Saturday, October 21, 2017

Greek Archdiocesan metrical records reportedly in hock

NEW YORK (TNH via OCL) – The Registry of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is in danger because it was given to a special company to digitize it without keeping copies, but the company refuses to return the data until the Archdiocese pays it in full. The Registry contains the names of all the Greek-Orthodox faithful who have had baptisms, weddings and funerals performed by the Church.

Practically speaking, the Archdiocese doesn’t have the ability to issue any certificate of baptism or wedding in case some faithful members of the parishes request one, especially before the creation of the local Metropolises when all of that information was stored at the Archdiocese.

The entire cost of the digitization was going to be more than a million dollars. A half million was given as deposit to the company to start working on it. The company finished the job but it refuses to return the information unless it receives the total amount.

Meantime Director of Registry Fr. Michael Kontogiorgis was recently fired. He held the position for a number of years. He was brought in by former Archbishop Spyridon as assistant to the chancellor. Also a few weeks ago, an assistant to Fr. Kontogiorgis was also dismissed.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group meets

(EP) - The Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group gathered for its fourteenth annual meeting from 4 to 8 October 2017 at Caraiman Monastery (Romania), at the invitation of the Romanian Orthodox Church. The 2017 meeting was chaired by the Catholic Co-president of the Working Group, Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg. The group sincerely thanked its former Co-President Archbishop Job of Telmessos who had to withdraw from the group due to the fact that he became Co-President of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.

Before the opening session on Wednesday evening, October 4, the group was warmly welcomed by His Grace Ieronim Sinaitul, patriarchal Vicar Bishop, on behalf of His Beatitude Daniel, the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. The group members visited the Antim Monastery, the Patriarchal Cathedral and the Patriarchal Palace in Bucharest. On Thursday morning the group was warmly welcomed by Archimandrite father David Petrovici, the abbot of Caraiman Monastery. Throughout the meeting, the participants attended the daily prayers of the monastic community. On Sunday, the participants attended the Divine Liturgy in the White Church, Bucharest, over which His Grace Varlaam Ploiesteanul, patriarchal Vicar Bishop, presided.

This year’s meeting concentrated on some aspects of the relationship between primacy and synodality, with the goal of preparing the final common study on this issue. The papers dealt with the role of the Eastern patriarchates in the first millennium, the role of the Apostle Peter in the ecclesial tradition in East and West and the right of appellation (ekkliton) in East and West. The reflections of this year’s meeting were summarized by the participants in the following theses:

Theses on the role of the Eastern patriarchates in the first millennium

(1) The famed model of pentarchy (rule of the five ancient patriarchates of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) was rarely fully functional. Roman reservations, the Chalcedonian schism and, especially, the Arab conquest, gravely restricted its operation in practice.

(2) The patriarchal model of Church governance was superimposed on the metropolitical system (i.e. the system of Church governance based around the capital city of the province). The patriarchal model was based on a complex mixture of considerations relating to apostolic foundation, custom, geography, power, and politics. It is a story of considerable competition and antagonism.

(3) The history of the five ancient patriarchates is also a story of a search for ecclesial unity and concern for orthodoxy. The five ancient patriarchates have served throughout history as visible manifestations of the unity of the Church, most notably in the context of the Ecumenical Councils.

(4) The split between East and West and indeed a number of ongoing tensions within the Orthodox Church (e.g. concerning primacy and synodality) are to some extent the legacy of the patriarchal system.

Theses on the role of Apostle Peter in the ecclesial tradition in East and West

(5) The special standing of Peter within the college of the apostles, as Holy Scripture witnesses to, is also reflected in the liturgical tradition. In both Roman and Byzantine rites the Apostle Peter is commemorated together with the Apostle Paul on June 29th. In the Roman rite the feast of the Apostles is a solemnity; in the later Byzantine tradition, it is preceded by a special period of fasting which emphasises the special standing of both of these Apostles.

(6) As early as in the second century, the Church of Rome associated itself with Peter who witnessed to Christ and suffered martyrdom in Rome. Very soon afterwards, his grave was venerated. The veneration of Peter’s (and Paul’s) graves, combined with the importance of Rome as the imperial capital, formed the basis for the special standing accorded to the Bishop of Rome from the third century onwards.

Thesis on the right of appeal (ekkliton) in East and West

(7) The canonical right of appeal (ekkliton) goes back to the first millennium. The Quinisext Council (691-92), considered to be of ecumenical standing, passed in review the previous canons and mentioned those still valid in canon 2. Among these is to be found the right of a bishop condemned by a local synod to appeal to the bishop of Rome, according to the canons of the synod of Sardica (343). This provision constitutes an important basis for any future agreement on primacy between Orthodox and Catholic.

