Thursday, March 31, 2011

"The Trustworthiness of Beards"

I think that all Orthodox clergy should be required to check this out before they grow (or shave) their beards ;-). Enjoy!

"Church Recognizes Growing Need for Mental Health Services"

An interesting article on how mental health issues are dealt with by southern California's Copts (and no doubt by many other communities worldwide) can be found here.

Moldovan Government Withdraws Anti-Discrimination Bill

The Moldovan government has withdrawn an anti-discrimination bill from parliamentary consideration that would have protected the country's minorities and brought it closer to association with the European Union. More here.

"Fighting Child Marriage in Ethiopia"

An article on the unfortunately rather widespread practice of child marriage in Ethiopia can be found here.

"Defying Deletion"

An excellent review of a new documentary on the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Iraq's Assyrians can be found here.

Hindus Burn Kerala Church

A Malankara Orthodox (or possibly a Malankara Catholic) church has been burned down in the Indian state of Kerala by Hindu fundamentalists. More here.

Egyptian Military Representatives Meet with Pope Shenouda

Representatives of the Egyptian Armed Forces have met with Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria to assuage fears in the Coptic Orthodox Church concerning the growing influence of Islamist movements in Egyptian politics and the recent attacks on Orthodox and Muslim women who do not follow traditional Muslim dress codes. More here.

Bishop Tikhon Responds to Washington Post Article

Bishop Tikhon (Mollard) of Philadelphia, in his capacity as secretary of the Holy Synod of the American Orthodox Church, has posted an excellent response to the Washington Post's recent article on Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) here.

Metropolitan Hilarion Visiting Serbia

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has begun a 3-day visit to the Church of Serbia. More here.

Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Meets with Turkish PM

Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I (Iwas) of Antioch and several metropolitans of the Syriac Orthodox Church met yesterday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Turkey, to discuss the Turkish government's theft of land from St. Gabriel's Monastery in Tur Abdin. During the meeting Prime Minister Erdogan committed himself to finding a way to have the lands recently appropriated from the Monastery returned to it. More here.

St. Maria of Paris

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Hymn from the Vespers for St. Patrick

Behold the shining brightness
of the solemnity of Patrick
when, having laid aside his body,
he happily ascends to heaven.

Already from his boyhood
he was filled with divine grace
and began to love the life
of angelic dignity.

This man of a blessed lineage
was born in Britain
and after receiving baptism
strove to attain the heights.

But the merciful and upright Lord
knowing the shape of future things
directed this apostle
to the people of Ireland.

For this island was
fruitful with the earth’s good things
yet dragged down to the lowest point
by its idolatrous worship.

When he arrived here
the distinguised teacher, Patrick,
preached to the heathens
that which he lived in his life.

The heathens assented
to his sacred warnings
and spitting out the devil
worshipped the King of all.

And rejoicing to be free
they returned to their homeland
from which they had once been expelled
through the serpent’s cunning.

Therefore, most beloved,
let us in turn sing psalms
with heart and voice to Christ
in praise of this bishop,

So that with his help,
freed from vice,
we may fully enjoy
the angelic vision in glory.

Praise be to the Father, in the Son
with the Spirit Paraclete,
who by his gift of grace
has shown mercy to Ireland. Amen

Hat tip to Under the Oak for posting this beautiful hymn from the Roman Rite's Sarum Use first!

Jobs: Jordanville Monastery Seeking a Cook

Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, is looking for a resident cook for the Monastery and the Seminary. More here.

Russian Jewess Refuses to Renounce Orthodoxy for Israeli Citizenship

Again and Again has an amazing story here.

San Francisco Diocesan Council Passes Resolution on Metropolitan Jonah and the OCA

The Diocesan Council of the Diocese of San Francisco and Western America of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) has unanimously passed a resolution concerning recent events in the life of the OCA involving Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) and the day-to-day operation of the OCA's chancery. More here. Hat tip to Byzantine Texas for posting this first!

Architect of New Parisian Cathedral an Atheist

The architect of the new Russian Orthodox cathedral in Paris, Manuel Nunez-Yanovsky, has confessed to be an atheist, but a "mystic" one who is "closer to Orthodoxy than Catholicism" culturally. Although born in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Nunez-Yanovsky has spent most of his life in France and Spain. More here.

Mount Athos Threatens to Cut Contacts with Greek Government

Mount Athos has threatened to cut all its contacts with the government of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou should the latter insist that the Holy Mountain's monasteries pay tax on their properties in Greece. More here.

Metropolitan Hilarion Meets with Armenian Orthodox Bishop in Russia

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk of the Russian Orthodox Church met today with members of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Moscow, among them Bishop Yezras (Nersissian) of Novo-Nakhichevan and Russia of the Echmiadzin Catholicate. In greeting Bishop Yezras and his flock Metropolitan Hilarion noted the love of Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of All Rus' for Armenia and referred to the country as "very dear" to him personally as well. More here.

There is a large and vibrant Armenian Diaspora in Russia due to the long periods that eastern Armenia spent as part of the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union. The Armenian Orthodox Diocese of Novo-Nakhichevan and Russia is currently building a church and administrative center in Moscow for the Armenian Orthodox Church in Russia.

Montenegrin Metropolitan Calls on Flock to Freely Identify in Census

Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radovich) of Cetinje, Montenegro, and the Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox Church has issued a press release exhorting his flock and all Montenegrins to participate in the upcoming national census "without fear and prejudice, without any ideological burdens...according to conscience and [their] responsibility before God, the people, and their descendants - to express their religious, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds." Orthodox Christians, however, were called upon to identify their faith. More here.

The press release comes after remarks by Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovich) of Pech
encouraging Montenegro's ethnic Serb majority to identify as Serb and by Muslim leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia for Montenegro's Muslim minority to identify as ethnic Bosnians.

Moscow Patriarchate Publishes Brochure for the Homeless

The Moscow Patriarchate's department for charity and social services has released a brochure for Moscow's homeless with the addresses and phone numbers of state, religious, and private organizations involved in helping the homeless. The 6,000 copies that were printed will be distributed at Moscow's train stations. More here.

Islamists Protest Over Camelia Shehata

In an ironic twist Islamists have organized protests calling for the release of an alleged Coptic Orthodox convert to Islam supposedly being held against her will by the Church. More on that here. The protests are shameful given the long history in Egypt of the killing of Muslim converts to Orthodoxy and the kidnapping and forced marriage to Muslims of Coptic Orthodox women and young girls. Irregardless, the woman in question, Camelia Shehata, has herself repeatedly and publicly confirmed that she never converted to Islam and remains a Coptic Orthodox Christian. God help Egypt...

Photo of the Day: Enthronement of Metropolitan Mar Seraphim

Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II of the East and Metropolitan Abraham Mar Seraphim of Bangalore during the latter's enthronement this past Sunday.

St. Patrick of Ireland

Joyous feast! St. Patrick is probably one of the best known Saints in the West, as evidenced by all the parades theoretically in his honor in the United States and Canada :-). He's also my 'go to' saint for the Canadian half of my family given our largely Irish and British descent. More on his life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Metropolitan Hilarion Congratulates New Ukrainian Catholic Primate

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk of the Russian Orthodox Church has sent Major Archbishop Metropolitan Svyatoslav (Shevchuk) of the Ukrainian Catholic Church congratulations on his enthronement this past Sunday. In his congratulations Vladyka Hilarion expressed the hope that the Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic Churches can "gradually resolve acute and painful problems that accumulated over years to the [better] welfare and prosperity of the Ukrainian people," stating that "the Moscow Patriarchate is ready to develop constructive discussions with the [Ukrainian] Catholic Church...aimed at overcoming the existing difficulties." More here.

