Tuesday, July 17, 2018

His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos on St. Vlad's Seminary

The Pan-Orthodox Vision of SVOTS: His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, Metropolitan of the Northeast American Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (MOSC) and board member at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, on the unique diversity and collaborations at SVOTS, and how that could impact the broader Orthodox world.

UOC-USA launches new website

(UOC-USA) - A Note from Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel:

“We Invite You to Explore This Website Now and Then Visit Again!”
At its founding in 1918 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA immediately began serving the immigrant communities that settled in the continental United States of America. Today, a century later, we continue to serve over sixty thousand Ukrainian Orthodox Christians in two Eparchies – Eastern and Western. Within our Metropolia you will find 100 parishes and missions with liturgical services offered in Ukrainian and English languages. We worship together and also serve our neighbors through active social service, education and charitable outreach.

The Metropolia is a small but ancient Christian Community, that can trace its roots back to Holy Apostle Andrew and the very origins of the Sacred Christian tradition. Today, our Church aims to incorporate and preserve the best of that rich seam of tradition in a diverse, vibrant and multicultural society and all the challenges and opportunities that it brings.

The website of our Church is not only a place to access practical information about the Metropolia and “what’s going on”, but also where to learn more about our Church, the Church in the World, and also help us to reflect on our Christian faith and vocation, and what it means to be disciples of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim his “good news” of Justice, Peace, Forgiveness and Love in our world today.

It is very much a “work in progress”, and so if not all the information is immediately accessible and some pages remain under construction, please bear with us.

“Rooted in Christ” and the unchanging riches of his grace, the Christian Community throughout history is called to the “noble adventure” of proclaiming with joy and hope the Good News of the Gospel of salvation to the world. The commission of the Risen Lord to His people – to go out into the world and be bearers of this news – compels us to rise to the challenge of speaking the languages of our times, so that – even in virtual worlds where all too often very different languages and logics hold sway – the work of Evangelization continues and God’s Kingdom becomes reality in the here and now of life. We must be fearless in adopting the new ways of communication thus proclaiming the Word of God to the world around us whether through this web site or any parochial web (electronic) means of communication.

As you visit the various pages on this web site, the mission of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA will become clear – “...to offer healing, comfort, wholeness, spiritual fulfillment and joy as we work together to reveal the beauty of God’s creation by proclaiming and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

That is the mission of the Church, and this website should be, above all, an instrument towards achieving that goal, together. To join us in our work, please visit one of our churches or learn how you can support our charitable, educational, and pastoral mission.

Russian Synod approves Akathist to Herman of Alaska

(ROC-USA) - During a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, the text of the akathist to Venerable Herman of Alaska was approved for church-wide and private use (Journal № 62). The text was presented by the chairman of the Publishing Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Klement of Kaluga and Borovsk. The text (currently in Church Slavonic only) can be accessed here (Word document).

Russian Church approves rite of burial of unbaptized infants

(Pravmir) - The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has approved the rite of the burial of unbaptized infants during their meeting on July 14, 2018.

It was reported by Priest Alexander Volkov, Press Secretary of His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

According to Fr. Alexander, this rite will become mandatory for all parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church.

“As you know, earlier the Church did not have the opportunity to celebrate a burial service for unbaptized infants. Sometimes infants are stillborn or die shortly after due to various circumstances that cannot be overcome by human power. Naturally, grieving parents come to a church and ask priests to officiate at least some rite for their departed children and seek their own consolation,” the RIA news service quotes the priest.

According to him, the theological understanding of the state of the soul of the deceased infant is not completely determined, there are different points of view regarding this issue.

“But in any case, the funeral service in the form in which it relates to the deceased at a conscious age is primarily connected to the prayer for the forgiveness of sins. This cannot be attributed to unbaptized infants who cannot have personal sins, ” the press secretary of the Primate of the Russian Church specified.

In the priest’s opinion, the funeral service approved by the Holy Synod is aimed at helping parents who mourn for the early death of their children and will become “the service of love” towards those who were left alone.

Previously, unbaptized infants were only remembered in home prayers.

Bp. Matthew of Sourozh temporary Canadian parishes head

(Orthodox Canada) - In secul. Gennady Andreev, born 18.05.1971

Namesday: 29th of November.

