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.

Orthodox Cemetery Vandalized in Libya

The Alexandrian Orthodox Church in Libya is reporting that the Greek Cemetery in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, has been vandalized. The damage to the cemetery was discovered when Metropolitan Theophylact (Tzoumerkas) of Tripoli visited it to serve an annual memorial commemorating Greeks who died fighting in Libya during World War II. More here.

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Remembered in Rakovica

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the repose of Patriarch Paul (Stojcevic) of Serbia of thrice blessed memory. The day was marked at Serbia's Rakovica Monastery of the Trinity, where Patriarch Paul was buried, with a memorial Divine Liturgy led by Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irenaeus (Gavrilovic) and attended by the Serbian president and prime minister as well as other hierarchs and prominent Serbs. More here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

On Bishop Matthias (Moriak)

I am a member of a parish church that has belonged to the American Orthodox Church (OCA) since its founding and, indeed, belonged to the Russian Orthodox Metropolia of North America for many decades before the 1970 autocephaly. Although I have moved a fair amount over the past few years, I have always maintained my membership in my parish here in the Midwest and have followed the assorted developments within our Chicago Diocese with interest.

The nomination of Bishop Matthias (Moriak) for election as Bishop of Chicago and Midwestern America filled me with great joy. I had nothing against the other candidates in the diocesan selection process (one was and is the parish priest of a friend of mine and is very much loved by all who have met him), but of the three I felt that Bishop Matthias was most like our beloved Archbishop Job (Osacky) of thrice blessed memory and would do what was best for the building up of our diocesan church and of Orthodoxy in the Midwest.

Since Bishop Matthias' election and consecration I've run into him during pastoral visits on a couple of occasions and have never particularly liked him. It must be very hard to try to fill Archbishop Job's shoes given what an amazing man he was, and I confess to not knowing Bishop Matthias well enough to appreciate him for himself, something which is no doubt true in much of the diocese. (Though how quickly we forget the difficulties Vladyka Job experienced when he was first enthroned in our diocese.)

Nevertheless, Bishop Matthias' carefulness in his early management of the diocese - his pastoral visits to each of our parish and mission churches and monastic communities to get a feel for the realty of life in the communities of our diocese, his refusal to begin making changes during his first year as our diocesan bishop - impressed me, and still does. (After all, at every hierarchical service we - through the subdeacons - dress our hierarchs up like East Roman emperors and then sing that they live forever! It wouldn't be surprising for such things to go to one's head, and quickly!)

When Bishop Matthias did make changes, they were to bring the liturgical life in our diocese into conformity with the customs of our Byzantine Rite. They were not anti-woman, they were not unpastoral - they were simply to save us from the liturgical abuses all too characteristic of some segments of our OCA and of certain of our sister jurisdictions here in North America, failings that would never be tolerated in the Old World and would never have been tolerated under Sts. Alexis (Toth) of Minneapolis, Barnabas (Nastic) of Gary, John (Kochurov) of Chicago, Nicholas (Velimirovich) of Libertyville, Leontius (Turkevich) of Chicago, or any other of our Midwestern or North American saints.

The news that Vladyka Matthias had been involved in some sort of sexual misconduct came as a surprise to me, and yet not. Not because I had suspicions of him before, but simply because of the many scandals our OCA has suffered through in recent years. ('What? Another one? Well, lets start the nominations for a new bishop...again...') And then the Holy Synod took its time in initiating an investigation of the allegations, which, given the track record of the Holy Synod when its membership was quite different from what it is now, understandably made many think there would be yet another cover up in the Church where there ought instead to be justice.

And then the text of the texts was released on one of those silly, scandal-worshiping, anti-Orthodox blogs one hears about all the time - the likes of which only the crazed Voices from Russia site or the internet posts of a certain retired bishop can compare to - and I, while embarrassed by what our bishop had written, couldn't help but think, 'Well, there must be more. This can't be it, clearly it's the tip of the ice berg.'

And wasn't. The texts were it. Period. When the Midwestern Diocesan Assembly was briefed on the investigation, its recommendations, and the decision of the Holy Synod on the matter it became clear that there was no sexual abuse that had happened, there was no appalling file of other incidents of sexual abuse from Bishop Matthias' 38 years of priestly service in the American Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Diocese, and that, in fact, the texts were of the sort that close friends and I exchange daily when teasing each other.

It emerged that Vladyka Matthias had been trying to cover up his plans to visit this woman because they had close mutual friends of each of their families at her parish who would have been offended if he'd dropped by and not seen them too, even though he was coming for less than a day to anoint someone who was sick. It was pointed out to us that the Holy Synod had taken so long in launching an investigation because the allegations were so minor - and the back story provided by Bishop Matthias and other witnesses so convincing - that our hierarchy hadn't been sure that the allegations even qualified as sexual misconduct. The investigation concluded that they were, but of the most minor sort.

And so I find myself, after months of scandal and turmoil in our Midwestern Diocese that has taken its toll on our bishop, our clergy, and our already thoroughly scandalized and demoralized laity, incredibly upset. Of course I am upset that Bishop Matthias misjudged the informality of his relationship with this woman, and that he didn't have the sense to realize that when he texts now he does so as a successor to the Apostles and our Metropolitan Leontius, and not simply as a grandfather, father, or friend.

I am, however, even more upset that these "issues" were not resolved privately, and appalled that we have a policy that deliberately scandalizes the faithful and all who do not (and cannot) know the confidential details of such proceedings by labeling such a thing as texts as "sexual misconduct." If such a policy were applied to the laity and they were driven out of the diocese over the silly and even wildly inappropriate texts they sent their close friends, I'm not sure there'd be a parish in the diocese left with a member under the age of 50! (And perhaps anyone, period - I'm always surprised by how many older people have begun to figure out texting and e-mail :-).)

Why is it that texting and severe sexual abuse are both classified as "sexual misconduct"? Why, in our zealousness to protect the weak - an entirely appropriate and needed zealousness I would like to add - have we condemned a good man without impure intentions alongside the damnable? If there were ever a reason to rethink our policy, to have a sexual misconduct policy for actual sexual misconduct and a 'professional misconduct' policy or something similarly named for this matter, which has caused such pain and heartache in our diocese, then this is it!

Perhaps there is more to the story than either side has confessed to our Holy Synod. I don't know. But if matters stand as they were clarified for us at the Midwestern Diocesan Assembly, then all of this scandal and agony in our diocese was for nothing. And even so, it might be too late. Even if Bishop Matthias is a second Nectarius, his authority and credibility in our diocese may be too damaged for him to continue to serve in it as a father and shepherd of souls. And that remains to be decided as he undergoes the therapy prescribed by the Holy Synod of our OCA.

