus'

Joyous feast! С праздником! Today we commemorate the Royal Martyrs of Rus', the passion-bearing Tsar-Martyr Nicholas, his wife Tsaritsa Alexandria, their children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexis, and their companions in exile. More on their lives can be found here. A homily delivered by St. John of San Francisco after a memorial for the imperial family served in 1934 can be found here. May the Royal Martyrs' blessings and prayers be with us all!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Relics of Batak New Martyrs Given to Bulgarian Orthodox Church

The government of the Bulgarian town of Batak has transferred care of the relics of the recently glorified New Martyrs of Batak from the Batak Historical Museum to the care of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church's Eparchy of Plovdiv. More here.

Ecumenical Patriarch, Metropolitan of Chisinau Meet in Constantinople

Metropolitan Vladimir (Cantarean) of the Moldovan Orthodox Church has met with Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople at the close of a pilgrimage to the holy places of Turkey. During their visit the two first hierarchs discussed the development of church life in Moldova and the former USSR and also in Turkey. More (in Romanian) here.

Foundations of Kosovar Monastery Damaged

Excavation works approved by Kosovar authorities have undermined the hillside beneath the historic Monastery of Sts. Cosmas and Damian in Zociste, Kosovo, and its cemetery and placed the site at risk of collapse. The site, like many other Serbian Orthodox holy places in Kosovo, is theoretically protected by the KFOR. Despite protests from both the Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Raska and Prizren and the representation of the European Union in Kosovo the excavation works have yet to be stopped. More here.

Ecumenical Patriarch Meets with US Secretary of State in Constantinople

Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople has met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Phanar as part of Clinton's visit to Istanbul. During their meeting the two discussed issues relating to the life of the Constantinopolitan Orthodox Church in Turkey, in particular the reopening of the Halki Seminary. More (in Greek) here.

Jobs: Chancellor of the OCA

The American Orthodox Church has finally begun accepting applications for a new chancellor for its central administration in the New York area. More here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lebanese Orthodox Metropolitan Calls on Flock Not to Sell Land

Metropolitan Basilios (Mansour) of Akkar of the Antiochian Orthodox Church has called on his flock in northern Lebanon not to sell their lands so that they can remain a grounded part of the process of nation building in Lebanon. More here.

Pope Theodore, Archbishop Jerome Meet in Athens

Pope Theodoros II (Horeftakis) of Alexandria has begun a visit to Athens, meeting with Archbishop Jerome II (Liapis) of Athens to discuss relations between the Alexandrian and Greek Orthodox Churches and to thank him for all of the support provided by the Church of Greece to the missionary and pastoral work of the Orthodox Church in Africa. More (in Greek) here.

Russian Orthodox Church Opposed to Establishment as State Church

A representative of the Moscow Patriarchate has reiterated the opposition of the Russian Orthodox Church to its establishment as the state church of the Russian Federation, saying in part that, "We do not want the [Church] to become part of the state apparatus, the state machinery, [or] to assume secular functions." The statement comes after the release of a poll showing that 30% of Russians would support the establishment of the Church. More here.

Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Visits Odessa

A delegation of the Romanian Orthodox Church led by Metropolitan Theophan of Iasi has begun a visit to Ukraine hosted by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's Eparchy of Odessa. More here.

St. Juvenaly of Alaska

Joyous feast! С праздником! St. Juvenaly, the Protomartyr of the Americas, was born in the late 1700s in Siberia and trained as an engineer before entering a monastery in St. Petersburg following the death of his wife. Three years after his tonsuring in 1791 he traveled to Alaska to serve as a missionary there. In Alaska the Saint traveled extensively, preaching the Gospel and baptizing many of the local peoples.

It was during one of his missionary journeys, in 1796, that St. Juvenaly came across a hunting party and was murdered by them. Although why the hunting party killed the Saint is unknown, it was later reported to St. Innocent, then Bishop of Sitka, that St. Juvenaly did not try to escape or defend himself, instead begging the band not to attack the newly baptized faithful nearby. Although left for dead, St. Juvenaly rose up and followed his attackers, urging them to repent. After several instances of this happening the hunters hacked St. Juvenaly to pieces to ensure that he would not follow them again.