Consecrated: November 15, 2015


He was born on May 18, 1971 in Tambov. Baptized in infancy. From 1978-1988 he studied at the secondary school No.8 in Tambov.

In 1991 he graduated from the Tambov Diocesan School.

In 1993 he graduated from the Faculty of Foreign Languages of the Tambov State Pedagogical Institute (specializing in English and French). From 1993 to 2009 he worked as a teacher of English and French in the high school of Bokino, Tambov district, Tambov region.

In 1991 he passed an internship at the University of Northumbria (Newcastle, Great Britain). In 1997, he completed a distance learning course at the University of Manchester.

From 1991 to 1998 he carried out the obedience of an altar server and subdeacon in the Intercession of the Virgin Cathedral of Tambov.

On March 1, 1998, he was ordained deacon by His Eminence Evgeny (Zhdan), Archbishop of Tambov and Michurinsky and on October 4, 1998, to the rank of Priest. He served as Rector of the Church of St. Nicholas of Myra in the village of Bokino, Tambov district (1998-2005), as a clergyman of the Kazan monastery in Tambov (2005-2008), and as a clergyman of the Intercession of the Virgin Cathedral of Tambov (2008-2009).

From 2000 to 2005 he studied at the correspondence department of the Moscow Theological Seminary.

From 1998 to 2009 — Head of the department of religious education, catechesis and missionary work of the Tambov diocese. From 2005 to 2009, he was the Assistant Pro-Rector, and from 2008 to 2009 – the first Pro-Rector of the Tambov Theological Seminary.

On May 18, 2008, Bishop Theodosius of Tambov and Michurin elevated him to the rank of archpriest.

By the decision of the Holy Synod of July 27, 2009 (Journal No.74) he was sent to carry out pastoral service in the Diocese of Sourozh.

2009-2010 — Rector of the Parish of St. Kentigern of Glasgow, Dean of the diocesan districts of Scotland and Northern England. From 2010 – Sacristan of the Stavropegic Parish of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Manchester, Dean of the diocesan districts of Northern England and Wales, Head of the Missionary Service of the Diocese of Sourozh.

In 2008, he entered the Moscow Theological Academy, from where he transferred to the All-Church Postgraduate and Doctorate Institute of Saints Cyril and Methodius in 2011.

By the decision of the Holy Synod of October 22, 2015 (Journal No.64) he was elected Bishop of Skopin and Shatsk.

On October 24, 2015 in the Donskoy Stavropegic Monastery in Moscow Abbot Paramon (Golubka) tonsured him as a monk with the name of Matthew in honour of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew.

On October 27, 2015 in the Donskoy monastery His Eminence Varsonofy, Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga, elevated him to the rank of archimandrite.

He was nominated as bishop on November 5, 2015 in the Church of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God at the Patriarch’s Residence in Chisty Lane, Moscow. He was consecrated on November 15 at the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Kaliningrad. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia headed the Divine Services.

By the decision of the Holy Synod of July 29, 2017 (Journal No.52), he was appointed the Administrator of the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Italy with the title “Bogorodsky” and Rector of the Stavropegic Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr in Rome and relaesed from the administration of the Skopin diocese.

By the decision of the Holy Synod of December 28, 2017 (Journal No.116), he was released from the administration of the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Italy and appointed as Ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Sourozh.

On July 14, 2018, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, taking place in the city of Ekaterinburg, His Grace Bishop Matthew of Sourozh was entrusted with the temporary administration of the Patriarchal Parishes in Canada (Journal No.66).

Church seeks to revitalize monasticism in Japan

(OrthoChristian) - The holy Equal-to-the-Apostles St. Nicholas of Japan brought the holy Orthodox faith to Japan as a missionary in 1861. Now work on the nation’s first Orthodox monastery to be consecrated in his honor is underway, reports the Synodal Department for Monasteries and Monasticism of the Russian Orthodox Church.

At its July 16, 2005 session, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church heard a report on His Eminence Daniel of Tokyo and All Japan’s request for assistance in the revival of monastic life in the Japanese Autonomous Orthodox Church.

On the basis of the report, the Holy Synod resolved to send Hieromonk Gerasim (Shevtsov) of the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra to be at Met. Daniel’s disposal to assist in organizing a monastic community.