Unlike many in our diocese, I trust our Holy Synod, whose membership has changed so drastically since the revelation of some of the scandals surrounding Metropolitans Theodosius (Lazor) and Herman (Swaiko), to make the right decision in the end, knowing as they do the full story behind all of this. And if we lose our bishop it may be a loss for us, but it will be a gain for the Holy Trinity Monastery and St. Raphael Orphanage (Hogar Rafael Ayau) in Guatemala, where Mother Ines, the abbess, who has known Vladyka Matthias for years and as part of her orphanage's ministry takes in many abused and neglected children, has already made it clear that he will always be welcome to minister there full-time.

Please, whoever you are and whatever you think of this most recent scandal in our OCA, pray for us - for the Holy Synod, for Bishop Matthias, and for the clergy and faithful of our Chicago Diocese, especially the woman who brought these allegations forward in the first place. Pray that God, Who sees the hearts of men, will make clear what is best for the salvation of this woman, of our diocesan church in the Midwest, and for our OCA as a whole.

God help all of you starting the Prophets' Fast today - I hope it is a peaceful, illumining time for you as you prepare to celebrate the Nativity in the flesh of our God and Savior.

On the 2012 Midwestern Diocesan Assembly and Bishop Matthias (Moriak)

I'm posting below a guest editorial from a clergyman of the Diocese of Chicago and Midwestern America of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) who was at Monday's Midwestern Diocesan Assembly. I am neither endorsing nor rejecting it, I simply thought that it would provide a good counterbalance to the editorial already posted on the Assembly's discussions by Fr. Theodore Bobosh.

All relevant comments will be posted after moderation. Comments specifically directed to the author of this editorial will be passed on to him, and any of his responses will be posted.

The Midwest Assembly was attended by about 110 persons, chaired by the Chancellor of the Diocese, Fr. John Zdinak.  His Eminence, Archbishop Nikon attended, as did the Chancellor of the OCA, Fr. John Jillions.

The agenda began with typical financial reports and a budget that needed to be passed. But some were anxious to talk about the “elephant in the room” and pushed to have that dealt with first.  By a slim margin, tabling of budget issues was passed so that a discussion about the status Bishop Matthias could begin.

It began with Fr. John Zdinak laying a few ground rules and making some clarifications. He explained that the Assembly is not empowered to make any decisions about the matter, and thus any proposed resolutions about it would not be considered.

Fr. John Jillions then presented the assembly with a thorough summary of the situation.  He explained that all the policies of the OCA were followed to the letter, that Bishop Matthias was placed on leave, and that an investigation was begun.  They selected three very highly qualified and impartial professionals who had a great deal of experience in these matters.   They were then left to work independently to conduct their interviews and make their report and their recommendations.

The results:  while Bishop Matthias was found to be technically in violation of the policy, it was at the lowest possible level to be considered as “sexual misconduct.”  So low, in fact, that they recommended to the Synod that he could be reinstated after a time of rehabilitation.   The Synod of bishops reviewed all the details of the case and agreed it had that level of severity.  They released a letter stating this decision, and the decisions are now in the process of implementation.   Fr Jillions also warned us that one’s understanding of the text messages, without the other details of the investigation, would be misleading.

Fr. Jillions also wished to dispel a rumor that Bishop Matthias had a “file” on him during his time in the Carpatho-Russian Diocese.  The truth is that, after 38 years of service as a priest, there was not a single complaint against him.

After this report, several different people came to speak at the microphone, continuing until after lunch, a summary of which would be difficult.   Perhaps the main point of those who spoke against Bishop Matthias was that we ought not to confuse the question of forgiveness with whether or not he ought to be restored as bishop; these two are not the same question.  Some who spoke felt, at times quite strongly, that this level of misconduct was enough to make his restoration to the diocese impossible.

Many other people reminded the assembly that we do not have all the information, and how easy it is for information taken out of its context to look different than the reality.   The investigation team, which did have all the information in their hands, reached a conclusion quite different than those who wanted him retired.  One priest pointed out that, at this level of ‘misconduct’, many priests would also be guilty of it on a regular basis, and he gave many examples.   In spite of the fact that no one was privy to the complete details of the situation, some priests recounted to the Assembly that they actually took the confidential-leaked text messages and presented them to their parishes or parish councils, and, not surprisingly, there was outrage.  In parishes where that was done, the priests reported that Bishop Matthias would not be “welcomed” there.

Father Matthew Moriak, Bishop Matthias’ son, spoke eloquently for six or seven minutes.   He said that, yes, those texts were stupid, and he had told his father as much.  But to those who have read any sexual content into those texts, of which there was actually none present, it was clear proof that they did not know this man at all.  He recounted his father’s years of service, how he was the first priest to ever have a woman read the Epistle in that parish, how he has tirelessly served the Orphanage in Guatemala for years, etc.  The Abbess there, Mother Ines, has said that she has known Bishop Matthias very well for many years, and, were Bishop Matthias to resign, she would be happy to have him come and serve there in the orphanage full time.

Father Matthew also filled in some of the background about the relationship between the woman, her boyfriend, and her family with the Moriaks, which explained why Bishop Matthias mistook his relationship with the woman as being more familiar than she perceived it to be.  Fr Matthew also expressed some dismay that people want his father to apologize for having had sexual intentions, which he could not and would not do, because it is simply not the truth.

Another priest who has known Bishop Matthias for decades, also reiterated, VERY vociferously, that those who had read sexual content into those messages were quite mistaken.  He spoke of the horrible problems that internet gossip causes, and that, in his estimation, some who were speaking against Bishop Matthias seemed to have other motives.

It was difficult to gauge the overall feeling of the room, because most remained silent.   Numerically, more people spoke against His Grace than on his behalf.   But there was clearly more applause after those who spoke on behalf of His Grace.  Only roughly ten priests (of the sixty or so that were there) stated they did not want the Bishop to visit their parishes.  There were two votes that might be indirectly taken as a measure of the room temperature. The first was a motion to delay the budget discussion so that talking about our hierarchal situation might immediately commence (as mentioned above), and another voice vote to not allow his salary to automatically increase next year.  Both of these passed by narrow margins (the first was so close that raised hands had to be counted).

A side note: it was made to sound as though Bishop Matthias had requested this raise.  Bishop Matthias did NOT request this raise.  Also note that his salary is MUCH less than our previous bishop’s salary.

After everyone was done speaking on this topic, the meeting moved ahead with its other normal items.  Elections were conducted for Metropolitan council, Diocesan Council, etc.  Besides those already mentioned, a resolution was passed to give the Diocesan Council more discretion in adjusting spending for the following year, in order to be able to react as the situation with our hierarch may change.