At the end of their meeting the members of the Irenaeus Group expressed warm thanks to Patriarch Daniel, the Romanian Orthodox Church and to the monastic community of Caraiman Monastery for the hospitality and the spiritual atmosphere which inspired their work.

The Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group is composed of 26 theologians, 13 Orthodox and 13 Catholics, from a number of European countries, the Middle East and the Americas. It was established in 2004 at Paderborn (Germany), and has met since then in Athens (Greece), Chevetogne (Belgium), Belgrade (Serbia), Vienna (Austria), Kiev (Ukraine), Magdeburg (Germany), Saint Petersburg (Russia), Bose (Italy), Thessaloniki (Greece), Rabat (Malta), on Halki near Istanbul (Turkey) and at Taizé (France). It was decided at Caraiman to hold the next meeting of the Irenaeus Group in October 2018 in Graz (Austria).

Former treasurer who emptied church finds self penniless

(Knoxville News Sentinel) - The church treasurer who stole $415,950 from the coffers of St. George Greek Orthodox Church says in court records he is now down to $20 in his pocket and a few thousand in assets and is facing a mountain of debt.

Constantine D. Christodoulou has filed for bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Knoxville.

In it, he says doesn’t own a home, takes in $2,000 each month and doles out $1,917 from that pay. He says he owes $618,702 debts – $224,675 of which he owes St. George.

Attorney Lynn Tarpy is asking on Christodoulou’s behalf that he be allowed to keep his $8,277 in assets, most of which is stock in the travel agency he sold after was caught stealing from the church in February 2015.

Paying the price

Christodoulou pleaded guilty in Knox County Criminal Court in January 2016 with stealing under a half million from the church over five years while acting as treasurer.

He was ordered to repay the church, spend a year in jail and nine more on probation. He served his time and has repaid more than half of what he stole from the church, records showed.

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He cannot use bankruptcy to avoid paying the church. The law doesn’t allow it.

Christodoulou says in the petition he owes Maryville CBBC bank $312,000 and Discover $20,000 in addition to his restitution to the church.

Church forgave, state prosecuted

The thievery was discovered in February 2015, but it’s never been clear what Christodoulou did with the money. Prosecutors said they didn’t know. The Rev. Anthony Stratis informed church members through a letter that the former treasurer had been stealing from them for years.

Church officials did not report the theft to police until two months after the News Sentinel published a story on the embezzlement. Stratis had initially written in the letter that the church would not seek prosecution.

The theft left the church with less than $2,000 in its bank accounts, prompting church leaders to approve obtaining a $150,000 loan to stabilize finances.

The low cash balance also delayed a decision to install a fire alarm system that had been reviewed and approved by the church, Stratis said.

On the Eastern Orthodox Easter in April 2015 a passerby reported flames in the sanctuary. By then, flames already had damaged the ornate dome in the sanctuary and raced through the structure.

Knoxville fire investigators eventually settled upon candles used in the night service that ended early in the morning as the probable cause of the fire. Someone had tossed a candle in a trash can and didn't douse it in the tray of sand at the rear of the sanctuary, investigators said.

Christodolou's wife also has filed for bankruptcy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Russian Church lauds Biblical literacy of Protestant missionaries

(Interfax) - Moscow, October 18, Interfax - Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk recommends Orthodox believers to study Gospels and points out to Protestant missionaries who know Biblical texts profoundly.

"In my official capacity I have to communicate with protestants. Sometimes I am impressed how well they know Biblical texts," he said at a presentation of the sixth volume of his book Jesus Christ. Life and Teaching in Moscow.

The metropolitan told that at a conference in the USA he once met a Protestant pastor whose speech was rich in quotations from the Bible and each time the missionary pointed out to the verse and the chapter.

When the missionary came up to the Metropolitan Hilarion, the hierarch saw that the Bible in his hands was covered with lines in different colors - "in red and blue pencils, there were notes in the margins." When the missionary saw that the metropolitan was surprised he explained that he lived the whole life with this book and it was always with him.

"And I think, even if we don't speak about the whole Bible, but only about its most important part, the Gospels, if we know the Gospels like this, we won't be afraid of any competitors," Metropolitan Hilarion summed up.

Dr. Christopher Veniamin "Salvation in the Orthodox Church"

St. Tikhon's hosts event for seminarian wives

Why do I post this story? Because every seminary should be doing this.

(STOTS) - On Tuesday, Oct. 3, the St. Tikhon's Wives Group had a very inspiring "Meet the Matushka" event via Skype with Mat. Kristen Smith in Florida. Mat. Kristen shared helpful advice she'd been given, spoke about her own experiences, and answered the thoughtful questions that many of those who attended had. Altogether 13 wives attended and were able to enjoy a time of fellowship, as well as benefit from shared wisdom.

