Sunday, April 30, 2017

Relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker heading to Russia

( - For the first time in the 930 years of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker’s relics being kept in Bari, they will leave for a time this Italian city to stay in the Russian Orthodox Church from May 21 to July 28, 2017.

An agreement on this unprecedented action was reached during the historic meeting between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Pope Francis of Rome on February 12, 2016. This was reported to journalists by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations (DECR), during a briefing held at the DECR grand hall on April 28, 2017.

‘One of the themes discussed at the meeting held on February 12, 2016, at the airport of Havana, concerned an opportunity for bringing the relics of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker to the Russian Orthodox Church for veneration’, Metropolitan Hilarion said, ‘And an agreement was reached on that occasion. During the last year, consultations have been held with the Archdiocese of Bari about bringing a considerable part of the relics to the Russian Church’.

Since this shrine was brought to Bari in 1087, it has never left the city, Metropolitan Hilarion said. ‘The relics are kept under a bushel, that is, they are embedded underground. Nevertheless, especially for thus event, a part of the relics has been extracted and will be brought to Moscow on the eve of the Day of St. Nicholas on May 21. The celebration itself, devoted to the translation of the relics of St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia to Bari, is observed by the Russian Church on May 22. It is one of the most venerated feasts of our Church’, His Eminence said.

He also recalled the history of the brining to Bari of the relics of St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia in Asia Minor. It was in this city, now located in the territory of today’s Turkey and called Demre that the relics were kept after the saint’s demise.

Canon Law of the Inter-Council Presence Commission meets

(HTOS) - On March 11, 2017 Assistant Professor of Canon Law and Russian Church History, Deacon Andrei Psarev concelebrate at the All-Night Vigil with Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, rector of the Church of the the Renewal of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Jerusalem (in the Briusov Pereulok) in Moscow, in the church’s main side chapel, and at the Divine Liturgy on the following day. This was followed by a talk in the parish house on Pivotal Points in History of the Russian Church Outside Russia accompanied by infographics. Fr. Nikolai, formerly secretary of the Commission on the Restoration of Unity in the Russian Church, added to the talk with living recollections of the process of restoring relations, of which he was a direct participant. This was already the third appearance by Deacon Andrei before the hospitable parish family of the Voskresenie Slovushchego Church na Uspenskom vrazhke over the past year.

On March 14 Fr. Andrei took part in a meeting of the newly formed Commission on Canon Law of the Inter-Council Presence, which took place in the library of the Sretensky Seminary. The work was headed by Commission Chairman Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany (ROCOR). This encounter included representatives from the Synodal departments of the Russian Orthodox Church, religious school faculty, and experts in civil and canon law. The commission continued editorial work on the document on church penalties, and, while discussing other issues, made plans to conduct new encounters, round tables, and continued working on the codification of the sources of the Russian Orthodox Church’s canon law. The discussion was conducted in pastoral, compassionate spirit toward our common fallen nature.

On March 15 Deacon Andrei Psarev took part in a meeting of a scholarly seminar as part of a project entitled The History of the Russian Orthodox Diaspora, conducted by the Center for Religious and Church History of the Institute of General History at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Fr. Andrei spoke on the subject of “Goals and Challenges Facing the Russian Church Abroad and Their Conciliar Resolution.” During his lecture the speaker defined the understanding of conciliar action, dwelling on the current problems of ROCOR’s life and on the possible ways of overcoming them by involving ordinary Church members into Church life. Discussion following the lecture touched upon the significance of the Russian Church Outside Russia for contemporary Russia.

On March 18 Deacon Andrei concelebrated with the rector of St. Seraphim Church on Long Island Archpriest Seraphim Gan. On Sunday after the Divine Liturgy Fr. Andrei offered a talk on the same subject he spoke on before the Russian Academy of Sciences, and it was dedicated to the memory of Metropolitan Laurus (on March 16) and to the tenth anniversary of the restoration of unity within the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as to the forthcoming Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. This brought forth lively discussion, which was enriched by the participation of Fr. Seraphim and Hegumen Photius (Ulanov), the second priest at the Protection Church in Glen Cove and confessor for the Dormition Novo-Diveevo Monastery.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Copts, Catholics agree to end rebaptisms

In obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies the Church, keeps her throughout the ages, and leads her to full unity – that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed:

Today we, Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros II, in order to please the heart of the Lord Jesus, as well as that of our sons and daughters in the faith, mutually declare that we, with one mind and heart, will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other. This we confess in obedience to the Holy Scriptures and the faith of the three Ecumenical Councils assembled in Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus.

We ask God our Father to guide us, in the times and by the means that the Holy Spirit will choose, to full unity in the mystical Body of Christ.