Land for the long-awaited monastery was finally purchased on June 22 of this year in the south-central city of Ajiro. On July 3, the brothers of the monastery Archimandrite Gerasim and Monk Solomon served the first moleben at the site of the monastery’s future church.

The future monastery owns a large altar Gospel printed in St. Nicholas’ Japanese translation by the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra. Such Gospels will also be given to the Orthodox cathedrals in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Sendai.

The purchasing of the land was reported to the Council of the Japanese Orthodox Church at its July7-8 session, to the joy of the hierarchs, who approved of the project. The brothers of the monastery will be working hard over the coming year in order to have visible results to report to the Council at its session next year.

Truly breathtaking: US shrine honors Russian Royal Martyrs

The background, construction, and splendor of a gift to the Hermitage of the Holy Cross (the beloved Russian Orthodox monastery in West Virginia) is gloriously recounted over at that effulgent testament to the words “beauty will save the world,” the Orthodox Arts Journal.

Please do read how this all came together, but before you go. Feast your eyes on this.

Jordan Peterson Granted Honorary Christian Status

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (Babylon Bee) — In a joyful ceremony, Christian leaders gathered to grant Jordan Peterson the status of honorary Christian. Though the Canadian professor has never identified as a Christian and does not attend any church, a vote was taken and the decision was made unanimously that Peterson had earned his salvation and could be drafted into heaven by popular vote.

“Most people are saved by grace,” said one of the pastors who presented the award, “Jordan Peterson isn’t most people.”

Though Peterson holds a number of highly controversial views such as that most societal problems are really complicated, men shouldn’t be deadbeats, speech should be free, and that becoming dogmatically ideological stunts intellectual and moral growth, the Christian leaders decided to overlook these grievous sins and still honor him with the award.

Peterson was given a medallion as one of the coordinating pastors led a prayer asking that God grant Peterson salvation through the prayers of those present, whether or not Peterson himself had actually accepted Christ or believed in God. “What do you mean by God?” Peterson asked in the middle of the prayer. “It’s an attempt to box me in, man. I don’t like that.” Peterson’s comments went unaddressed as the prayer continued for his honorary redemption. “Well that’s a thing to pray,” Peterson said. Still he was ignored.

Many went forward to cite the reasons they believed Peterson deserved to be made an honorary Christian. “He’s read and studied more of the Bible than 90% of actual believers,” said one speaker. “He’s given numerous lectures that are straight out of Scripture,” said another, citing the fact that many pastors can’t even pull that off. A number of male youth pastors said they particularly liked that he advocated forcing single women to marry undesirable men, but then were corrected by Peterson himself. “I never said that, man. Get your facts straight.” Other reasons given were that he only uses PG swears, he eats a lot of bacon, and he has “triggered more snowflakes” and been called a far-right Christian hatemonger more times than most Christians will in several lifetimes.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ethiopian Church sends bishops to US to heal rift

(AllAfrica) - The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church ton Wednesday announced plans to dispatch a team of three archbishops to the US for reconciliation process between the exiled and the local Synods.

The announcement was made today by Abune Mathias, Patriarch of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church.

The church exhausted the past 26 years without peace following the fleeing into exile of the 4h Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, along with some religion fathers, Abune Mathias said.

He noted the church has been making efforts since 2003 Ethiopian Calendar to restore peace between the two Synods.

As part of the efforts to resolve the problem between the two Synods, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church will dispatch three archbishops to the United States, Abune Mathias said.

According to the Patriarch, the team will hold talks and facilitate condition for the return of the exiled Synod.

Abune Mathias further said the church highly supports the ongoing efforts to strengthen the people-to-people ties between Ethiopia and Eritrea. (FBC)

Ethiopia repatriates 3,000 citizens in 3 months, official says.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mutual Greek - Russian diplomatic expulsions forthcoming

(RFE) - Greece has moved to expel two Russian diplomats and to block two others from entering over suspicions they attempted to undermine a deal between Athens and Macedonia last month, a Greek official told the Associated Press.

Russia has been given until July 13 to get the two diplomats out of Greece, said the official on July 12, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It was not immediately clear if they had already departed.

Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on July 11 that Athens wouldn't accept "behavior that violates international law" and disrespects the Greek state.

His remarks were in response to the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini's report about the expulsions for what it said were activities inconsistent with the diplomats' status.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it would respond in kind to the expulsions, Interfax news agency reported.

Kathimerini reported that Athens ordered the expulsions and bans after perceived attempts by the Russian diplomats to undermine a deal Greece brokered with Macedonia last month to end a decades-old standoff over its name.

The two countries agreed to the renaming of the former Yugoslav republic to North Macedonia.

Meanwhile, a Russian diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly dismissed as "nonsense" allegations that Russian diplomats were involved in undermining Greek public support for the Macedonia deal.

In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that diplomatic expulsions typically bring a tit-for-tat response, but underlined the importance of Russia-Greece ties.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's visit to Greece, originally planned for the fall, is unlikely to take place given the current situation, a high-ranking official at the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax.

Uniates claim innocence in Ukrainian autocephaly push

(RISU) - The UGCC claims that statements by Metropolitan Hilarion that the UGCC allegedly lobbied for the unification of Orthodox Ukrainians to convert all of them to the Union, to be a manipulation with facts and feelings.

Fr. Igor Shaban, Chairman of the UGCC Commission on Interreligious and Interfaith Relations told this to RISU.

“The UGCC is in no way involved in the process of granting the Tomos, neither directly nor indirectly. We are accused of the fact that certain Ukrainian politicians who declare themselves Greek Catholics promote these developments. I would like to emphasize that the Church did not bless them. They act solely at their own discretion or at the discretion of their political party. Therefore, I think that the words that the Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church said in this regard should be interpreted as a primitive manipulation of the facts and feelings of Christians, and we strongly reject all Moscow's accusations that these movements began as our initiative,” he said.

The representative of the UGCC stressed that the unification of the Orthodox Churches to obtain the Tomos is only an internal affair of Orthodox Ukrainians.

“The UGCC has no relation to the process of obtaining the Tomos or to the process of unification of Orthodox Churches. This is the internal affair of our Orthodox brethren. We, as the Church, consider this type of competition aimed at the unity of Christians as positive since this position correlates with the commandment of Jesus Christ “that all may be one.” We are also ready for dialogue with all Orthodox Churches in accordance with the Ecumenical Concept of the UGCC,” said Fr. Igor.

The head of the UGCC Commission on Interreligious and Interfaith Relations also hopes that the receipt of Tomas on the autocephaly of the UOC and the creation of the One Local Orthodox Church will in no way affect the activities of the UGCC.

“In our opinion, this will help so-called non-canonical Orthodox Churches to overcome the church isolation and will eliminate the painful state of divisions and fragmentation. For the UGCC, for its activity and its inner life nothing will ultimately change. The only thing we would like the State to further ensure is necessary conditions for the free development of all Churches and would like the authorities not to offer preferences for any faith. However, I think that this will not happen anyway since Ukraine is a democratic state where all the Churches enjoy equal rights and freedoms,” Fr. Igor Shaban said.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

EP - Moscow try to "preserve inter-Orthodox unity"

(ROC) - On 9 July 2018, at his working residence in Chisty Lane in Moscow, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill met with members of a delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople – Metropolitans Emmanuel of France and Bartholomew of Smyrna.

Representing the Russian Orthodox Church at the meeting were also Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, and Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, DECR vice-chairman.

The participants in the meeting discussed various issues pertaining to the preservation of the inter-Orthodox unity.

The FOGCPJA... or something

Archbishop Athenagoras, The Living Church, Dec. 12, 1943
(Orthodox History) - Back in the early 1940s, several of the Orthodox jurisdictions briefly came together to form an organization with the unwieldy name, “The Federated Orthodox Greek Catholic Primary Jurisdictions in America.” That’s ridiculous, so we’ll just call it “the Federation.” Anyway, the Federation was a precursor to SCOBA, which morphed into the present-day Assembly of Bishops.

The Federation was active for only a couple years, 1942 to 1944. Its biggest achievement was getting the Orthodox recognized by the Selective Service, which in turn meant that clergy were exempt from the draft and could serve as military chaplains. The Federation was also instrumental in the incorporation of several Orthodox jurisdictions, including the Antiochian Archdiocese, under New York law. (Click here to read a timeline of the Federation.)