NYC luncheon scheduled to support suffering people of Syria

Coptic priest stabbed to death in the streets

(Coptic Solidarity) - Father Samaan Shehata, a 45-year- old Coptic Orthodox priest from the village of Ezbet Girgis in al-Fashn, Beni Sweif, some 130km south of Cairo, was murdered in Medinat al-Salam, a satellite town east of Cairo, yesterday Thursday 12 October 2017.

Fr Samaan, who was ordained in 1998 and was pastor of the church of Yulius al-Aqfahsi in Ezbet Girgis, leaves behind a wife and three children: a young man in his first year at university, and two small girls.

Cross carved on forehead

Fr Samaan was in Medinet al-Salam meeting the owners of an iron reinforcing bars business at their warehouse, to collect a donation for the needy in the Beni Sweif village. Accompanying him was his friend, Fr Pimen Shaker from Matai, Minya. After completing his task and before heading home, Fr Samaan discovered he had forgotten his mobile phone in the warehouse, so drove back to retrieve it. The chauffeur parked the car across the street from the warehouse, and Fr Samaan disembarked and headed there.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Notes from the Assembly of Bishops meeting in NJ

(AOB) - The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America held its Eighth Annual General Assembly Meeting October 3-5, 2017 in Garfield, NJ. Thirty-Two Hierarchs from across the country gathered to prayerfully consider ways to enhance their Orthodox witness to the world and to address their common concerns for youth and emerging adults.

In his opening remarks, the Assembly Chairman, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, reminded the Hierarchs that “through God’s grace and providence, we have all been brought together to this one place and we have been called to walk in unison toward a common goal…. While our sights are ultimately set on the ‘things to come and longed for,’ as long as we call ourselves co-laborers in God’s vineyard, it is our sacred obligation to work together to realize this goal by drawing ever-closer to one another.”

The assembled Hierarchs heard a report by Dr. Richard Flory, Senior Director of Research and Evaluation at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. Among other things, Dr. Flory explained the extensive research regarding the decline in religious affiliation of young adults over the last fifteen years. He emphasized that in most cases young adults have become increasingly indifferent to religion. Dr. Ann Bezzerides, Director of the Office of Vocation Ministry at Hellenic College Holy | Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, emphasized the critical need to focus on all aspects of religious education and engagement for our youth and young adults.

Following the presentations, the Hierarchs identified specific steps to be investigated to better minister to youth and young adults. These included hiring more trained youth ministry leaders; more effective mentoring programs; encouraging more leadership roles in the Church for young people; greater spiritual development; inter-jurisdictional youth conferences; and improved resources for training and developing parents and leaders. The Hierarchs also focused on ways to enhance their engagement with local Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) Chapters; encourage programs like Crossroad and youth gatherings/camps; improve personal relationships with youth and parents, emphasizing prayer and liturgical life; increase funding of youth programs; and encourage all parish activities to be inter-jurisdictional.

The Hierarchs also heard reports from the Executive Director of International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and from the Chairman of the Board of OCF; both organizations are official Agencies of the Assembly.

His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae, Chair of the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning, presented the findings of a recent study: "Places of Greater Orthodox Unity in America: Local Inter-Parish Cooperation,” which identified twenty-one regions with well-organized and active Orthodox Clergy Associations, each with significant cooperation and communication among the parish communities. The Assembly of Bishops agreed to fully support and strengthen the work of local Clergy Associations in these regions and also endorsed the second phase of the study that will analyze and catalogue the effectiveness of the various expressions of inter-parish cooperation.

The Assembly of Bishops concluded its work by issuing a Message to the faithful of the United States of America.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Facing severe financial problems, GOARCH hits reset button

NEW YORK (GOARCH) — The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America releases below a “Statement on the Archdiocesan Financial Situation” and a “Message from Archbishop Demetrios”

For Information Contact: Harry Giannoulis, — Tel. 212-571-7717 ext. 17
Statement on the Archdiocesan Financial Situation

Beginning in October of 2016, and continuing through early 2017, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, and the officers of the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council learned that the Archdiocese faced a severe and complex financial deficit that had been building for several years.

Concurrently, Archbishop Demetrios recommended a new leadership team, which was elected by the full Archdiocesan Council. George Tsandikos, managing director of Rockefeller & Company in New York, was named as Vice President. Michael Psaros, co-founder and managing director of KPS Capital Partners, was appointed Treasurer. Catherine Walsh, a long-serving member of the executive committee and chair of the Archdiocesan Council’s legal committee, was named Secretary. In early September 2017, Archbishop Demetrios asked His Grace Bishop Andonios, the Chancellor, to assume key administrative oversight and responsibilities after the former Executive Director of Administration resigned.