Serbian Orthodox and Yugoslav Muslim Leaders Call on Montenegrins to Identify in Census

Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovich) of Pech of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Mustafa Ceric, head Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslims, and Muamer Zukorlić, grand mufti of Serbia's Muslims, have all called on Montenegrins to freely identify their ethnicity and faith in the upcoming national census in Montenegro. Nationalists in Montenegro are pushing for the republic's citizens to identify as ethnic Montenegrins regardless of their actual ethnicity. More here.

Milan Synod in Europe Confirms Desire for Union with Russian Orthodox Church

Archbishop Abbondio of Como, an auxiliary to the First Hierarch of the Milan Synod in Western Europe, has confirmed that the Milan Synod is pursuing reception into the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church and does not have any ties with the various Old Calendrist and traditionalist movements in the former USSR. He noted in particular the Milan Synod's apparently close ties with Metropolitan Vladimir (Cantarean) of Chisinau. More here.

The day before Archbishop Abbondio's comments vis-a-vis the Milan Synod in Europe and the Moscow Patriarchate the Milan Synod's sister church in North America reaffirmed its opposition to communion with the mainstream Local Orthodox Churches. More on that here.

Pictured is Bishop Abbondio at a recent service in Milan, Italy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fr. John Henry No Longer Orthodox?

It appears that the recently resigned superior of St. Herman of Alaska's Monastery in Cleveland, Ohio, Igumen John (Henry), was removed from the ranks of the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA a month prior to his February arrest because of his failure to provide a full audit for the finances of the Monastery and its house of mercy. More on that and Fr. John's life can be found here.

Update (8:11pm): Although Fr. John's current ecclesiastical status remains unclear, he is apparently on a retreat at an Orthodox monastery in upstate New York and planning on entering a treatment program in Maryland at its conclusion. Back in Cleveland the interim administration at St. Herman's hopes to preserve its identity as an Orthodox Christian outreach and may meet with the members of the Greater Cleveland Council of Orthodox Clergy on 4 April. More here.

Bishop Vikentios Barred from Visiting Imbros

Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople has withdrawn his blessing for Bishop Vikentios (Malamatenios) of Apameia, former deputy abbot of St. Irene Chrysovolantou's Monastery in Astoria, New York, to visit the Turkish Metropolis of Imbros and Tenedos during Holy Week and Pascha. More here.

Greek Government Taxing Athonite Properties

The ruling monasteries of Mount Athos have refused a recent order from the Greek government that they pay tax on their land holdings located in Greece itself. (Mount Athos is technically a theocracy only loosely associated with the Greek state.) More here. Hat tip to Mystagogy for posting this first!

Ukrainian Catholic Primate to Request Vatican Establishment of a Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate

As he prepared to depart for Rome for his first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI the newly enthroned primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Metropolitan Svyatoslav (Shevchuk) of Kiev and Galicia, stated that he intended to ask that the Vatican elevate his church to the rank of a patriarchate. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches, but is not ranked as a patriarchate despite the claim of its last two primates to the title. More here.

AFR Interview on Metropolitan Nicholas of the ACROD

Ancient Faith Radio has posted an interview with Protopresbyter Frank Miloro, chancellor of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese (ACROD), about the newly reposed Metropolitan Nicholas (Smisko) of Amissos here.

Moldovan Orthodox Parish in London

Efforts are underway to establish a Romanian-speaking parish in London under the Diocese of Sourozh for immigrants from Moldova. More here.

Patriarch Theophilus Comments on Divisions in Ukrainian Orthodoxy

During his visit to Ukraine, Patriarch Theophilos III (Giannopoulos) of Jerusalem has stated that he does not believe that the Ukrainian Orthodox who reject the authority of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church should appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the resolution of their canonical status, saying that they should instead first "find a common language and a willingness to participate in the dialogue" amongst themselves. More here.

Sunday of Orthodoxy in Los Angeles

Some pictures from the hierarchical Sunday of Orthodoxy celebrations in Los Angeles have been posted here. It's interesting that although the website bills the concelebration as that of the "Canonical Bishops in the West[ern United States]" neither of the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad's Diocese of Western America were present at the services. Whether this is by a failure to invite them or their refusal to come is unknown to me, but it's disappointing nonetheless.

Alternative Synod Clergyman Killed in Bulgaria

A prominent clergyman under the 'Alternative Synod' of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, a breakaway from the Sofia Patriarchate in communion with the Kiev Patriarchate in Ukraine and an uncanonical schism in Montenegro, has been killed in a car accident in Bulgaria. More here.

Pope Shenouda, Synodal Committee Meet to Discuss Threats to Copts

Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria met today with a committee of the Coptic Orthodox Holy Synod to discuss the rising profile of Islamists in public life and the current threats to Copts in post-Mubarak Egypt. More here.

Photo of the Day: Plans for Kiev's New Cathedral

Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem with Metropolitan Volodymyr of Kiev examining the model of the Cathedral of the Resurrection currently under construction in Kiev.

Restoration Work on Old Cairo Monastery Planned

Restoration work on the church of St. George's Monastery in Old Cairo, the site of the Saint's martyrdom and also a stopover of the Holy Family in Egypt, is due to begin shortly. More here.

Metropolitan Juvenaly on Novodevichiy Monastery

An interesting interview with Metropolitan Yuvenaliy (Poyarkov) of Krutitsy and Kolomna of the Russian Orthodox Church concerning the transfer of the branch of the State Historical Museum at Moscow's New Maidens' Monastery to the Church can be found here.

Romanian Orthodox Church Modifies New Year Services

The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church has mandated changes to the services that inaugurate the secular New Year on 1 January. More here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Betwixt East and West?

Although clearly outside the Orthodox Church, the situation of the Eastern Catholic Churches is a truly unique one. Check this out on the rejection by the Melkite Catholic Church of the post-Great Schism 'ecumenical' councils of the Roman Catholic Church.

Founding of a DC Monastery Problematic for OCA Hierarchy

There is apparently continuing concern in the hierarchy of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) over the establishment of a women's monastery in Washington, DC. The reasons for this concern have not been stated beyond the refusal of the newly arrived nuns' metropolitan, a hierarch of the Church of Greece, to release them to the OCA, and a reported laxity on the part of their spiritual father in receiving non-Orthodox into the Church. More here.

Photo of the Day: Sunday of the Cross in Alexandria

Pope Theodoros II (Horeftakis) of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church processing with the Cross during yesterday's festal services in Cairo, Egypt.

Unrest Continues in Syria

While Syria continues to experience unrest it appears that everyone except its Sunni Muslims want President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power. More here.

Hermitage to be Founded in Scotland

Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of New York of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has blessed the establishment of a hermitage in Scotland. The hermitage, which will be dedicated to St. Drostan, will be formally established later this year. More here.

Patriarch Theophilos Visiting Ukraine

Patriarch Theophilos III (Giannopoulos) of Jerusalem is on a visit to the Ukraine. Over the weekend he met with hierarchs of the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church and then on Sunday visited the Kiev Caves Lavra.

Syriac Orthodox Church in Lebanon Bombed

St. Mary's Church in Zahle, Lebanon, suffered a large explosion yesterday. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack against the Syriac Orthodox church many throughout Lebanon have condemned it as well as the abduction of Estonian tourists near Zahle last week. Despite the damage to the church Metropolitan Mor Yostinos Paulos of Zahle celebrated the Sunday Liturgy in the courtyard of the church. More here and here.

