VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While Catholic and Armenian Orthodox theologians continue discussions aimed at full unity, Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II of Etchmiadzin, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, commemorated the already-achieved unity of Armenian Catholic and Orthodox martyrs in heaven.
Pope Francis concelebrated Mass April 12 with Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni in the presence of Catholicos Karekin and thousands of Armenian Catholic and Orthodox faithful.
Media attention focused on the diplomatic tensions created between the Vatican and Turkey when Pope Francis used the term “genocide” to describe the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman-Turkish empire in 1915-18.
While the Mass marked the 100th anniversary of the genocide, Pope Francis also used the occasion to encourage ecumenical relations and to declare St. Gregory of Narek a doctor of the church. The 10th-century Armenian monk is venerated by both Catholics and Orthodox.
At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis handed a message to Catholicos Karekin expressing his hopes that the centennial of the genocide would be “a time of deep prayer” for Catholics and Orthodox. “Through the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice, may the blood which has been shed bring about the miracle of the full unity of his disciples,” the pope wrote.
The fact that those who died in 1915-18 were Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic, is a sign of “the ecumenism of blood,” a unity that exists through common suffering, the pope said. Commemorating their deaths together, he said, “reflects on earth the perfect communion that exists between the blessed souls in heaven.”
Speaking at the Mass, Catholicos Karekin prayed that “the martyrs would unite us as children and servants of the one Lord Jesus Christ so that we would learn and commit ourselves to establishing love, justice and peace in the world.”
The Armenian Orthodox officially distanced themselves from Rome and Constantinople in the sixth century; the churches now commonly referred to as Catholic and Greek Orthodox differed with Armenian church leaders and other Oriental Orthodox bishops over theological explanations of Christ’s identity as both human and divine.
But throughout history contacts continued between members of the various Christian communities and, in fact, at the end of the 12th century Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders in Cilicia (now in southern Turkey) re-established full unity. But the agreement was not accepted by all Armenian Orthodox.
A new attempt was made at the Council of Florence in the 15th century and the foundation was laid for a formal structure for the Armenian Catholic Church, preserving the liturgical and spiritual heritage of Armenian Christianity. Pope Benedict XIV in 1742 named the first Armenian Catholic Catholicos for the community.
The Armenian Orthodox sent observers to the Second Vatican Council and were seen as early promoters of the modern ecumenical movement.
In 1996, the patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Pope John Paul II signed a joint declaration officially ending more than 1,500 years of doctrinal disagreement over the theological explanation that Christ is one person in two natures, undivided and unconfused. Through dialogue, the churches declared they profess the same faith in Christ and said the differences that drove the churches apart in the sixth century were semantic rather than doctrinal.
The Armenian Apostolic Church has more than 6 million members today. While based at Etchmiadzin, near Armenia’s capital, the devastation of the genocide, World War I and decades of Soviet domination led to widespread emigration. The church has dioceses around the world.
The Armenian Catholic patriarchate is based in Beirut, Lebanon; its more than 566,000 members are served by dioceses and other structures in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Jerusalem, Ukraine, Greece, Latin America and New York.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Friday, April 10, 2015
NEW YORK (RNS) If someone offered you the chance to live in a world designed to look and feel like the real one, but is actually a tidier, more ordered Stepford-ish facsimile, would you take it? For many Christians today, the answer appears to be yes.Complete article here.
Call it Newton’s Third Law of modern Christianity, but for every event, there appears to be an equal and opposite corresponding Christian event. There are Christian music festivals and book festivals; Christian versions of TED Talks; the upcoming International Christian Film Festival in Orlando, Fla.; and earlier this month, even a Christian Fashion Week.
While it might seem tempting for Christians to lock themselves away in anti-secular bubbles, where they could wear nothing but Christian clothing and eat nothing but Christian food (Chick-fil-A, I’m guessing?), the ramifications of doing so are polarizing at best, and deeply destructive at worst.
