Friday, June 22, 2018

Rusyn Greek Catholics have Bishop for Parma

Rome (01.06.2018) (BCC) - The Holy Father Francis has appointed Bishop of Parma of the Ruthenians (U.S.A.) S.E. Monsignor Milan Lach, S.I., until now Apostolic Administrator, vacant office of the same, transferring it from the head office of Ostracine.

S.E. Mons. Milan Lach, S.I.

S.E. Msgr. Milan Lach, S.I., was born on November 18th 1973 in Kežmarok, in the Archieparchia of Prešov dei Bizantini (Slovakia).

From 1992 to 1995 he attended the Greek-Catholic Theological Faculty of Prešov and in 1995 entered the Jesuit novitiate in Trnava.

After his theological studies at the Theological Faculty of the University of Trnava (1997-2001), he was ordained a priest in 2001 in Košice.

From 2001 to 2003 he worked in the scientific area of ​​the East-West Spirituality Center of Michal Lacko in Košice and later (2009-2011) was Superior of the same Center.

In 2009 he obtained a Doctorate in Eastern Ecclesiastical Sciences at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. At the same time he was a spiritual father at the Pontifical College Russicum and also a spiritual assistant of the Federation of European Scouts in Rome.

Since 2010 he has been a member of the editors of the theological journal "Verba Theologica".

Since 2011 he has been Deputy-Dean of the Theological Faculty of the University of Trnava, for foreign relations and for development.

On 19 April 2013, the Holy Father Francis appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of the Archiepiscop of Prešov of the Byzantines (Slovakia), assigning him the titular seat of Ostracine.

From 2016 to 2017 he was Visitator of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches of the Seminaries and Eastern Colleges in Rome.

On 24 June 2017, the Holy Father Francis appointed him Apostolic Administrator, vacant seat of the Eparchia of Parma dei Ruteni.

Herman Engelhardt has reposed in the Lord

An important voice in bioethics, gifted speaker and teacher, and ardent defender of Orthodoxy has reposed in the Lord. For those in the area:

  • Trisagion Prayers will be at 6:00pm Sunday, June 24 at St. George Orthodox Christian Church (5311 Mercer Street, Houston, TX 77005). Visitation will follow the Trisagion until 8:00pm. The Readings from the Psalter will follow the Visitation.
  • Funeral Service will be at 10:00am Monday, June 25 at St. George Orthodox Christian Church.
  • Interment will be at Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery (2191 Twin Sisters Drive, Kendalia, TX 78027).

(OCL) - With hope in the resurrection, we share the news of the falling asleep of renowned bioethicist and SVS Press author H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr, also known as Reader Herman in the Orthodox Church. Dr Engelhardt (pictured on the right) passed away Thursday morning due to complications after a long battle against two different cancers. He was 77.

He was professor in the Department of Philosophy at Rice University and professor emeritus in the Department of Medicine and the Department of Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He was a member of St. George Orthodox Church in Houston and was tonsured a reader by His Grace, the Right Rev. Bishop BASIL, in 1996.

Dr. Engelhardt is the author, contributor, or editor of numerous books and dozens of peer-reviewed articles, including The Foundations of Bioethics (Oxford), The Foundations of Christian Bioethics (Scrivener), the recent SVS Press release After God: Morality and Bioethics in a Secular Age, and Turning East: Contemporary Philosophers and the Ancient Christian Faith (SVS Press). He was also senior editor of the journal Christian Bioethics and The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Romanian Metropolia hosts conference

(Mitropolia) - In the presence of His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae and His Grace Bishop Ioan Casian, Hieromonk Atanasie Popescu, Rev. Fr. Vasile Tudora, Rev. Fr. Ion Gherman and Rev. Fr. Daniel Ene, thirty-four delegates from thirteen parishes of the Metropolia gathered at the Faith and Heritage Center, the future Protection of the Mother of God Monastery from Allegan, Michigan between 15 and 17 of June 2018 for the AROLA’s Conference.

Guests joined together Friday evening serving the Akathist of Protection of the Mother of God followed by greetings words from His Eminence Nicolae.

