Monday, May 14, 2018

Serbian Church glorifies three neo-martyrs

( - The regular meeting of the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church began on April 29, 2018 at the Patriarchate of Pec monastery with the joint serving of the holy hierarchical Divine Liturgy and the invocation of the Holy Spirit and continued at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, under the presidency of His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej. Participating in the Assembly were all diocesan hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

At the beginning of the meeting the Patriarch addressed all the hierarchs in attendance with introductory remarks in which he pointed to the essential issue in the life and mission of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the contemporary world, filled with both great spiritual challenges and temptations but also great possibilities for work on the spiritual renewal of the people.

The most crucial decision was the decision of establishing new feast days in the calendar of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which in turn, means in the calendar of the Orthodox Church as a whole. Namely, the Assembly unanimously deciced to canonize, add to the assembly of saints, three individuals who, because of their firm committment to their faith in Christ were killed by the Arnauts during the Turkish rule at the end of the 19th and the dawn of the 20th century, in Kosovo and Metohija, and they are the following:
  • Grigorije of Pec, a monk at Monastery Pec, as Hieromartyr, whose liturgical commemoration will be celebrated Janaury 22/February 7;
  • Vasilije, a baker from Pec, as a martyr, whose feast will be celebrated April 29/May 12,
  • Bosiljka Rajicic from the town of Pasjana near Gnjilana, as a martyr, whose podvig will be commemorated October 13/26,
  • and those who suffered with them.

Extremism and Terrorism conference held in St. Petersburg

(ROC) - On May 12, 2018, in keeping with a decision of the commission on theology and theological education of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Inter-Council Presence, a theological conference was held on Theological Understanding of the Phenomenon of Extremism and Terrorism, at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy.

The aim of the conference was to involve ecclesial and secular experts in defining the notions of extremism, radicalism and terrorism from theological perspective and to consider possible ways of overcoming social deformations arising from the spread of world terrorism and growth of extremist moods.

The gathering in the academy assembly hall included members of the Inter-Council Presence commission on theology and theological education, experts, members of the St. Petersburg public chamber, municipal officials and students of the academy post-graduate courses.

The conference was opened by the rector of St. Petersburg Theological Academy and members of the Inter-Council Presence commission on theology and theological education, Archbishop Ambrose of Petergof.

In the beginning of the meeting, the conference was addressed by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations (DECR), chairman of the Inter-Council Presence commission on theology and theological education and rector of the Ss Cyril and Methodius Institute of Post-Graduate Studies (CMI).

Among the attendees from the Inter-Council Presence commission were Bishop Gennady of Kaskelen, administrator of the Metropolitan District in Kazakhstan and rector of Alma-Ata Seminary; K. Antonov, head of the St. Tikhon Orthodox University of the Humanities chair of philosophy and religious aspects of culture; and A. Maler, lecturer at the State Academic University of the Humanities. Among those invited to attend were V. Martinovich, director of the Byelorussian Orthodox Church center for the studies of sects and head of the Minsk Theological Academy chair of apologetics; V. Laza, counsellor, Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs directorate for monitoring, analysis and prognosis; Ms. A. Astakhova, head of Kazan Federal University chair of religious studies; Archpriest George Joffe, associate professor at St. Petersburg Academy chair of church-practice disciplines.

The conference program included papers on such topics as the formulation of the notion of ‘religious extremism’, the difference between extremism carried out under religious slogans and radicalism and fundamentalism, mechanisms for detecting and eliminating risks involved in these problems and the role of religious education in opposing extremist activities. The participants will consider methodological problems of the theological analysis of extremist manifestations in the religious sphere and will familiarize themselves with materials developed by Local Orthodox Churches on manifestations of extremism covered up by religious rhetoric.

The conference is expected to adopt a communique in conclusion of its work.

Met. Rastislav met with Pope of Rome

Reposting on the purpose of this blog

A few years back I posted this and again here. I think it's time for a reposting with a little augmentation.

This is a blog. It is not a news outfit. No one pays me to post anything nor is there a foundation that sends me money by the word. If we look at this with a chronological and historical eye, it was my wife who thought with all my combing of Orthodox resources on the Internet that I should put what I find in one place online. It followed me from Texas, to seminary, to the priesthood and parish life. Seven thousand, two hundred and fifty posts later we are here.