“We were utterly surprised and saddened by the deficit, and by its unexpected nature,” His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios said. “The painful and unavoidable steps we are taking to correct the situation will have significant impact on the operations of the Archdiocese, and we are moving decisively and with conviction to correct flaws in financial controls and operations revealed in the crisis and to rebuild our finances.”

“The Holy Eparchial Synod, the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council and I want our clergy and faithful to be fully informed about what happened and what we are doing to overcome our problems,” His Eminence said.

A talk on the female diaconate

A kind reader recently forwarded me the text of Protodeacon Peter Danilchik's presentation at a female diaconate conference this year.

Good morning everyone. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak about what is -- other than my wife, children and family -- the great love of my life, namely the holy diaconate in Christ, in which I have been privileged to serve for the past 42 years. For the deacon, to live is to serve and to serve is to live. This living and serving is, however, not for oneself -- it is for the Church, the Body of Christ.

I envy my fellow panelists, who are speaking about very intimate person-to-person service to the Body: pastoral counseling, chaplaincy, hospice and homebound. And here I am, discussing the dry and dreary subjects of administration and governance. Or are they so dry and dreary? Can they be full of passion and love? The answer is yes. But only through service to others and sacrifice of oneself.

I have served on multiple governing boards, overseas and domestic: parish councils, diocesan councils, metropolitan councils, St Vladimir’s Seminary, the Secretariat of the Assembly of Bishops, a European international school, as well as a manager for over three decades with Exxon Corporation. In all these roles, my persona as a corporate executive and an Orthodox deacon were intertwined. My knowledge of business development, negotiations, leadership and management were continually permeated by the absolute requirement to serve others in sacrificial love, every day, in every place, without exception. However, none of that would have been even remotely possible without the steadfast and self-sacrificing example of my wife of 49 years, Diaconessa Tanya, who is a far better deacon and servant of God than I will ever be.


Let me speak first about governance. When we think about governance, we might imagine a board, like a parish or diocesan council, meeting in a conference room, making “big decisions.” Well, governance, properly understood, especially in the context of the Orthodox Church, is far more intimate and grass-roots than that.

The icon of governance in the Church is the episcopate. In the New Testament, St Paul uses the word episkopous to refer to the overseers of the flock, who also serve as guardians and stewards. The image of the Good Shepherd immediately springs to mind, the one whose sheep know his name and the one who seeks after the lost and lonely ones. Further, the oversight role of the bishop includes looking after others and visiting them to see how everyone is doing.

Are the bishops the only ones who govern? No, many of us govern and oversee others in some way. Parents oversee children, supervisors their subordinates, teachers their students. But how do we govern? Do we do so by fiat, or by example? Do we reject others’ ideas out of hand if they do not agree with ours? Or, do we listen carefully to not only the words but also to the thoughts and feelings behind them? Do we view ourselves as servants or as authorities?

1 Kings 19:11-13

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Upcoming lecture on "deaconesses" at Jordanville

(HTS) - Scheduled to be held on Monday, October 23, 5:00 pm, Seminary Hall.

Some Orthodox Christians today are trying to re-institute the ancient Church order of “deaconesses,” despite the uneven history of that female office in the Church, as well as that of the male diaconate. Protodeacon Patrick Mitchell surveys the Church’s early experience of both male and female “deacons” and concludes that they were never the same order, that the female order was inherently problematic for the Church because it appeared to elevate women over men, and that the “ordination” of women as deaconesses made less and less sense as the Church’s understanding of holy orders evolved. That explains why much of the Orthodox Church never had deaconesses, and why even those segments of the Church in antiquity and in the Byzantine era where they did serve eventually abandoned the order.

Protodeacon Patrick Mitchell is a former Washington Bureau Chief of Investor’s Business Daily, the author of four books on politics and religion, and a contributor of chapters to four other books on foreign policy, international banking, and American history. He has also appeared on many radio and television shows including ABC’s Nightline and Face the Nation, CBS’s Evening News, NBC’s Today, and CNN’s Crossfire and Larry King Live.

Protodeacon Patrick served seven years in the United States Army as an infantry and counterintelligence officer. He was received into the Orthodox Church with his family in 1990 by our own Dean, Archpriest Alexander F.C. Webster, at the Protection of the Holy Mother of God OCA parish in Falls Church, VA, and was ordained to the diaconate by the OCA’s Metropolitan Herman in 2007. He was released to ROCOR in 2013 and is now attached to St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC, where he has served since 2012.

