Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Greek Metropolis of Boston launches revitalization effort

(GOA-BOSTON) - On the evening of Tuesday, February 16th, over 200 participants comprised of clergy, parish council members, and ministry leaders from the 62 parishes of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston met for the first meeting of an introductory series for the Metropolis of Boston’s new Thriving Congregations Initiative. Over the course of the evening, members of the Thriving Congregations Parish Teams met to discuss this five year initiative to revitalize parish life and embrace the call to, “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:18) Participants who enthusiastically responded to the opportunity to strengthen the spiritual fabric of New England will gather over the next two months to learn more about this project and about what it means to be a thriving congregation. For more information about the Thriving Congregations   Initiative, see below.

In order to assist 62 Greek Orthodox New England parishes with the knowledge necessary to thrive in a rapidly-changing society, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston submitted a proposal requesting grant funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The Indianapolis-based foundation has made grants available to organizations seeking to revitalize parishes and other congregations through its Thriving Congregations Initiative. The Metropolis of Boston focused its proposal on establishing an educational program to reconstruct the framework of outreach from Greek Orthodox parishes in New England.

In its Thriving Congregations Initiative document, Lilly Endowment announced that charitable organizations may submit proposals for grants to be used for up to “a five-year period to design and implement programs that support Christian congregations and help them develop and strengthen the community” by working with the congregations directly. The following five-year program plan is open to all parishes in the Metropolis and will be carried out as follows:

The project's four phases:

  • Understanding social and cultural context.
  • Crafting mission and vision.
  • Cultivating Orthodox Christian practices.
  • Sustaining ministry.

Throughout the duration of the program:

  • Parish leadership and clergy will receive extensive leadership training necessary to ensure the success.
  • The youth and young adult community will be engaged to provide insight into the changing cultural and social contexts of parishes and their neighboring communities.
  • District seminars will be hosted twice yearly in each of the nine districts of the metropolis or the purposes of:
    • Conveying knowledge of each of the program’s aforementioned four ‘phases.
    • Equipping parishes with the tools necessary to research parish
    • Providing a framework for understanding research findings and creating a path
    • Parish teams and the metropolis-level program will be Key insights and parish efforts will be documented, memorialized and distributed to all parishes.
    • Starting in September of 2021, the parishes will be introduced to the first of the four program phases, each running from September to August.
    • Toward the end of the program, all parish efforts and findings will be documented and distributed.

Seminarians and students from Hellenic College Holy Cross will be heavily involved in supporting this program. Extensive training will be developed for and offered to them, thus developing the future lay and ordained ministry leaders of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Expected result:

  • Growth in membership and stewardship.
  • Rise in number of parishioners engaged in ministries in all age groups, especially young adults.
  • Realization of strong leadership driven by clergy and parish council members.
  • New and existing ministries that invite those outside the current community are created/strengthened.
Parishioners interested in assisting on the parish level can contact their parish priest. Individual inquiries may be directed to the Metropolis directly.

OCA's Dept. of Liturgical Music expands materials

(OCA) - The Department of Liturgical Music and Translations is expanding offerings to support the liturgical life of parishes and missions.

Father Thomas Soroka, Project Manager for the Departments of the Orthodox Church in America, noted, “The DLM is committed to providing open access to free resources, ensuring that clergy and church musicians have the music and texts they need to sing the Divine Services. We are responding to numerous requests to equip parishes and missions with comprehensive and high-quality materials. We look forward to continuing to serve the needs of the Church.”

Newly posted resources include: 

  • Complete rubrics for the upcoming Saturday evening/Sunday morning cycle of services. This will be expanded to include great and vigil-ranked feasts.
  • Resurrectional Ochtoechos Troparia, Kontakia, and Dismissal Theotokia are now available in each tone in Thee/Thou and You/Your formats; “Lord, I Call” Resurrectional stichera for Saturday evening Vespers are available in both formats; Resurrectional Aposticha stichera for Saturday evening Vespers are in progress.
  • Three settings of “Open to Me the Doors of Repentance…” have been added to the Lenten Triodion music page, under “The Publican and the Pharisee”.