Saturday morning, we gathered to pray with the Akathist of Ss. Joachim and Ana followed by a service for the departed members of AROLA. His Grace Ioan Casian talked about the Myrrh Bearing women, who were the apostles to the apostles, encouraging us to become like them, unafraid, eagerly working the deed.

With the occasion of “Celebrating 80 years of existence” Ileana Dascălu presented a short history of the Association. Icons with the Saints Women Wonder Working were presented to the hierarchs. A “Charter of Thanksgiving” from the Executive Committee was given to Rev. Fr. Ion Gherman and Rev. Fr. Daniel Ene, the spiritual advisors of the AROLA. Talking about the works of the members of AROLA, either in the Executive Committee, or in their own parish, “Certificates of Recognition” for outstanding contribution, hard work and dedication were awarded to the past presidents Delima Iftody, Psa Alexandra Săndulescu, Theodora Miller, Elena de Avila, Psa Mihaela Țăpuc and Ileana Dascălu. The Association recognized two of the oldest Ladies Auxiliary Associations “The Sisters of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church of Boian, Alberta”, active from 1936, and “Andrei, Baron of Shaguna, Ladies Society” Southbrigde, MA, active from 1939. A Diploma of Appreciation was awarded to Nadia Comăneci, the most beloved personality of Romanian Community in the USA and a prestigious unofficial ambassador of our country.

After a short break, Rev. Fr. Vasile Tudora held the Conference “Man and woman mirrored in the original meaning of creation - complementarity and synergy in the salvation of the spiritual family”. The conference was live on the AROLA’s Facebook page. Fr. Tudora spoke about the creation of man and woman, their intended place in the Creation, place that they lost through sin. In every person there are two parts, a spiritual one, that is attracted to God, and an instinctual one, oriented toward this world of affects. There is a fight between those two parts. Our duty is to strive on our path that leads to God. At the end Fr. Tudora answered questions.

After lunch break, Mariana Cuceu, from St. Paraskeva Charity Organization in Chicago, IL, talked about the relief that the organization is bringing in the poor areas of Romania. After the presentation of the activities report of the 2016-2017 and of the financial reports of Canada and USA, a new Executive Committee was elected:
  1. President Presbytera Claudia Aileni from All Saints parish, Toronto, ON.
  2. Vice-president Presbytera Alina Flavia Ene, Holy Trinity parish, Victor, NY.
  3. Secretary Cristina Kraițer, Holy Trinity parish, Philadelphia, PA.
  4. Treasurer Canada Cătălina Pițică, All Saints parish Torronto, ON.
  5. Treasurer USA Adriana Obreja, Ss. Constantine and Helen Cathedral Chicago, IL.
  6. Representative of the Canada East Deanery Andreea Filip, St. George Cathedral, Windsor, ON.
  7. Representative of USA Eastern Deanery Maria Dumbrăveanu, St. Mary parish Dacula, GA.
  8. Representative of USA Western Deanery Elisabetha Gina Totka, Elevation of the Holy Cross parish, Upland CA.
  9. Representative of USA Central Deanery Mirela Manga, Holy Trinity parish Troy, MI.
  10. Relation with Public Representative Alina Stan, The Life-giving Fountain parish, Long Valley, NJ.
At the next point on the Agenda, celebrating the Romanian Centenary, Ileana Dascalu presented the Romanian-English book “Building for Unity, Orthodox Romanian Women serving God and the Nation”. The book presents the lives of Queen Marie of Romania, Elena Alistar Romanescu, Ecaterina Teodoroiu, and Mother Alexandra (Princess Ileana of Romania), and the roles that they played in the Union of the different regions that made Great Romania. The book will be distributed at the Congress of each Eparchy of the Metropolia, one for each parish. The members present appreciated positively the book as it brings awareness of women’s work and of values of the Romanian culture. Open discussions about the future actions of the association followed in which several ideas were presented:
  • organizing a Grief Group, for those who have lost someone close
  • supporting group for those who want to learn Romanian or English
  • a Book Club under the Parish Priest’s guidance
  • identifying and sustaining the children and youth who would like to participate in the Metropolia’s Youth programs but have no possibilities.
The Vespers Service ended the day. Sunday began with the Morning Service followed the Divine Liturgy. In his sermon, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae talked about the Sunday gospel (about the daily worries). We cannot serve two masters, God and the materiel world. The choice is ours. By choosing God, we should live wholeheartedly, every day the commands, bringing the good news to everyone.