Al-Azhar Grand Imam Meets with Qena Attack Victim

Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb of Egypt's al-Azhar University has met with Ayman Anwar Metari, who was attacked last week in Qena, and stated that he will undergo plastic surgery for his missing ear at the University's hospital. More here.

Metropolitan Mar Seraphim of Bangalore Enthroned

Yesterday saw the enthronement of the youngest hierarch of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Metropolitan Abraham Mar Seraphim of Bangalore, by Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II of the East in Bangalore's Cathedral of St. George. More here.

Muslim Brotherhood Still Planning Meeting with Coptic Orthodox Youth

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood continues to claim that it will shortly be organizing meetings with Coptic Orthodox youth in an effort to explain to them the Islamist movement's political platform. The Coptic Youth Movement has rejected the overtures and Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) denies endorsing such meetings, so what will come of the Brotherhood's initiative remains to be seen. More here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

St. Benedict of Nursia

Joyous feast! St. Benedict was one of the great organizers of monasticism in the Orthodox West, parallel to Sts. Anthony the Great and Basil the Great in the East, and is therefore known as the 'Patriarch of Western Monasticism.' His rule continues to be followed today by several Roman Catholic monastic orders as well as by Western Orthodox monastics under the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. More on his life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Quote of the Day: Elder Ephraim of Philotheou

"Be more afraid of interior criticism, criticism in thought - and this, because it does not come to light through the spoken word, where is it likely to be corrected by those who hear it. Be careful, I say, about criticism from within, which imperceptibly makes us fatally guilty and deprives us of the life of divine grace and offers, as a most bitter drink, the death of the soul."

Friday, March 25, 2011

OCA Holy Synod, Metropolitan Council Meetings Rescheduled

The secretary of the American Orthodox Church's chancery has stated that the national administration continues to do its work in coordinating the ministries of the Church in North America. Whatever issues have arisen between the hierarchy and Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) of Washington will be dealt with at the rescheduled meetings of the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council, which will be held this May in Chicago in conjunction with the consecration of Bishop-elect Matthias (Moriak) of Chicago. More here.

Svyatoslav (Shevchuk) Appointed Ukrainian Catholic Primate

The Vatican has appointed Bishop Svyatoslav (Shevchuk) of Buenos Aires as Archbishop Major of Kiev and Galicia and primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The 40-year old bishop was consecrated less than 2 years ago and was nominated for the primacy by the recent electoral meeting of the Ukrainian Catholic Holy Synod. More here.

Georgian Opposition Done with Saakashvili

The Georgian opposition claims to be organizing a revolution to overthrow the regime of President Mikheil Saakashvili by this summer. More here.

EU Firm on Moldovan Anti-Discrimination Law

The head of the European Union-Moldova Interparliamentary Commission has stated that Moldova's preparations for association with the EU must include the passage of a proposed anti-discrimination law protecting the country's ethnic and sexual minorities or the preparations will not be able to proceed. More here.

Egyptian Interior Ministry to Establish Joint Muslim/Orthodox Committee

The Egyptian Interior Ministry has agreed to establish a committee comprised of clerics of al-Azhar University and the Coptic Orthodox Church to deal with "ethnic problems" between Egypt's Arab Muslim majority and its large Coptic Orthodox minority. The agreement between the Ministry and Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) comes in the wake of an attack on a Copt, Ayman Anwar Metari, in the Upper Egyptian city of Qena. Although he survived the attack, Mr. Metari had an ear cut off and also had his home and car burned by his attackers. More here.

Metropolitan Andrew of Cluj Enthroned

After this morning's festal services for new style Annunciation in Cluj's cathedral the city's Metropolitan-elect Andrei was enthroned by Patriarch Daniel (Ciobotea) of Bucharest as Metropolitan of Cluj, Alba, Crisana, and Maramures. More here.

Romanian Orthodox Church in Hungary to be Recognized as a 'Historic Faith'

The Romanian Orthodox Church in Hungary will soon join a list of its historic faiths, which to date has included the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformed Hungary, the Evangelical Church, and the Union of Hebrew Communities. More here.

New Martyrs of Bessarabia

Moldova's New Galilee Association has compiled research on unglorified Saints and New Martyrs of Bessarabia (a region encompassing modern day Moldova and the Ukraine's Budjak district). The Association's work has already received the encouragement of Metropolitan Vladimir (Cantarean) of Chisinau and the Moldovan Orthodox Church and it is hoped that these Bessarabian Saints and New Martyrs will soon be officially glorified by the Church of Rus' for the veneration of its faithful in Moldova and throughout the world. More here.

Romania Marks 'Days of Bessarabia'

Today through Sunday celebrations marking the 93rd anniversary of the union of Bessarabia, an ethnically mixed borderland of the Russian Empire inhabited by Romanians, Ukrainians, and the Gagauz, with the Kingdom of Romania will be held in Bucharest. The celebrations will conclude on Sunday with a memorial at the tomb of Metropolitan Gurie (Grosu) of Chisinau, the first Metropolitan of Bessarabia following its transfer to the Church of Romania. More here.

Following World War II Bessarabia was annexed by the Soviet Union, which divided its territory between the Ukrainian and Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republics, with the latter representing the regional particularities of the region's Romanians as making them a distinct ethnic group. Although union with Romania was discussed following the collapse of the USSR, Moldova remains independent and its government continues to describe its language as Moldovan, not Romanian.

Pope Theodore Leads Annunciation Celebrations in Alexandria

Pope Theodoros II (Horeftakis) of Alexandria has returned to Egypt to lead celebrate new style Annunciation and Greek Independence Day celebrations at Alexandria's Cathedral of the Annunciation. What Greek Independence Day should have to do with Egypt's ancient Greek-speaking community or the Church of Alexandria is beyond me, but as the Annunciation is now synonymous in the Greek world with the liberation of Greece from the Turks the joining of the two seems to be unavoidable.

Metropolitan Nicholas of Hermopolis, papal vicar for Egypt's Arabic-speaking Alexandrian Orthodox faithful, and Bishop Gabriel of Mareotis, papal auxiliary for the Archdiocese of Alexandria, concelebrated the festal services with Pope Theodoros. More here.

St. Petersburg Diocese Opening Youth Rehabilitation Center

The Eparchy of St. Petersburg has opened the first rehabilitation center for juvenile prisoners in Russia. The center will be opened in a prison near St. Petersburg in cooperation with the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation. More here.

Quote of the Day: Leo Tolstoy

"What’s important is that you do pray every day; that’s very good. It is totally different from going to church. There the people would say ‘what a good person – he remembered the Nativity of the Mother of God and went to church!’ But to pray to God by yourself, to cross yourself, to address Him when no one knows what you have said to Him, what you have asked, is a different thing altogether."

St. Gregory the Great

Joyous feast! Pope St. Gregory the Great of Rome was one of the great lights of the Church of the West and many continue to read his writings throughout the Orthodox world. He is so esteemed in the East that a service, the Presanctified Liturgy, is attributed to him, while the West remembers him as the last great reformer of the Mass of the Roman Rite, whose last significant changes in form and content took place during his papacy. More on his life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Syria Promises Reform

The Syrian government is promising to introduce political reforms in the wake of the violence in Deraa and the protests that it has sparked. More here.