Continued resources include:

  • Texts for liturgical services for every Sunday and many weekdays, including additional services for Lent—Sunday evening Vespers; Wednesday evening Presanctified; Friday evening Presanctified and Vespers alone, both of which include the materials for Saturday Divine Liturgy.

Planned resources include posting the available texts of the Octoechos, Menaion, Pentecostarion, and Triodion for year-round access.

The ongoing work and new projects of the Departments of the Orthodox Church in America support parishes and missions in their important ministries. Your prayerful financial support is needed to expand available resources. Go to oca.org/stewards to learn how you can become a part of the Stewards of the OCA.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Orthodox History: How do we get these primates?

(Orthodox History) - There’s a remarkable amount of diversity in how the various Autocephalous Churches choose their primate. Of the 15 Churches discussed in this article, at least eight include the laity to some extent. That involvement ranges from simply having a voice in the nomination process to having a vote in the election itself. At least five of the Churches have no lay involvement at all, with only bishops electing the primate. One of those five, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, puts the decision into the hands of only a tiny minority of its bishops, while another, Serbia, uses the “apostolic” method to determine which nominee becomes its Patriarch. For both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the approval of a non-Orthodox government is also required.

To make things even more complicated, it’s fairly common for the Churches to modify their election processes. If I were to revisit this article in a decade, it’s likely that some of it would be out of date. Heck, I’m sure there is outdated information in here as it is. If anyone out there has corrections or can fill in some of the blanks, please shoot me an email at mfnamee at gmail dot com.

Last week, the Serbian Orthodox Church elected a new Patriarch, Porfirije. This was the result of a fairly complex process — three rounds of nominations, followed by the finalists’ names being placed in a Gospel, with one name drawn out by a monk, leaving the final choice to the Holy Spirit. The Serbian Church is the only Autocephalous Church that uses this particular method to select its primate. I was curious about how primatial elections work in the other Churches, so I looked into each of the fourteen universally-recognized Autocephalous Churches, along with the Orthodox Church in America, whose autocephaly is recognized by only a minority of the world’s Orthodox Churches.

Ecumenical Patriarchate

The highest authority in the Ecumenical Patriarchate is its 12-member Holy Synod. Six of the members are Metropolitans in Turkey, and six are EP bishops with sees outside of Turkey. Each member serves a 1-year term, and half of the Synod turns over every six months. The Patriarch himself has the ultimate say over who sits on the Synod.

When there’s a vacancy on the Patriarchal throne, the Holy Synod nominates three candidates, whose names are then submitted to the Mayor of Istanbul, who has the right to remove any candidate he wishes. This has led to issues in the past; for example, in 1972, the Turkish authorities nixed the nominations of front-runners Meliton of Chalcedon and Iakovos of America, which ultimately led to the election of a dark-horse candidate, Dimitrios. Once the slate of three nominees is finalized, the Holy Synod elects one of the three as Patriarch.

The full assembly of all EP bishops, known as the “Synaxis,” meets every other year and does not have any administrative or canonical authority. The Ecumenical Patriarchate appears to be the only Autocephalous Church in which not all ruling bishops have a role in selecting their Church’s primate.


Patriarchate of Alexandria

The highest authority in the Patriarchate of Alexandria is the Holy Synod, which consists of all ruling bishops of the Patriarchate. I think that a new Patriarch of Alexandria is elected by a mixed council of bishops, clergy, and laity. At least, that’s the way it was in the 20th century. When Meletios Metaxakis was Patriarch back in the 1920s and ’30s, he tried to strip the laity of their role in Patriarchal elections, but after his death the Alexandrian hierarchy nullified his actions. In 1997, when the ever-memorable Patriarch Petros was elected, the decision still included both clergy and laity; in a 2004 speech, Bishop George of Niloupolis recalled how Petros, “by the vote of clergy and laity, was elected Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa.”