There was also the annual discussion on switching from a head-tax to a tithing model, which, drum-roll-please..., failed again.  It was again sent to the Diocesan Council where a committee will be formed to deal with collecting the necessary data from the parishes, in order to implement a tithing model at our NEXT Assembly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Macedonian Orthodox Holy Synod Open to Dialogue with Serbian Orthodox Church

The Holy Synod of the independent Macedonian Orthodox Church has welcomed the statement of the President of Serbia calling for a resumption of dialogue between the Macedonian and Serbian Orthodox Churches concerning the canonical situation of the former, which unilaterally separated from the Church of Serbia in 1967 to restore the autocephaly of the ancient Archdiocese of Ohrid, which had been suppressed by the Ottoman government in 1767. More in Macedonian here.

Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarch Visits Chicagoland

Patriarch Philaret (Denysenko), first hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, has completed a pastoral visit to the exarchate of the Kiev Patriarchate in the United States. During his time in the USA the Ukrainian Orthodox patriarch, once a frontrunner in the USSR for election as head of the Russian Orthodox Church, visited Ukrainian Orthodox churches in the Chicago area. More here.

Varna Metropolitan Appointed Locum Tenens of Sofia Patriarchate

In light of the recent repose of Patriarch Maxim (Minkov) of Sofia the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has appointed Metropolitan Cyril (Kovachev) of Varna as interim chairman of the Holy Synod and locum tenens of the Sofia Patriarchate until the election of a new patriarch. More in Bulgarian here.

Echmiadzin Catholicos Visits the Eastern USA

Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II (Nersessian) of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Echmiadzin has begun a pastoral visit to the Armenian Orthodox Diocese of New York and Eastern America. More here.

Alexandrian Orthodox Pope Visits Congo-Brazzaville

Pope Theodore II (Horeftakis) of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church has undertaken a pastoral visit to the Orthodox Church in Congo, where he visited the parish churches of the Ascension, St. Photina, and St. Demetrius in the coastal city of Pointe-Noire, blessed the future site of a clinic being organized in the city, and met with local clergy, laity, and government officials. More in Greek here, here, and here.

Pan-Orthodox Funeral for Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Held in Sofia

This past Friday the Bulgarian Orthodox Church held the funeral of newly reposed Patriarch Maxim (Minkov) of Sofia in the Bulgarian capital's Cathedral of St. Alexander of the Neva. The funeral was concelebrated by Patriarchs Bartholomew (Arhondonis) and Irenaeus (Gavrilovic) of the Constantinopolitan and Serbian Orthodox Churches, Archbishops Jerome II (Liapis) and Anastasius (Yannoulatos) of the Greek and Albanian Orthodox Churches, and hierarchs and clergy of the Church of Bulgaria and other Local Orthodox Churches. Archbishop Stephen (Veljanovski) of the Macedonian Orthodox Church was also present, and met with Patriarchs Bartholomew and Irenaeus after the funeral services.

May Patriarch Maxim's memory be eternal! More here and, in Macedonian, here.

New Coptic Orthodox Pope Elected

Following the nomination of three candidates for the throne of St. Mark recently in Cairo auxiliary Bishop Tawadros (al-Anba Bishoy), who until now has served in the Diocese of Beheira under Metropolitan Pachomius of Beheira, has been revealed as the 118th successor to St. Mark as Pope and Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa of the Coptic Orthodox Church. He is worthy! Axios! More here.

On a personal note, God certainly has a sense of humor in elevating two Theodores, both the second of that name, as popes of the Churches of Alexandria :-).

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Visits Holy Land

Patriarch Cyril (Gundyayev) of Moscow has undertaken a visit to the Holy Land, meeting with Patriarch Theophilus III (Giannopoulos) of Jerusalem as well as with representatives of the Russian Orthodox Ecclesiastical Missions in Jerusalem of both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). More here and here.

Philadelphia Archbishop Elected OCA Metropolitan

The Holy Synod of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) has elected Archbishop Tikhon (Mollard) of Philadelphia as Metropolitan of Washington and All America and Canada. Axios! The election closed the special All-American Council in Parma, Ohio, held to nominate a new first hierarch for the OCA to succeed Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen). The Council was held on the old style feast of St. John (Kochurov) of Chicago, and was lifted up in the prayers of many, no doubt especially by Sts. John of Chicago and John (Maximovich) of San Francisco, before whose relics a supplication for the Council was held by cathedral clergy in San Francisco on 12 November.

Archbishop Tikhon was a frontrunner on the Council's first and second ballots, but was second in number of votes to Bishop Michael (Dahulich) of New York. There were no disruptions of the Council by supporters of Metropolitan Jonah, who himself only received seventeen votes on each round of voting, and there was no effort on anyone's part to have the election held off so that the former metropolitan could be reinstated. Metropolitan Tikhon's election was received by the Council with joy, and he was warmly acclaimed when he was presented to the Council.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Conference of Russian Orthodox Hierarchs Abroad Held in London

A conference of Russian Orthodox hierarchs serving outside the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate involving diocesan and auxiliary hierarchs of both dioceses directly under the Patriarchate and under the autonomous Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) as well as Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has been held in London, England. Hierarchs representing dioceses in North America, Oceania, and Western Europe were present for the conference.

In addition to concelebrating together the gathered hierarchs discussed issues relating to joint pastoral work between the various dioceses (previously separated by the split between the Russian Orthodox Church in the USSR and the ROCOR), 'internal missionary work' relating to the Belorussian/Russian/Ukrainian Diasporas, 'external' missionary work amongst the non-Orthodox peoples of the West, differences in liturgical practice, and variations in how converts are received into the Russian Orthodox Church outside the former USSR.

A summary of the conference, which also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the organization of the patriarchal Russian Orthodox diocese in the United Kingdom, can be found here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Consecration Date for New ACROD Bishop Announced

The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese (ACROD) has announced that Bishop-elect Gregory (Tatsis) will be consecrated ruling Bishop of Nyssa and the ACROD this coming November in the diocesan Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA will concelebrate the consecration. More here.

UOCUSA Nominates Next Metropolitan

An extraordinary council (собор) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (UOCUSA) and the Diaspora has nominated Archbishop Antony (Scharba) of Hierapolis and the Eastern American Eparchy for election by the Holy Synod of the Constantinopolitan Orthodox Church as first hierarch of the UOCUSA. Axios! More here.