Just look at the recent spate of religious freedom laws being passed around the country. Regardless of whether you view the RFRAs as discriminatory or necessary, the nut of their existence essentially boils down to separateness. At their core, they are laws designed to keep one group of people from being forced to interact with another.
It doesn’t matter whether they are being sold as religious freedom, LGBT discrimination or Rick Santorum’s hypothetical of protecting gay T-shirt makers from Westboro Baptist Church, the fact of the matter is that RFRAs construct a legal wall between two potentially opposing camps. And while on the surface this may appear to have nothing to do with Christians’ creating their own versions of things, the truth is, they are much closer than you think...
Monday, April 6, 2015
Quartodecimanism, different cycle lengths, and many other factors make it so a "complete" article on dating Pascha every year will always be met with "This is wrong because it ignores these points..." Chances are, if you are going to make that point you don't need to read the below article.
(Greek Reporter) - As Catholics and most of the western world celebrate Easter today, we asked a Greek-Orthodox priest to explain why the Orthodox Church doesn’t celebrate Pascha (Easter) on the same day the Catholic church does! Here’s his well documented explanation.
By Fr. Jon Magoulias – As Greek-Orthodox Christians prepare to celebrate Easter on Sunday,April 12th, we would like to shed some light on the reasons why the Orthodox Christian Church celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ later than the Catholic one. While the issue is somewhat complicated, it may be summarized in the two factors at work that cause this conflict in dates:
1) The issue of the calendar; and
2) the adherence by the Orthodox to the early practices of the Christian Church.
The first factor, the calendar, has to do with the fact that the Christian Orthodox Church continues to follow the Julian calendar when calculating the date of Pascha (Easter). The rest of Christianity uses the Gregorian calendar. There is a thirteen-day difference between the two calendars, the Julian calendar being thirteen (13) days behind the Gregorian.
The other factor at work is that the Orthodox Church continues to adhere to the rule set forth by the First Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea in 325 AD, that requires that Pascha must take place after the Jewish Passover in order to maintain the Biblical sequence of Christ’s Passion. The rest of Christianity ignores this requirement, which means that on occasion Western Easter takes place either before or during the Jewish Passover.
As a consequence of these two factors, the Orthodox Church usually celebrates Pascha later than the Western Churches – anywhere from one to five weeks later. While this year Catholic Easter is today the Orthodox Church will celebrate it next Sunday, April 12. Occasionally we do celebrate Pascha on the same day. The last time that occurred was in 2011.
The two dates coincide when the full moon following the equinox comes so late that it counts as the first full moon after 21 March in the Julian calendar as well as the Gregorian. This is not a regular occurrence, but it has happened more frequently in recent years – in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017, but, after that, not again until 2034.
For many people this is a confusing and frustrating issue. Especially those of us who have families that are not Orthodox wonder why we have to celebrate this important holiday at different times. In order to better understand why we do, we will take a closer look at how the date of Pascha is calculated and also examine the issue of the calendar.
How the Date of Pascha (Easter) is Determined
During the first three centuries of Christianity, there was no universal date for celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Churches in various parts of the world followed different traditions. Some Christians celebrated Pascha on the first Sunday after Jewish Passover and others celebrated the feast at the same time as Passover. In order to come up with one unified date for celebrating Pascha, the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in 325 AD took up the issue. They devised a uniform formula for calculating the date of Pascha that was in line with the early traditions of the Church and the Biblical sequence of events. The formula is this: Pascha is to be celebrated on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, following the vernal equinox, but always after Jewish Passover. In order to ensure that there was no confusion as to when the vernal equinox occurred the date of the vernal equinox was set to be March 21 (April 3 on the Julian Calendar). This formula was universally accepted by all of Christianity, ensuring that Pascha was celebrated on the same day throughout the world. The Orthodox Church continues to follow this formula exactly as prescribed by the Council of Nicea.