The current Patriarch, Theodoros, was elected in 2004. English-language reports about his election are hard to track down. The most detailed report I’ve found, from Greek News Online, described his election in this way:

The voting procedure started at 10 am in the Patriarchal Monastery of Agios Savvas in Alexandria, when the 27 electors of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchy, with secret ballot, were called to choose the three they though suitable for the Patriarchal Throne. In the first voting session the new Patriarch received 22 votes, the Metropolitan Bishop of Axomi, Petros, 15 and the Metropolitan Bishop of Leontoupolis 10 votes.

The Holy Synod, which is assembled by 13 Hierarchy members, during a new session, unanimously elected the new Patriarch, whose enthronement will take place on 24 October.

From that, it seems that three candidates are nominated by 27 electors, which might include clergy and laity. (Then again, it might not — a couple years later, in 2006, Alexandria had 25 bishops, and it’s possible that all 27 electors back in 2004 were bishops.)

After that nominating round, the ultimate decision seems to have been made by a 13-member Holy Synod, which elected Theodoros unanimously. I know that the makeup of the Patriarchate has changed a lot in the intervening 17 years, with the Holy Synod now greatly expanded, and I am not sure what the process will be when the time comes to elect a new Patriarch of Alexandria.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Constantinople continues to make friends

A letter to Met. Michael of Prague (Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia) from the Ecumenical Patriarch. Right now the Ecumenical Patriarchate is making moves that confound me. The continuous push to find some authority out of the Crete meeting even as much of Orthodoxy didn't show up and never ratified the documents even when they were sent to them. The Ukrainian autocephaly issue that remains a very divisive issue. The dissolution without explanation of the church organization in Western Europe. And now this. In a time when irenic overtures might serve to allay some fears of a rising "first without equal" mentality, the below will serve as a proof text to anyone who feels this is all about power and prestige and has very little to do with being the "first in service" to the Body of Christ.


(Orthochristian) - February 1, 2021

No. 124

Your Eminence Metropolitan Michael of Prague, beloved brother in the Holy Spirit and concelebrant of our mediocrity, may the grace and peace of God be with your holiness.

It is with regret that we learned that in your epistle for the new year, Your Eminence referred to the 70th anniversary of the granting of imaginary autocephaly status to your Local Church by the Holy Russian Church (1951). We say “imaginary” because this Sister Church never had and does not have the canonical right, as it itself received its own autocephaly in the 16th century from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the sole granter of autocephaly, as did all the other later new autocephalous Churches.

If the autocephaly of your Church was canonical and valid, why did your Archbishop Dorotheus feel the need at the end of the last century to request canonical autocephaly from our Mother Constantinople Church for the hierarchy, clergy, and people of the Church of the Czech Republic and Slovakia?

And the Mother Church lovingly responded then, and so you entered into communion with the canonical autocephalous Orthodox Churches, recognized by all, and you received the honor of participating in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church in Crete. I mean, this line. Is the idea here that this was done as a kindness and not as his right? Your Church, contrary to our agreements, continues to this day to, under various pretexts, erect impediments and not respond to the natural demand of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to bring the charter of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Republic and Slovakia into accordance with the conditions of the tomos of canonical autocephaly, which cannot remain without unpleasant consequences. How does one not see this as a veiled threat? It's certainly not a thrown away sentence.

Most Sacred Brother,

We offer you a timely reminder that 20 years ago, your Church did not desire to celebrate the 50th anniversary of your non-canonical “autocephaly,” but 10 years ago your Church tried to celebrate the 60th anniversary of your imaginary autocephaly, as we testified in writing to your primate His Beatitude Christopher and to His Eminence Archbishop Nikolai.

We exchanged letters then, sent in copies to Your Eminence, but if we express the dissatisfaction and reproaches of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in connection with the inexplicable and unacceptable intention to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the imaginary autocephaly, then anyone can consider your Church unsettled and anti-canonical, being subordinate to the Holy Church of Russia. Your desire to regularly celebrate this negative, obviously non-canonical event, which is insignificant for your Holy Church of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, raises doubts about your honesty and sincerity, at least in relation to the Mother Church of Constantinople.

Learn, finally, the history and canonical rights of our Holy Orthodox Church and don’t provoke us!