New Coptic Orthodox Pope to be Chosen in November

The Coptic Orthodox Church has changed the date for its upcoming papal elections from the end of November to 29 October, with the lot between the final nominees to be drawn on 4 November. The list of candidates for the papacy was recently reduced to five, with all of the diocesan hierarchs previously included being dropped from the list for canonical reasons. More here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Armenian Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Reposes

Patriarch Torkom II (Manoogian) of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Jerusalem has fallen asleep in the Lord at the age of ninety-three. Born in Iraq and educated in Baghdad and Jerusalem, Patriarch Torkom spent a total of thirty-seven years in the service of the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, twenty-two of them as its first hierarch. Patriarch Torkom also spent twenty-four years as Bishop (and later Archbishop) of Eastern American Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Echmiadzin, during which time he supervised the construction the magnificent Cathedral of St. Vartan in New York City. More on his life can be found here. May Patriarch Torkom's memory be eternal!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In Memoriam: Archbishop Aghan of Sydney

Archbishop Aghan (Baliozian) of Sydney, ruling hierarch of the Armenian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand, has fallen asleep in the Lord at the age of sixty-six. Born Yeghia in 1946 to Armenian parents in Aleppo, Syria, the future archbishop was educated in his native city and at the seminary of the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where he became a member of the Patriarchate's Brotherhood of St. James.

In 1968 Yeghia was ordained a monastic priest with the name of Aghan by Patriarch Yegishe (Derderian) of Jerusalem. Fr. Aghan spent the next 6 years serving the Gevorkian Theological Seminary in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, returning to Jerusalem briefly before entering the Yerevan State University in Armenia. In 1974 Fr. Aghan again returned to Jerusalem to serve as dean of the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate's Jarangavorats Theological Seminary.

In 1975 Fr. Aghan moved to Australia with the blessing of Catholicos Vasken (Baljian) of Echmiadzin to serve as vicar general of the Armenian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand, and in early 1982 was consecrated to the episcopacy and enthroned as the new ruling Bishop of Sydney, Australia, and New Zealand. After eleven years of service in the Diocese Bishop Aghan was elevated to the rank of archbishop.

In addition to serving the Armenian Orthodox Church in Australia and New Zealand Archbishop Aghan also oversaw the Armenian Orthodox parishes in India and the Far East, served in the central administration of the Catholicate of Echmiadzin, and represented the Armenian Orthodox Church in Australian and international ecumenical organizations.

Archbishop Aghan died on 22 September 2012 in Sydney of heart failure. May his memory be eternal! More on his life can be found here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ukrainian-Canadian Orthodox Metropolitan Speaks at Ukrainian Catholic Synod

It is being reported that Metropolitan Yurij (Kalistchuk) of Winnipeg, first hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, has, in the course of his recent attendance of a session of the synod of the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic episcopate, offered to facilitate a meeting of the primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Major Svyatoslav (Shevchuk), with Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople. During remarks made to the synod, at which he was a speaker, Metropolitan Yurij also pointed to the collaboration in North America between the Eastern and Roman Catholic Churches on the one hand and the Orthodox Churches present on the continent on the other as an example to Orthodoxy and Catholicism in Ukraine on how to work through the animosity that has historically divided the two communions. More on Metropolitan Yurij's  here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Widowed Archpriest Nominated for Election as Bishop of Alaska

It has been announced that the recent diocesan assembly of the Diocese of Sitka and Alaska has nominated Archpriest David Mahaffey, a widowed clergyman of the Diocese of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, for election by the Holy Synod of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) as Bishop of Sitka and Alaska. More here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New ACROD Bishop Formally Elected in Constantinople

The Holy Synod of the Constantinopolitan Orthodox Church has formally elected Greek-American Archimandrite Grigorios (Tatsis) as Bishop of Nyssa and the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese. Ordained to the priesthood in 2007, prior to his nomination and election to the episcopacy Bishop-elect Gregory served as a parish priest in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta for a little under a year and a half.

The date of the bishop-elect's consecration, to be held at the diocesan cathedral in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, has yet to be determined. More here.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Syriac Orthodox Church to Consider Relocation of Patriarchate

At the upcoming fall session of its Holy Synod the Syriac Orthodox Church will reportedly consider the transfer of the Antioch Patriarchate from its current seat in Damascus, where it has been situated since the 1950s, to Beirut in neighboring Lebanon due to the ongoing attacks in Syria on Syriac Orthodox Christians and their churches. There may also be discussion of the possibility of transferring the Patriarchate out of the Middle East entirely due to the large Suryoyo Diaspora in Western Europe and North America. (With or without the autonomous Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church in India, most Syriac Orthodox Christians reside outside of the Middle East now.) If this transfer were to take place it would be the first time in its history that the Antioch Patriarchate would relocate outside of its canonical territory in greater Syria. More here.

Pictures from Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch's Funeral Posted

Some wonderful pictures from Patriarch Abune Paul of Ethiopia's funeral this past Thursday at Addis Abeba's Holy Trinity Cathedral can be found here. Hierarchs representing the Alexandrian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox Syrian, and Syriac Orthodox Churches, including the locum tenens of the Alexandria Patriarchate, were present for the funeral services.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Guatemalan Movement in Dialogue with Syriac Orthodox Church

The Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of the Western United States is reporting that its ruling hierarch, Metropolitan Mor Clement (Kaplan) of Burbank, has made a pastoral visit to Guatemala as part of the Syriac Orthodox Church's dialogue with a Christian movement there wanting to be united with the Orthodox Church. The movement reportedly has 800,000 followers. In addition to meeting with the leadership of the movement Metropolitan Mor Clement also visited the small Syriac Orthodox community already present in the Guatemalan capital. More in Arabic here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

OCA to Elect New Metropolitan in November

The American Orthodox Church (OCA) has announced that a special All-American Council will be held this November in the Cleveland area. The council will be convened with the sole purpose of nominating a candidate for election by the Holy Synod as Metropolitan of All America and Canada. More here.

Jordanville Women's Skete Marks 25th Anniversary

Archbishop Gabriel (Chemodakov) of Montreal has led celebrations in Jordanville marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the women's Skete of St. Elizabeth. During the celebrations the sisterhood's superior, Nun Elisabeth (Czwikla), was elevated to the rank of abbess. More here.

North American Episcopal Assembly to Meet in Chicago

The Episcopal Assembly of North America has announced that it will hold its third annual meeting this coming September in Chicago, Illinois. In addition to discussing the state of Orthodoxy in North America the assembled hierarchs will also commemorate the victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York City following the festal Divine Liturgy commemorating the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. More here.

Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Visits Illinois Monasteries

Patriarch Irenaeus (Gavrilovic) of Pech has made a pastoral visit to the Serbian Orthodox Church in Midwestern America, stopping at both the patriarchal Monastery of St. Sava in Libertyville and the region's diocesan seat, the Nova Gracanica Monastery of the Protection in Grayslake. During his time at Nova Gracanica the patriarch stressed the unity of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the former Yugoslavia and worldwide. More here and here.