Metropolitan Mar Timothy Visiting Southern and Eastern Africa

Metropolitan Mathews Mar Thimothios of London has begun a pastoral visit to the southernmost reaches of his diocese, which encompasses the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Europe and Africa, in South Africa. In addition to South Africa Metropolitan Mar Thimothios will also visit the Malankara Orthodox faithful in Botswana and Tanzania before concluding his travels by celebrating Holy Week and Pascha in the United Arab Emirates. More here.

"Avoiding Both Self-Ghettoization and Trinket Evangelism"

Fr. Oliver Herbel has an excellent post on balance in Orthodox life and outreach in North America here. He speaks at one point of Orthodox Christians who grow out their hair, wear all black, and wonder around with long prayer ropes and I couldn't help laughing - partly because I was trending in that direction at one point :-) and partly because I still meet converts in that phase.

When I left Protestantism the question of how to be relevant to the wider culture around me ceased to be a question and the beard and prayer rope were added to my 'look.' I certainly haven't grown in faith since those days, but more and more I'm realizing that the question of relevance isn't irrelevant :-). It can be thought about too much (and result in awesome stuff like crowd surfing during church), but that doesn't mean that we in the world shouldn't take a look in the mirror from time to time and ask ourselves how we are witnesses to others of God's call to communion with Him.

So, there's my half penny on all of this. Fr. Oliver's article is much better and to the point. Enjoy!

Pictured is yours truly being culturally relevant in a kilt - culturally relevant for a friend's wedding that is :-).

Pope Shenouda Denies Discussing Youth Meetings with Brotherhood Leader

Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria has denied discussing meetings between Mohamed Badie, leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, and Coptic Orthodox youth. More here.

Egypt Bans Religious, Regional Parties

The interim Egyptian government has passed a law banning the formation of political parties on religious or regional bases. More here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

South Sudan Prepares for Independence

As independence approaches for South Sudan its problems seem to be mounting with an internal rebellion, plans underway for an expensive new capital, North Sudanese military operations in neighboring Abyei district, and the assassination of one of its ministers being at the forefront. More here.

"Blessed Alexander Schmorell and the White Rose"

In Communion, the website of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, has a beautiful article on the life of St. Alexander (Schmorell) of Munich and the White Rose resistance to Nazism in Germany.

Lenten Epistle of Bishop Nicon of Boston

The Lenten epistle of Bishop Nikon (Liolin) of Boston and the Albanians of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) is worth a read given the assorted culture war articles and conspiracy theories being pushed online by people claiming to support Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) of Washington. It's sad that all of this has become such a big deal...

Photo of the Day: Holy Dormition Cathedral in Denver

Holy Assumption Cathedral in Denver, Colorado. Funds are apparently lacking as the parish has only gotten the dome up so far...

Canadian Conference of Orthodox Bishops Meets in Toronto

This past Monday the members of the Canadian Conference of Orthodox Bishops met in Toronto, Ontario, to discuss the life of the Local Orthodox Churches present in Canada and the status of the Canadian Orthodox appeal to have a separate Episcopal Assembly of Canada established as part of the Chambesy process. Hierarchs of the Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America (which has one mission in Canada), the American Orthodox Church (OCA), the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto, the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Two Americas, the synodal Russian Orthodox Eparchy of Montreal, the patriarchal Russian Orthodox exarchate in Canada, the Serbian Orthodox Church in Canada, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada participated in the meeting. More here.

Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco Granted Leave of Absence

Archbishop Kyrill (Dmitrieff) of San Francisco of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad's Western American Diocese has been granted a leave of absence by the Synod Abroad for medical treatment. During his absence Archbishop Kyrill's auxiliary, Bishop Theodosius (Ivashchenko) of Seattle, will administer the Western American Diocese on his behalf. The decree appointing Bishop Theodosius as diocesan administrator can be found here.

Cretan Metropolitan Defends Turkish Citizenship

In a public meeting Metropolitan Nektarios of Petras of the Cretan Orthodox Church defended his adoption of Turkish citizenship, saying that the step was necessary for the survival of the Church of Constantinople in Turkey. More here.

Synod of Metropolitan Agathangel Meets in the USA

Last week a meeting of the Synod Abroad of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) under Metropolitan Agathangel (Pashkovskiy) of Odessa was held at the Tolstoy Foundation in Valley Cottage, New York. At the meeting the assembled hierarchs, most of whom have been consecrated since Metropolitan Agathangel's schism from the mainstream ROCOR in 2007, agreed to publish an appeal to their clergy and faithful not to return to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Synod also approved plans for the establishment of a new international headquarters and residence for its first hierarch in New York. The consecration of the new headquarters' church, which will be dedicated to St. Philaret (Vosnesenskiy) the Confessor of New York, is to be celebrated on 19 November.

During the meeting Metropolitan Agathangel informed the Synod of his conversation with deposed Patriarch Irinaios (Skopelitis) of Jerusalem, claiming that he was deposed for his anti-ecumenical stance and could therefore continue to remain in communion with the schism as the ROCOR had been in communion with him prior to the 2007 reunion with Moscow. (This despite the fact that the strongly anti-ecumenical Patriarch Diodorus (Karivalis) of Jerusalem was never deposed during his patriarchate and the fact that the ROCOR remained in communion with Jerusalem when Patriarch Theophilos III (Giannopoulos) was enthroned in 2005.) This is pending the agreement of the Synod in Resistance of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Lastly, the Synod considered an appeal from Old Calendrist parishes in Georgia for reception into the ROCOR. More on the Synod's discussions can be found here.

Ukrainian Catholics Nominate Next Primate

On the third day of voting the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church finally nominated one of its members for appointment by the Vatican as the next primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The name will not be released until the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church's sister church, the Roman Catholic Church, confirms the appointment. More here.

Melbourne Parish Made Cathedral

This past Sunday the Church of St. Mary in Melbourne, Victoria, was elevated to the rank of a cathedral by Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II of the East of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The bull proclaiming the parish's elevation was read by Metropolitan Yuhanon Mar Dioscoros of Chennai (Madras). More here.

New Cluj Metropolitan to be Enthroned on Annunciation

During tomorrow's new style celebration of the Annunciation in Cluj the new Metropolitan of Cluj will be enthroned in the city by Patriarch Daniel (Ciobotea) of Bucharest of the Romanian Orthodox Church. More here.

Patriarch Irinej Serves Memorial for NATO Victims

Patriarch Irinej (Gavrilovich) of Pech led a memorial today in Belgrade's Church of St. Mark for the repose of those killed during the NATO attacks on Serbia in 1999. The service was attended by a large number of faithful as well as the Russian ambassador to Serbia. More here.

Metropolitan Hilarion Confident Council Preparations Will Resume

In an interview Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has expressed his confidence that the preparations for a general council of the Local Orthodox Churches (perhaps even a "great and holy" council ;-) ) will resume "in the near future." More here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fr. Gerasim Leads Chicago Lenten Seminar

Archimandrite Gerasim (Eliel), former abbot of St. Herman's Monastery in Platina, California, led a Lenten seminar at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of the Resurrection in Libertyville, Illinois, earlier this week. Fr. Gerasim, currently a student at St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, New York, is widely expected to be the next Bishop of Sitka. More here.

Second Day of Ukrainian Catholic Synod Concludes

Another four rounds of voting by the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church have failed to produce a nominee for appointment as its next primate. If tomorrow's voting fails to produce a nominee, then the following day the Synod will only consider the top two candidates. More here.

Salalah Parish Prepares for Episcopal Visit

St. Stephen's Church in Salalah, Oman, is preparing for a visit from its diocesan bishop, Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Yulios of Ahmedabad of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. More here.

