Friday, October 8, 2100

Saints of North America

I originally posted this on my personal blog. I'm reposting it here with some minor editing. Hope this is of interest!

I used to think that I had a pretty good idea of who the Saints of North America were. Yes, of course I realized that the Saints we glorify are only a fraction of those saved by God, but that aside I was pretty sure I knew all the guys in the icons - Sts. Herman of Alaska, Tikhon of New York, Peter the Aleut New Martyr, et cetera. I never knew about those righteous who are already being venerated (and in several cases, being considered for glorification or already glorified by certain Orthodox jurisdictions) as Saints without the glorification and recognition of the Catholic Church.

It took me a while to find information on many of these Saints of God, both the unrecognized and even the recognized, so I want to put links for the basics of their lives here on my blog. I hope whoever reads their lives will be touched and strengthened by both the reading and the Saints' prayers. If there are any others I have not listed here, please let me know! This is a small work, but I do it in memory of the servant of God Joshua, who fell asleep in the Lord on 21 August 2007. As I come across new-to-me saints I will be sure to include them here!

Alright, here are the links:

St. Alexander (Hotovitsky) of New York
St. Alexis (Toth) of Minneapolis and Wilkes-Barre
St. Anatolius (Kamenskiy) of Sitka and Minneapolis
St. Barnabas (Nastich) of Gary
St. Basil (Martysz) of Afognak and Vostok
St. Brendan the Navigator
St. Elijah (Zotikov) of New York
St. Herman of Alaska
St. Innocent (Veniaminov) of Alaska
St. Jacob (Netsvetov) of Alaska
St. John (Kochurov) of Chicago
St. John (Maximovich) the Wonderworker of San Francisco
St. Juvenaly (Hovorukhin) the New Martyr of Alaska
St. Mardarius (Uskokovich) of Libertyville
St. Nicholas (Velimirovich) of Libertyville and South Canaan
St. Peter the Aleut New Martyr
St. Raphael (Hawaweeny) of Brooklyn
St. Sebastian (Dabovich) of Jackson
St. Seraphim (Samoilovich) of Sitka
St. Tikhon (Belavin) of San Francisco and New York

Not Glorified:
St. Jacob (Korchinskiy) of Honolulu
St. Leontius (Turkevich) of Chicago and New York (Under consideration for glorification by the American Orthodox Church.)
St. Olga (Michael) of Alaska (Under consideration for glorification by the American Orthodox Church.)
St. Philaret (Voznesensky) the Confessor of New York (St. Philaret's relics have been found to be incorrupt, but so far he has only been glorified by several schisms from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.)
St. Seraphim (Rose) of Platina (Under consideration for glorification by the Serbian Orthodox Church.)

Of Interest:
Archbishop Avercius (Taushev) of Jordanville (It's been a while since I did much reading on Vladyka Averky, but I believe he's been glorified by a schism from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.)
Protopresbyter Alexander (Schmemann) of New York
Abbess Alexandra (Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen) of Ellwood City
Archbishop Andrew (Rymarenko) of Novo Diveyevo and Rockland
Abbess Ariadna of San Francisco
Archbishop Arsenius (Chahovtsev) of Winnipeg (Under consideration for glorification by the American Orthodox Church.)
Archimandrite Basil (Philippov) of Chicago and South Canaan (More later here. There's nothing online and I only just heard of him through a personal story told me by an Evangelical Protestant acquaintance from South Canaan.)(I'm still looking for more information on Fr. Basil to post here. Anything you know would be welcome!)(An article was recently posted on Pravoslavie, which I've linked to as I believe Archimandrite Basil (Philippov) and Monk Basil are likely the same man. May his memory be eternal!)
Abbess Benedicta (Braga) of Rives Junction
Bishop Cyrus (al-Anba Bishoy) of the Mojave
Archimandrite Gerasim (Schmaltz) of Spruce Island and Alaska
Priest John (Karastamatis) of Santa Cruz (Venerated by some Greek Orthodox Christians.)
Priest Joseph Xanthopoulos
Brother Joseph Muñoz-Cortes
Mother Michaella Altschul of Kansas City
Priest Nicholas (Yanney) of Kearney
Archimandrite Roman (Braga) of Rives Junction
Archimandrite Theoclitus (Triantafilides) of San Francisco and Galveston