ROCOR to Allow Investigation of Romanov Relics from Brussels

The Synod Abroad of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has approved the investigation of Romanov relics previously interred in the Memorial Church of St. Job in Brussels, noting only that it expects a "pious attitude" on the part of those investigating the relics as efforts to conclusively identify the purportedly Romanov remains interred in St. Petersburg's Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul continue. The Synod Abroad's full statement can be found here.

Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan Returns to Argentina

Metropolitan Amphilochius (Radovic) of the Orthodox Church in Montenegro has begun a pastoral visit to the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Buenos Aires and South America, of which he is currently administrator per the decision of the Serbian Orthodox Holy Synod when it established the new diocese. Traveling with Metropolitan Amphilochius were two priests newly assigned to Serbian Orthodox parishes in Argentina.

In addition to his visits to Argentina's Serbian Orthodox parishes Metropolitan Amphilochius will also concelebrate at the consecration of a new auxiliary bishop for the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Buenos Aires. More here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch To Be Buried in Addis Abeba

It has been reported that the newly reposed Patriarch Abune Paul (Wolde Yohannes) of Ethiopia will be buried in central Addis Abeba's Cathedral of the Holy Trinity this coming Thursday. Holy Trinity, built under Emperor Haile Silase I after World War II to commemorate the end of the Italian occupation, is the resting place of the last Ethiopian emperor, his wife Empress Menen, and the late Patriarch Abune Tekle Haimanot of thrice blessed memory, and has served as the patriarchal cathedral of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church since its consecration. More here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

In Memoriam: Patriarch Abune Paul of Addis Abeba

Patriarch Abune Paul (Wolde Yohannes) of Addis Abeba has fallen asleep in the Lord at the age of seventy-six. The future patriarch was born Gebre Medhin Wolde Yohannes in 1935 in the well known Ethiopian town of Adwa to a family long associated with Abba Gerima's Monastery near Adwa. As a young boy Gebre Medhin entered the monastery, being trained as a deacon before his tonsure and ordination to the priesthood.

Abba Gebre Medhin went on from Abba Gerima to study theology in Addis Abeba during the patriarchate of Abune Theophilus, who blessed him to continue his theological studies in the United States. Shortly after the revolution that toppled (and later killed) Emperor Haile Silase I Abba Gebre Medhin was recalled to Ethiopia, where he was consecrated to the episcopacy with the name of Paul (P'awlos) and made auxiliary to Abune Theophilus with responsibility for ecumenical affairs.

The emerging Ethiopian Communist regime (the Derg) had not approved the consecration of Abune Paul and the three other men consecrated to the episcopacy that year, and consequently they and the patriarch were imprisoned, where Abune Theophilus reposed and where the new bishops remained until 1983. In that year Abune Paul was released and sent into exile, where he continued his theological studies in the USA. In 1986 the renowned Patriarch Abune Tekle Haimanot elevated Abune Paul to the rank of archbishop.

After the fall of the Derg in 1991 the new Ethiopian government had the Ethiopian Orthodox Holy Synod pressure the ruling patriarch, Abune Mercurius, to retire, after which it elected Abune Paul as Ichege of the Throne of Tekle Haimanot, Archbishop of Axum and Addis Abeba, and Patriarch of Ethiopia. Although the former patriarch later established a schism (the Holy Synod in Exile) in the Ethiopian Diaspora, the vast majority of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church remained united under Abune Paul, who did a great deal of work to expand the Church's outreach and engagement with the modern world and deepen its theological education.

A news release on Patriarch Abune Paul's repose may be found here. May his memory be eternal!

"Remember, O Lord, all our fathers, brothers, and sisters who sleep and rest in the Orthodox Faith, and lay their souls in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!" (Anaphora of the Holy Apostles)

Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch Reposes

Patriarch Abune Paul of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has fallen asleep. May his memory be eternal! More information will be posted as it becomes available.

Monday, August 13, 2012

In Memoriam: Archbishop John of Presov

Archbishop John (Holoni) of Presov, the senior hierarch of the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church, has fallen asleep at the age of seventy-five. Born Ivan Holoni in 1937 in what today is central Slovakia, as a young man the future hierarch entered the Theological Faculty at the University of Presov, in 1958 being ordained to the deaconate (and later the priesthood) after completing his theological studies.

In 1983 Fr. Ivan was consecrated Bishop of Michalovce in southeastern Czechoslovakia, where he served as ruling bishop until 2006. In that year Bishop John was elevated to the rank of archbishop by the Holy Synod of the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church and later transferred to the Eparchy of Presov, which was newly vacant following the repose of Metropolitan Nicholas of Presov, first hierarch of the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church. Upon Archbishop John's transfer he was designated Exarch of the Orthodox Church in Slovakia.

Archbishop John fell asleep on 2 August and was buried in his home village of Kravany. May his memory be eternal! More on Archbishop John's life can be found here and here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Coptic Orthodox Church Releases List of Papal Candidates

The Coptic Orthodox Church has released the names of the seventeen candidates in the Church's upcoming papal elections. Of the candidates seven are ruling or auxiliary bishops, which contradicts the tradition of the Coptic Orthodox Church forbidding the transfer of hierarchs from one diocese to another, and ten are monks. Of the monks named three are from the former monastery of Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani), the Syrian Monastery of the Mother of God in Wadi Natroun. The full list can be found here.

St. Mildred of Minster-in-Thanet

Joyous feast! Today we celebrate the memory of our Holy Mother Mildred, Abbess of Minster-in-Thanet in Kent, a county in southeastern England. St. Mildred was born to the king and queen of Magonset and sent at an early age to Chelles, France, for her education. While there a young nobleman, supported by the abbess of the monastery in Chelles where St. Mildred resided, tried to force the Saint to marry him.

Although she endured great suffering and even tortures at the hands of the abbess St. Mildred remained firm in her refusal, and eventually fled Chelles for England, where she joined the abbey of her mother, St. Ermenburga, in Minster-in-Thanet and was tonsured a nun by Archbishop St. Theodore of Canterbury. After St. Ermenburga's death St. Mildred was elected abbess of Minster-in-Thanet due to the sisterhood's great love for her.

After 38 years as abbess St. Mildred died of a long and painful illness on this day in 732. She became even more popular after her death than she had been in her life, eclipsing even St. Augustine of Canterbury in veneration. In 1033 the Saint's relics were translated to Canterbury, and a portion of her relics were later translated to Deventer in the Netherlands as well. More on her life can be found here. May St. Mildred's blessing and prayers be with us all!