If I enjoy a photo of a monk throwing a snowball, it will probably get posted. If I think someone made an interesting point, it might get posted. If there is a spat between two parties and you are expecting that I'm going to strive for the news media's Israel-Palestinian parity policy you're going to be let down. There is bias, but there is also often an attempt to post from the other side as well. Also, I will post about non-Chalcedonians or even Greek Catholics (as I've done since the beginning) without feeling like I'm putting out sugary treats forming an insidious path to an inescapable gingerbread house of heresy.

If you see an article and your entire purpose for commenting is to say something snarky or be contrary, don't. There's a legion of people who already do so to my consternation. Those who are already doing it aren't grandfathered in either so I reserve the right to apply a purgative to their efforts at will.

It's wonderful to have so many people visit every day from all over the world. There are lots of emails with stories sent to me, lots of comments on what makes it into a post, and even the occasional retweet. I appreciate it all. But this isn't network news. This is a blog. I ask that you be civil. Or, as we say to visitors in Texas, "Howdy! Wipe your feet and take your hat off."

Metropolis of Denver teleturgical messages are the best

When the official letter makes it to the metropolitan website, I'll make the necessary updates below.


May 1, 2018

Teleturgical Encyclical 29
The Pious Priests
The Faithful Parish Members
Holy Metropolis of Denver

Beloved in the Lord,

It has come to my attention that there are an increasing number of parishioners in some of our parishes who come forth to receive Holy Communion, but insist that the priest not give to them of the Body of Christ but only of His Blood. Those parishioners explain to their priests that their doctors -- obviously not Orthodox Christians — tell them not to eat any kind of bread because it will harm them.

If there are Orthodox Christians in our parishes who believe that, after the Holy Spirit consecrates the Bread and the Wine during the Divine Liturgy, the gifts are still bread and wine, they should never again receive the divine Body and Blood again, until they believe that the holy sacrament of our Lord Himself is His spiritual presence, that is, both His Body and His Blood.

It is truly a great blessing from Saint Paul, the holy apostle to the nations, that he explains the dangers of receiving the holy Body and sacred Blood of our Lord, for very different reasons than medical science does. Saint Paul says "whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, for he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself... For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep (die)." Corinthians 11:27, 29, 30

In regard to these powerful words of Saint Paul, are there parishioners who are ill, possibly because they have not prepared themselves to receive the divine gifts of our Lord's spiritual Body and Blood? And, if the doctor's instructions to them about not eating the Body (bread) because of the doctor's medical knowledge are considered more important than the Holy Eucharist, then they should not receive the Holy Eucharist of the Lord, unless or until they believe that the Creator of all has more knowledge regarding eternal life than all the medical science of this fallen world.

This serious matter is proof enough that the secular world is developing into the false philosophy that it is self-created, in relationship to the theory that all creation is incidental and accidental. Consequently, the world, which is based in materialism, is more and more identifying itself, especially humanity, as it pleases, since it does not acknowledge a divine Creator.

If any parishioner does not fully believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Creator, and that He came into the world, taking on our human body, but His Body being perfect, and offering Himself up on the Holy Cross for our eternal salvation, please help such persons to realize their error, if they wish to listen. Of course, it is up to them to exercise their free will to accept our Lord as we know Him, or to take the only other direction, that is, turn away. from Him. We pray that the Holy Spirit will give to them the only direction to eternal life, and that is to know and to love our Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.

With Paternal Blessings,

Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver

This letter is to be disseminated to all parishioners and published in all parish bulletins of the Metropolis of Denver.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy

After I posted here recently on the opening of the GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy, several people had questions about this new Orthodox resource. I, too, had questions and so was delighted that Fr. John Peck (dean of the Academy and rector at All Saints of North America Orthodox Church, Sun City, AZ) was gracious enough to answer a few of them.

GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy is an institution of higher learning under the jurisdiction of the Vicariate for Palestinian/ Jordanian Orthodox Christian Communities in the US. The Academy offers a two-year program of study (offered in English and Arabic) leading to the Diploma of Orthodox Theological Studies (Dipl. O.T.S.), and a one-year program leading to a Certificate in Preaching, and advanced courses for clergy and laity which qualify as Continuing Education Courses, both offered in English.