What I didn’t know until recently was that the Federation apparently planned to create an English-speaking seminary. I learned this thanks to Lou Milicich, who sent me a link to the December 12, 1943 issue of The Living Church, a publication of the Episcopal Church in America.

The Living Church reported that Archbishop Athenagoras, head of the Greek Archdiocese (and future Ecumenical Patriarch), announced plans for the seminary — but, somewhat oddly, the seminary’s main purpose seems to have been training priests for service in Europe, not the United States. Athenagoras noted that there were already a number of Orthodox seminaries in America, with 155 students between them.

The primary motivation behind this new seminary seems to have been political, more so than pastoral. Here’s what Athenagoras said:

When priests trained at the seminary return to their countries they will help further good will and understanding between the Church in America and the Orthodox Church in Europe. Generally speaking, Americans interested in post-war problems do not realize that the Orthodox Churches in Russia, Greece, Syria, and other countries will have a great influence in rehabilitation efforts after the war. Our purpose is not only to train future priests in democratic precepts, but to convince them that real democracy consists of much more than mere lip service.

It’s easy to see why Athenagoras was the U.S. government’s first choice for the position of Ecumenical Patriarch after World War II, just as the Cold War was getting started. He was a church politician who was ardently pro-American (and anti-Communist).

Archbishop Athenagoras announced plans for other initiatives, including “a central bureau of publicity for Orthodox affairs” and a pan-Orthodox English-language magazine. And also this (reported by The Living Church):

Arrangements have already been made for a census of all Orthodox Churches in the United States, which will provide up-to-date statistics on the number of priests, communicants, churches, and schools in each of the jurisdictions. There are at present, the Archbishop estimated, over 5,000,000 Orthodox believers in this country, served by 25 bishops and 1,500 priests.

This was over 65 years before Alexei Krindatch came on the scene, and more than 75 years before the first really comprehensive census of Orthodox parishes, in 2010. Unfortunately, the proposed census in the 1940s didn’t happen, because the Federation unraveled shortly after this article was published. There was some sort of population data published in 1947, in a periodical called the Christian Herald. (For more on that census, and previous Orthodox censuses, click here.)

As I said, the Federation didn’t last very long, failing mostly due to leadership issues. (One of the driving forces behind the Federation was a Greek lawyer named George Phillies, who for some reason took communion both in the Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church. Once that got out, the Federation quickly fell apart.) That said, the idea of the Federation did live on, and thanks in part to the efforts of the Antiochian Metropolitan Antony Bashir (click here for more on that), from the ashes of the Federation arose SCOBA, which, for all its faults, served as a critical platform for pan-Orthodox cooperation for many decades.

Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako made cardinal

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Strengthening the unity of Christians, relaunching the principle of citizenship as an element common to all Iraqis and supporting the work of rebuilding homes and people, devastated by war and jihadist violence. These are the objectives set by the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako, who today receives the cardinal's beretto from Pope Francis. And the commitment to shortly appoint a priest for the parish of St. Paul in Mosul. A "strong and authoritative" personality assures the new cardinal who "will be chosen by the end of the summer" and who is a sign of "stability".

AsiaNews met the Chaldean primate a few hours before the ceremony. Here is what he shared with us:

Patriarch Sako, what value does a cardinal have for the Church in Iraq?

With this choice Pope Francis wanted to send a strong signal of support to the Eastern Churches. The appointment goes in this direction. It is also a message to Iraqi Christians, for us it means: 'Even if I cannot come, I am near you, I encourage you to stay and hope, to be patient, commit yourself to changing the situation'. It is an appeal to the Iraqi political class: everyone knows the importance and influence that the Vatican exercises at an international level. Muslims have taken this nomination as a further invitation to reconciliation, dialogue, common commitment to the rebirth of our nation. A choice with a high symbolic value, as the appointment as cardinal of the apostolic nuncio in Syria, Mario Zenari was also at the time.

What are your goals for the near future?