Friday, August 3, 2012

In Memoriam: Metropolitan Mar Pachomius of Mavelikkara

The independent Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church's Metropolitan Paulose Mar Pachomius of Mavelikkara has fallen asleep in the Lord at the age of sixty-six. Although a successful student, as a young man the future metropolitan joined the Bethany Monastery, where he eventually became the superior and generally well known in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church as a spiritual father. In 2003 then Fr. Paulose was elected to the episcopacy as Metropolitan Mar Pachomius. May his memory be eternal! More on Metropolitan Mar Pachomius' life and recent repose can be found here and here.

Cilician Catholicos Appeals for Aid to Syria

Catholicos Aram (Keshishian) of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Cilicia, which cares for the Armenian Diaspora in Syria, has appealed to humanitarian organizations to expedite the provision of aid to the country's population, which is suffering as conflict between the Syrian government and rebel movements both claims lives and destroys crops. More here.

In Memoriam: Metropolitan Philemon of Kavason

Metropolitan Philemon of Kavason has fallen asleep in Athens at the age of seventy-seven. Born in central France, the future metropolitan studied theology in Thessalonica before his tonsure as a monk. After his ordination in Greece then Fr. Philemon was received into the Church of Alexandria in 1964, serving parishes in Lower Egypt until his consecration in 1979 as Bishop of Canopus, after which he served as abbot of St. George's Monastery in Old Cairo. In 1999 Bishop Philemon was elected Metropolitan of Dar es Salaam, where he served until his retirement in 2000, after which he was elected titular Metropolitan of Kavason. May Metropolitan Philemon's memory be eternal! More in Greek here.

Son of Kenyan PM Baptized in Nairobi

Fidel Castro Odinga, son of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, has been made a member of the Alexandrian Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Macarius () of Nairobi. The metropolitan personally served Odinga's baptism and chrismation, giving him the name Macarius. Not long after Odinga's reception into the Church he was married to his Eritrean/Ethiopian fiancee by Metropolitan Macarius in Nairobi's Cathedral of the Holy Unmercenaries. More here.

Future Bishop of Scopelos Formally Elected at the Phanar

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Arhondonis) of Constantinople has received Bishop-elect Pancratius (Dubas) at the Phanar, where his formal election as Bishop of Scopelos was conducted in the patriarchal Church of St. George. Bishop-elect Pancratius will serve primarily Ukrainian-speaking faithful of the Metropolis of Mexico City. More here.

New Bishop for Tajikistan Consecrated in Diveyevo

This past Wednesday, the commemoration of the discovery of the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov, Patriarch Cyril (Gundyayev) of Moscow led the services in honor of the feast at the renowned Diveyevo Monastery of the Holy Trinity in central Russia. During the festal Divine Liturgy the patriarch, Metropolitan Vincent (Morar') of Tashkent and Central Asia, and twenty-two other hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church consecrated Archimandrite Pitirim (Tvorogov) as Bishop of Dushanbe. Axios! The newly consecrated Bishop Pitirim will be shepherding the Orthodox Church in Tajikistan, whose faithful belong to the Metropolitanate of Tashkent and Central Asia. More in Russian here.

Clashes in Egyptian Village Force Flight of Resident Copts

Clashes in Dahshur, a village to the south of Cairo, have left one dead and sixteen wounded and resulted in the flight of the village's Coptic Orthodox residents. The fighting, which occurred this past week, resulted in the torching of multiple shops and homes owned by Dahshur's Copts. More here.

Local Orthodox Churches Celebrate the Baptism of Rus' in Kiev

This past Saturday Patriarch Cyril (Gundyayev) of Moscow led the celebrations in honor of the feast of St. Vladimir and the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus' at Ukraine's historic Kiev Caves Lavra, concelebrating the festal Divine Liturgy in the square fronting the Lavra's Cathedral of the Dormition with Metropolitans Volodymyr (Sabodan) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Vladimir (Canterean) of the Moldovan Orthodox Church; hierarchs representing the Constantinopolitan, Alexandrian, Antiochian, Jerusalemite, Georgian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Cypriot, Greek, Polish, Czechoslovak, and American Orthodox Churches; and numerous hierarchs of the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian Orthodox Churches. Following the services Patriarch Cyril congratulated Metropolitan Volodymyr on the 20th anniversary of his service as primate of the Church of Ukraine. More here and in Russian here.

Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch Calls for Unity in Syria

Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim) of Antioch has called on the Syrian people "to accept each other and live as one nation," decrying the expulsion of Syria's Christians from their homes and calling on the United Nations to work for the peace and stability of the country. The full appeal can be found here.

OCA Prepares for 17th All-American Council

Preparations are fully underway for the seventeenth All-American Council of the American Orthodox Church (OCA), which will be convened to nominate a candidate for election as first hierarch of the OCA. A special session of the Holy Synod of the OCA will be held later this month in metro Detroit to set the location and dates of the upcoming council. More here.

Egyptian President Appoints New Council of Ministers

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has appointed his council of ministers, whose thirty-five members include one Copt although 10 to 20% of the Egyptian population is Coptic Orthodox. (If the government were to give Copts full representation in the cabinet three to seven of the ministers would be Copts.) The new government's Coptic Orthodox minister is also one of two women heading ministries. Of the thirty-five ministers appointed ten served in previous cabinets under either President Hosni Mubarak or the Egyptian Armed Forces, five belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, and one leads a breakaway faction of the Muslim Brotherhood. More here and here. A full listing of the membership in the new council of ministers can be found here.

Russian President Praises Old Believer Hierarch for Service to Church, Society

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has praised the first hierarch of the main Old Believer ('Belokrinitsy') accord in Eastern Europe, Metropolitan Cornelius () of Moscow, on the occasion of the latter's birthday for "[his] fruitful work as primate of the Russian Orthodox [Old Ritualist] Church," noting his service to his church as particularly valuable in its "contribution to the maintenance of time-honored spiritual traditions, the preservation of the rich cultural and historical legacy of our people, [and] the strengthening of peace and harmony and the moral climate in [Russian] society." More here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan of Buenos Aires Retires

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has accepted the request for retirement of Metropolitan Platon (Udovenko) of the Eparchy of Buenos Aires and South America. Until the election of a new bishop for the diocese the Holy Synod has entrusted its care not to the administrator of the South American diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, but rather to Archbishop Justinian (Ovchinnikov) of Narofominsk, the New York-based auxiliary bishop who oversees the representation of the Moscow Patriarchate to the American Orthodox Church (OCA). More here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Abkhazia to Recognize Orthodoxy as National Faith

A draft law on religion under consideration in the Abkhazian Parliament has been modified to recognize the role Orthodox Christianity plays in Abkhazian life. A previous version had included references to paganism, Orthodoxy, and Islam. While recognizing Orthodoxy's place in Abkhazia the draft law would also maintain the secular nature of the country's government. More here.

New Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Consecrated in Kiev

It has been reported that this past Sunday Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) of Kiev and nine other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church consecrated Archimandrite Roman (Kymovych) as Bishop of Konotop. Axios! Bishop Roman will shepherd the Eparchy of Konotop in northeastern Ukraine. More in Ukrainian here.

The following day, the commemoration of St. Anthony of the Kiev Caves, Metropolitan Volodymyr led festal services at the Kiev Caves Lavra, during which he consecrated Archimandrite Clement (Vecher) as Bishop of Irpin' together with nineteen other hierarchs of the Church of Ukraine. Axios! The newly consecrated Bishop Clement will serve as an auxiliary of the Metropolitanate of Kiev and chairman of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's education committee. More in Ukrainian here.

Turkish Mayor Protests Monolingualism

The mayor of a city in southeastern Turkey is protesting the Turkish government's hypocritical attacks on his efforts to provide government services not only in Turkish, spoken by a minority in the area, but also in Armenian, Assyrian, and Kurdish, which collectively are spoken by a large majority of the city's residents. More here.

New Bishops for Siberia, Western Russia Consecrated in Moscow

On the recent commemoration of the Kazan Icon' Patriarch Cyril (Gundyayev) of Moscow led the festal celebrations in Moscow's Holy Theophany Cathedral, during which he consecrated Archimandrite Sabbatius (Zagrebel'niy) as Bishop of Tara together with eight other hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. Axios! Bishop Sabbatius will shepherd the recently established Eparchy of Tara in western Siberia. More in Russian on Bishop Sabbatius' consecration can be found here.

This past Sunday Patriarch Cyril celebrated the Sunday Liturgy in Holy Transfiguration Church in Tushino, a district of Moscow. During the services the patriarch and six other hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church consecrated Archimandrite Sophronius (Kitayev) as Bishop of Gubkin. Axios! Bishop Sophronius will serve in the newly established Eparchy of Gubkin of the Belgorod Metropolitanate in western Russia. More in Russian on Sunday's events can be found here.

Macedonia Celebrates 45th Anniversary of the Restoration of Autocephaly

In its recent session earlier this month the Holy Synod of the independent Macedonian Orthodox Church reaffirmed the year's programs celebrating the 45th anniversary of the restoration of the Archdiocese of Ohrid's autocephaly in 1967, noting that the celebrations will include the glorification in Kicevo of the New Martyrs Eusebius, Paisius, and Avercius of the Turkish Yoke, who suffered for the Lord in 1558. More in Macedonian here.

Aleppan Christians Fear Rebel Attacks

As Syrian rebels attack the city of Aleppo Christians there fear they will suffer as their coreligionists in Homs did. Following Islamist rebels' seizure of parts of Homs most of its 120,000 Christian residents fled the city. More here.

Russian Orthodox Holy Synod Establishes New Metropolitanates, Dioceses

The lesser Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has met at Ukraine's Kiev Caves Lavra for a regular session to discuss developments and issues in the life of the Church of Rus'. Early on at today's session it was decided to convene the Hierarchical Council of the Russian Orthodox Church this coming February to allow the members of the hierarchy to meet and fellowship with one another.

In response to the request of Archbishop Proclus (Khazov) of Simbirsk the Holy Synod elevated the Eparchy of Simbirsk to the rank of a metropolitanate and established the suffragan Eparchies of Barysh and Melekess (now known as Dimitrovgrad) within it. Igumen Philaret (Kon'kov) was elected Bishop of Barysh, whilst the Eparchy of Melekess was left in the case of the newly elevated Metropolitan Proclus of Simbirsk.

At the request of Archbishop Herman (Moralin) of Kursk the Holy Synod elevated his diocese to the rank of a metropolitanate and established within its borders the new Eparchies of Zheleznogorsk and Shchigry. The newly elevated Metropolitan Herman was given care of the Eparchy of Shchigry, whilst Igumen Benjamin (Korolev) was elected Bishop of Zheleznogorsk.

The Holy Synod also granted the petition of Archbishop Theophan (Ashurkov) of Chelyabinsk that his diocese be reorganized as a metropolitanate, accordingly elevating it to the rank of a metropolitanate and founding on its territory the suffragan Eparchies of Troitsk and Magnitogorsk. The Holy Synod elected Igumen Innocent (Vasetsk) as Bishop of Magnitogorsk, whilst the newly elevated Metropolitan Theophan was left with the care of the Eparchy of Troitsk.

Per the request of Bishop Benjamin (Zaritskiy) of Penza the Holy Synod recognized elevated his diocese to the rank of a metropolitanate and established within its borders the new Eparchies of Kuznetsk and Serdobsk. The Eparchy of Serdobsk remains in the care of the newly elevated Metropolitan Benjamin of Penza, whilst Igumen Seraphim (Domnin) was elected Bishop of Kuznetsk by the Holy Synod.

Responding to the request of Bishop Aristarchus (Smirnov) of Kemerovo in central Siberia the Holy Synod established his diocese as a metropolitanate and created on its territory the suffragan Eparchies of Mariinsk and Novokuznetsk. The Holy Synod proceeded to elect Igumen Innocent (Vetrov) as Bishop of Mariinsk, leaving the Eparchy of Novokuznetsk in the care of the newly elevated Metropolitan Aristarchus of Kemerovo.

A full account of the decisions taken by the Holy Synod at today's session in Kiev can be found in Russian here.

Armenian Orthodox Echmiadzin Catholicos Visiting Italy, Romania

Catholicos-Patriarch Karekin II (Nersessian) of Echmiadzin has begun a pastoral visit to the Armenian Orthodox Church in Italy and Romania. More here.

Russian Orthodox Church Reconsidering Recognition of 'Yekaterinburg Remains'

It is being reported that new evidence has emerged in Brussels which may lead to the Moscow Patriarchate's recognition of remains at St. Petersburg's Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul as the the relics of the Romanov imperial family. The evidence and the Russian Orthodox Church's official position on the remains will be discussed at today's session of the Russian Orthodox Holy Synod in Kiev.

If the remains are recognized by the Church as the Royal Martyrs' relics they will also be recognized by the current head of the House of Romanov, Grand Duchess Mariya Vladimirovna Romanova. More here and here.