The softening of "The Orthodox Church"

(Preachers Institute) - This is a short post on changes in the book “The Orthodox Church” by Kallistos Timothy Ware regarding the Orthodox teaching about contraception.

Natural family planning is acceptable, because it simply involves abstinence from sex during times when fertility is likely. Such is the teaching of the Church of Greece as expressed in her encyclical of October 14, 1937.

Timothy Ware’s book, The Orthodox Church, an extremely well respected book in Eastern Orthodox circles. The alterations which have been made through the various revisions tell us an interesting story, and paints a rather troubling picture concerning recent developments within Eastern Orthodoxy:

1963 Version

“Artificial methods of contraception are forbidden in the Orthodox Church”

1984 Version

“The use of contraceptives and other devices for birth control is on the whole strongly discouraged in the Orthodox Church. Some bishops and theologians altogether condemn the employment of such methods. Others, however, have recently begun to adopt a less strict position, and urge that the question is best left to the discretion of each individual couple, in consultation with the spiritual father”

1993 Version

“Concerning contraceptives and other forms of birth control, differing opinions exist within the Orthodox Church. In the past birth control was in general strongly condemned, but today a less strict view is coming to prevail, not only in the west but in traditional Orthodox countries. Many Orthodox theologians and spiritual fathers consider that the responsible use of contraception within marriage is not in itself sinful. In their view, the question of how many children a couple should have, and at what intervals, is best decided by the partners themselves, according to the guidance of their own consciences”

Catholic Herald: Why is Rome sidelining Greek Catholics?

(Catholic Herald) - Relations between the largest of the eastern Catholic Churches, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), and the Holy See have been frayed in recent years, as the former has found the latter’s support lacking in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine in general and the UGCC in particular.

Ukrainian Catholics believe that the Holy See wants to maintain good relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, which is strongly allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The consequence is that the Holy See does not protest too strongly against Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.

Two events in May suggest that those frayed relations are not going to be repaired soon.

First, there was the consistory for new cardinals announced on Pentecost Sunday. Leading the list of 11 new cardinal electors was Louis Raphaël I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon and head of the Chaldean Church, Iraq’s principal eastern Catholic Church. Creating the patriarch a cardinal was widely seen as sign of solidarity with the suffering Iraqi Catholics.

In 2016, Pope Francis did a similar thing for Syria, though that time he did not choose an actual Syrian bishop for cardinal, but rather the Italian serving as nuncio in Damascus.

Yet in five consistories for the creation of new cardinals, Pope Francis has passed over Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the UGCC and major archbishop of Kiev. Shevchuk’s predecessors have all been cardinals dating back to time when the UGCC – liquidated by Stalin – was the largest underground Church in the world.

Pope Francis is charting a new course in the selection of cardinals, but even given the idiosyncratic nature of his choices, it is evident that suffering Churches and suffering peoples are favoured with cardinals. That Ukraine has been overlooked now five times in five years suggests that Ukrainian suffering resonates less in Rome than the objections of the Russian Orthodox, who regard the very existence of the UGCC as an affront.

The second sign that UGCC-Holy See relations are not on the mend took place when Pope Francis received a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Hilarion, the representative of Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow, for relations with other Churches. During the meeting, Pope Francis gave an address that was warmly received and promoted by the Russian Orthodox.

“I would like to reiterate that the Catholic Church will never allow an attitude of division to arise from her people,” Pope Francis said. “We will never allow ourselves to do this, I do not want it. In Moscow – in Russia – there is only one patriarchate: yours.”

In Ukraine there is an effort to establish a new Orthodox patriarchate that is independent from Moscow. It is a complex tale, ably described in these pages last week by Fr Mark Drew. It is supported by the Ukrainian government and has support among many Ukrainians who resent that their religious authority – the Moscow Patriarchate – staunchly defends their political oppressor, Putin.