Cairo (National Catholic Reporter) - Pope Francis' trip to Egypt was marked Friday, April 28, by a significant step forward in ecumenical relations between the Roman Catholic and Coptic Orthodox Churches.

In a joint declaration signed April 28 by Francis and Coptic Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria during Francis' visit to the Orthodox St. Mark Cathedral in Cairo, the two churches agreed that they would not hold baptisms for members of one church wishing to join the other.

"We, with one mind and heart, will seek sincerely not to repeat the baptism that has been administered in either of our Churches for any person who wishes to join the other," the two popes said in the declaration. "This we confess in obedience to the Holy Scriptures."

The declaration carries significance because Catholics and many Christian churches teach that people can only be baptized once in their lives. Re-baptizing someone is seen as a way of lessening the significance of the person's original baptism and faith community.

Release of the declaration came as a surprise. It was not listed on the schedule of events for Francis' April 28-29 Egypt trip.

To men facing ordination

It's about now that chanceries all over the country are sending out letters to seminarians to tell them they're going to be ordained. Shortly thereafter there's a flurry of scheduling the event with family, vestments discussions, and all the rest, but most pressing is often the knowledge of the awesome responsibility entrusted to you. Normally, that comes in the form of wayward thoughts and dreams of flubbing something during the Liturgy by dropping some object or falling or being completely lost. It's a vortex of worry that can swallow you whole if you let it.

Let me tell you something I overheard a priest telling a couple about to be married as he walked them through the service. "This is not performance. This is prayer. You don't need to be worried about messing up if you remember that this is prayer before God." These were words that resonated with me as a young priest more than I think they did for the couple who were more preoccupied with making it to the rehearsal dinner on time than remembering where to stand or the order of things.

So, you men who are to receive the laying on of hands, there is certainly studying to be done, but in the moment when you serve your first Liturgy remember that this is faith in action and not a performance art. That calm, connected feeling you have when you pray is available to you when serving as well. Don't get flustered. For thousands of years men have been trained to serve the Lord. Each has erred in some way or another, improved, and served the Lord better after each correction. You are joining that unbroken chain and it is prayer, practice, and humility that will strengthen you. God is with us!

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

- Isaiah 41:10

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ecumenical prayer in Cairo

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Beware Justinian.

Ukrainian Church in US plants trees to remember Chornobyl

(UOC-USA) - Later in the day, Metropolitan Antony shared with the Seminarians of the Church that this is already a seventeenth tree planted on the grounds of the Spiritual Metropolia Center of the UOC of the USA that is dedicated to the tragedy of Chornobyl.

The first was planted on St. Thomas Sunday at the 15th anniversary of the tragedy in front of the Ukrainian Cultural Center by the students and teachers of St. Andrew Ukrainian Studies School, which holds its classes in the Cultural Center classroom wing. The second tree was planted on the circle before St. Andrew Memorial Church at the 20th anniversary of Chornobyl by the youth of our church from around the country. The third and fourth trees were donated by Metropolitan Antony (then Archbishop) on the 25th anniversary of the disaster on the Memorial Church grounds adjacent to the statue of Metropolitan Vasyl Lypkivskyj – two maple trees, one to commemorate the survivors and the other to commemorate the victims of the nuclear explosion. On the 30th anniversary of Chornobyl in 2016, Pokrova Sisterhood of the Memorial Church sponsored the planting of two rows of 12 flowering pear trees along the sides of the driveway before the Memorial Church. The trees on the left, when facing the Church, commemorate the survivors of the nuclear disaster – especially the children – and the trees on the right commemorate those who perished in the disaster.

The Metropolitan has always expressed his belief that the planting of trees to commemorate the survivors and the deceased is the most appropriate manner to remind visitors to our Metropolia Canter about the Chornobyl nuclear explosion. Life – as seen in the trees, which will grow for generations to come – continues on after suffering and death. A cold stone monument is beautiful, as the Metropolitan stresses, but a living memorial creates a more positive contemplation of how good always prevails over evil – how life prevails over death – thanks to our Risen Lord!

Calvinist explains to wife predestined nature of his beard

Glenside, PA (Babylon Bee) – According to sources, local Calvinist Patrick Umstead and his wife Emma have argued over his beard since he began growing it out roughly 2 years ago.

“It’s gotten really big. It hides half his face,” Emma complained to reporters. “I understand the whole ’emulating Spurgeon’ thing, but I want him to shave it off for my sister’s wedding this summer, and he refuses.”

Sources close to the couple confirm that Patrick’s response has not changed.

“God sovereignly ordained this facial hair, honey,” he told his wife in between tokes of his pipe on the couple’s front porch. “How could it grow on my face had he not predestined it before the foundation of the world? I did not choose my beard; the beard chose me.”