However, in modern times, the Western Church has rejected the part of the Nicene formula that requires that Pascha “always follow the Jewish Passover.” Western theologians (and, unfortunately, a few misguided Orthodox Theologians as well) now claim that this provision was never a part of the council’s intention, saying that it is not necessary for Pascha to follow the Jewish Passover. This is hard to understand since, by rejecting this provision of the council, they ignore that the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection was celebrated at the same time from 325-1582, as well as the written witness of early Church historians and even earlier canons such as Canon VII of the Apostolic Canons which reads: “If any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon celebrate the holy day of Pascha before the vernal equinox with the Jews, let him be deposed.”
The Calendar Issue
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII instituted a reform of the traditional Julian calendar. This new calendar, called the Gregorian calendar, was more astronomically correct and is the calendar used by most of the world today. As mentioned above, there is a difference of 13 days between the Gregorian and the Julian calendars. Eventually, all of the Western Churches adopted this “New” calendar. The Orthodox Church, however, vigorously opposed the use of the Gregorian calendar. This resulted in the West and East celebrating all Church feast days on different dates, the Orthodox celebrations always falling thirteen days behind the Western.
In 1923, an inter-Orthodox congress was held in Constantinople attended by representatives of some, but not all, Orthodox churches. This congress made the very controversial decision to follow a revised calendar that was essentially the same as the Gregorian calendar, for all things except the celebration of Pascha, which continued to be calculated according to the original Julian calendar. Why this was a bad idea available here.
The result being that today we celebrate most feast days, like Christmas, Epiphany and the rest, at the same time as Western Christians and only Pascha and the feast days that are connected with it like Pentecost and the Ascension, are dated according to the Julian calendar and celebrated on different dates. For Orthodox, it is important to maintain the teachings and traditions of the Church intact and pure.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
O Thou Who ridest upon the cherubim, and Who art praised by the seraphim, Thou didst ride upon a colt, O holy, Davidic One. And the youths were praising Thee as befitteth God. And the Jews did blaspheme against Thee wickedly. Thy sitting on an ass foreshadowed the transformation of the bolting of the Gentiles from infidelity to faith. Glory to Thee, O Christ, Who alone art merciful and the Lover of mankind.
From the blog Departing Horeb, a post entitled "Just What Does “Hosanna” Mean Anyway?" This breakdown of the word hosanna is the exact topic of the homily I gave today so this is quite fortuitous.
The entire feast is set, as it were, within Psalm 118 (117 LXX), wherein we find the origins of the exclamation, “Hosanna!” But what exactly does this word mean anyway?
In verse 25 of the Hebrew text of the psalm, we find:
אנא יהוה הושיעה נא ˀānnā YHWH hōšīˁa-nnā
אנא יהוה הצליחה נא ˀānnā YHWH haṣlīḥa-nnā
This poetic couplet is rather difficult to translate due to two Hebrew particles, which have no direct equivalent in English. First, אנא ˀānnā is a word that interjects a great deal of precative emotion, such as “Oh, please!” though the English sense here connotes more politeness than the Hebrew. Second, a shortened form of אנא ˀānnā appears at the end of each line, tacked on to the end of each verb נא -nnā. This is a sort of verbal exclamation mark at the end of the sentence. The word הושיעה hōšīˁa is a causative stem verb from the root meaning “to save” or “rescue,” and it means something like, “cause salvation” or simply “save.” So, we might translate it...
Complete post here.
Friday, April 3, 2015
(EP) - To climb the narrow staircase, in their understated elegance, which connect the floors of the Building of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, gives rhythm to the clear perception that this place, in itself small, is the spiritual heart of millions of Orthodox Christians worldwide.
For 1,700 years, it has transcended a tumultuous history, yet remained constant in its mission of service. Its truly global role unfolds from a historic district of Istanbul where the Phanar, as it is pronounced in Greek, is found. Directly overlooking the Golden Horn, the estuary encroached on by the sea is located in the part of Turkey which is geographically Europe, and which divides the city of Istanbul in two: the ancient Byzantium-Constantinople to the South and the Genoese colony of Pera-Galata in the North.