First of all, the unity of Christians, which touches our hearts because of the profound fragmentation that has characterized our Church for a long time. And again, the unity of Iraqis as citizens with equal rights and equal duties, according to the principle of citizenship. Finally, working for a better future starting from material and cultural reconstruction. In this sense it is important to have a greater presence at the level of relations with the Western Church, cultural exchange, the birth of Christian institutes, schools, clinics and hospitals, as is already the case in the other nations of the area (Syria and Lebanon). For too long we felt isolated, so it is important that today we open ourselves up to the world and encourage more and more people from the outside. We need to help this Chaldean Church, which is among the oldest, to be a visible sign through works and projects.

A rebirth that can start from Mosul, a long stronghold of the Islamic State (IS, ex Isis) and where the worst jihadist atrocities have taken place?

Exactly! To revive Mosul, we must rebuild homes and houses, to encourage people to come back. But it is also necessary to rebuild the people, first of all on the psychological and social level, with avenues of integration and discussion. Lastly, guarantee work, facilitating the resumption of commerce, industry, trade and micro-businesses along with local crafts.

What is the current situation in the city?

There is still a lot of destruction, but among Muslims themselves there is a new impulse to begin again, to react to the disasters of ISIS. It is necessary to educate people to open up, to guarantee the respect of the laws, to favor education and to avoid extremist drifts in matters of faith.

In this sense a return of Christians is fundamental, on the level of the faithful and clergy ...

Of course, that's why I will shortly appoint a priest for the parish of St. Paul in Mosul, who will return to live and reside there. He will be a strong and authoritative personality, and will be chosen by the end of the summer. Today the situation has changed and the time has come to rebuild the community, guaranteeing its stability. We want to send a strong message, to say that we are back, thus encouraging people to return, primarily university students.

The Vatican also recently approved the beginning of the process for the cause of beatification of Fr. Can Ragheed Ganni, does this instill trust and hope?

His story and his sacrifice, common to those of many other priests, deacons and bishops including Msgr. Rahho testify that the Iraqi Church is a continuous story of martyrs. This beatification process, which should end soon, will give new strength to the local community. It is a warning to make us understand that this blood is not poured out in vain, but it is the fruit of love and will bring peace.

Your Beatitude, the recent elections have led to a climate of uncertainty in the country, with allegations of fraud and appeals. What has the outcome been?

The situation is currently complicated and tense, struggles for power and money are in underway, corruption remains one of the country's endemic ills. However, there are some clear signs: at the last elections there was the highest percentage of new candidates entering Parliament for the first time. And this frightens those who have held the reins of power up to now and this is also why they have raised all these rumours of fraud, accusations of rigging, disputes. But I am sure that in the end a strong government will be born, with a civilian footprint and free from sectarianism. Today there is a different mentality compared to the past, determined perhaps also by a general economic and moral crisis. Here, in my opinion, the current situation at world level is determined precisely by this crisis of values, especially among Christians, who struggle to claim their identity and belonging when faced with the pride shown by Muslims.

Patriarch Sako, how do you picture the immediate future for Iraq and its Church?

We live in a moment of great challenges, fears and hopes. We must continue the language of dialogue with Muslims, not on the basis of abstract principles at the academic level but according to a current, concrete relationship, which is lived day by day. We must try to help them to correct the extremist drifts, favouring the respect of all and the protection of the weakest and most marginalized realities. It may be a slow passage, but I believe in this little miracle and I see it also from the relationships that have been created not only between Pope Francis and great personalities of Islam, like the great imam of al-Azhar, but also locally with an ever deeper bond that has been created with the highest Sunni and Shiite authorities in Iraq. Defending with absolute words and examples absolute values ​​such as human rights, religious freedom also and especially in countries with a Muslim majority, and the principle of citizenship separate from religion.`

EP opens new Synodal Hall at Halki Monastery

(Romanian Church) - His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew inaugurated Tuesday the new Synodal Hall at the Holy Trinity Monastery of Halki before the official opening of the July working session of the Holy Synod.

Prior to the works of the Holy Synod, Patriarch Bartholomew officiated the blessing service of the Synodal Hall organized at Halki Monastery through the care of Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Bursa, the abbot of the monastery.

Until now, most synodal meetings of the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have been held at the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s headquarters at the Phanar.

During the session on Tuesday, July 10, the Holy Synod chose for the first time a Metropolitan of Ancyra since 1922 when the metropolitan seat was vacated.