The UGCC supports the efforts to have a new unified Ukrainian Orthodox patriarch, autonomous and independent of Moscow. That enrages the Russian Orthodox, so they were most pleased to hear the Holy Father – to their ears, at least – take their side.

“The Catholic Church, the Catholic Churches must not get involved in internal matters of the Russian Orthodox Church, nor in political issues,” Pope Francis said. “This is my attitude, and the attitude of the Holy See today. And those who meddle do not obey the Holy See.”

Who could Pope Francis have in mind? The Russian Orthodox certainly concluded that the Holy Father was speaking about the UGCC and Shevchuk. It is hard to think of any other plausible candidate given the current circumstances.

In recent years, Vatican slights toward the UGCC, or toleration of attacks upon the UGCC from the Russian Orthodox, were thought to be part of the price demanded by the Moscow Patriarchate for a meeting with Pope Francis – something long denied to St John Paul II. That historic meeting took place in Havana in February 2016.

The question is whether the new relationship between the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox will require ongoing strained relations between Catholics, namely the Holy See and the eastern Catholics of the UGCC. Recent events suggest that it will.

"21st century theology" topic of recent conference

(EP) - The four-day works of the 8th International Conference of Orthodox Theology, organized by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, were completed on Thursday, May 24, 2018, with a large number of speakers, delegates and students on the theme: “The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. Orthodox Theology in the 21st Century “.

The international academic theological community, with one hundred and twenty elected speakers, clergy and lay people, from 15 countries and 25 Theological Schools, Institutes and Research Centers, has responded to its duty to assist in the work of the Church with theological thought and research and concrete proposals.

The 8th Congress gave a creative present and expressed a theological discourse in relation to irresponsible slogans and unfair public attitudes at the expense of truth.

The Theological Faculty of the Aristotle University, consistent with its constant aim, which is the dynamic approach and visibility of the Orthodox tradition, renewed earlier decisions for the collaboration of the Orthodox Theological Schools with regular conventions of such conferences but now also on an online basis in order to support the synodic institution at a Pan-Orthodox level.

The theological community through study, research and dialogue is made available to the Orthodox Church for the issues on the agenda of the next Pan-Orthodox Synod in the hope of dealing with other burning pastoral and regular problems of today.

Significant were the suggestions of hierarchs and academic professors who analyzed the Church’s debt in the modern world, the crucial issue of the Diaspora and other ecclesiological issues. It underlined the contribution and the perspective of the Holy and Great Council, its decisions and the future of theological studies, along with individual pastoral, theological and historical parameters.

The conference began with a concert of Byzantine music of the “Romanos Melodos” Association in the St. Georges’ Rotonda, under the direction of the Protopsaltis Mr. Panagiotis Neohoritis. It was followed by the official opening of the Conference at the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, with the presence of His Eminence Archbishop Elder of America Dimitrios — the representative at the conference of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki, Metropolitans of the New Lands, representatives of the Patriarchates of Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbia and Romania, of the Churches of Greece, Cyprus, Albania and the Czech Republic, Russian, Georgian and Bulgarian theologians, hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Churches, representatives from various Theological Faculties and Academies, the Professors of the Faculty of Theology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the great participation of young theologians and students.

Antioch comments on Ukrainian situation

(Arab Orthodoxy) - Given the recent round of reactions from throughout the Orthodox world to efforts to have the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognize schismatic groups in Ukraine as an autocephalous church, the following passage from the (never-translated) communique issued by the Holy Synod of Antioch on April 30 of this year is of interest. This translation is, of course, unofficial:

The fathers of the synod examined developments occurring in the Orthodox world, where ethnic and nationalist disputes and conflicts are being inflamed and efforts are being made to change the boundaries of patriarchates and autocephalous churches, something that the Church of Antioch experienced and continues to suffer from, on account of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem's violation of her canonical borders and the establishment of a so-called "diocese" for it in Qatar. In this context, she calls for a return to the principle of the unanimity of the autocephalous churches in taking critical decisions. It is a principle that has long helped the Orthodox world to avoid further fragmentation and schisms.