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trial of Canadian Orthodox Archbishop Begins

The trial of Archbishop Seraphim (Storheim) of Ottawa and Canada of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) began earlier this week in Winnipeg. More here. Please keep all involved in your prayers. An ecclesiastical court is due to convene once the civil courts have decided the case.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Consecrated for Guatemala

It has been announced that this past Wednesday Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatios Zakka (Iwas) of Antioch consecrated a monk as Metropolitan Mor Yacoub (Edward) to serve the growing Syriac Orthodox Church in Guatemala. Axios! More information will be posted as it becomes available.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Patriarch of Ethiopia Elected

A special council of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has elected Archbishop Abune Matiyas (Asrat) of Jerusalem as the sixth Patriarch of Ethiopia. Born in Sebuha, Tigray, in 1940, as Teklemaryam Asrat, the future patriarch received a traditional clerical education, being ordained a deacon in 1954 prior to his entrance into Tigray's Chohay Monastery, where he was tonsured a monk in 1962.

Two years after his tonsure and ordination to the priesthood Fr. Teklemaryam was attached to Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Abeba, eventually becoming the personal secretary of Patriarch Tekle Haimanot of blessed memory. In 1978 Fr. Teklemaryam was consecrated to the episcopacy with the name Matiyas (Matthias), eventually being elected Archbishop of Jerusalem.

At today's electoral council Abune Matiyas received 500 of the 806 total votes cast. Abune Matiyas is the second ethnically Tigrayan patriarch of the Church of Ethiopia, the large majority of whose members are Amhara or Oromo. His enthronement as the sixth patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church will be celebrated this Sunday with the participation of delegations from sister Orthodox Churches. More here and here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Armenian Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Elected

A meeting of the Brotherhood of St. James of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Jerusalem has elected Archbishop Nourhan (Manoogian), patriarchal grand sacristan and a native of Aleppo, Syria, as the 97th Armenian Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. Axios! More here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cornerstone Laid for First Romanian Orthodox Church in Africa

In what seems to be an increasingly rare act of inter-Orthodox cooperation on its part, a bishop of the Bucharest Patriarchate has laid the cornerstone for a church to serve Romanian immigrants in metropolitan Johannesburg, South Africa, with the blessing of Pope Theodore II (Horeftakis) of Alexandria and All Africa. The cornerstone was laid this past Saturday in Midrand, a suburn of Joburg, by Metropolitan Damascene (Papandreou) of Johannesburg, the local ruling hierarch, and Bishop Petronius (Florea) of Zalau, a suffragan bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitanate of Cluj in Transylvania. A full account of the day with pictures of the service can be found here.

It is unclear whether the church will function as a representation of the Bucharest Patriarchate to the Church of Alexandria or as a Romanian-speaking parish of the Metropolis of Johannesburg.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Head of Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe Retires

Archbishop Gabriel (de Vylder) of Comana, head of the Russian Orthodox Exarchate of Western Europe under the Church of Constantinople, has announced his retirement as ruling hierarch of the exarchate due to ongoing health issues. The archbishop's retirement is effective 15 January, although he will be commemorated by the Exarchate until the Ecumenical Patriarchate appoints a locum tenens. More here. Archbishop Gabriel's announcement of his retirement can be found here.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

ROCOR New York Diocese Establishes Glorification Committee for Metropolitan Philaret, Brother Jose

A meeting of the diocesan council of the Diocese of New York and Eastern America of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) has established a glorification committee to collect information about the lives and miracles of Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky), the third First Hierarch of the ROCOR, and Brother Jose Munoz-Cortes, the Chilean Orthodox caretaker of the myrrh-streaming Montreal Icon of the Mother of God who was brutally murdered in 1997. Both men are buried at the ROCOR's Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. More here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Paris Metropolitan Elected New Patriarch of Antioch

The Holy Synod of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, meeting in Lebanon's Balamand Monastery of the Dormition, has elected Metropolitan John (Yazigi) of Paris as Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East. Axios!

