Wednesday, July 27, 2016

“I do not know this Man of whom you speak!”

From Oleg Shurkus.

Russian Church adds messaging app for parishes

Will it work? Remember, priests don't answer emails (see here and here).

(BBC) - The Russian Orthodox Church is to launch a new messaging app in order to help priests to keep in touch with believers.

It's being made by the same designers behind the Church's dedicated social network, Elitsy, which was launched in 2014. The app, which is currently in development, will "satisfy the needs of the faithful for interaction and continuous contact between parishioners and the Church", according to Elitsy's press service, cited by Tass news agency. It adds that the app has the blessing of the Church's leader, Patriarch Kirill.

As well as standard tools such as sending text, audio and video messages between users, the app will also allow priests to contact a whole parish, diocese or even the entire Church. It's come about due to requests from Elitsy users, Tass says.

The number of registered users of the Elitsy network now tops 100,000, according to the report, including more than 1,000 priests. Among the features available to those who set up an account is a service called "Ask a priest", with some priests posting video replies to queries on everything from whether hunting is a suitable pastime for an Orthodox Christian, to how to choose a husband.

In a time of national crisis, maybe don't defenestrate God

(TruNews) - Greece on Monday unveiled plans to revise its constitution, formally proposing a clearer distinction between the state and the powerful Orthodox Church, changes in how the president is elected and limiting terms of lawmakers in parliament.

Left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the proposals were aimed at transforming a system full of “pathogens”, and public feedback would be sought from September before the plans are put to parliament for further consultation.

“We aspire to see a process of active participation of citizens, and not something which is restricted within four walls of parliament,” Tsipras told state officials during a presentation.

Under the proposals, the president - now a ceremonial role - would be elected in a national vote if there were a lack of consensus among members of parliament, who currently pick the head of state.

There could also be a “moderate” increase in the powers of the country’s president on issues such as having the right to refer legislation to experts for legal ruling, Tsipras said.

Lawmakers would be restricted to two consecutive terms or eight years in office, a new court would be formed to rule on the legality of legislation, and there would be the conditional abolition of parliamentary immunity.

Tsipras, who, along with many in his cabinet, eschewed the tradition of taking a religious oath when he was sworn in, said the role of the Church in Greece was an “exceptionally sensitive issue”.

Greek Orthodoxy is considered the country’s official religion.

“I think establishing religious neutrality of the state is a mature demand, maintaining for historical and practical reasons the role of Orthodoxy as the prevailing religion, Tsipras said.

Constitutional reforms have been a rallying cry of Tsipras’s government since his left-wing Syriza party swept to power in early 2015 on a tide of anti-austerity sentiment by a public clobbered by years of economic reforms and financial bailouts.

But Tsipras was forced to cave in and accept a third international bailout within months last year as the country teetered on the brink of a fiscal cliff and threat of getting thrown out of the euro zone.

Other initiatives would be to allow referendums related to “national issues” or in pursuing items of legislation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Grenades, bombs cause redirection of Ukrainian procession

Kyiv (RFERL) - Ukraine's interior minister has ordered police to bar a major religious procession from entering the capital on foot after police said explosives were found planted along the planned route.

Arsen Avakov said on July 26 that participants in the procession would not be allowed to march into Kyiv because of security concerns after two grenades and several fake mines were found on the marchers' route in the Svyatoshinsky district on the western outskirts of Kyiv.

"The fake mines and real grenades discovered this morning made it clear for us that the threats and provocations are real," Avakov said on his Facebook page.

"The safety of citizens is more important than religious rituals," he said.

Authorities said the participants would be ferried from Svyatoshinsky to their destination on buses.

More than 1,000 people, divided into two columns, have been marching since the beginning of the month toward Kyiv from the country's west and east in processions led by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate -- an affiliate of the Russian Orthodox Church and a rival of a major Kyiv-based church.

The two columns plan to meet at Volodymyr Hill in Kyiv later this week for what is being celebrated as the 1,028th anniversary of Kievan Rus's acceptance of Christianity. The holiday has been promoted by Patriarch Kirill, the Moscow-based head of the Russian Orthodox Church, as a day of Russian religious unity.

Ukraine's Orthodox Christian majority is split between three major churches: The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Russia's interference in Ukraine over the past two years has aggravated tension among them.

Some Ukrainian officials have said authorities say they suspect the marches are merely a facade for a Kremlin-orchestrated plot to stir unrest and prove that the rights of Russians, Russian speakers, and members of the Moscow-based church are under threat in Ukraine.

Moscow used such claims to justify its takeover of Crimea from Ukraine and its backing of pro-Russian separatists in the country's eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where Kyiv and NATO say Russia has sent thousands of troops during a war that has killed more than 9,400 people since April 2014.

On July 25, some 150 Ukrainian nationalists and veterans of the war in the east temporarily blocked the column coming from the east outside Boryspil, some 35 kilometers southeast of Kyiv, calling them "agents of Moscow."