The mission of GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy is to serve the Orthodox Church by preparing students for service to the Church. As the only theological academy within the Vicariate, the Seminary welcomes applicants not only from the United States but also from abroad, thereby serving its mission to serve the Church in all corners of the world.

What's the history behind this effort? How did you get from a nascent idea to where you are today?

This is all covered on our Academy website, but allow me to sum it up: Beginning in the mid-1990’s, the administration of our jurisdiction (the Vicariate for Palestinian and Jordanian Orthodox Christian Communities in the US) has worked diligently for the improvement and spiritual nurturing of the Orthodox Christian faithful in its parish communities by way of missions, established parishes, the ordination of clergy, youth camps, etc. It soon became clear that spiritual education among Orthodox Christians in the Arabic language specifically, was lacking in the extreme. Opportunities to serve these Orthodox faithful abounded but administrative and clerical resources could not keep up with the growing need.

The arrival of Archimandrite Damaskinos Alazrai into the Vicariate allowed for aggressive growth in the area of Orthodox education and spiritual formation of the faithful. Immediately, an annual Bioethics Conference was established for each spring, with an annual Spiritual Retreat every October. Once the mission and vision of Archimandrite Damaskinos was communicated to us, the natural outcome was the founding of GreatMartyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy; an internet-based Orthodox learning institution capable of serving the Orthodox faithful nationwide, and even worldwide, in both English and Arabic, and hopefully additional languages in the near future.

How does this differ from existing Orthodox resources in the US? To be more blunt, some might say, "We already have X, Y, and Z. Why do we need this?"

First of all, let's just say it - competition breeds excellence. But also, we aren't really competing with theological seminaries because we don't exactly have anything like this. We are not aiming for the future seminary student or the guy who needs another masters degree. This isn't another masters program in theology for future clergy or wannabe theologians. This is an undergraduate level program thoroughly grounded in the Tradition. And it is offered in English and Arabic.

This is ideal for the Orthodox Christian who is far from a local parish, who is a kind of satellite, and wants to do more than nothing to help build up the body of Christ, and grow the Church where they are.

Diploma grads will all have the materials necessary and ready for New Member classes, Catechumen classes, Baptismal preparation, Interior life instruction, and more, so that even if they are starting a satellite mission from scratch, they can hit the ground running with what is necessary for good solid instruction. It's a good beginning to prepare for the underground church as well.

You're not only providing English-speaking instruction, but, uniquely, you're also offering Arabic language instruction. How did that come about?

The Vicariate is a jurisdiction specifically of English and Arabic speaking people – Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis. Many of them – a great number – cannot afford $10,000 per semester to learn more about the faith. Our program delivers it for substantially less. There are a multitude of Arabic speakign men and women with a burning desire to serve the Lord and his Church, and to learn more and deepen their own Orthodox faith in a very profound way. But guess what – they can't leave home, and they have little or no income.

We not only have an excellent foundational Diploma program for them, we have started a scholarship for them – the MESSIAH Scholarship Fund (Middle East Student Scholarship in Academic Honors). If you really want to make a difference for Christians in the Middle East, help build up this Scholarship program. Our entire 2 year Diploma program can be completed for $5000. That's 4 semesters in two years for $5K or less.

It's the best deal in Orthodoxy, and we have worked very hard to make it so.

Who do you see taking advantage of this Academy? Who are the ideal students?

We are aiming for the person burning with desire to learn more about their faith, the homeschooling mom who needs more knowledge and help; the devoted father working a full time job but who needs to raise his children to have FAITH, and is the very reason he labors so long and hard; the Sunday School teacher, the Adult Ed instructor, the catechist, the Bible study teacher who want a broader, more indepth background for practical instruction, and it is ideal for the man who wants to go on to ordination and serve the Church as a deacon.

The ideal student is any Orthodox Christian high school graduate or person educated enough to handle challenging undergrad work - the man or woman who has a strong desire to deepen their faith by learning more about Scripture, History, Theology, Liturgy, Spirituality, and Pastoral practice – The Orthodox Tradition - with a desire to go on and teach, preach, and proclaim the Gospel to strengthen their own spiritual life, their own home parish, and the ministries of their own church. It doesn't take a PhD to do mission work. It takes action, practical knowledge, a love for Christ strong enough to serve others, and living strongly within the Orthodox Tradition. That is the person we have created this course for.