May the grace and enlightenment of our Lord, Who was manifest to the world for its salvation, be with Your Holiness.


+ With love in Christ, your brother

Bartholomew of Constantinople

Friday, February 19, 2021

Monastic conversation with Archimandrite Zacharias

 (Pemptousia) - The nature of the love of God is a crucified love. Without crucifying ourselves, we cannot acquire divine love which has this character. When we give ourselves to prayer of repentance, we sometimes come to experience this divine love to a certain extent, but in order to keep it in us we need again to be crucified. The greater the love the greater the crucifixion needed in order to maintain it. The Cross in the life of the monks is the love for our brother, to love our brother is our life, to protect him, defend him, help him and pray for him as for ourselves. The love of the brother is the applied love of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in the life of the monks. If we have spent many years in the monastery and yet we have not come to love our brother as our life, that means we have done nothing. Often the lessons of the monastics apply to us as much as them. This certainly does.

Monks are people of gratitude. A monk will never forget even the slightest favour done to him. Gratitude is the hypostasis of a monk; it is the health of the soul, and that is why it is so difficult: out of the ten lepers, only one returned to give thanks. Only one was truly healthy (see Luke 17:12-17). Thanksgiving gives us desire for God. Saint Simeon was preserved by his desire to see God. Both he and Prophetess Anna were ‘giving thanks’ in the temple. The Greek word ἀνθωμολογεῖτο (Luke 2:38) means to stand opposite, ‘anti’, and make a confession. It is rightly translated as thanksgiving, but it also means standing face to face. She is a ‘κατεντεύκτρια’, like Job (Job 9:17 LXX). ‘Κατεντευκτής Θεοῦ’ is someone who stands opposite God, reasoning and arguing with Him not for selfish reasons, nor for his own passions, but for causes that concern the destiny of the whole world. As there is prayer and repentance for the whole world, so there is also thanksgiving for the benefits of God shed abundantly on us personally and on the whole world. In other words, there is personal and universal repentance and personal and universal thanksgiving. Job was reasoning face to Face with God and he would not accept a moralistic solution to his problem from his friends, the lay theologians, who came to discuss his misery. He knew that he had not sinned against the Lord, that there had to be something deeper in his trials. He struggled to understand the depth of this reason and, in the end, he understood: it was a prefiguration of the Passion and justification of Christ. When he was justified, he said, ‘I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes’ (Job 42:5-6). That is to say, he was regretting that he did not suffer more because he understood that his glory would have been even greater. He understood that this honour was in proportion to the suffering that preceded it. Father Sophrony stated the spiritual law, which says that ‘the fulness of self-emptying precedes the fulness of perfection.’


Question: Why did Father Sophrony have to live for so many years without a guide even though he had received the grace of the perfect?

Answer: The people of God will go through every trial in this world. And the stronger they are in their desire for God, the more severe their trials will be. ‘Mighty men shall be mightily tormented’, says the Old Testament (Wis. 6:6). Father Sophrony told me once that all evil will go through our mind, so that at the end, after we have said no to every evil, , the Lord may remain with us for ever, constantly, definitively. If God sees that man has zeal to go to the end, He will also educate him to the end by allowing him to go through every temptation and every trial, so that there may be no craftiness of the evil one that he does not know. The people of God ‘do not ignore the thoughts of the enemy’ (2 Cor. 2:11), and they acquire this knowledge through experience, though it can also be given charismatically by the grace of God. In fact, I think they both go together. We cannot gain the royal priesthood simply by the grace of God; we must be tried as well.


Question: Speaking about the Nativity of Christ, you say that the human nature is anointed by the Divine nature.