More on St. Juvenaly's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bishops Maxim, Nikolai Concelebrate in Reno

As part of his pastoral visit to the Serbian Orthodox mission in Reno, Nevada, this past weekend Bishop Maxim (Vasilijevic) of Alhambra concelebrated the Sunday Liturgy with the controversial Bishop Nikolai (Soraich), who served as Bishop of Sitka and Alaska prior to his forced retirement by the Holy Synod of the American Orthodox Church. Archimandrite Gerasim (Eliel) also concelebrated at the services along with other clergy. More on this past weekend's services and events can be found here.

Turkey's Syriac Orthodox Christians Fight for Right to Change Surnames

Turkey's Suryoyo minority is challenging the legality of the country's refusal to allow the Suryoyo to adopt their Syriac-language last names as their official surnames. The challenge comes despite a ruling earlier this year of Turkey's Constitutional Court that forbade a Suryoyo man to change his surname. Turkey's requirement that non-Turks bear Turkish-language surnames dates from a 1934 surname law forbidding the use of "foreign" surnames by Turkish citizens. More here.

Georgian Orthodox Church Concerned by Potential Return of Churches to Armenians

Despite calls from the Georgian Orthodox Church for calm, Georgia's large Armenian minority remains tense in the aftermath of this past weekend's large demonstrations against a law allowing the registration of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Georgia and four other minority religious organizations. While the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Georgia refused to comment on recent events, other representatives of Georgia's Armenian community who were interviewed said that most of the hysteria over the new law was whipped up by the hierarchy and clergy of the Georgian Orthodox Church, noting that of the six historic Armenian Orthodox churches in Tbilisi only two were still in use, whilst two others lay in ruins and two more had been appropriated by the Georgian Orthodox Church, which may now under the terms of the new law have to return them to the Church of Armenia. (In total there are more than 300 Armenian Orthodox churches in Georgia, of which only 40 are currently used by the Armenian Orthodox Church.) More here.

Center for Syriac Orthodox Patriarchal Vicariate Opened in SE Turkey

With the permission of the Turkish government the Syriac Orthodox Church has opened an administrative and community center for its patriarchal vicariate in the southeastern Turkish city of Adiyaman and also reconsecrated the city's historic Church of Sts. Peter and Paul for use by the area's Suryoyo and Armenian faithful. The celebratory services were led by Metropolitan Mor Gregorios (Malke) of Perre with the participation of the other Syriac Orthodox metropolitans serving in Turkey. More here.

Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Consecrates Church in Ukraine

The head of the schismatic Romanian Orthodox Metropolitanate of Bessarabia, Metropolitan Peter of Chisinau, has consecrated a Romanian Orthodox church in the town of Komyshivka (also known as Hagi-Curd) in Ukraine's Budjak district. More (in Romanian) here.

The Budjak district together with all of Ukraine and Moldova are under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church, which established the first diocese in the region of Bessarabia (to which both Moldova and Budjak belong) following its incorporation into the Russian Empire and later resumed jurisdiction over the region following its annexation to the Soviet Union. Rather than dialogue with the Moscow Patriarchate over the status of the Orthodox Church in Moldova and Budjak the Bucharest Patriarchate instead unilaterally established its own ethnic metropolitanate and dioceses in the region following the collapse of the USSR.

World's First Monument to Karl Marx Moved

The city of Penza in central Russia has moved its monument to Karl Marx, the first in the world, in Sovyetskaya Square to prepare for the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The new cathedral is being built on the site of a church closed following the Bolshevik Revolution and torn down in 1934. More here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Akathist to the Konevits Icon Composed in Finland

The Finnish Orthodox Church has blessed the writing of an akathist to the historic Konevits Icon by a nun of the Lintula Monastery. Although roughly 600 years old, an akathist has never been written to the Konevits Icon. More (in Finnish) here.