Russia, Serbia Affirm Ties

During a visit by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin to Serbia the Serbian government affirmed its strong ties with Russia and noted that Serbian integration into the European Union would be closely monitored to ensure that it would not mean a weakening of links with the Russian Federation. More here.

French Photographer Turned Athonite Hieromonk

An interesting story from Interfax about a French photographer who became an Athonite monk can be found here.

Egyptian Government Considers New Legal Restrictions on Protests

The Council of Ministers appointed by the Egyptian Armed Forces is considering a law restricting protests in the hopes of stabilizing the country's economy, which has suffered since the protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak began. More here.

Increase in North Sudanese Armed Forces in Abyei

Satellite images are tracking a build-up of forces in the North Sudanese district of Abyei, where a referendum on joining an independent South Sudan was blocked by violence. Although the referendum in the district was agreed to by both North and South Sudan, Abyei has significant oil reserves and North Sudan is reluctant to lose it in addition to the substantial South Sudanese reserves. More here.

Iranian Tourists Flock to Armenia During Nowruz

As Iranians worldwide begin celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, as many as 12,000 Iranians are planning to get away from the dreary pace of life in modern Iran and spend the holiday in nearby Armenia. More here.

Romania Prepares for the March for Life

Romania is preparing for its first large-scale Marches for Life, which will be held in the cities of Bucharest, Timisoara, and Satu Mare on the new style afterfeast of the Annunciation this coming Saturday. Although a predominantly Orthodox Christian nation Romania has the highest abortion rate in the European Union and the second highest in Europe. More here.

Muslim Brotherhood Dissident Forms Political Party

A member of the main dissident faction within Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Hamed al-Dafrawy, has announced that he is establishing the Peace and Development Society party, whose membership will be open to all Egyptians regardless of religious affiliation. More here.

Artsakh Rejects Azerbaijani Claims of a Ceasefire Violation

The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Artsakh has issued a statement rejecting Azerbaijani claims that the Artsakh Defense Army violated the ceasefire between the two states, saying that Azerbaijan is trying to escalate already high tensions between itself and Artsakh. Azerbaijan claims that the Defense Army recently killed an Azerbaijani soldier near the ceasefire zone between Azerbaijan and Artsakh. More here.

Azerbaijan's claims come as relations between Turkey and Armenia move towards normalizing and as Russia renews a push for a long-term peace agreement between Armenia, Artsakh, and Azerbaijan. Should Turkey and Armenia establish normal diplomatic relations the economic situation of both Armenia and Artsakh, an ethnically Armenian republic on the territory of the former Azerbaijani autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh, would improve significantly.

Chicago Assyrian Priest Made Corbishop

Priest Paulus Benjamin has been elevated to the rank of corbishop (a priestly rank in the East and West Syrian Rites as opposed to an episcopal one in the Byzantine Rite) by Bishop Mar Awa (Royel) of California of the Assyrian Church of the East in Chicago's Mar Gewargis Cathedral. More here.

Converts Versus Cradles?

Whenever I'm reading the crazy comments on websites like OCA News about the supposed clash between "cradles" and converts" I as an adult (or almost adult - whatever high school counts as) convert to Orthodoxy find myself wondering what our children will be in all of this. Will they be "craverts"? "Condles"? Will we make them choose which of these silly camps they join when they come of age?

I've seen cradle/convert conflicts at the parish level and was hit most of all by how unnecessary they were. They were not, in fact, about one side being "cradle" Orthodox and the other being "convert" Orthodox. They were about personalities and disobedience. None of the "cradle" Orthodox from the Old World joined in on 'their' side in the conflicts and the conflicts themselves passed relatively quickly as the parish settled into the changes that generally accompany the arrival of a new priest.

It's sad to see us dividing ourselves even more, beyond "Greek" and Russian" to "convert" and "cradle" or "conservative" and "liberal." All of this violates the Tradition and denies our fundamental belonging to the Church. Like it or not, we are together in all of this. It would be appropriate, I think, were we to figure out how to get past our pet peeves and pet causes so that we can love one another. It would certainly save a lot of unnecessary and unhelpful posts online ;-) (much like this one I'm sure!) and might even get us closer to having our own Orthodox Church of the Americas.

Serbian Orthodox in Australia and New Zealand Propose a New Saint

The Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand has proposed that Elder Nicanor (Hilandarskiy), an Athonite monk who served in the Diocese, be glorified as a saint by the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church. More here.

Hungary Considers Designating Romanian Orthodox Church a 'Historic Church'

The Hungarian Parliament is considering a draft law that if implemented in its current form would designate the Romanian Orthodox Church as one of Hungary's "historic churches." In a meeting with Laszlo Szaszfalvi, the Secretary of State for Religious Affairs of the Hungarian government, Patriarch Daniel (Ciobotea) of Bucharest proposed that the Hungarian government also assist in the restoration of Romanian Orthodox churches in Hungary as some church properties in the country haven't been returned to the Church since the fall of Communism. More here.

Novak Djokovic Helps Grachanica Monastery

Renowned Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic has donated $100,000 to the Grachanica Monastery in Kosovo to help it protect its lands from being appropriated by the Kosovar government. More here.

Church in Nice Buys Land

The Romanian Orthodox Church of Sts. Constantine and Helena in Nice, France, has successfully raised the funds needed to purchase property in the city upon which to build a permanent church. The paperwork for the purchase was signed this past Friday. More here.

Patriarch Cyril Meets with Palestinian President

Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow met today with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority during the latter's visit to Russia. More here.

Holy Synod Elects Bishop of Yeysk

In addition to the other decisions taken at the recent meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church it elected Igumen Herman (Kamalov) auxiliary for the Eparchy of Yekaterinodar as Bishop of Yeysk, my godmother's hometown in southern Russia (on the Sea of Azov). Axios! The dates of Bishop-elect Herman's elevation to the rank of archimandrite and consecration to the episcopacy have yet to be announced. More here.

Pictured is the Church of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple in Yeysk.

Kiev Patriarchate Holy Synod Admonishes Hierarchs, Condemns Occult

At its meeting last week the Holy Synod of the Kyiv Patriarchate dealt with several matters in the life of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, excluding Archbishop Baruch (Tyshchenkov) of Tobolsk from its hierarchy due to his failure to remain in regular communication with Kiev and calling on two of its hierarchs in southeastern Ukraine, Metropolitan Adrian of Kryvyi Rih and Nikopol' and Bishop Simeon of Dnipropetrovsk and Pavlohrad, to stop interfering in one another's dioceses.

The Holy Synod also condemned the followers of a Ukrainian occultic leader from northern Bukovina, calling on the movement to repent and return to Orthodoxy. It also noted that according to the diocesan reports submitted to Kiev that the Kiev Patriarchate grew by 270 parishes in 2010. More on these and the other issues discussed by the Holy Synod can be found here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First Day of Ukrainian Catholic Synod Concludes

The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has completed its first day of voting to nominate its next primate, with four rounds of voting having been held. If a candidate isn't nominated by two-thirds of the Synod in twelve rounds of voting, then a special round of voting will nominate by a majority one of the two candidates with the most votes so far. More here.

"On Intrigues in the Church"

An excellent sermon delivered by Bishop Jerome (Shaw) of Manhattan on the Sunday of Orthodoxy can be found here.

North Sudan's Copts

A somewhat dated but still relevant article about North Sudan's Copts and their place in Sudanese life can be found here. The article has its inaccuracies (for example, the Copts haven't been in North Sudan for 1,300 years, but they used to have coreligionists in the region who were later forcibly converted to Islam), but is still worth the read. Enjoy!