Protodeacon Patrick recently earned the degree of Master of Theology in Orthodox Studies with Distinction from the University of Winchester in England, where he is currently a doctoral student under Fr. Andreas Andreopoulos. His master’s thesis was titled “The Disappearing Deaconess: How the Hierarchical Ordering of Church Offices Doomed the Female Diaconate.” He spoke on that subject at a conference in California earlier this month sponsored by the St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess.

Assembly of Bishops meets in New Jersey

(AOB) - Address of the Chairman His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America at the 8th Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America

Garfield, NJ

(October 3-5, 2017)


Your Eminences, Your Excellencies and Your Graces, most respected Hierarchs of the Assembly of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America,

It constitutes a great joy and a profound blessing to be together again for our 8th annual General Assembly. Many of us have known each other not only since our First Episcopal Assembly in May 26-27, 2010, but long before. Our eight General Assemblies, however, have been special occasion for cultivating and strengthening the bond of deep love and apostolic zeal that unites us as canonical Hierarchs of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church in America. Through God’s grace and providence, we have all been brought together to this one place and we have been called to walk in unison toward a common goal, albeit, one that is still unfolding and which will be fully revealed in the eschaton. While our sights are ultimately set on the “things to come and longed for,” as long as we call ourselves co-laborers in God’s vineyard, it is our sacred obligation to work together to realize this goal by drawing ever-closer to one another.

This leads us to pay greater attention to the purpose of our meeting. Let us consider some basic points.

1. Cultivating the Bond of Love and the Unity in Christ

The first point related to the purpose of our Assembly is something self-understood. We are here to increase the love for each other, and to enhance our unity in Christ. This is a noble purpose in and of itself, but it also has a decisive impact on our work in presenting an authentic witness of Orthodoxy. Before His betrayal, arrest, imprisonment, crucifixion and death on the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ reminded His disciples that when He is gone, the only way that the world will recognize that they are His disciples is by the love they have for one another. As you know, He said to His disciples, A new commandment I give to you that you love one another even as I have loved you that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35). At the same time Christ prayed to His Father: Father I do not pray for those only but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they all be one even as You, Father, are in me and I in You, that they also may be one in us so that the word may believe that You have sent me (John 17:20-21). It is not simply that people will call themselves “Christians” that the world will know that they are followers of Christ. Only by their love – their sacrificial love – for one another and their unity in Christ will the estranged world pause and recognize in them the very light and life emanating from Christ and His Gospel. This unwaining light, which is present in the hearts, thoughts, and actions of love of true disciples of Christ, moves young and old to discover Jesus and to quench their spiritual thirst with His living water.

Two new metropolitans for the Antiochian Church

( - By the grace of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Synod of Antioch, under the presidency of His Beatitude Patriarch John X, elected two new metropolitan archbishops in its current session at St. Elias Patriarchal Monastery in Shwayya, Lebanon. His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, primate of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, participated in the elections.

His Grace Bishop Ignacio (Semaan) is the new metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Mexico, Central America, Venezuela and the Caribbean. He succeeds His Eminence Metropolitan Antonio (Chedraoui) who reposed in the Lord this past June, after leading his archdiocese for 51 years. Sayidna Ignacio served as an auxiliary bishop in Mexico for the past six years and as patriarchal vicar of the widowed archdiocese. According to the Mexican Archdiocese, Sayidna Ignacio received a bachelor's degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Damascus; He received a degree in Theology from the Institute of St. John of Damascus, University of Balamand, Lebanon, in 2001. He was director of the Choir of Byzantine Sacred Music of that institution from 1997-2001. He also studied in the Department of Liturgics of the University of Thessaloniki, Greece.

The Rt. Rev. Archimandrite Basilios (Kodseie) is the metropolitan-elect of the Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand, Oceana and the Philippines. He also served as the patriarchal vicar of the widowed archdiocese following the repose of His Eminence Metropolitan Paul (Saliba) this past July, after leading the Australian Archdiocese for 18 years. Fr. Basilios has served as pastor of the Church of the Dormition in Mount Prichard, Sydney, New South Wales. Details of Fr. Paul’s consecration to the sacred episcopacy are still being formulated.

Sayidna Joseph congratulates both men on behalf of the hierarchs, clergy, board of trustees and laity of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. Metropolitan Joseph prays, and asks for the prayers of the Archdiocesan clergy and faithful, to Almighty God that He will bless the new ministries of Metropolitan Ignacio and Metropolitan-elect Basilios and all of the clergy and faithful of the Archdioceses of Mexico and Australia.