Answer: It means united. The Divine nature unites with the human nature, and once they accomplish this union, all the properties of the Divine nature are imparted to the human nature, says Saint Peter (2 Pet. 1:4). The Word is incarnate, ‘fattened’ with the human nature, and the human nature is fattened with the Divine nature. The fattening of the Divine nature is material; the fattening of the human nature is spiritual. When we live God, we can say that we are ‘incarnate’ spiritually. We are clothed with Divinity, we put on Christ, we are wrapped with immortality. After the Fall in Paradise, Adam saw that he was naked, and was ashamed. Now the new people of God receive a new garment: whoever believes in His Name and is baptized in the Holy Trinity is clothed with the Divine nature of Christ which is imparted to all. For those who are sanctified, the garments of skin are annulled. However, this total sanctification is a rare thing. We could sometimes see this in Father Sophrony: he was incredible, transparent, even when he was ill. I could see that he was clothed with that garment of incorruption. Even his flesh had a different colour and a different character. I was impressed when once he was so ill that he was spitting blood, and for three days he did not lie down in his bed but leaned against the window. Where did he find that strength? He always had a very frail and sickly nature, and yet he had such a supernatural endurance. It is because from his youth he had mercilessly submitted himself to even greater pain than the pain of old age. Therefore, he was prepared.


Question: Do good or bad thoughts come to us through the mind, through the soul or through the spirit?

Answer: That is a difficult question. I think they can come from the mind and even from the heart. If the heart is not enlightened or sanctified, many of these desires that are clothed in bad thoughts come from the heart, as the Lord says in the Gospel: ‘From an evil heart spring forth evil thoughts’ (see Matt 12:35). They may also come through the senses.


Question: At the beginning, when you have the first grace, you really believe that you can change, but somewhere in the middle you see that you have not changed, and you feel you cannot get rid of the old man. What do you do then?

Answer: I had that thought once and I told Father Sophrony, ‘I think I will never change.’ ‘Alright,’ he said, ‘Then let’s throw away the Gospel.I remember his word very vividly. I was full of self-pity and Father Sophrony healed me with this word.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Porfirije, Patriarch of Serbia: Axios!

Many years to Patriarch Porfirije!

Joyous day! Prayers for Patriarch Porfirije (Perić) who was elected head of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Formerly, he was Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana and was seen early on in this process as a likely candidate.


(SOC) - The Holy Assembly of Bishops elected His Eminence Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb-Ljubljana, PhD, as the new Serbian Patriarch, in its convocation in Memorial Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade on 18 February 2021.

Immediately after the election a thanksgiving service was officiated and  Many years was chanted to the Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovac and Serbian Patriarch Porfirije. Bells at Saint Sava Cathedral in the Vracar district of Belgrade rang a few minutes before 4:00 pm indicating that the 46th Patriarch of Serbia was elected.

AXIOS!


Newly-elected Metropolitan Dr. Porfirije (Peric) of Zagreb-Ljubljana was born on 22 July 1961 in Becej, northern Serbia, and was baptized as Prvoslav. He finished primary school in Curug, and the “Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj” Grammar school in Novi Sad. He was ordained a monk according to the rite of small schime by his spiritual father, then hieromonk Dr. Irinej (Bulovic), at Decani Monastery in 1985.

He graduated from the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Belgrade in 1986, when the then Bishop of Raska-Prizren Diocese, future Serbian Patriarch Pavle of blessed memory, ordained him a hierodeacon at the monastery of Holy Trinity in Musutiste, Kosovo and Mectochia.

He attended postgraduate studies in Athens from 1986 until 1990. That year, upon the blessing of Bishop Dr. Irinej of Backa, he joined the monastery of Holy Archangels in Kovilj, near Novi Sad, where he was ordained as hieromonk and became its abbot.

Many young monks and novices came to the monastery following him. These were the years when the Kovilj Monastery became a spiritual center for many young people: intellectuals, artists, popular actors and rock musicians, especially from Novi Sad and Belgrade. Since then abbot Porfirije has particularly dealt with drug-addicted patients. For this purpose he formed (in 2005) a therapeutic community called “The Land of the Living”, which is recognized as the most successful project for therapy  of drug-addiction; under the leadership of Bishop Porfirije, it has more than hundred residents in camps throughout Serbia at the time being.

During the ordinary meeting of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the SOC in Belgrade on 14 May 1999 he was elected as Bishop of Jegar, Vicar of the Bishop of Backa.