What should we look forward to down the road? Any projects or plans on the horizon?

Yes, indeed. I'm very interested in the training for, and establishment of, satellite missions anywhere and everywhere, especially in light of current events. We are at an exceptionally dangerous time as Christians, and preparing for the worst needs to be done, but we should talk about those things at a later date.

I will say this – in our jurisdiction, we require future clergy to take the Academy program AND THEN to submit to an onsite program of mentorship and formation for the diaconate and the priesthood. It's a more traditional Orthodox formation program, and it has to be accomplished onsite either in Arizona or California, but should be well worth it. The guided readings and study are intense, and the 'on-the-job' training will have an intensely spiritual and liturgical aspect to it. Ordinands will be expected to complete the traditional spiritual retreat following their ordinations, celebrating divine liturgy daily for at least 7 days, in the case of the deacon, or 40 days, in the case of a newly ordained priest. Diaconal and Priestly formation are critical to accomplish well, so we aren't taking any chances with this. We're going 'old school.'

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Baptisms: Private or Communal

People will come to me and want a baptism, then when I mention putting it in the bulletin and inviting the parish, it's not uncommon for people to look at me askance. To them baptism is a "family" event where they meet outside the normal worship time, have the service, and then go out to eat. I don't do boutique baptisms. The family the baptized is joining is the Church - hundreds of millions of people alive and millions more reposed in the Lord. They are going to pray for you every day and the opportunity to celebrate the new addition to the family should not be confounded.

(Eric Hyde's Blog via Pravmir) - Many people today are made to pass by a dry-erase board at work, hanging prominently where everyone is bound to see it many times a day, tracking their job performance month-to-month and keeping all employees in a constant game of mutual comparison.

Unfortunately, this method of employee motivation works, works very well. And it cost the business nothing!

It works well because it plays on powerful motivating factors in the human psyche – social acceptance and personal efficacy. For too many, the work place dry-erase board is a microcosm of life—a life animated in large part by a strong sense of individualism and autonomy; an “every man for himself,” thing.

Often when a Christian crosses over from this conditioning into the religious-spiritual environment little seems to change; it’s still a private affair: “just me, my Bible, and Jesus!”

What is interesting is that many people who claim to endorse the independent/autonomous lifestyle also begrudge the concomitant isolation it inevitably brings.

For most people, regardless of the outward enthusiasm for independence, there lies a deep desire for intimate community. For the Orthodox Christian, this desire is understood to be the natural orientation of the human soul. Being created in the image and likeness of God, humans, like God, are communal by nature (God is Trinity). It is the radical individualism experienced from all corners in daily life that are the expected manifestations of human nature when removed from its communion with God. The sacrament of baptism is the path Christ provides for return to this union.

This is not to say that baptism is a communal event and nothing more. Like repentance, baptism engages the whole person in the most private manner possible. I like how Kierkegaard describes the way in which God confronts each individual person by requiring them to enter His kingdom through the parabolic “narrow gate”. He relates it to the image of the battle of Thermopylae, where the 300 Spartans held off the Persian armies by forcing them through a narrow pass; in a like manner God holds back the crowds and takes in each person one-on-one.

In baptism, truly, each person is required to present himself or herself alone as a living sacrifice unto God; i.e., preparing themselves with devoted contemplation of the personal commitment laid before them. It is a “private” affair through-and-through, insofar as the believer is called upon to assume full responsibility for his or her baptismal vows.

Syriac Orthodox hold "Ceremonial Holy Communion"

I had no idea they did first holy communion.

(Syriac Orthodox Church) - On Sunday, May 6, 2018, St. Matthew’s Church in Boston held its Ceremonial Holy Communion. His Eminence Mor Dionysius John Kawak, in the presence of the Church Pastor, Rev. Fr. Anton Sabha, celebrated the Holy Divine Liturgy.

During this blessed ceremony, eleven children were prepared to receive the Holy Communion; during which they recited several prayers in English, and a group of our Sunday School deacons served the Holy Liturgy.

Congratulations to all of the children and the Archdiocese extends their gratitude to the teachers for their excellent job. May God bless them all.

Halki Theological School to reopen "soon"

Take this with a grain of salt. The imminent reopening has been heralded for years with little actual change.