Bosnian Serbs Commemorate 1992-1995 Victims

On yesterday's feast of Sts. Peter and Paul Bosnia's Serbs, led by Bishop Vasilije (Kacavenda) of Zvornik, commemorated over 3,000 Serb civilians killed between 1992 and 1995 by Bosnian Muslim forces attempting to ethnically cleanse northeastern Bosnia of its Serb population. The leader of this campaign, Naser Oric, was given a 2-year jail term by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, but was later acquitted. More here and (in Serbian) here.

Bulgaria Steps Up Funding of Church Construction

As of today the Bulgarian government has committed to increasing its financial contributions to the construction of new churches in areas drawing increased tourist traffic or without a church presently. More here.

Lebanon Debates General Security Directorate

As the new Lebanese government in formation struggles to distribute its ministerial portfolios a debate has erupted in Lebanon over whether the government's directorate for general security should go to the country's Shiite Muslim minority, which has held it for the last decade; the Maronite Catholics, who have traditionally headed the directorate; or the Antiochian Orthodox, who despite being Lebanon's fourth largest religion have never held any security-related ministries. More here.

Israel Opens Jordan River Site to Daily Visits

Israel has opened the site of the Lord's baptism in the Jordan River to daily visits for the first time since the area's occupation by Israeli forces. More here.

Assyrian, Ancient Church of the East Hierarchs Concelebrate Funeral in Baghdad

Hierarchs of the Assyrian and Ancient Churches of the East have concelebrated the funeral of a newly reposed parish priest, Fr. Oraham Dinkha, who had served the Church of St. Zaia in Baghdad. The Baghdad-based Ancient Church of the East was formed in opposition to the switch of the Chicago-based Assyrian Church of the East to the Gregorian calendar and the hereditary passing of the patriarchate from uncle to nephew, but has entered into dialogue with the Assyrian Church of the East (whose patriarchate is no longer hereditary) and recently adopted the Gregorian calendar. More here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vatican Releases Armenian Genocide Documents

Documents detailing the atrocities committed during the Armenian Genocide will shortly be released by the Vatican City, which did not disclose their existence until this year. More here.

Macedonian Orthodox Priests to Pay Taxes

The Macedonian government and the independent Macedonian Orthodox Church have reached an agreement on the taxation of clergy ending the exemption of priests from paying taxes. More here.

St. Petersburg Officially Celebrates Its Patron Saints

This year marks the first time in recent history that St. Petersburg, Russia's northern capital, has officially celebrated the feast day of its patron saints, Sts. Peter and Paul. Festal services were celebrated at the imperial crypt, the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul on Hare Island, after which a procession was held from the cathedral to St. Isaac's Cathedral nearby. More (in Russian) here.

Georgian Orthodox Church Backs Down on Religious Minorities Law

The Georgian Orthodox Church has backed down from its strident, at times somewhat hysterical, opposition to a new law granting legal status to minority religious organizations in Georgia after a representative of the Georgian government informed a session of the Georgian Orthodox Holy Synod that the new law did not grant minority faiths equal standing with the Church of Georgia. More here.

Red Square Cathedral Celebrates 450th Anniversary of Consecration

Moscow's iconic Cathedral of the Protection (commonly known after the saint whose relics it enshrines, St. Basil the Blessed) on Red Square marked the 450th anniversary of its consecration today with a festal Divine Liturgy celebrated by Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of the Russian Orthodox Church. After the festal services a memorial was served for the victims of the tragic sinking of the Bulgaria on the Volga River. More (in Russian) here.

Sts. Peter and Paul

Joyous feast! Today we end the Fast of the Apostles and celebrate the most prominent among them, Sts. Peter and Paul. (Tomorrow the synaxis of all of the Holy Apostles is celebrated.) More on the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul can be found here. May the Saints' blessings and prayers be with us all!

"First-enthroned of the Apostles, teachers of the universe: Entreat the Master of all to grant peace to the world, and great mercy to our souls!" (Troparion to Sts. Peter and Paul)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Prayers Requested for Former Archbishop of Dallas

The Holy Synod of the American Orthodox Church has requested prayers for retired Archbishop Dmitri (Royster) of Dallas, whose health has reportedly declined significantly in recent days. More here.