The name Phanar dates back to the Byzantine era and is derived from the Greek word «lantern» as used to assist navigation. After the fall of Constantinople (1453), the district’s neighborhood became home to many of the Greeks who returned to live in the city and also to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
The church of St. George, formerly part of a monastery, was elevated to a Cathedral church by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Matthew II, in 1600; here he moved the seat of the Patriarchate, the sacred place «where the Chair of the bishops of this historical martyr Church is, guided by Divine Providence of the ministry of high responsibility to be the First Throne of the Most Holy Local Orthodox Churches», as it was defined by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
The Patriarch and the Pope
In late November 2014, Pope Francis traveled to Turkey and was welcomed «with love and great honor, but also with profound gratitude» from the City of Constantine’s Church and by Patriarch Bartholomew’s embrace. After a day spent in Ankara, in fact, he moved onto the city located on the Bosphorus, entering the Phanar twice: the first occasion, on Saturday 29 for an ecumenical prayer in the Patriarchal Church of St. George and then for a private meeting in the Patriarchal Palace; and once again on Sunday 30 for the Divine Liturgy in the Church itself and then for the ecumenical Blessing and the signing of a joint declaration.
The schism between Rome and Constantinople occurred in 1054, and was sanctioned in 1204 because of the Fourth Crusade with what St. John Paul II defined the «disastrous sack of the imperial city of Constantinople» by those who «who had set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their own brothers in the faith». But it was, in actual fact, the churches of Rome and Constantinople who resumed dialogue of charity with Paul VI and Athenagoras’ historic embrace in 1964, and whom, in addition, revoked mutual excommunications of the two Churches. That gesture was confirmed and extended further in with Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew’s encounters, first in the Holy Land, then in the Vatican and in November at the Phanar.
These encounters were experienced as a prophetic sign of a long-awaited and desired unity which is today revealing its beauty in a sincere friendship. This is why the Patriarch has expressed his «ineffable joy» caused by «the appropriate honor of the presence of the person of Your Holiness».
Bartholomew greeted the Pope by giving a reading of the months of his pontificate: «Your still short path as the guide of your Church has consecrated you into the consciousness of our contemporaries, herald of love, peace and reconciliation. You teach with your speeches, but mostly and mainly with the simplicity, humility and love for all, in the name of those you exercise your high office. You inspire confidence in the incrediulous, hope to the hopeless, expectation for those who expect a loving Church toward all.»
Many people were moved, in particular, by the Pope and the Patriarch’s embrace, and by Francis’s bowing before Bartholomew with a request to be blessed and to pray for the Church of Rome. The Patriarch kissed him gently on his white zucchetto.
These gestures, along with the sentiments of faith and communion which provoked them, have founded a profound desire for dialogue with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
«I am grateful to the Jesuits, he tells me: I was a student of yours at the Pontifical Oriental Institute.» In fact, of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I’s long and extensive theological training, the five years in which he studied Eastern Canon Law in this institute receiving his doctorate in 1968 should be considered central. His words remind me of the fact that the Pontifical Oriental Institute is just a short walk away from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where the former student Dimitrios Archondonis - this is the the Patriarch’s civil name - went to pray, just as Francis does today before and after his apostolic journeys.
(mospat.ru) - On 31 March 2015, the first meeting of the bilateral commission which will consider the possibility of recognizing the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church took place at the Moscow Spiritual Centre of the Old Believers of the Belokrinitsa branch in the Rogozhskaya Settlement. The commission was established on the initiative of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, and Metropolitan Korniliy of Moscow and All Russia, head of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church.
Representing the Moscow Patriarchate at the meeting were archpriest Vladislav Tsypin, professor of the Moscow Theological Academy; archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, DECR secretary for inter-Orthodox relations; priest Ioann Mirolyubov, secretary of the Commission for Old-Rite Parishes and Cooperation with the Old- Rite Community; and Mr. Dmitry Petrovsky, DECR staff member. Representing the Orthodox Old-Rite Church were archpriest Yevgeny Chunin, priest Alexander Pankratov and protodeacon Viktor Savelyev. Metropolitan Korniliy also took part in the meeting.