Something smells off: Anglican evensong for... asparagus

(The Telegraph) - Asparagus is so venerated in Worcester that it has been blessed in a special ceremony in the city's cathedral.

But the thanksgiving service celebrating the local crop has been criticised by other Anglicans who have called it "absurd".

The bizarre Sunday evensong service was defended by the cathedral's Precentor, who said the vegetable was "a sign of the abundant provision and generosity of God".

Christian groups told the Daily Telegraph that the ceremony, which also involved a man in costume as an asparagus spear, was inappropriate.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of pressure group Christian Concern, said: "This is an absurd pantomime-type scene that makes a mockery of Christian worship."

Influential Church of England blog Archbishop Cranmer, which is run by conservative theologian Adrian Hilton, said the service was "an infantile pantomime" and said it brought the Church of England into disrepute.

The post added: "This is church, for God’s sake. Really, for His sake, can the Church of England not offer something clean and undefiled in the worship of God?"

Rev Peter Ould, a priest from Canterbury, said: "I think the service itself is a good idea - there isn't anything wrong in praying for a good growing season.

"But someone dressed up as an asparagus and a bloke in a St George costume behind him holding a sword - that just looks a bit silly.

"That takes it from being a good church service to something which looks like it's more to do with promoting the asparagus growers."

On Twitter Norfolk-based vicar Rob Baker said: "I am seeing but still not quite believing. This is utterly extraordinary."

Another priest, Northumberland-based Victor Dickinson, posted: "Total prats".

The bizarre images from the service drew comparisons with Monty Python, and in particular with one scene in the classic comedy group's Holy Grail film in which a knight must source a shrubbery.

A bundle of the vegetable processed through the medieval cathedral accompanied by two men in costume, one as an asparagus spear and the other as St George.

The crop was then blessed by the cathedral's Precentor, the Reverend Canon Dr Michael Brierley.

Legislating lunacy: Jordan Peterson & transgender pronouns

"There is absolutely no logic, once you have declared yourself to be marginalized... There is no logical way for you to exclude anyone else who regards themselves as marginalized."

And that, as I have said many times here, is the problem with our legal framework which wants to declare an ever expanding list of "rights" with no way to hem in such thinking with reason. How else do we get two men together and force a country to call it a marriage? Or how do we have innumerable gender designations that even include non-human variants? This is the sort of mass dissipation that marks the failing points of empires.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Prayer service for abducted Archbishops of Aleppo held

( - On Bright Thursday, April 20, 2017, the Antochian Archdiocese was joined by co-hosts—the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese and the St. John of Damascus Fellowship of New Jersey—in sponsoring a timely prayer service at St. George Antochian Orthodox Church in Little Falls, for the abducted Archbishops of Aleppo, Metropolitan Paul and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim. Metropolitan Paul and Metropolitan Yohanna vanished without a trace on April 22, 2013, after they drove together in hopes of negotiating the release of hostages in captivity. Metropolitan Yohanna’s deacon escaped, but his driver was killed. (Read the Paschal Message of His Beatitude John X, in which he issues a call for the liberation of Metropolitans Paul and Yohanna.)

Metropolitan Joseph was joined by His Eminence Mor Dionysius John Kawak of the Syriac Archdiocese of the Eastern United States. In the service, Sayidna Joseph implored our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, for the freedom of the two beloved bishops and an end to the Syrian war. He also encouraged the attendees to urge their representatives and senators to continue their efforts to free the captive bishops, and called on the governments involved in the Syrian conflict to do the same in order to secure political and humane solutions towards peace in the region.

As well, the other speakers expressed their deep concern for the two bishops, and described the emptiness that has been left in the hearts of the clergy and faithful who are hoping and praying for their release. All present prayed to God for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and in all countries affected and besieged by wars and tribulations.

Also present at the prayer service were: His Excellency Bishop Yousif Habash of the Syriac Catholic Church; His Grace Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Maronite Church; hierarchs and representatives of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Coptic and Armenian Orthodox Churches, and the Maronite, Roman, and Syriac Catholic Churches; representatives from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York; elected officials and leaders from Passaic County, New Jersey; and the clergy and faithful of St. George.

Ecumenical Patriarch calls for "ecumenical solidarity"

(EP) - The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew delivered a public address at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva on 24 April 2017 as part of his official visit to Switzerland on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his enthronement as Ecumenical Patriarch and the 50th anniversary of the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy.

In his wide-ranging exhortation to the audience, the patriarch discussed the reasons for and accomplishments of the recent Holy and Great Council, convoked in Crete in June 2016, the role of science and technology in contemporary society, the theological imperative of tackling climate change, the plight and prospects of children today, the importance of countering human trafficking and modern slavery, and the need for all Christians to engage those issues in practical ways.