Rue Daru Cathedral to Celebrate 150th Anniversary of Consecration

The Russian Orthodox Exarchate of Western Europe under the Ecumenical Patriarchate is preparing to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the consecration of its diocesan seat, the Cathedral of St. Alexander of the Neva in Paris. The cathedral has long been a center of the large Russian community in the French capital and was the first Orthodox church to be built in the city. The upcoming anniversary of the cathedral's founding will be commemorated this September, with Archbishop Gabriel (de Vylder) of Comana leading the celebrations. More (in French) here.

SSPX District Superior Permits Vernacular Masses

In a recent interview Fr. Daniel Couture, the district superior for Asia of the traditionalist Roman Catholic Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), discussed the practice of his district to encourage mainline Roman Catholic priests who want to serve the traditional Mass and do not know Latin to serve in the local vernacular. Fr. Daniel also discussed the collapse of the spiritual life of Roman Catholic clergy in many dioceses in Southeast Asia. More here.

Tbilisi Marches Protest New Legislation on Religious Organizations

Large protest marches took place over the weekend in Tbilisi, Georgia, to protest the Georgian government's enactment of legislation allowing the country's minority religious organizations to register with the state. The marches, the largest in recent years, were fueled by concerns that southeastern Georgia's Armenian minority will use the new legislation to gain equality with ethnic Georgians and by the Sunday sermon of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II (Gudushauri-Shiolashvili) of the Georgian Orthodox Church, who said the new laws "humiliated the Church" and those behind them would "definitely be punished." More here and here.

Coptic, Syriac, and Armenian Orthodox Meet in Cairo to Discuss Political, Ecumenical Issues

The standing committee of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East, comprised of representatives of the Coptic and Syriac Orthodox Churches and the Armenian Orthodox Church of Cilicia, has met in Cairo, Egypt, to discuss their relations and their shared positions in Middle Eastern and global ecumenical dialogues. More (in Arabic) here and here.

Bishops Consecrated in Damascus

This past weekend Patriarch Ignatios IV (Hazim) of Antioch and twelve other hierarchs of the Antiochian Orthodox Church consecrated three of the twelve recently elected auxiliary bishops of the Church of Antioch in the patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition in Damascus, Syria. Of the three two will be serving as patriarchal auxiliaries in Syria, whilst the third will be serving in the Archdiocese of Mexico City. More (in Arabic) here.

Bishop Savva of Voskresensk Consecrated at Valaam

On today's commemoration of Sts. Sergius and Herman of Valaam Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow led the festal services in the Valaam Monastery's Cathedral of the Transfiguration. During the festal Divine Liturgy Patriarch Kirill, together with ten other hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, consecrated Archimandrite Savva (Mikheyev) as Bishop of Voskresensk. Bishop Savva will be serving as an auxiliary of the patriarchal Eparchy of Moscow. More (in Russian) here.

Quote of the Day: St. Augustine of Hippo

The more days of fasting there are, the better the healing is; the longer the period of abstinence, the more abundant the gain of salvation is.

Sts. Sergius and Herman of Valaam

Joyous feast! С праздником! Today we celebrate the memory of our Holy Fathers Sergius and Herman (or Germanus) the founders of the Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration on Valaam Island in Lake Ladoga.

When St. Sergius, a Greek-speaking monk from the East Roman Empire, first arrived to live in the caves on Valaam in the late 900s the island was the site of pagan worship and sacrifices. Through his preaching and holiness of life, however, St. Sergius gradually converted the island's inhabitants to Orthodoxy and built up a monastic community in the caves around him.

St. Herman, a Karelian from the area of Sortavala, later came to Valaam to take up the leadership of the monastic community there. Like St. Sergius, St. Herman became known for his work in converting the native peoples of what today is northern Russia, especially the Karelians, to Orthodoxy and confirming the Valaam Monastery's preeminence as the spiritual center of the Karelian Orthodox faithful.