(Greek Reporter) - The Halki Theological School will open again soon, according to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Bartholomew commented on the school re-opening at a meeting with the delegation of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association in Istanbul, Turkey.

Bartholomew said that during his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, he was reassured that the Halki Thological School will reopen soon.

The Ecumenical Patriarch met with the Turkish president on April 25 at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, along with the foreign minister and discussed the issue.

The three men also discussed issues of the Patriarchate and the Greek community.

Pope of Rome visiting Czech & Slovak Orthodox primate

Rome (Crux) - Pope Francis and the primate of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, His Beatitude Metropolitan Rastislav, will meet for the first time later this week, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

The meeting will take place May 11, the first visit between the pope and the Orthodox archbishop, who was elected primate, or the head, of the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church in January 2014. Details of the visit have not been made available.

During his May 9-12 trip to Rome, Rastislav will meet with the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, and will celebrate Divine Liturgy at the tomb of St. Cyril in the minor Basilica of St. Clement in Rome.

The Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia is an Eastern Orthodox Church whose territory covers the countries of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. It is one of 14 self-governing Orthodox Churches originating in the Byzantine tradition, which was brought to the area through the evangelization of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.
Cyril and Methodius are sometimes called the “Apostles of the Slavs” for their tireless work in spreading the Gospel throughout Eastern Europe in the 9th century.

Such was their influence in Church history, through their evangelization efforts, that the late Pope John Paul II named the two brothers the patron saints of Europe, along with 5th century monastic leader St. Benedict.

Cyril and Methodius are venerated by both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The common veneration of saints has been one of the tools Pope Francis uses to foster ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

One example of this “ecumenism of saints” took place last year, when relics of St. Philip and St. Nicholas were transported to Turkey and Russia, from Italy. They were exposed for the veneration of Orthodox Christians from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow.

On his return from accompanying the relic of St. Nicholas to Russia, Bari’s Archbishop Francesco Cacucci said that the translation of the relic was “already an ecumenical dialogue,” as Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow had said many times.

“When ecumenism does not involve only the top ranks of churches or theologians, but rather involves the people of God, then it is possible to move forward.”

The archbishop explained that, for Francis, the veneration of relics is “an essential part of the path toward the re-establishment of full communion among all Christians.”

“The common veneration of saints helps us to look at ecumenical dialogue with a light of hope,” he said.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

20% of Boys Scouts just quit

(Washington Post) - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Tuesday it will sever all ties with the Boy Scouts of America, ending a century-old tradition deeply ingrained in the religious life of Mormon boys.

The Mormon Church, as it is more commonly known, said in its announcement that it has “increasingly felt the need to create and implement a uniform youth leadership and development program that serves its members globally.” The two organizations “jointly determined” that as of Dec. 31, 2019, the church will no longer be a chartered partner of the Scouts, it said in a joint statement with the Boy Scouts.

The change will affect hundreds of thousands of Mormon boys in 30,500 congregations worldwide.

For 105 years, the relationship between the Boy Scouts and the Mormon Church has been important to both groups. Any boy who is part of a Mormon congregation automatically becomes part of the Boy Scouts. The Mormon Church has been the largest participant of the Boy Scouts in the United States, making up nearly 20 percent of all of the Boy Scouts’ 2.3 million youth members.

Church officials did not cite specific Scouts policy changes that spurred the split, but the two groups have increasingly clashed over values in recent years, particularly following the Boy Scouts’ move to include openly gay troop leaders. The announcement also came less than a week after the Boy Scouts announced it would be changing its flagship name to Scouts BSA, promoting its decision last year to welcome girls into the program for the first time.

While the Mormon Church did not publicly object when the Boy Scouts began admitting gay Scouts in 2013 and transgender Scouts last year, it said it was “deeply troubled” by the Boy Scouts’ decision to lift the ban on openly gay adult leaders in 2015. Mormon Church leaders considered parting ways with the organization. But the Scouts later said that while it would ban discrimination in hiring employees, it would leave it up to individual troops and councils to choose leaders who reflect their own values. Mormon Church officials decided to maintain ties to the group, though the relationship was not long-lived.