Muslim Brotherhood Leader Calls Pope Shenouda

Mohamed Badie, leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, has called Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria asking to meet with young Copts to assuage their fears concerning the role the Brotherhood is beginning to play in Egyptian politics and emphasize its belief in the equality of all Egyptians. This is in spite of previous 2007 statements by the Brotherhood that non-Muslims and women should not be allowed to run for the presidency. More here.

Holy Synod Elects New Hierarchs for Siberian, Russian Eparchies

At its ongoing session the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has decided to elect Archbishop Mark of Khabarovsk and the Amur to the vacant Eparchy of Vyatka, Archbishop Ignatiy of Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka to the Eparchy of Khabarovsk, auxiliary Bishop Panteleimon of Orekhovo to the Eparchy of Smolensk, and Archimandrite Artemiy (Snigur) as Bishop of Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka. More here.

Update: At the same session the Holy Synod also elected Archimandrite Serafim (Glushakov) as auxiliary Bishop of Voskresensk and Igumen Nikolai (Chashin) as auxiliary Bishop of Zvenigorod. Both will serve as auxiliaries to Patriarch Kirill (Gundyayev) of Moscow and All Rus'. More here.

Bulgarian Orthodox Church Glorifies Batak New Martyrs

At its session last week the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church glorified the New Martyrs of Batak who suffered under the Turkish Yoke. The formal glorification will take place at the services for the Sunday of St. John of the Ladder. More on that here. The New Martyrs were glorified 5 years ago by the Bulgarian Old Calendrist Orthodox Church in communion with the Greek Orthodox Synod in Resistance, but the connection (if any) between that decision and this one hasn't been established.

Holy Synod Creates New Dioceses in Caucasus, Elects New Bishops

At its ongoing session the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has established the Eparchies of Pyatigorsk and Circassia and Vladikavkaz and Makhachkala. The former will care for the Mineralniye and Kirov regions of Stavropol' Krai as well as the Republics of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia. The latter will have jurisdiction over North Ossetia, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya.

In the aftermath of the changes Archbishop Theophan of Stavropol' and Vladikavkaz was transferred to the Eparchy of Chelyabinsk, whilst Archbishop Zosima of Elista and Kalmykia was elected Bishop of Vladikavkaz and Bishop Theophylact of Smolensk was elected Bishop of Pyatigorsk. Auxiliary Bishop Kirill of Pavlovskiy Posad was also elected Bishop of Stavropol', retaining charge of the patriarchal commission for cooperation with the Cossacks. Archimandrite Zinoviy (Korzinkin) was also made Bishop-elect of Elista and Kalmykia. More here.

Plovdiv Metropolitan Joins in Condemnation of Bulgarian Occult

Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has joined in the public condemnation of occultism in Bulgaria, calling on the faithful of his diocese to avoid association with the popular mystic Vanga and other anti-Church spiritual figures. More here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Russian Orthodox Commission Discusses the Reception of Converts

Today a session of the Commission on the Relationship with Non-Orthodox Christians and Other Religions of the Moscow Patriarchate was held under the leadership of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk. The Commission met to discuss the means by which the Russian Orthodox Church receives converts from the various Christian movements in the West. It was decided at today's session to form a working group to study past norms in receiving converts and the reasoning behind them as well as the various Western Christian organizations' practices and beliefs so that uniform policies regulating the reception of converts from the Adventist, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Old Catholic, Pentecostal, and Reformed Churches and other Western Christian movements can be drafted for consideration at the Commission's next session. More here.

Antiochian Orthodox Representative in Moscow Meets with Metropolitan Hilarion

This past Friday Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk met with Metropolitan Niphon of Philippopolis, the representative of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Moscow, to discuss relations between the Antiochian and Russian Orthodox Churches as well as the political situation in Syria and the Middle East. The charge d'affaires of the Syrian Embassy in Russia was also present at the meeting. More here.

Pope Shenouda Proposes Amendment to Article 2

During a meeting with Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Yehia al-Gamal, Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria requested that a clause be added to article two of the Egyptian constitution, which stipulates Islam as the state religion of Egypt, that would leave Islam as the national faith of Egypt while establishing "the principles of divine religions and human rights agreements [as] the main sources of legislation." More here.

Speech of Metropolitan Elpidophoros at His Consecration

In his homily following his consecration to the episcopacy Metropolitan Elpidophoros () of Brusa laxed eloquent in his praise of Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople, even noting his "[love] of liturgy and of monasticism." This may strike members in the Church of Constantinople as somewhat ironic given the ongoing tensions between Patriarch Bartholomew and Mount Athos, tensions that very nearly prompted Elder Ephraim (Philotheotis) to establish his North American monasteries under the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad rather than the Ecumenical Patriarchate's dioceses on the continent.

Fortunately, Metropolitan Elpidophoros went on to matters more at the core of Patriarch Bartholomew's patriarchate, noting that, "Above and beyond all [in the Patriarch's labors] lies the good of the Phanar, the projection of the ecumenicity of the Throne." In thanking the various delegations of the Local Orthodox Churches, governments, and monasteries assembled for their presence the good metropolitan also overlooked the presence of representatives of the American Orthodox Church (OCA).

A full text of the new metropolitan's speech can be found here.

Supreme Spiritual Council of the Echmiadzin Catholicate Meets

The Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Echmiadzin met this past week, with hierarchs from Armenia and throughout the world taking part under the leadership of Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II (Nersessian) of All the Armenians. In addition to the internal affairs of the Catholicate the Council also discussed relations between the Catholicate of Echmiadzin and the Catholicate of Cilicia, ongoing issues in the life of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Constantinople (as well as the upcoming 550th anniversary of its foundation), and the upcoming visit of Catholicos Karekin to Georgia this June. More here.

Consecration of New Metropolitan of Brusa

The consecration of Metropolitan Elpidophorus (Lambriniadis) of Brusa, a man best known for his controversial remarks regarding the Ecumenical Patriarchate and American Orthodoxy during a recent visit to the United States, took place this past Sunday. In addition to Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople, Archbishop Jerome II (Liapis) of Athens of the Greek Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, and other hierarchs and clergy of the Local Orthodox Churches took part in the consecration. Clergy of the OCA from St. Vladimir's Seminary in Crestwood, New York, were among those in attendance. More here.

Poll Tampering Claims in Egypt Spread

The Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations is reporting that it has received 39 reports of violations in this past Saturday's referendum on constitutional amendments. The EUHRO's leader himself witnessed a poll worker first attempt to place his ballot in a box that would not be counted and then try to remove his ballot from boxes that were to be counted. More here.

Weekend Activities of Pope Theodore in Kenya

Pope Theodoros II (Horeftakis) of Alexandria kicked off his visit to Kenya with the Akathist at Nairobi's Cathedral of Sts. Cosmas and Damian and a meeting with Bishop Savvas (Zembillas) of Troas, an auxiliary bishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America who is responsible for overseeing its missionary outreach.

On Saturday Pope Theodoros visited the Archbishop Macarius III Theological Seminary in Riruta (a district of Nairobi), meeting with the seminarians and receiving a tour of the Seminary. The visit coincided with the 40th anniversary of the laying of the Seminary's foundation stone by Archbishop Makarios III (Mouskos) of the Cypriot Orthodox Church.

The weekend wrapped up with a hierarchical Divine Liturgy at Riruta's Church of St. Nicholas. During the services Pope Theodoros ordained Deacon Theophilus Everia to the holy priesthood. More on that here.