Born in Lattakia, Syria, in 1955, the future patriarch completed education in Syria before entering Balamand University in Lebanon to complete a degree in theology, after which he undertook a doctorate of theology at Thessalonica's Aristotelian University. Ordained a deacon in 1979, in 1981 Fr. Youhanna began teaching at Balamand, being ordained a priest in 1983, consecrated to the episcopacy as Bishop of al-Hosn in 1995, and in 2001 becoming abbot of the Balamand Monastery. In 2008 he was elected Metropolitan of Paris and Western and Central Europe by the Holy Synod of the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

In a speech after his election, Patriarch-elect John said in part, "Our confidence in our people is very deep and our path is the path of the cross...Christians will remain in Syria and it is their land."

More here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

In Memoriam: Metropolitan Mar Barnabas of New York

Metropolitan Mar Barnabas (Mathews) of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, recently retired Metropolitan of New York and Northeast America, has reposed at the age of eighty-eight. Born K.K. Mathukutty in Perumbavoor, Kerala, on 9 August 1924, the future metropolitan was in 1951 ordained to the priesthood as Fr. Mathews, later being consecrated to the episcopacy in 1978 as Bishop Mar Barnabas.

In 1981 Mar Barnabas was elevated to the rank of metropolitan, and in 1982 he was elected as the first metropolitan of the newly established Diocese of Idukki in eastern Kerala. In 1992 Metropolitan Mar Barnabas was transferred to the Malankara Orthodox Diocese of New York and America, becoming its second ruling metropolitan and shepherding the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in North America until 2009, when new dioceses were created and he became ruling metropolitan of the Northeast American Diocese.

During Metropolitan Mar Barnabas' tenure in North America the Church there underwent a period of significant growth, with new churches being established across the continent. In 2011 he retired as metropolitan to return to Kerala, where he was cared for as his health declined. This past Sunday, 9 December, he fell asleep at the Pampady Monastery at the age of eighty-eight. May Metropolitan Mar Barnabas' memory be eternal! A full account of his life may be found here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

New Armenian Orthodox Bishop Appointed for Australia, New Zealand

Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II (Nersessian) of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Echmiadzin has appointed Bishop Haykazun (Najarian), who till now had served as patriarchal legate in Central Europe and Sweden, as Bishop of Sydney, Australia, and New Zealand. More in Armenian here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

On Bishop Matthias: Background to the Texts

The following was contributed by a clergyman of the Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest of the American Orthodox Church (OCA).

The REST of the story concerning His Grace Bishop Matthias.

It is important that people be allowed speak out against sexual misconduct in our church in a safe environment, in appropriate contexts and in appropriate ways. Incidents in the not-so-distant past that have been quietly swept under the rug are unconscionable.  Concerns that our Church stay honest and transparent about these issues are genuine and ought to be affirmed.

But has the pendulum swung too far in the other direction, so that it is impossible to get a fair hearing for the accused?  Should there not also be a safe and appropriate way for people to speak out for them?

Our society has come to a regrettable place: so many of us automatically read and hear sexual content and perverse intentions in all sorts of innocent casual discourse.  How tragic that we in the Orthodox Church are doing so well in following the example of the culture around us!  Maybe our propensity for reading sexual content into messages, where there is none, says more about us than we’d like to admit?

When I saw the text messages, I, like many others who’ve been using the internet for more than a week, figured that there was much more to the story than what was being shown to us.  I assumed that the investigation would bear that out, that the Synod of Bishops would look at the entire situation, make a ruling according to the facts of the case, and that would be that.  I naively assumed that the people WITHOUT any facts would listen, even for a moment, to the people WITH the facts.