He defended his PhD thesis Possibility of knowability of God in St. Paul’s understanding according to the interpretation of Saint John Chrysostom at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Athens in 2004.

He became a lecturer at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology - Department of Pastoral Psychology - succeeding famous psychiatrist, academician Dr. Vladeta Jerotic.

Bishop Porfirije has not been just president of the Steering Board for a decade, but a real spiritus movens of the Humanitarian Fund “Privrednik”, which has provided scholarships for a great number of gifted, but poor pupils and students, regardless of nationality or religious affiliation.

The Assembly of the Republic elected him as representative of all Churches and religious communities, to be a member of the Council of the Republic Broadcasting Agency, and in 2008 the RBA elected him its president.

The Holy Assembly of Bishops entrusted him to establish military chaplaincy in the Serbian Armed Forces in 2010.

His expert theological works Bishop Porfirije published in magazines both in Serbia and abroad. He participated in quite  a number of scientific conferences and symposia throughout the world.

He speaks Greek, English, German and Russian.

He was enthroned on the throne of the Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana on July 13, 2014 in the Cathedral Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Zagreb. The solemn Hierarchal Liturgy was served by Serbian Patriarch Irinej, accompanied by a large number of archbishops of the Serbian Church and other sisters Churches, as well as priests and monks, and pious people.

The Holy Assembly of Bishops elected His Eminence Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb-Ljubljana, PhD, as the new Serbian Patriarch, in its convocation in Memorial Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade on 18 February 2021. Immediately after the election a thanksgiving service was officiated and  Many years was chanted to the Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovac and Serbian Patriarch Porfirije.

Contemporary Martyrs Day Webinar

Thursday, February 11, 2021

5th Annual National Leadership Conference coming in Sept.

(SOC) - The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops has declared 2021 the Year of the Youth.

Plan to attend this important conference designed for emerging leaders and those seasoned leaders who are committed to developing our youth through mentoring, education, collaboration, and shared ministry. God willing, it will be held in person at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. Expected dates of September 17-19, 2021. Registration information to come out eventually.

Don't miss these top-notch presentations by:

  • Fr. Elias Dorham - Leadership Coach and Holy Transfiguration
  • Michelle Moujaes - Faithtree Resources
  • Steve Christoforou - Y2AM and Be the Bee
  • Christina Andresen - Orthodox Christian Fellowship
  • Anna Kallis - The Telos Project
  • Fr. Kosmas Kallis - Chicago Y2AM
  • Katrina Bitar - Youth Equipped to Serve of FOCUS North America
  • Fr. Tim Hojnicki - St. Raphael School and Holy Apostles Church


New imprint: Saint Shenouda Press

(Coptic Literature) - Saint Shenouda Press is a new project by St Shenouda Monastery, in Putty, New South Wales, Australia that I find its fresh and modern look a very much welcome endeavour. It translates into English and publishes some of the great classics in Coptic, Arabic, and Syriac. It also publishes contemporary English books. It also accepts manuscripts and translated work for publication. It publishes books using On Demand Printing, which is the latest technology in the publishing world. They accept orders from the US, UK, Canada &Australia without the extra add on cost of international shipping as they only charge for local shipping. Furthermore, their books are made available in major online book outlets.

Their mission, as they state it, is to provide everyone the opportunity to enjoy contemporary high-quality Christian books and to order and receive the best books.

You can access Saint Shenouda Press here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Orthodoxia interviews Patriarch of Jerusalem

(ONN) - ‘We wish the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija the strength to endure and persevere in the parts they hold sacred, and to protect their shrines.’

In an exclusive interview for the Christmas double issue of Kurir, His Holiness Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem spoke about his church’s position on Kosovo and Metohija, pointing out that the only canonical church in Montenegro is the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral. Patriarch Theophilos also touched on the death of the Serbian Patriarch Irinej and Prince-bishop Amfilohije, the conflict between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate, the importance of Saint Sava, as well as the fight against the coronavirus and the use of vaccines.