Alexandrian Orthodox Pope Visiting Russia

Pope Theodore II (Horeftakis) of Alexandria has begun a visit to Russia at the invitation of the Russian Orthodox Church. After meeting with Patriarch Cyril (Gundyayev) of Moscow prior to the latter's departure for Ukraine the pope will travel to southern Russia to visit the communities of the Russian Orthodox Church in that region. More here.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Begins Visit to Kiev

Patriarch Cyril (Gundyayev) of Moscow has begun a pastoral visit to the autonomous Church of Ukraine, flying into the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, earlier today and meeting with Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sabodan) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Y. Azarov at the Kiev Caves Lavra shortly after his arrival in the city.

Patriarch Cyril is opening a session of the Russian Orthodox Holy Synod at the Kiev Caves Lavra today, and on Saturday will lead the celebrations of the feast of St. Vladimir and the Baptism of Rus'. More here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"The OCA and Spiritual Maturity"

Fr. Theodore Bobosh, pastor of St. Paul's Church in Dayton, Ohio, has a wonderful reflection on the recent events in the American Orthodox Church (OCA) posted on his blog.

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Visits Alexandria

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, head of external affairs for the Moscow Patriarchate, has paid a brief visit to Pope Theodore II (Horeftakis) at the seat of the Alexandria Patriarchate to discuss relations between the Alexandrian and Russian Orthodox Churches. Participating in the discussions were papal auxiliary Bishops Gabriel of Mareotis and Nicodemus of Nitria

Following his time with the Alexandrian Orthodox pope Metropolitan Hilarion remained in Alexandria to visit the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of St. Mark, which enshrines part of the saint's relics. More here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Greek Orthodox Church Responds to Criticism of Finances

The Church of Greece has responded to widespread criticisms of its financial support by the Greek state - an arrangement made when the latter took the Church's lands (it's main financial support until then) at the time of Greece's independence from the Ottoman Empire - by noting that since 2010 its clergy have been paying taxes on their salaries together with the rest of the country. More here.

Abductions Up in Egypt as Syrian Islamists Continue Attacks on Christians, Iraqis

It is being reported that planned abductions of Coptic Orthodox women and girls in Egypt have risen significantly since the overthrow there of President Hosni Mubarak, while in Syria Islamist terrorists fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad continue to terrorize the country's large Christian minorities, including the many Iraqi Christian refugees who fled to the country after the US occupation of Iraq. More here and here.

Prague Metropolitan to Visit Alaska

It has been announced that Metropolitan Christopher (Pulec) of the 'Czechoslovak' Orthodox Church will begin a visit to the American Orthodox (OCA) Diocese of Sitka and Alaska at the end of this month. The visit will be the second to Alaska by a first hierarch of one of the Local Orthodox Churches. More here.

Coptic Orthodox Church Prepares to Nominate New Pope

The Coptic Orthodox Church has released the names of clerical and lay participants in a special ecclesiastical assembly to nominate a successor to the recently reposed Pope Shenouda III (al-Suriani) of Alexandria. The release of the list is the first step towards the convening of the assembly, which will nominate three candidates for inclusion in the drawing of lots to chose the next Coptic Orthodox patriarch.

The Church also recently announced that it will not have representatives at the annual iftaar (a dinner breaking the Ramadan fast) this year due to its continued mourning of Pope Shenouda's falling asleep. More here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ukrainian Orthodox Synod Elects New Bishops, Approves Athonite Dependency

The Local Synod of the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church has met in Kiev in advance of the upcoming celebrations in honor of the Baptism of Rus'. The Synod took a number of decisions concerning the life of the Church of Ukraine, including the transfer of several hierarchs to new sees. It also elected Archimandrites Roman (Kymovych) as Bishop of Konotop, Ephraim (Yarinko) as Bishop of Berdyansk, Clement (Vecher) as Bishop of Irpin' and auxiliary of the Metropolitanate of Kiev, and Arcadius (Taranov) as Bishop of Ovidiopol' and auxiliary of the Eparchy of Odessa and approved the request of St. Panteleimon's Monastery on Mount Athos to reestablish a dependency (μετοχιον/подворье) in Kiev, pending the approval of the Moscow Patriarchate. More in Ukrainian here and here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Moldovan, Transdniestrian Leaders Visit Mount Athos with Moldovan Orthodox Metropolitan

Moldovan Prime Minister Vladimir Filat and President Yevgeniy V. Shevchuk of the breakaway state of Transdniestria in eastern Moldova have begun a joint pilgrimage with Metropolitan Vladimir (Cantarean) of the Moldovan Orthodox Church to Mount Athos. The leaders are described as being "on a private visit to jointly pray at the ancient monasteries on Mount Athos." The pilgrimage is the latest in a series of informal contacts between the two. More here.

Chicago Priest Elected Bishop of Scopelos

The Holy Synod of the Constantinopolitan Orthodox Church has elected Archimandrite Pankratij (Dubas), rector of Chicago's Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Volodymyr, as Bishop of Scopelos and auxiliary to Metropolitan Athenagoras (Anastasiadis) of Mexico City. Axios!

Roughly 17,000 Ukrainians have immigrated to the countries comprising the territory of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Mexico City in recent years and Bishop-elect Pancratius will be responsible for the Metropolis' outreach to them. Further information will be linked as it becomes available.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ethiopian Muslims Protest Government

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Abeba, turned out this past weekend to protest what they feel is mistreatment at the hands of the Ethiopian government. More here.

Orthodox-Muslim relations in Ethiopia have been tense over recent years due to the sporadic burning of Orthodox churches in primarily Muslim areas and the Muslim minority's dissatisfaction with a national census that showed that Islam is not practiced by over half the country, despite Muslim claims to the contrary and sometimes aggressive proselytization funded out of the Arabian Peninsula.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Visits Katyn Memorial

Patriarch Cyril (Gundyayev) of Moscow has visited the Katyn Memorial in Russia's Smolensk region to pay his respects to the memory of the many thousands of Russians and Poles executed there by the Soviet government. As part of his visit to the memorial the patriarch celebrated the Sunday Liturgy in the memorial Church of the Resurrection. More here and here.

OCA Holy Synod Releases Statement on Metropolitan's Resignation

Due to the ongoing controversy over the recent resignation of Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) of the American Orthodox Church (OCA) the Holy Synod of the OCA has released a statement clarifying some of the reasons for its unanimous request that the metropolitan resign.

Photo of the Day: Festal Services in Haiti

The festal services at the Church of St. Augustine in Jacmel, Haiti, on the eve of St. Augustine's day.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Abune P'awlos Marks 20 Years as Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch

Patriarch Abune P'awlos of Addis Abeba has celebrated the 20th anniversary of his enthronement as patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. More here.