Pictured are Pope Theodore and Metropolitan Macarius of Nairobi concelebrating this past Sunday in St. Nicholas' Church in Riruta.

Kursk Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign

Joyous feast! Today is one of the three feast days of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign. This particular icon has such a long title for several reasons. The first is that it is an icon of the Mother of God of the Sign, a portrayal of our Lady grounded in the sign foretold by St. Isaiah ("behold, a virgin shall conceive"). The second is the way in which it was found on the ground next to a tree root. The third is that the place in which the icon was found is close to the city of Kursk in central Russia.

The Kursk-Root Icon was first discovered in the 13th century near what were then the ruins of Kursk, which had been destroyed during the Tatar invasion. It was quickly revealed to be wonderworking as the place on the ground where the Icon was found became a spring as soon as it was picked up. Since then the Mother of God has continued to work miracles through her icon - restoring it after its desecration by the Tatars, saving the city of Kursk from the Polish invasion, and protecting the faithful in Russia and throughout the world from sickness and harm.

Today the Kursk-Root Icon is best known as the 'Protectress of the Diaspora,' having left Russia following the end of the Russian Civil War and taken up residence in the Russian Diaspora since then. Since its departure from Russia the Icon has remained close to the Synod Abroad of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), at one time residing in a hermitage built for it in New York before being transferred to the Cathedral of the Sign (dedicated to the Icon) in New York City.

More on the history and meaning of the Kursk-Root Icon can be found here. May the protection and intercessions of the Mother of God be with us always!

Catholicos Mar Basil Paul II Concludes Oman Visit

After visiting St. Stephen's Church in Salalah, Oman, Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II of the independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church returned to Muscat, from which he departed to return to India. In all the Catholicos spent 3 days visiting the Malankara Orthodox flock in Oman. More here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nag Hammadi Bishop Claims Polling Stations Closed to Copts

Bishop Kyrillos of Nag Hammadi is claiming that Copts were kept from voting in Saturday's referendum in Upper Egypt by the unannounced closing of polling stations in areas predominantly inhabited by Copts. (Unlike Lower Egypt, Upper Egypt still has villages and towns that are primarily or even completely Orthodox.) More here.

Referendum Results in Egypt

Official results in Egypt show that 77% of voters this past Saturday endorsed constitutional amendments that may enable parliamentary elections to be held as early as September. A little over 41% of registered voters participated in the referendum. More here.

'Eastern' and 'Oriental' Orthodoxy

An interesting survey by Fr. John Romanides of the issues surrounding the division between the Orthodox Churches accepting and rejecting the Council of Chalcedon centering on the views and roles of Sts. Leo of Rome and Dioscorus of Alexandria can be found here.

Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas

Joyous feast! St. Gregory Palamas is incredibly significant in the condensation and defense of the Church's teachings on grace and salvation, but every once in a while I find myself wishing that this was still the Sunday of St. Polycarp as it had originally been :-). Nevertheless, more on St. Gregory's life can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us!

Conspiracy Theorists Lovin' the Latest OCA Kerfuffle

I keep trying not to read some of the craziness that's being posted about the recent events in the American Orthodox Church (OCA), but then I find stuff like this: "There is clearly a progressive clique at the national levels of American Orthodoxy which operates in a lethargic fashion under some variant of 'Neuhas' Law' for whom “orthodoxy is optional.” We’re probably talking about nothing more than inertia here. At first, I believed that this was a gay cabal but I think that’s rather restrictive. Don’t get me wrong, gay cabals have always existed within institutions but this is more than that."

Beware of people who have strong opinions centering on the existence of conspiracies involving gay cabals, Red Commies, aliens, Jews, Fascists, little green men, and all the rest. No offense to anyone, I'm just sayin' :-). And no, I'm not part of any of the above conspiracies. (I wish! I might be getting paid to write this if I was ;-).)

Millions Participate in Egyptian Referendum

The BBC is reporting that millions voted in today's referendum in Egypt on proposed constitutional amendments that would allow presidential and parliamentary elections to be held within 6 months. The amendments have been backed by the National Democratic Party (former President Hosni Mubarak's party) and the Muslim Brotherhood, but are criticized by opposition leader Mohammed el-Baradei for not curbing presidential powers. More here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ukrainian Missionary Training Program

The Ukrainian Catholic Church is introducing a training program for Ukrainian Catholic missionaries. More here.

Vassula Ryden Excommunicated

The Ecumenical Patriarchate has finally excommunicated Vassula Ryden, a Greek heretic whose teachings and the seeming 'no comment' position the Church has had on them have troubled me personally since high school. More on that here. Whether Ryden's native Church of Alexandria will uphold the Ecumenical Patriarchate's decision (I pray it will!) remains to be seen.

TV Coverage of Metropolitan Nicholas' Funeral

Some television coverage of the funeral service of Metropolitan Nicholas (Smisko) of Amissos in Johnstown can be found here.

"No Longer a Prisoner in Tehran"

An interesting article about Russian-Canadian Marina Nemat, her books about life in post-revolutionary Iran, and her experiences since then can be found here.

Upcoming Armenian Genocide/Seyfo Commemoration in NYC

This coming 6 April the World War II-era Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Genocides by the Ottoman Turks and Kurds will be commemorated in New York (not to mention worldwide). More here.

Ethiopian Government Arrests Opposition Members

A coalition of Ethiopian opposition parties, Medrek, is claiming that the Ethiopian government has arrested 250 of its members due to plans to hold protests against the government's abuse of electoral laws. The arrests come as the Ethiopian government ramps up efforts to raise its support in the Ethiopian Diaspora, many of whose members left Ethiopia due to political oppression under the former Communist regime and the current EPRDF government. More here.

Georgians to be Present at Constantinople Consecration

The Georgian Orthodox Church will be represented at tomorrow's consecration in Constantinople of Archimandrite Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) to the episcopacy by its metropolitan for Western Europe, who hopes to strengthen the ties between the Georgian and Constantinopolitan Orthodox Churches. More here.

Serbian Outreach to Diaspora Not Interference in Neighbors' Internal Affairs

Responding to protests from Serbia's neighbors in the Balkans, Serbian President Boris Tadic has stated that his government's efforts to more closely connect the Serb Diaspora with Serbia is not intended to interfere in the internal issues of Serbia's neighbor states as Serbia does not consider the Serbs there as living in diaspora and leaves to them the workings of their local and national governments. More here.

Fascist Protesters March in Vilnius

This past weekend fascist protesters in Vilnius called for a "Lithuania for the Lithuanians." Modern Lithuania is a vestige of Lithuania at its height as a grand duchy united with the Kingdom of Poland, but remains as multiethnic as its predecessor with some 20% of its citizens being of non-Lithuanian ethnicity (primarily Poles, Russians, Belorussians, and Ukrainians). More here.

Plans for Paris Cathedral Complex

A write-up about the plans for a new Russian Orthodox cathedral complex in central Paris, complete with a somewhat less than impressive drawing of what the plans will look like, can be found here. (Lovers of good ecclesiastical architecture are encouraged to check out this website.)

Ukrainian PM in Jerusalem

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has begun his visit to the Holy Land with a meeting with Patriarch Theophilos III (Giannopoulos) of Jerusalem. More here.

Bulgarian Orthodox Parish Broken Into in Inovo

The Inovo parish of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church's Metropolis of Vidin was broken into yesterday. Fortunately the church had a security system and the thieves were frightened away without managing to steal anything. More here.