Metropolitan Kallistos on Crete event

(OSV) - Gathering Orthodox hierarchs from around the world, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church wrapped-up on the Greek island of Crete on June 26. In the works for over a century, the event was historic to say the least. But what did it accomplish? Our Sunday Visitor spoke with His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia — renowned Orthodox theologian, based in Oxford, England, and invited member of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s delegation at the council. Metropolitan Kallistos shared some of his insights on the meeting and the next steps to bringing about stronger unity within Orthodoxy worldwide.

Our Sunday Visitor: Your Eminence, how was the Holy and Great Council successful?

Metropolitan Kallistos: The first and main reason is quite simply it was a success because it took place .... I say that because there had not been a council of this kind in the recent history of the Orthodox Church. Some people would say that this is the first time since the seventh ecumenical council [Second Council of Nicaea, 787 AD] that a meeting of this caliber has taken place. So it was a major step forward that after lengthy preparation at last the Holy and Great Council did actually meet. But then we would have to set against that a matter of regret, that all the 14 Orthodox Churches did not send delegates ... the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Church of Bulgaria, the Church of Georgia, and, most significant of all, the Church of Russia. So we cannot actually say that this meeting was pan-Orthodox. Some people said, and this was my opinion at one point, that if these four Churches were not coming, and particularly if the Russians were not coming, then the whole event should be postponed. But the Ecumenical Patriarch took a different view. He felt that to postpone the meeting after all the preparation would be a very negative gesture and that the event should go ahead. And in retrospect, I’m quite sure he was right. ... My hope is that this will be the first in a series of meetings ... in 10 days we cannot expect the Orthodox Church to solve all its problems, and I hope there could be regular meetings of the Holy and Great Council, perhaps every three years, perhaps every seven years. ... So I think we should think it not in terms of an isolated event, but of a process.

OSV: Were any changes made to the preliminary documents at the council that would make a practical contribution to a renewal of the faith lives for Orthodox Christians?

Metropolitan Kallistos: To a limited extent, yes. I say limited because what we were asked to do was to ratify preparatory documents, and I, along with many others, wasn’t very satisfied with these preliminary documents. But there was really no opportunity at the council to have an extensive rewriting. And so, yes, changes were made. I don’t think they were always highly significant. To mention one change, which in my view was important, in the preliminary document dealing with marriage the question of “mixed marriages” [a marriage existing between an Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christian] was mentioned, and it was said that in the case of mixed marriages that the children should always be brought up Orthodox. Now that stipulation was deleted, and I think it was sensible to say that in the end we have to leave this to the conscience and decision of the parents, rather than make demands before people are married. What kind of council is it where documents aren't living things to be altered and improved but lapidary works that are largely static? Also, mixed marriages are already dangerous. One such danger is that the children will be deprived the saving work of the Church. If an Orthodox person can't even confirm that his children will be Orthodox, where are his priorities?

OSV: What were some of the biggest highlights?

Metropolitan Kallistos: The two most important documents considered by the council were, first of all, the relation of the Orthodox Church to the other churches. And the second point would be the document on the Orthodox diaspora — the position of Orthodox living outside the traditional Orthodox countries. Those are the two most important documents.The one in relation to the other churches begins with a very uncompromising statement to the effect that the Orthodox Church is the one, true, catholic, apostolic Church. Now, of course, Catholics would make a similar claim, though they have modified it by saying that the one, true, catholic Church “subsists in” the Roman Catholic Church today [cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, No. 8]. Well, we don’t say “subsists in,” but that statement was to be expected. However, the document on relations to other churches does continue, in positive terms, to commend the different dialogues that are in progress. That would be particularly the bilateral dialogue between the Orthodox and the Catholics — that would be the most important one — but we have a number of other bilateral dialogues. ... So there were positive statements in the document on Orthodoxy and other Christian Churches, but some Orthodox took a very rigid line. The Church of Greece proposed that we should not call non-Orthodox bodies churches, (but) that we should call them communities. Well that was rejected because we said for a very long time we have referred to the Roman Catholic Church, to the Anglican Church and to other bodies as churches. ... To refuse to call them churches at all — this we rejected — ... would have been a very negative step. Sometimes precedent makes sense. Sometimes fear of offending is cutting off the nose and spiting the face unnecessarily.

French Catholic priest beheaded by terrorists DURING MASS

There are several details in this story that are cause for extreme concern. The failure to monitor known terrorist who went on to behead a priest, the stabbing of a nun, and then a gun battle in a church. It's a tragedy of epic proportions.

The martyr Fr. Jacques Hamel
(Daily Mail) - Francois Hollande says France is at war with ISIS after two Islamist knifemen butchered a French priest and left a nun fighting for her life before they were both shot dead by police in Normandy.

One of the men who stormed into the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen during mass was a local man, who was being monitored by electronic tag after being jailed for trying to join fanatics in Syria. They ANKLE TAGGED a terrorist.

The 84-year-old priest, named as Jacques Hamel, had his throats cut while a nun is critically injured in hospital following the raid which saw five people held hostage by ISIS assailants shouting Allahu Akbar.