The Serbian Patriarch Irinej passed away recently, following the passing of Metropolitan Bishop of Montenegro and the Littoral Amfilohije. The Serbian Orthodox Church has thus suffered two heavy blows. How familiar are you with the current situation in the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC)? What is the relationship like between the Jerusalem Patriarchate and the SOC?

«The relationship between the Jerusalem Patriarchate and the SOC is brotherly, very respectful, and filled with Christian love. The fact that two dignitaries of the brotherly Serbian Orthodox Church now rest in peace means that the Serbian people have gained two intercessors before the throne of the Son of God, whose birth we are celebrating. I would not describe this as a blow, but rather as a blessing and a divine approval. I am sure that the Serbian Church will continue down the path travelled by the blessedly departed Patriarch Irinej and Metropolitan Bishop Amfilohije. And thus the church will continue its life with a new first-hierarch at its helm, and we pray that he be chosen.»

The Serbian people and its shrines in Kosovo have for years been under threat. What is your view on the secession of Kosovo and the position of the Serbs and other non-Muslim nations there?

«For us Kosovo and Metohija is the Serbian Jerusalem. As the blessedly departed Patriarch Irinej used to say, and before him the venerable Patriarch Pavle. Here in the Holy Jerusalem Patriarchate, which keeps the shrines of the Son of God, we wish for the Serbian people, wherever they may live, to be awash in the light of Christ’s birth bringing peace and love, and to overcome the perilous calamity of the coronavirus which has befallen all of humanity. We wish the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija the strength to endure and persevere in the parts they hold sacred, and to protect their shrines in Kosovo and Metohija.»

Do you follow the situation in Montenegro? The contentious law on freedom of religion, prompting the faithful to walk in lities for months, has been amended, and the SOC property in Montenegro will be preserved.

«We follow the SOC-related developments in Montenegro closely. We are happy and offer our thanks to the Lord for the announced repeal of the law in question, which amounts to no more than pillaging of the SOC’s property in Montenegro. I would like to point out that we are glad that the law will soon be repealed, and we pray for peace, unity, and harmony among all Orthodox Christians. We think that this law is unjust to the SOC and its faithful in Montenegro.»

What is your position on the attempts of the so-called Montenegrin Orthodox Church to acquire autocephaly?

«For us, the only canonical church in Montenegro is the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral. No other Orthodox church in Montenegro has its foundation in the canon. Therefore, we don’t view the Montenegrin Orthodox Church either as canonical or as a church. It’s important to repeat yet again that the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, headed until recently by Metropolitan Bishop Amfilohije, and soon to elect a new metropolitan – when our sisterly SOC’s hierarchy makes the decision – is the only canonical church in Montenegro.»

Since the declaration of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a rift has opened up between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate. Whose arguments do you support and how damaging is this situation to all of Orthodox Christendom?

«As the Patriarch of Jerusalem and keeper of Christ’s Tomb and the sacred sites of the Holy Land, I pray for the unity of all Orthodox Christians. My answer is clear – I pray for the unity of all Orthodox Christians, and I wouldn’t want to comment in a way that might affect the unity of Orthodox Christians and of Orthodox Christendom in general. It is important for all Orthodox Christians to be part of one holy, ecumenical, and apostolic church. Those who understand what a holy, ecumenical, and apostolic church means will understand well my answer to your question.»

A year ago you received a portrait of Saint Sava as a gift from the Serbian delegation. Saint Sava went on two pilgrimages to Christ’s Tomb in Jerusalem.

«I did indeed. I am always happy to see Serbs come to bow before the shrines of the Jerusalem Patriarchate. I gladly see them and give them my blessing, as the Serbian nation is blessed and long-suffering. As Saint Sava adds further ties between Jerusalem and the Serbian people, I was happy to receive that icon, as I am to see any group from Serbia visit the Jerusalem Patriarchate.»

Early next year the construction of the Cathedral Church of Saint Sava – which is already considered as one of the most beautiful Orthodox churches – will finally be completed. Are you planning to come and visit this edifice?