I could well be wrong, but I am praying that the majority of us in this diocese, who have remained silent about this, have done so because, in spite of how it looked, they knew to be cautious about leaping to judgement without the facts, and they had a suspicion there was more to it - especially so after having met Bishop Matthias and knowing what kind of person he is.  But because Bishop Matthias, to his credit, has not come forward to explain the situation, we are left to wonder, and to trust the process alone.

I don’t think we should need to hear “the other side of the story” in order to trust that our bishops have made the right decision.  But I think it would be a help to those who want to give our bishops the benefit of the doubt, but have been tempted to think otherwise because of the one-sided gossip.

Providentially,  most of the basic facts about this situation were not hard to obtain by doing a little digging, and they are public knowledge in many places, and I present them here in the detail that they are generally known.  The confidentiality of the woman/parish/etc. will still be maintained.

That background is this:

Bishop Matthias had known this woman and her boyfriend for a over a year and half, and the boyfriend was a long-time close friend of Bishop Matthias’ son, Fr. Matthew [Moriak].  When Bishop Matthias would come on pastoral visits to their parish, or parishes in the area, they would always go and visit with him.  Bishop Matthias has always had a great talent for connecting with and ministering to couples in this age bracket, and, as that was also the case here, they began to form a close relationship of trust and mutual respect.

Her parents, who were not even Orthodox, were glad that their daughter and boyfriend had a friend and mentor in Bishop Matthias,  and they had him over to dinner multiple times, including meals as casual as ordering pizza, and they became friends as well.

Later, she was going to take a position in a distant city and, it being the first time she would leave home to live elsewhere, her parents were worried.  Although Bishop Matthias wasn’t right near the city she was moving to, just closer to her than the parents would be, they arranged together for him to help her out as much as possible when he was able, for which they were very thankful.  I offer all that background to explain why Bishop Matthias felt especially obligated to make sure her needs were met, and that she was communed and anointed when sick, etc.

To clarify about one visit specifically mentioned in the complaint, the “item” he wanted to give her was an icon! (as she was newly chrismated).  She had wanted to talk to him about various things in her life after her conference ran late that day, so Bishop Matthias stayed up late and counseled her on various issues, after which she and her boyfriend profusely thanked him!  Likewise there was mention of a boat ride, referring to a large group-tour of Chicago via the river, which she had previously taken and enjoyed so much that she was trying to talk him into taking the ride with her, so his text about that was referring to the request she had already made.

So the friendship of this woman, her boyfriend, Fr. Matthew, and Bishop Matthias continued and became comfortable enough that there was the normal kind of inside jokes and ribbing you might expect.  She would bring him gifts such as CDs or cookies, and he began to consider them a part of his family.

Leading up to the texts in question, the woman became ill and was having difficulty dealing with her sickness.  She contacted Bishop Matthias to talk over her frustrations with her sickness, and she expressed her thanks and gratitude for his willingness to help her through it.  Bishop Matthias had been scheduled to go a meeting, but it was cancelled at the last minute, which freed him up for a few days, so he offered to come visit her, as the local priest had not yet been there for a visit.  She felt quite awful, and he was trying to cheer her up, and was willing to drive all the way there on his free days to do so, which he did for her sake, and also because of the duty he felt toward her parents.  People who know Bishop Matthias would know that he does this sort of thing quite frequently.

As this was going on, the boyfriend knew that Bishop Matthias was going to take this extra effort to visit her, so he teased him a little, via text, about the special care he was offering her, saying that “the word on the street is...”  Bishop Matthias entered into the banter himself and texted her the same phrase he just got from the boyfriend, and he joked about her being his “favorite”, to which she replied with “LOL”, and so he assumed the joke was understood as a joke.  As the banter continued, since she had already used the word ‘crush’ in a previous text, he used it as well, in what we all know now to be a very poor attempt at humor.  That is all there was to it, none of the ridiculous things people have read into it.  After he learned that she had taken these texts in the way she did, he immediately called off the visit.