The participants decided to continue the dialogue at next sessions.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
People that have come out of physical/sexual abuse, that have untreated mental issues, that have substance abuse problems, that have been thrown out by family, or that have simply lost a job with nowhere to go. That's homelessness. The scam artists and the criminals are also there, but vilifying an entire group because of a few is cruel. Doing it because their smell, look, or mere presence makes you uncomfortable is crueler still.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
From the blog Icons and their Interpretation, a post entitled "The Lion, the Splinter, and Folktale Motif #156."
We find the story of Gerasim of the Jordan and the lion in the book called The Spiritual Meadow, by John Moschus (Ioannes Moskhos). Moschus tells us that a monk named Gerasimos (the Greek form; the Russian form is Gerasim) was walking, one day, along the banks of the Jordan, when he encountered a roaring lion. The lion held one paw in the air, and Gerasimos could see it was bloody and swollen because of a splinter of reed that had become stuck in it. The lion held the paw out as though asking for help, and Gerasimos took the lion’s paw in his hands, pulled the reed out, and cleaned and dressed the wound, after which the lion would not desert Gerasimos, but followed him everywhere, and …
Wait. Doesn’t this sound awfully familiar?
A little thought will bring to mind the old tale from Aesop, written centuries before The Spiritual Meadow, of Androcles and the Lion:
It seems there was a slave named Androcles who was running away from his master. In a forest, he encountered a roaring lion. Androcles began to flee, but soon realized the lion was not chasing him. So he turned back, and found the lion holding out his paw, all bloody and swollen because of a thorn stuck in it. The grateful lion led Androcles to his cave, and brought him food every day….
Again, sound familiar? Well, it is so familiar as a folk motif that it even has a classification number: Aarne-Thompson-Uther #156.
As we see, in the Aesop version, Androcles and the lion become companions and the lion serves him out of gratitude by bringing him food.
In the “Spiritual Meadow” tale of Gerasimos, the lion follows the monk everywhere, and is set to watching an ass that is sent out every day to forage. One day the lion fails to watch the ass closely, and he is stolen away by some traders. When the lion returns to the monastery, Gerasimos thinks the lion ate the ass, and so sets the lion to doing the work for him that the ass did formerly, carrying water for the monastery...
Complete post here.
Monday, March 30, 2015
Important take-away statement:
For these reasons, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America strongly urges that all efforts continue to be made by the Assembly to fulfill the expectation of the Most Holy Primates for the proposal of a concrete plan for canonical unity. We submit that the most clear and direct path to this goal is the establishment of a local autocephalous Orthodox Church here in our region and recommend this to the Assembly for their consideration as the most effective way to fulfill the exhortation of His All Holiness in his video address in Dallas: “To move beyond what is mine and yours, to what is ours.”
(OCA) - In a document dated March 15, 2015, the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America offered a response to the Chairman and Secretary of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America with regard to the “Common Starting Point” for Canonical and Regional Planning.
The text of the six-page document is available here (PDF).
As noted in the document’s introduction, the response is “an expansion of the Preliminary Response which was offered by our Synod on September 17, 2014, during Assembly V in Dallas,” adding that the current document “contains more specific reference to the ‘Common Starting Point’ for which all jurisdictions were asked to submit a red-line draft as a means to enhance the proposal, as requested by His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, the Chairman of our Assembly in his letter of October 15, 2014.”
By way of background, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA met September 15-17, 2014, to consider some proposals for canonical and regional planning within its region. It has been the mandate of the Chambésy process for each of the 13 Assemblies throughout the world to develop a plan for the canonical normalization of the Orthodox Churches in their respective regions so that these various plans could be discussed at the Great and Holy Council which is being planned for 2016.