Constitutional Referendum in Alexandria

Turn-out for today's constitutional referendum in Alexandria, Egypt, was high, with large numbers of Copts voting. It appeared that many Copts rejected the proposed constitutional amendments while supporters of Islamist movements seemed to vote for the amendments. More here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Egypt's Copts Troubled About Future

Egypt's Copts are increasingly worried about the future of their country as tomorrow's constitutional referendum draws nearer. More here.

Supreme Court Upholds Ruling Against Macedonian Orthodox Archbishop

The Macedonian Supreme Court has upheld a ruling against Archbishop Jovan (Vraniskovski) of Ohrid of the autonomous Macedonian Orthodox Church, confirming his two and a half year sentence. The case will be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. More here.

Malankara Orthodox Catholicos Visiting Oman

Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II of the East has begun his pastoral visit to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Oman. More here.

Pope Theodoros Begins Kenya Visit

Pope Theodoros II (Horeftakis) of Alexandria began his visit to Kenya yesterday, being met at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by Metropolitan Makarios (Tylirides) of Nairobi and Bishop Savvas (Heimonettos) of Bujumbura. More here.

New Metropolitan of Cluj Elected

The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church has elected Archbishop Andrei of Alba Iulia as Metropolitan of Cluj. Axios! More here.

Design Chosen for Paris Cathedral

A winner has been chosen for the design of a Russian Orthodox cathedral complex in central Paris! More here.

St. Mark the Ascetic

Joyous feast! St. Mark isn't often well known these days (unless you're an avid reader of The Philokalia of course!), but he's my patron saint and therefore known to me :-). More on his life can be found here, while some of his writings can be found here. May his blessing and prayers be with us all!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Metropolitan Hilarion Recuperating

Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of New York and Sydney has undergonea successful operation on his knee and has begun physiotherapy. If I'm not mistaken he will remain in Australia for the duration of his recovery. More here.

ROCOR Metropolitan Sends Personal Representative to Cannes Parish

Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of New York of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is sending Protopriest Michael Boikov to France to serve as his representative at the stavropeghial Church of St. Michael in Cannes. It is unclear whether the appointment comes as a result of new issues in the often fractious life of the parish or not. More here.

Athonite Monk Publishes Work Against Popular Bulgarian Occultists

A monk at the Zographou Monastery of St. George on Mount Athos has published a book attacking widely popular Bulgarian leaders of the occult. Although clearly against the teachings of the Church neither of the leaders attacked in the recent work have been formally condemned by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. More here.

Greece Seeks Returns of London Icons

Greece is seeking to block the auction in London of six 300-year old icons it claims were recently stolen from Greek Orthodox monasteries in southern Epirus (a region in northwestern Greece). More here.

Pope Shenouda Returns from USA, Urges Egyptians to Vote

Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria has returned from another trip to the United States for medical care and is urging all Egyptians to vote in Saturday's referendum on proposed constitutional amendments regardless of their opinion on the amendments themselves. More here.

Turkey Committed to Normalizing Relations with Free Armenia

Bulent Arinc, Turkey's deputy prime minister, has reaffirmed the Turkish government's commitment to normalizing relations with free Armenia, saying in part that, "Armenia has the following significance for us – once Armenians lived in these lands...many of them used to. There were Armenian ministers in the government....there were Armenian architects who built our palaces. All of them were the riches of this country. They left and we have been deprived of [this] wealth." More here.

Romanian Orthodox to Elect New Metropolitan of Cluj Tomorrow

The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church will meet tomorrow to elect the next Metropolitan of Cluj. Please keep them in your prayers! More here.

Pope Theodoros Visits Northern Uganda

As part of his ongoing visit to the Ugandan Orthodox Church Pope Theodoros II (Horeftakis) of Alexandria has visited St. Athanasius' Church in Amutsa, a town in northern Uganda, a region long affected by the civil war in neighboring Sudan. During the course of his visit to Amutsa Pope Theodoros met with members of the parish and served a memorial for its founder, Fr. Athanasius Atim. More here.

Missing Japanese Orthodox Priest Found

The Japanese Orthodox Church has reported that the missing priest from its Eparchy of Eastern Japan has been found alive and safe together with his family. More here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mark Stokoe on Personal Attacks

Mark Stokoe, the administrator of the OCA News website, has responded to a number of personal attacks, saying that, "I am little concerned for myself. I have been a target for years now. This is no different than what [retired Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco] was peddling six years ago. What is more concerning, is where does such end? It's one thing to attack me - I am a big boy - but what of someone in the Church who speaks out and is not as grounded? What then? Are we to become a church of bullies and thugs who slander people with impunity? They will claim that [OCA News] is no different. Really? Has anybody ever seen anything like they scream on [OCA News]? Ever? No, never. Nor will they. That is the only answer I will give them: I will not become like them, because even "winning," whatever stupid thing that might mean, one will have lost. And what gaineth a man if he gains the whole OCA, as they desire, but lose their souls in so doing? Sorry, not a good trade."

Metropolitan Agathangel Visiting the USA

The leader of a 2007 schism from the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Metropolitan Agathangel (Pashkovskiy) of Odessa, is visiting the United States to meet with the clergy who followed him into schism and hold a session of his synod of bishops, most of whom have been consecrated since 2007. More here.

Latvians Honor Pro-Nazi Soldiers in Riga

Hundreds of pro-Nazi marchers met in Riga, Latvia, today to honor World War II veterans who fought with Nazi Germany in the Waffen SS. The previously banned demonstration took place thanks to a ruling from a Latvian court. During the march others gathered to support Latvia's opposition to Fascism during World War II. More here.

EU Arrests Albanian War Crimes Suspects

The European Union has arrested nine war crimes suspects in Kosovo after a 2-hour standoff with Kosovar police. One of the nine arrested was the police commander in the southern Kosovar city of Prizren. All were members of the Kosovar Liberation Army. More here.

Turkish Economic Influence Grows in the Balkans

Growing Turkish economic influence is becoming a growing cause for concern in the Balkans, one no doubt not helped by statements from the Turkish foreign minister that, "The Ottoman centuries of the Balkans were success stories. Now we have to reinvent this...Turkey is back!” Many in the Balkans remember the centuries of religious and ethnic persecution (see here, here, and here) that followed the Ottoman Turkish conquest in a somewhat dimmer light and are consequently wary of renewed Turkish influence. More here.

Cairo Protesters Dispersed by Army

A new round of protests by Copts in Cairo has been squelched by the Egyptian Army. The protesters gathered to demand justice for the protesters attacked by a mob this past Saturday, but were dispersed by the Army, which beat the protesters with electric batons and sticks. More here.

MOSC Malankara Meets with Indian President and PM

As part of his ongoing visit to Delhi and New Delhi Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II of the East of the independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has met with President Pratibha Patil and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The meetings are part of an effort by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church to raise the profile of Orthodox Christians in Kerala and to make national and local government more aware of the needs of the community as well as its efforts to help in the development of India as a whole. More here.

Catholicos Aram Receives Mount Lebanon Metropolitan

Catholicos Aram I (Keshishian) of Sis of the Armenian Orthodox Church received Metropolitan Mor Theophilos (Saliba) of Mount Lebanon of the Syriac Orthodox Church today to discuss the situation of the Malankara Orthodox Church, which has been divided by a schism between 'autocephalists' and 'autonomists' on and off for nearly a century. More here.

Bishop Maxim Visits Australia

Bishop Maxim (Vasilijevic) of Alhambra of the Serbian Orthodox Church began his visit to Australia today. During the course of his stay in Australia he will speak at a clergy retreat of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand. More here.