Uniting all these issues, “We must all work together for the promotion of a culture of solidarity, respect for others, and dialogue. Together with the sensitization of consciences, we must participate in concrete initiatives and actions. We need a stronger mobilization on the level of action,” he said.

Reminding his audience that the Ecumenical Patriarchate was instrumental, almost one hundred years ago, in igniting the ecumenical movement and its quest for unity, Bartholomew cited milestones in the church’s and his own engagement with the WCC. Since 1955, the patriarchate has had permanent representation to the WCC in Geneva, currently led by Archbishop Job of Telmessos.

Central to Bartholomew’s range of concerns, the patriarch said, is the strong, ongoing commitment of the Orthodox churches to ecumenism.

“We Orthodox strongly believe that the aim and the raison d’ĂȘtre of the Ecumenical Movement and of the World Council of Churches is to fulfil the Lord’s final prayer, that ‘all may be one’ (Jn. 17:21), which is inscribed on the beautiful tapestry ornamenting the wall of this hall.

Coptic Pope, Roman Pope, and EP attending peace conference

(Christian Post) - The grand imam of the Egyptian Muslim institution al-Azhar is holding a World Conference on Peace in Cairo, in which Pope Francis, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Coptic Pope Tawadros II will also take part "to eliminate the causes of conflict, violence and hate."

The objective of the conference, to be held Thursday and Friday, is to address "a message to the whole world" to "call for peace between religious leaders, between societies and between all the countries of the world," the office of grand imam of al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed al-Tayeb, says, according to La Croix.

Pope Francis is scheduled to give a speech Friday after the grand imam, immediately following his arrival in the Egyptian capital and a "courtesy visit" to President al-Sissi. Francis is also scheduled to meet Pope Tawadros after the conference.

The Egyptian Islamic seminary has observed that "human society is currently experiencing overwhelming crises threatening our existence and destroying the essence of human life" and the "bloody, armed conflicts" that have resulted "contradict sublime religious values and humanitarian ideals."

"Considering the expansion of the circle of wars and violence and the rise in terrorism and sectarianism, the voice of reason calls us to do our best to eliminate the causes of suffering and to seek the means of cooperation rather than seeking conflicts ...," the seminary states.

Two Coptic churches in Egypt (St. Mark's Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic pope, and a church in Tanta) were bombed on Palm Sunday, leaving at least 45 people dead and more than 100 injured. Pope Tawadros was leading the mass in Alexandria when the blast occurred.

Coptic Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 82 million.

The Islamic State, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, recently released a video threatening Christians in the country. IS is also believed to be behind the bombing of a chapel adjoining Cairo's St. Mark's Cathedral in December. At least 28 people were killed.

Bright Saturday

Monday, April 24, 2017

Anti-ecumenism "council" to be held in Ukraine

( - An international coalition opposing the decisions of last June’s “Pan-Orthodox” Council on the island of Crete are planning to hold a “Pan-Orthodox” Council in Ukraine in June-July to anathematize ecumenism and those who support it, reports the site Religion in Ukraine.

The decision for the Ukraine synaxis came as a result of the recent “Thessaloniki Inter-Orthodox Synaxis” held on April 4. Although the gathering was forbidden by the hierarchy of the Greek Church, it brought together about a thousand clerical, monastic, and lay opponents of ecumenism and globalism from the Greek, Romanian, and Russian Orthodox Churches.

Greetings and blessings were read out to the gathering from Bishop Longin (Zhar), vicar bishop of the Chernivtsi Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and founder of Holy Ascension Monastery in Bachensk, which cares for around 500 children, some of whom are disabled and afflicted with HIV.

The synaxis called upon Greek clergy to cease commemoration of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, saying, “We have suspended association with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople as the main organizer of the Council, and with the representatives and preachers of the pan-heresy of ecumenism, and with all bishops who accept the Crete Council as Orthodox.”

Those gathered condemned ecumenism and the Crete Council. Moreover, the Thessaloniki participants laid plans to hold a Pan-Orthodox anti-ecumenism council at Bachensk Monastery in June-July, in which they intend to anathematize Patriarch Bartholomew and others who they view as supporters of ecumenism.

Bishop Longin has also taken a strict stance in regards to Patriarch Kirill’s February, 2016 joint declaration with Pope Francis. At the same time, Vladyka Longin has remained a member of the Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church—a body advising the highest authority of the Russian Church in matters concerning its internal life and external activities.

His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Holy Ascension Monastery in Bachensk yesterday, on Thomas Sunday, or Anti-Pascha, concelebrated by Metropolitan Meletios of Chernivtsi and Bukovina and Bishop Longin.