Prior to the September 2014 Assembly, several jurisdictions had offered written responses to the two proposals that had been submitted by the Committee for Canonical and Regional Planning for consideration by the Assembly. During the Dallas meeting, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America presented a Preliminary Response to the two proposals that were being discussed. This Preliminary Response was posted on the OCA website on September 18, 2014 and may be accessed here.
While no conclusive decision was made by the Assembly about either of the two proposals under consideration, it was generally agreed that the second proposal (which called for a 10-year period of continued cooperation among the various jurisdictions) was more acceptable to many than the first (which called for a 10-year period of autonomy leading to autocephaly for our region).
Subsequently, a request was made by the Chairman of the Assembly, Archbishop Demetrios, for jurisdictional responses to the second proposal, which was re-labeled as a “Common Starting Point” for all the bishops’ consideration. The present formal response was then submitted on behalf of the Orthodox Church in America on March 15, 2015 after review by every member of the Holy Synod, as well as several canonical experts. It was also shared as a draft with the members of the OCA’s Metropolitan Council at their Spring Session and their feedback was incorporated into the final text.
The Holy Synod has blessed this document to be shared with the Church at this time so that all the clergy and faithful may be aware of its position and contribute to the wider distribution of the statements contained therein, which reflect upon the mission of the Orthodox Church in America and present a vision for the ultimate goal of a true local Orthodox Church in North America.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
(mesropash.com) - I confess that sometimes I feel a type of sadness when I’m celebrating the Divine Liturgy and I sense that there are people in the congregation that aren’t fully appreciating the ancient and potent sacrament of Soorp Badarak, Holy Communion. I know the language is Classical Armenian, and for many the theology and historic origins that underpin the Divine Liturgy are unfamiliar. Nonetheless, for me its like the pearl too which Christ compared the Kingdom of Heaven. A discovery of priceless value. With just a few hours of attention and study, the faithful can transform their perception of the Divine Liturgy, and it would be well worth it.
Thats why this Great Lent I have been offering a special five part seminar to help the faithful better understand the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, and participate more fully. Its been a great experience for me, encouraging and educational.
I decided to live stream the videos via YouTube to give people with difficult schedules the opportunity to watch from home or work (I won’t tell). As an added bonus the streamed video remains online forever, for anyone that wants to watch at their leisure. This was the first time I’d streamed video in this way, and there were a few funny technical challenges to overcome, particularly audio in nature, but the end product was acceptable.
As I went back and watched the cumulative six and half hours of footage from the seminar series, I became aware of a few other challenges.
Understanding that many people won’t be able to commit the time to watching the entirety of the seminar, I’m hoping to produce a few short videos in the near future to succinctly introduce important concepts from the Divine Liturgy.
- Six and half hours of me lecturing is kind of boring, so I tip my hat to you if you find it engaging.
- I’ve never heard or seen myself this much. A fantastic opportunity for self-criticism. For example: I say the word “context” too often.
- I was upfront at the beginning of the seminar that I am not by any means a recognized expert of Liturgical Theology. I know as much as a parish priest should, which is a good degree more than the layperson, but I did not have answers for everything. These videos are totally unedited and I noticed a few honest mistakes on my part, usually a misspoken word here and there, but if anyone finds error in any of my instruction, please let me know I’ll be happy to place a comment on the video correcting myself.
(Assyrian Church) - It is great sorrow and a heavy heart that His Beatitude Mar Aprem, Metropolitan of India and Patriarchal Vicar, in unison with all the members of the Holy Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East (absent were Mar Aprim Nathniel and Mar Narsai Benyamin due to visa difficulties), announce the falling asleep in the Lord of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. The late Patriarch passed at 10:04 am, this morning (Thursday, March 26, 2015) at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. His Holiness was surrounded by the prelates, clergy and family members. The prelates and clergy were in constant prayer at His Holiness’ bedside. The Patriarch’s viewing will take place on 7th April at St Andrews Church, Illinois and funeral will take place 8th April at St George Cathedral.
+Mar Awa Royel
Secretary of the Holy Synod