About not telling the local priest about his visit: this was because Bishop Matthias knew other families in the parish whom he thought would feel slighted if it got out that he had come to anoint and commune her while not visiting with them as well.  I think this is quite common, but for some reason many priests choose to be offended about this, so I mention it.

Concerning sleeping on the floor with an air mattress: this is no mystery to anyone who knows Bishop Matthias.  He’s not much for spending a lot of money on expensive hotels when a little bit of floor is all he needs.  He always travels with an air mattress and uses it whenever he can.  Last summer he came on Project Mexico with us for a week and he slept in a tent on the rocky ground with the rest of us, even though they’d offered him a comfortable bed in the guest house.  Naive as it was, his offer was simply to avoid putting her out at all, since she was sick and had her mother to worry about too.

About the letter that Bishop Matthias wrote to the diocese: people seemed upset that he did not admit to being what they all assumed he must be (some sort of sexually deviant person).  It makes no sense that people should want him to apologize for being something that he isn’t.  If someone took my sloppy communication and accused me of having sexual intentions with it that I did not actually have, why would I apologize for having had intentions that I never had?  On the contrary, it would be all I could do to not get quite angry about it.  He apologized for what he actually did, he did not apologize for what he did not do.  Who would do differently?

Reflecting on all this, among close friends and family there are certain things that are understood as ‘inside jokes’, certain ways we rib one another, and a level of trust and shared experience that we know what kinds of things we can say and not say.  Ever been over to dinner with a tightly-knit family and overheard their camaraderie?  It can sound pretty crazy, or even inappropriate, when you don’t know the history and context of each comment.  And if that’s true in a conversation or an email, all the more so with text messages, which are continually used for all kinds of teasing banter between friends (as anyone under the age of 30 can tell you).

I have several times misjudged a relationship and said stupid things or made jokes that were not appropriate for a particular situation, God forgive me.  If I was kicked out of my parish every time I did so, I wouldn’t have been around for long.  I’m glad those around me can tolerate my mistakes so much better than some in our diocese can tolerate them in our bishop.

I pray that he endures all the continued and unjust slander stirred up against him, and that he returns to continue his episcopal ministry as soon as possible.  I am sure he will be an even better bishop for having gone through all of this.

Bulgarian Orthodox Church to Elect New Patriarch in February

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has announced that it will hold a council, comprised of the members of the hierarchy and representatives of the metropolises, stavropeghial monastic communities, and seminaries, this coming February to elect its next patriarch. Of the current hierarchy of the Sofia Patriarchate two members are ineligible for election, whilst two others have already stated that they will not allow themselves to be candidates for election. More here. H/t to Byzantine Texas for posting this.

First Orthodox Bishop of Brazzaville Consecrated in Egypt

Pope Theodore II (Horeftakis) of All Africa concelebrated the consecration this past Sunday of the newest hierarch of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church, Bishop Panteleimon (Arathymos) of Brazzaville. The service, concelebrated by metropolitans of the Church of Alexandria and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Dorotheus II of Tinos, was held in the papal Cathedral of the Annunciation in Alexandria, Egypt. More here.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Meets With Riga Mayor

In a meeting with the mayor of Riga, Nil Ushakov, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Cyril (Gundyayev) has called upon the Latvian government to recognize Russian as an official language of the Latvian state, noting that nearly half of the Latvian population speaks Russian as its first language and yet have been disenfranchised in the country as non-citizens despite their long residency in it. More here.

New Syriac Orthodox Metropolitans Consecrated in Lebanon, Syria

In keeping with the decisions of the recent session of the Holy Synod of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch two new metropolitans have been consecrated for the service of the Syriac Orthodox Church. In late October Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zacchaeus (Iwas) consecrated Rabban Nathaniel (Yousif) in St. Gabriel's Church in A’ajaltoun, Lebanon, to the episcopacy as Metropolitan Mor Bartholomew to serve the Syriac Orthodox Church in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf states. In early November, at the patriarchal Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Ma’arat Saydnaya, Syria, the patriarch concelebrated the consecration of Rabban Matta Fadel (Alkhoury), patriarchal secretary for India, to the episcopacy as Metropolitan Mor Timothy. Axios! More here and here.