This afternoon it emerged that the murdered clergyman was deputising while the parish priest was on holiday. French authorities say they have arrested a third man in connection with the attack.

The two killers were 'neutralised' by marksmen as they emerged from the building, which is now being searched for explosives. French president Hollande said France is 'at war' with ISIS while the terror group has claimed responsibility for the killing.

It comes as it emerged that the building was one of a number of Catholic churches on a terrorist 'hit list' found on a suspected ISIS extremist last April.

There are also reports that one of the attackers was a local resident who was under electronic tag surveillance having been jailed in France for trying to travel to Syria in 2015. His bail terms allowed him to be unsupervised between 8.30am and 12.30pm - the attack happened between 9am and 11am. Because 9/11 didn't start at 9:03... well actually.

ISIS has already claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement published by its Aamaq news agency. It said the killing was carried out by 'two soldiers of the Islamic State.' It added the killing was in response to its calls to target countries of the US-led coalition which is fighting ISIS.

The Paris prosecutor's office said this afternoon that one person has been detained in the investigation but gave no details on the identity or location. The spokeswoman spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Fr. John Behr: "Standing by the Cross, Putting on Christ"

Fr. John speaking at St. Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Kensington, VIC, Australia, at the invitation of Bishop Suriel, on the topic, “Standing by the Cross, Putting on Christ.”

Monday, July 25, 2016

Better a millstone... Chaldean priest steals from refugees fund

(Al Arabiya) - A Canadian priest was charged this week for stealing more than half a million dollars (US$400,000) intended for the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and then gambling it away.

Amer Saka, 51, a clergyman of the Chaldean Catholic Church – based in Baghdad – had allegedly collected the funds from more than 20 donors to support refugees arriving from the war-torn nation, according to local police.

“This investigation spanned throughout the province of Ontario, the United States and other countries where refugees were attempting to come to Canada,” police in London, Ontario said in a statement on Thursday.

Bishop Emanuel Shaleta, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Canada, told The London Free Press that Saka had called him to say he had gambled and lost all of the money.

The priest had been involved in a sponsorship program for refugees for several years. He was suspended by the diocese of Hamilton, Ontario after police opened an investigation in February.

Saka was arrested on Wednesday and granted bail after being charged with fraud and a related possession charge. The newspaper said a court ordered Saka not to enter any casino.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The prayer for launching a boat (canoe)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rare word #17: isapostle

My daughter Magdalena's New Calendar name day is today so, before we feasted a little, I did my normal hagiographic reading. The word isapostle came up. It makes perfect etymologic sense (think of isosceles from ἰσοσκελής equal-legged), but is not a word I had noted at all before.

Isapostle - Equal to, or contemporary with, the apostles; a name given in the Greek Church to bishops consecrated by the apostles, and to other persons eminent in the primitive church.

Etymology: ecclesiastical Greek ἰσαπόστολος equal to an apostle

The title alone is going to fill up the comments box

Tonsure of a monk of the Holy Cave of the Bethlehem Basilica

(Patriarchate of Jerusalem) - On Wednesday, the 7th/20th of July 2016, H.B. Theophilos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, performed the tonsure of novice Georgios, deacon at the Holy Cave within the Basilica of Bethlehem, giving him the name of Gabriel and offering paternal and patriarchal advice for his Hagiotaphite and venerating labour. The tonsure took place at the Pentecost Chapel in the presence of Primates and Priests of the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood and His Eminence Theophylaktos, Archbishop of Jordan.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blagoveschensky Kerzhensky Monastery. Ascetic monk. 1897.

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Women Hymnographers of the Church by Dimitris Salapatas

(Londinoupolis) - The role of women in the Orthodox Church is of increasing interest. What is evident in a number of publications and conferences is the fact that we need to hear not only what the Church proclaims on this issue, but how women themselves understand the theology and the tradition of their role in Orthodoxy.[1] Quoting verses from Holy Scripture such as Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” can only take us so far. In order to understand the role of women in Orthodoxy we need to go further; we need to establish their role today, identify the true Orthodox Tradition and examine the history of this matter, practically, historically and theologically. Here we will examine the role of women by looking at women hymnographers in the Byzantine Tradition...
Complete article here.

Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) at Antiochian Clergy Symposium

I, along with almost anyone else who has read his works, am quite indebted to Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios for the depth and breadth of his scholarship. A lot of what he has written is in English and is required reading in our seminaries. Enjoy the below podcasts!

(AFR) - Held at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA, Metropolitan Joseph invited as his speaker His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios (also Ierotheos) He serves the Metropolis of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios in the Church of Greece. The them of his three lectures was Theology, Pastoral Care, and Psychology. The interpreter is Anastasios Filippides, Economist (B.A. Yale University, M.A. Georgetown University). Secondary interpreter is Dr. Christopher Veniamin – Professor of Patristics St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA. Also Founder and President of Mount Thabor Publishing.

Orthodoxy Theology and Western Theology

Orthodox Psychotherapy in Relation to Modern Western Psychology

Biology, Bioethics, and Biotheology