The church began scaling back its participation with the Scouts last year, when it announced it would be cutting ties with teen programs for high-school-age Scouts, while continuing to enroll 8- to 13-year-old boys in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. The church said the teen programs had been “historically difficult to implement within the Church,” and instead chose to create its own youth programs for teenage boys.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Reminder: Small Parish Forum just around the corner

(OCA) - Online registration for the Fifth Annual Small Parish Forum, slated to be held at Saint George Cathedral in the Toledo suburb of Rossford, OH July 12-14, 2018, is now open.

Co-sponsored by the Orthodox Church in America’s Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania, the Diocese of the Midwest and the Bulgarian Diocese, this year’s theme will be “Equipping Small Parish Leaders for Discipleship and Change.” The program will focus on specific situations common to “small” parishes throughout the OCA and other Orthodox jurisdictions. Workshops and presentations will explore ways to assist parishes with memberships of 75 or fewer souls to achieve stability, build a positive self-image, and accept their calling to live a life in Christ without necessarily becoming “big.”

Keynote speaker at this year’s Forum will be Archpriest Thomas Soroka, Rector of Saint Nicholas Church, McKees Rocks, PA. His topic—“Discipleship: An Orthodox Christian Perspective for Leaders”—will set the tone for the Forum’s workshops, case studies and discussions.

“This year’s content is not a repeat of past Forums,” said Joseph Kormos, Forum Co-Chair and Parish Development Ministry Leader for the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh. “The emphasis will be on the importance of collaboration between clergy and lay leaders in any parish. This is especially critical in small parishes, where resources are modest and everyone needs to be ‘pulling in the same direction.’”

Specific themes to be explored include reshaping parish councils to move beyond “firefighting” and “money” to fulfilling the overall parish mission; generating dialogue in “finding the center” in parish discussions; envisioning a bright future through a sense of purpose and direction that leads to prioritized action; inspiring stewardship by replacing begging and continual pleas with generosity and gratitude; and stimulating ministry by building a thirst for outreach, overcoming insularity, and “being the Church of Christ.”

“With this as a framework,” said Archpriest Daniel Rentel, Forum Co-Chair, “we will explore how small parishes with limited resources can shape leaders and leadership structures to take advantage of the many positive qualities of small parishes.”

Registration will be limited to 65 persons, and early registration is recommended. A block of rooms has been reserved at a local hotel. The minimal $100.00 per person registration fee will include meals, breaks, a hospitality reception and Forum materials. Attendees from the OCA’s Bulgarian Diocese, the Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania and the Diocese of the Midwest are eligible for full tuition rebates and grants to assist with travel costs. Many other OCA Dioceses offer scholarships to small parishes wishing to send participants.

Questions and enquiries may be directed to Mr. Kormos at

Estonian Church (MP) selecting new metropolitan

Metropolitan Cornelius
(ERR) - The Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate on Saturday chose Head Bishop Eugen and Bishop Lazar, rector of the Moscow Theological Academy and bishop of Narva and the Lake Peipsi shoreland, as candidates for the new head of the church following the demise of Metropolitan Cornelius in April.

The new church leader will be elected by the council of the church in Tallinn on May 29, the secretary of the Synod told ERR.

The candidates must also be reviewed and endorsed by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.

The council is made up of all members of the clergy plus one lay representative from every congregation. No additional candidates can be nominated at the council.

The Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which held its meeting at Kuremae Convent on Saturday, is made up of two bishops, six priests and two lay members.

According to the statutes of the church, the affairs of the church are managed until the election of a new metropolitan by the oldest bishop of the church, Lazar.

Lazar, whose birth name is Alexander Gurkin, has been bishop for nine years. Pior to his posting to Estonia he was head of the Saransk Monastery in Russia.

The previous head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Cornelius, died on April 19 aged 93.

Friday, May 4, 2018

"For the peace of the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all..." - Ukrainian autocephaly & the Great Schism

Moscow, May 4 (Interfax) - Head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion believes that if Ukrainian schismatics obtain desired autocephaly schism in global Orthodoxy will be compared to the Great Schism of 1054.

"It is terrific even to imagine what can happen if scenario of granting autocephaly to Ukrainian schismatics will be realized in practice. (...) Schism in global Orthodoxy that will be inevitable consequence of this wrong step, can be compared only to the split between East and West in 1054. If it happens, Orthodox unity will be buried," the metropolitan said answering the questions of Greek Romfea church news agency.