Alexandrian Orthodox Holy Synod Establishes Dioceses, Elects New Metropolitans, Bishops

The Holy Synod of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church has held its fall session under the chairmanship of Pope Theodore II (Horeftakis). During the session the assembled hierarchs took several decisions concerning the life of the Church in Africa. The Dioceses of Madagascar and Sierra Leone were both designated metropolises, with the latter being renamed the Metropolis of Conakry and Guinea, and the new Diocese of Brazzaville was erected to serve the Orthodox Church in Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon.

To better serve the Church, Metropolitan George (Vladimirou) of Accra was elected Metropolitan of Conakry and Guinea; Bishop Gabriel of Mareotis, patriarchal auxiliary for the Archdiocese of Alexandria, was elected Metropolitan of Leontopolis in northeastern Egypt; Bishop Sabbas of Bujumbura was elected Metropolitan of Accra; Archimandrite Innocent (Byakatonda), an Ugandan Orthodox clergyman serving at Nairobi's Cathedral of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, was elected Bishop of Bujumbura; and Archimandrite Panteleimon (Arathymos), secretary of the Holy Synod, was elected Bishop of Brazzaville.

On the final day of the session the Holy Synod called for an end to religiously-motivated violence. An account of the recent meetings of the Holy Synod can be found here and here.

Newest Bishop Consecrated for Russian Orthodox Church

During services this past Sunday Patriarch Cyril (Gundyayev) of Moscow concelebrated the consecration of Archimandrite Fyodor (Belkov) in Moscow's Church of Christ the Savior. Axios! Bishop Theodore was consecrated Bishop of Alatyr and Poretskoye to serve a new diocese in the recently erected Metropolitanate of Cheboksary in Chuvashia, a constituent republic of the Russian Federation. More here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ethiopian Orthodox Factions Reportedly Meet in Dallas

It is being reported that a meeting is taking place today in Dallas, Texas, between representatives of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church (EOTC) and the Holy Synod in Exile of the EOTC, founded in the Ethiopian Diaspora by Patriarch Abune Mercurius (Fanta) of Addis Abeba following his removal by the post-Communist Ethiopian government. The two sides are said to be meeting to discuss the possibility of a reconciliation between the two branches of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. More details will be released if and when they become available.

In Memoriam: Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch

Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) of the Antiochian Orthodox Church has fallen asleep at the age of ninety-one. The patriarch, a native of Syria's Hama province and graduate of the American University of Beirut, was in the 1940s a founder of the Orthodox Youth Movement before going on to serve as a clergyman and, later, as an auxiliary bishop to the patriarch and Metropolitan of Lattakia in western Syria. In 1979 he was elected Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. After faithfully shepherding the Church of Antioch for thirty-three years Patriarch Ignatius reposed earlier today in Beirut, Lebanon, after suffering a severe stroke. May his memory be eternal! More on Patriarch Ignatius' life can be found here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch in Critical Condition

It has been reported that Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) of Antioch has suffered a stroke and is in critical condition. He was initially transported to a hospital in the Damascus area, but later transferred to a hospital in Beirut, Lebanon. Please remember Patriarch Ignatius in your prayers!

H/t to Notes on Arab Orthodoxy for posting this.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New ACROD Bishop Consecrated, Enthroned

Bishop-elect Gregory (Tatsis) of Nyssa has been consecrated to the episcopacy and enthroned as ruling bishop of the American Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Diocese (ACROD) in services led by Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrius (Trakatellis) of New York and concelebrated by Metropolitan Anthony (Scherba) of Hierapolis of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (UOCUSA) and the Diaspora, Metropolitans Alexis (Panagiotopoulos) of Atlanta and Sabbas (Zembillas) of Pittsburgh of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Bishop Daniel (Zelinskyy) of Pamphilon of the UOCUSA. Axios! Bishop Gregory is the fourth hierarch of the ACROD. More here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Coptic Orthodox Pope Enthroned

Pope Theodore II (al-Anba Bishoy) has been enthroned at St. Mark's Cathedral in the Cairene district of Abbasiya as patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and 118th successor to St. Mark. The enthronement prayer was read by Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zacchaeus (Iwas) of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Axios!