More on the lives and labors of the founders of the Valaam Monastery, as well as more of the history of the Monastery itself, can be found here and here. May the Saints' blessings and prayers be with us all!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Metropolitan Volodymyr of Kiev Marks 45th Anniversary of Episcopal Consecration

Yesterday, the second day of the Jubilee Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the assembled Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchs, clergy, and faithful concelebrated the festal Divine Liturgy in honor of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the consecration of Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) of Kiev to the episcopacy.

During the Divine Liturgy Metropolitan Volodymyr elevated Archbishops Serhiy (Hensitskyy) of Ternopil' and Simeon (Shostatskiy) of Vinnytsia to the rank of metropolitan and Bishop Panteleimon (Bashchuk) of Uman to the rank of archbishop. The festal services were celebrated on the square in front of the Kiev Caves Lavra's Cathedral of the Dormition. More (in Russian) here.

Patriarch Cyril Calls on Orthodox Christians to Attend to Their Souls

Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow has called on the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church to transfer their attention from the external beauty of the monasteries and churches to the internal state of their souls, saying that, "We are restoring the external grandeur [of the churches] to raise the bar for our interior spiritual work. Looking at the grandeur and beauty created by the hands of our ancestors, we understand that such greatness and beauty cannot be created from scratch." More (in Russian) here.

St. Cyrion the New Martyr of Mtskheta

Joyous feast! Today we commemorate Catholicos-Patriarch St. Cyrion (or Kirion) II of Mtskheta and All Georgia. St. Cyrion was the first catholicos-patriarch to be enthroned following the restoration of the Georgian Orthodox Church's autocephaly in 1917. Born in Russian-occupied Georgia, St. Cyrion undertook theological studies there and in Ukraine and gradually rose until he was consecrated to the episcopacy.

Due to the Saint's strong support for the restoration of the Georgian Orthodox Church's independence the imperial government had him transferred to new eparchies frequently, with the result that he shepherded flocks in what today are Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Abkhazia, and Belarus between his consecration in 1901 and the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917.

Following the February Revolution the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church in Georgia moved quickly to proclaim the restoration of the Georgian Orthodox Church's autocephaly and by popular demand St. Cyrion, then Archbishop of Polotsk, returned to Georgia to be elected and enthroned as catholicos-patriarch in Mtskheta. In 1918 Georgia declared its independence in the midst of the great political upheavals and conflicts engulfing the former Russian Empire.

In the same year that Georgia regained its independence St. Cyrion was found murdered in his residence near Mtskheta, having served as patriarch for less than a year. Due to Georgia's annexation by the Soviet Union it wasn't until 2002 that the Georgian Orthodox Church glorified the passion-bearing patriarch as a saint. More on St. Cyrion's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

OCA Bulgarian Orthodox Diocese Nominates Candidate for Bishop

The fifth diocesan congress of the Bulgarian Orthodox Diocese of North America of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) has nominated Archimandrite Alexander (Golitzin) for election by the OCA's Holy Synod as its next ruling bishop. More here.

Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God

Joyous feast! The Tikhvin Icon is said to be one of the icons of the Mother of God written by St. Luke the Evangelist. In the 400s the Tikhvin Icon was translated from the Holy City of Jerusalem to Constantinople where the Blachernae church was built to enshrine it. Several hundred years later, in 1383, the Tikhvin Icon disappeared from Blachernae and appeared over the waters of Lake Ladoga in northern Russia, eventually settling near the city of Tikhvin, where it was enshrined anew in a monastery dedicated to the Dormition.

The Tikhvin Icon remained in northern Russia for many years, at one time helping the Russian armies defeat the invading Swedes. During the upheaval of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union the Icon was taken from Tikhvin to the Latvian capital, Riga. When the Soviets began to approach Riga towards the end of World War II the Tikhvin Icon was again translated, eventually settling in Chicago with its caretaker and remaining there until its return to Russia in 2004.

More on the Tikhvin Icon can be found here. May the Mother of God's protection and prayers be with us all!