The hierarch prays and hopes that "unilateral position of Local Orthodox Churches that was more than once expressed in the past will save Ecumenical Orthodoxy from the schism", and "this unilateral position will sooner or later bring schismatics back to the Church."

The metropolitan noted that the project of the so-called one local church in Ukraine is initiated by acting authorities, schismatic groups and Greek Catholics.

"Politicians see in it a happy opportunity to start electoral campaign at the backstage of deteriorating economic situation in the country. Schismatics supported by authorities continue seizing churches of canonical Church in Ukraine, they need legalization and support of any canonical Church of the Orthodox world," he said.

According to Metropolitan Hilarion, uniates consider union of schism and obtaining an official status for it in Orthodox world as a project aimed at subordinating Orthodoxy to Rome.

The metropolitan believes that true state of spiritual life in the canonical Ukrainian Church and in Ukrainian schism can be seen if we compare the number of monks.

"Today there are about 5000 monks in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The so-called Kiev Patriarchate has 200 people residing in monasteries, while the so-called Autocephalous Church has 15 people for 12 monasteries. The mass media often refer to the data, for which certain sponsors of sociological polls have paid. However, the data they cite cannot be compared to the things we see with our own eyes that can be easily checked," he said.

According to him, millions of Orthodox believers stand behind the canonical Church in Ukraine and "it is proved by large-scaled processions with cross organized by canonical Church in Ukraine which attract hundreds of thousands believers."

"Why our brothers in Constantinople are not interested in the opinion of these millions of believers? Granting authocephaly to schism despite the will of the canonical Church from which it has split does not have any future. It will not lead to the Orthodox unity, but to deepening of existing divisions and further destabilization of Ukrainian society," the hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church believes.

Greek Archdiocese sends update on Ground Zero church

PITTSBURGH (GOARCH) – On May 4, 2018, Elaine Allen, Chairman of the Standing Audit Committee of the Archdiocesan Council, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, announced the substantial completion of Phase 1 of the St. Nicholas Special Investigative Committee’ s (SIC) investigation into the management and finances of the St. Nicholas Church and National Shrine project. The SIC has received PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Phase 1 draft report and is expected to announce its findings to the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council imminently.

Among key findings from Phase 1, the amount owed by the Archdiocese to St. Nicholas has been confirmed to be less than $3.7 million, with the exact dollar figure to be finalized in the coming weeks. Moreover, the review found that all other monies raised to fund the St. Nicholas project are accounted for, and that the expenditure of these funds was consistent with donor restrictions.

As a result of the aggressive financial restructuring efforts undertaken by the Archdiocese over the last year, led by Treasurer Mike Psaros, the Archdiocese has already repaid $1million of the pending total amount it owes to St. Nicholas, and will voluntarily pay interest on the full amount owed to the project. The Archdiocese will also make a voluntary contribution of $670,000 to St. Nicholas. This amount represents the full amount of unrestricted investment returns generated on donations from 2001 – 2012.

Finally, Ms. Allen announced that the Archdiocese will repay its debt to St. Nicholas with interest. The amount of the interest payment will be confirmed following the SIC’s completion of the findings report, which will include the finalized amount owed by the Archdiocese to St. Nicholas.

Phase 2 of the SIC’s investigation is also being conducted by PwC. The work is ongoing and includes a review of the St. Nicholas project’s baseline costs and cost increases, a review of design changes, and an analysis of vendor payments with the goal of identifying potential non-disclosed relationships between the St. Nicholas project management team and vendors paid with St. Nicholas funds. The SIC’s findings report is expected to complete within one month.

Immediately following the completion of Phase 2, Phase 3 of the SIC’s investigation will begin. It will largely be a project management and design exercise intended to finalize construction plans, costs, and a revised timeline for completion of the project.

The SIC is committed to completing its comprehensive and exhaustive investigation into mismanagement allegations around the St. Nicholas project, and to addressing all issues potentially raised in this investigation before construction proceeds.

The St. Nicholas Church will be a sacred space with its doors open to all. As a National Shrine on hallowed ground, it will stand in memorial to the lives lost on September 11, 2001, as a symbol of reconciliation, and as a spiritual beacon of hope and for generations to come. The Archdiocese remains committed to the completion of this deeply meaningful landmark and spiritual capstone to the World Trade Center site redevelopment effort.