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Coptic Orthodox Pope Speaks Against Violence, Attacks

Pope Theodore II (al-Anba Bishoy) of Alexandria has stated that he is not intimidated by the rise of Islamism in Egypt since the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, saying that, "[For] our part, we work with love and respect, we reject violence and...the idea of attacks on property, people, lives and homes." The new Coptic Orthodox patriarch also spoke out against clergy and monks who have participated in political demonstrations. More here.

Address of Fr. Matthew Moriak to the 2012 Midwestern Diocesan Assembly

Below are the comments made by Fr. Matthew Moriak, rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa's Church in Columbus, Ohio, and son of Bishop Matthias (Moriak) of Chicago, at the recent Midwestern Diocesan Assembly. The text was prepared by Fr. Matthew prior to the Assembly and formed the core of what he said at the Assembly, although he may have made minor additions or changes to the text as he was speaking. The text is as I received it, with one minor clarification in brackets.

Your Eminence [Archbishop Nikon], my brother clergy, brothers and sisters in Christ. Christ is Amongst Us! I had no idea coming into this assembly whether I would, could, or even should speak. But, I prepared a statement in advance, because I felt if I were to say something, it would be entirely too emotional of an effort without something written in front of me. Whatever feelings of ill will people have towards His Grace, the fact is that I know him better and have known him longer than anyone in this room, so I do feel I speak with some authority. First, I wish to express my continued prayers for the complainant. She is remembered by me during Proskomeida each and every Sunday. I feel a strong sense of sadness that she felt uncomfortable because of the things His Grace said to her. My defense of His Grace, if that’s what you choose to call it, is not meant to somehow place any blame on her, or to diminish her feelings. Some have come to definitive conclusions about this matter based on what they have seen and what they know. On the surface, I do not fault anyone for reaching those conclusions. Below the surface, there is more to it than that. His Grace’s statement has been made out to be his way of justifying his actions.  I can tell you with great certainty that this is not the case. His Grace does take responsibility for the things he knows he did wrong. That does not include owning up to an attempt to seduce the complainant or to have had any impure intention towards her. To confess to such things would be dishonest. I am sorry if this is offensive to some, but it is the truth.

We have procedures, policies and guidelines in the OCA that we follow in cases like this. Part of that would include the confidentiality of the testimonies, accusations and responses made during the course of the investigation. The majority of the people, clergy and faithful alike, should not have even seen these accusations. If we wish to be fair, and if we wish to make a judgment based on the totality of the investigation than we should all have a desire and a responsibility to demand, now that the investigation is complete, to see and/or hear His Grace’s response to the allegations. I would feel justified standing before you today in sharing portions of that response given the amount of information that has been leaked and given the verbal evisceration His Grace has been exposed to for the past two months, and I could do it in a way that would protect the identity of the complainant, but I won’t do that, because I have not been given a blessing to do so. I will simply say that upon hearing His Grace’s response, those who initially interviewed him informed him that accusation, according to the standards and procedures of the OCA, was the lowest level of accusation that could be made and still fall under the category of “sexual misconduct.”

These aren’t His Grace’s words, but what he was told because it boiled down to how one interprets what was said. Even the complainant herself said she couldn’t say whether His Grace’s intentions were pure or evil. There is nearly 18 months of background that led to the text conversations in question, and 90% of the texts in question have simple, logical, explanations that would render them completely innocuous. Those that do not have simple explanations, are, at worst, completely stupid statements—this is the word I used myself when I spoke with His Grace shortly after the complaint had been made. You haven’t seen His Grace’s response to the allegations. Perhaps in seeing it, your feelings and judgments would be the same as they are today, but at least you would have heard the entirety of the investigation.