«We certainly want to come to Serbia, and we want you to come to the grounds of the holy church of Jerusalem. The most important thing now is for me to wish for the Serbian people blessings for the coming Christmas, so that they may celebrate this festival in peace and love, bearing the blessing of the Son of God. The Serbian people are in my thoughts and prayers, and in this way we are together. There will be time and opportunity for visits.»

Your Christmas message to the faithful in Serbia?

«In lieu of a message – and there are many in both your questions and my answers – let me send once more the blessing of the Grotto of Bethlehem, wherein Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born, bringing to us great joy and blessing. I too send blessings to the Serbian people and the faithful of the Orthodox Church, and wish them all good things from Christ, the Son of God.»

‘God blesses any and all medicines. The vaccine will help save lives.’

The coronavirus has changed the entire world. What is your view on this calamity and what do you think about the vaccine as a way to fight the Covid-19 pandemic?

«I am in favour of anyone who wishes to take the vaccine taking it. The vaccine will not decisively defeat this calamity that has befallen the world, but it will certainly help save lives and mitigate the perilous effects the coronavirus has on humanity. If we were to oppose vaccines as medicines, then we can certainly question the use of any medications when we fall ill. God blesses any and all medicines that help human beings. So, if you are asking me whether to take the vaccine – yes, by all means. The vaccine or any other medication that can contribute to human life as the loftiest shrine given to us by God.»

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Greek Archdiocese Holy Eparchial Synod meeting notes

(GOARCH) – On Wednesday, February 3, 2021, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America convened the Holy Eparchial Synod via videoconference for a regularly scheduled meeting. The discussion focused on the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution of 1821.

Pertinent to this discussion, the following items of the agenda were reviewed and discussed:

1) A presentation by the esteemed Archon Demetrios Logothetis, Vice-Chairman of the National Coordinating Committee, outlining the Committee’s strategic planning and efforts, as well as the promotion of activities in honor of the historic 200th Anniversary of the Greek Revolution. The events will focus on the three following areas of interest to all faithful and the entire Omogenia:

a. The provision of resources and promotion of activities, efforts and celebratory events throughout the Archdiocese and, generally, the Hellenic-Christian community.

b. The implementation of an educational program for all ages, whose aim will be to better inform the Archdiocesan faithful of the history of the Greek journey toward independence. 

c. The scheduling of events with particular care and respect, so as to honor and celebrate this important anniversary in jubilant fashion, while still properly adhering to the safety measures currently in place due to the pandemic.

2) It was also decided that the hierarchs of the Holy Eparchial Synod would appoint a representative to the National Committee from every Metropolis in order to ensure the most efficient coordination and collaboration of these events.

Following the meeting, His Eminence offered the following comment:

“The hierarchs of the Eparchial Synod are committed to the celebration of this monumental anniversary for the Greek Nation and for us as Greek Americans. Over the course of the year, the Archdiocese will celebrate the 200 years since the Greek Revolution in every State and corner of the country, and we are grateful to Mr. Logothetis and the National Committee for their ongoing work and commitment.”

From The Chief Secretary Of The Holy Eparchial Synod

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Follow the Science

The Inverted Propaganda Series

(Owen Cyclops) -  This is part of a series I did where I "inverted" anti-religion Soviet propaganda. In the original, you can see the priest, literally "supported" by the laity - represented as a drunk man, are seen as a hindrance to technological progress and the general progress of society. Here, I've flipped that idea by making their cause explicitly righteous. The broadcasting tower they're acting on isn't just a mundane piece of machinery: this one is explicitly satanic and they, together, are working against the devil and his general machinations. This and other prints available here.





Friday, February 5, 2021

Centre of Patriarch Ignatius IV in Germany

(Notes on Arab Orthodoxy) - The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Germany has recently acquired a former Roman Catholic monastery in the town of Blankenheim (in the Eiffel hills about an hour southwest of Bonn and 90 minutes east of Liège, Belgium), where they plan to establish a women's monastery and retreat center. The property requires extensive renovations and Archdiocese is now raising funds to that end. For a video about the site, the plans for it and a way to contribute, visit the GoFundMe.