To render definitive judgments without that information is reckless and irresponsible. It would be akin to sitting on a jury, hearing the prosecution’s argument and than telling the defense “you have no need to speak, we’ve made up our minds.”  This wouldn’t fly in the court of law, and I’m quite certain it is not the way the Church is supposed to work. I pray that none of us, in this life or the next, has to face that sort of judgment. This is not to say that His Grace has no need of repentance. It is not to say that I have no level of disappointment in His Grace for putting himself in this position. It is to say that I am certain that His Grace was not attempting to seduce this woman; it is to say that I am certain that His Grace is not some sort of sexual predator, or that he was “grooming” her as has been suggested on the internet and today. This is something I know him to be not capable of.

I was the first person he called upon learning of the allegation, and we talked for along time. I can assure you, if I thought even for one second, that my father was capable of the things he has been accused of, I would have been the first person to ask him to resign. I could share with you any number of stories about His Grace that speak to who I know him to be; stories of his great generosity and willingness to go out of his way for people in ways that, in our cynical world, would no doubt be viewed by some in this room as “suspicious” There’s one of my sister’s best friends, who while in college remembered repressed memories of abuse she suffered at the hands of her father when she was a child. This was compounded by the realization that her mother knew about the abuse and did nothing to protect her. My parents opened the doors of our home to her whenever she needed a place to stay. She stayed with us often, both before and after my mother’s passing, because she felt safe there. My father counseled her through the horror of dealing with these memories.

There is a family in one of His Grace’s former parishes. His Grace baptized their youngest daughter and watched her struggle in her youth with a learning disability. The family became very close to my father because of his support for them. The girl’s mother became the choir director after my mother passed away. In a parish that existed for over 100 years without a woman ever reading the Epistle, His Grace trained this young girl to read it when she was 13, to help her with her confidence and her growth in her faith. If it had been up to His Grace, she would’ve read the Epistle at his consecration. To this day, the family is still close with my father. The mother reached out to him recently, reminding him of his friendship with her family, of the impact he has had on their lives, and on how her daughter still considers him to be her “2nd father.”

But perhaps the best way I can shed some light onto His Grace would be to say this: His Grace, as you know, has been visiting the orphanage and monastery in Guatemala for 12 years. The nuns there, due to their unique ministry, are quite adept at identifying those people who come to the orphanage who may not have the best interest of the children in mind. His Grace has been told and has seen these people removed from the orphanage over the years. The nuns have had a standing invite to His Grace for him to come to be at the monastery and orphanage permanently, if it were his desire to do. His Grace has been in contact with the Mother Inez throughout this process. She knows the nature of the accusations made against him. That invitation still stands. During those 12 years, His Grace has seen the horrors of the abuses the majority of those orphans have suffered through—sexually, as well as emotionally and physically—more often than not at the hands of their own parents.  He has also seen how genuine love and the Light of Christ in their hearts and souls has brought them peace and healing. He has brought that love to them, counseled them, and seen how their faces light up each and every time he arrives and how they shed tears each and every time he leaves.

I am sorry this doesn’t sync up with what some of you think about my father, but it is the truth.

His Grace continues to be obedient to what he has been asked to do, as he has been obedient at every turn during this investigation. Perhaps he will resign, if it is God’s will. As his son, part of me hopes he does, not for the reasons some wish him to resign, but because I know it would be better for his physical, emotional, and perhaps in some ways, his spiritual life. Should he be restored, I am confident that he will have the ability to continue to work for the well being of this Diocese. If you ask my father, he will readily tell you that he is not a scholar or an academic. He is a pastor, and a good one at that. It is his ability to be a pastor that will allow him to shepherd this Diocese. Regardless of what happens, and regardless of whether he remains the Bishop of this Diocese, those of us who know him best, those of us who have been touched by his ministry will continue to love and support him, knowing who he is, and what is in his heart. And no matter what happens, he will find a way to serve the Church, whether it is in Guatemala or somewhere else, because that is all he has done and known for over 40 years. Thank you for listening.