Met. Kallistos on the "faithful and monogamous homosexual"

The Timothy Ware that wrote The Orthodox Church that brought so many to the Church so many years ago is hard to find in the Metropolitan Kallistos who pens things today.

(Pappas Post) - One of the world’s foremost Orthodox Christian theologians has published a provocative commentary that has already sparked debate in Orthodox Christian circles throughout the world.

In The Wheel Magazine, which calls itself a “journal of Orthodox Christian thought and culture” that seeks to share stories and commentaries “intelligently and constructively for the 21st Century—a pluralistic era which presents Christianity with new and unique challenges, demanding a creative re-imagination of its social identity and role in public discourse.”

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia penned a multi-page foreword for Spring/Summer 2018 edition of the magazine in which he outlines and analyzes the Church’s approach towards homosexuals in the context of the Orthodox Church’s rules and how they are treated.

Ware, who is a celebrated scholar, theologian and author and former lecturer of Orthodox Christian studies at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, opens a public dialogue on the matter– one that has often been ignored or kept behind closed doors amongst prominent Orthodox Christian leaders.

Ware writes, “In the past, Orthodox have usually been reluctant to discuss such matters; but the questions cannot now be avoided. Silence is not an answer.”

Ware asks the rhetorical question– and proceeds to answer in his own perspective, “What, then, has the liturgical rite to tell us about the meaning of marriage and sexuality?”

Portions of Ware’s commentary are below:

“With regard to homosexuality, the Orthodox Church today has undoubtedly to confront a series of difficult issues. Without accepting everything that is said by the three authors of the text “Jesus Christ and Same-Sex Marriage,” I fully recognise that they are dealing with genuine problems. I can see at least three anomalies in our current treatment of
homosexuals. First, until recent times, Orthodox thinkers did not make use of the concept of sexual orientation, as this is understood in contemporary psychology. More precisely, they assumed that there is only one orientation, and that is heterosexual. They considered that persons of homosexual inclination were such because of personal choice and were therefore willfully wicked. Nowadays Orthodox writers would normally prefer to make a distinction between orientation and action. Homosexual orientation, we would say, is indeed contrary to God’s plan for humankind, being one of the consequences of the fall.

“But homosexual men and women are not personally guilty of their orientation, because this is not something they have chosen; they only become guilty if by deliberate choice they decide to live out this orientation in their actions. They can choose to be celibate. This argument, however, places us in difficulty. Persons of heterosexual orientation have the option of getting married, and so in a positive way they can fulfill their erotic desire with the Church’s blessing through the God-given sacrament of holy matrimony.

“But homosexuals have no such option. In the words of Vasileios Thermos, “A homosexual subject is called to lead a celibate life without feeling a vocation for it.” Are we right to impose this heavy burden on the homosexual?

“A second anomaly is to be found in the way homosexuals are commonly treated in the sacrament of confession. All of us recognize that there is an important distinction to be made between those homosexuals who engage in casual encounters, seeking out in some “gay” bar a partner for a single night; and on the other hand, those homosexuals who are committed to a permanent relationship, faithful and monogamous, in which deep love is involved. Surely no Christian is in favour of sexual promiscuity. Yet what frequently happens in confession?

“Let us suppose that the one who is promiscuous comes to feel a sincere revulsion for his way of life, and with genuine penitence resolves to pursue a life of purity in the future. In that case, he will probably be given absolution by the priest and will be permitted, perhaps with certain restrictions, to receive holy communion. For a time, he refrains from sexual activity, but then from frustration and loneliness he relapses into another casual encounter. After that he repents, and is absolved, and is once more blessed to receive communion. Then after a time he again lapses. So the cycle continues.

“What happens, by contrast, to the faithful and monogamous homosexual? Perhaps the priest says in confession, “Are you willing to give up your homosexual relationship?” The penitent may answer, “I cannot do that.” The priest may rejoin, “You can continue to share a common life, marked by mutual affection; but will you abstain from further sexual activity?”

“The other may well reply, “I am not yet ready to undertake that.” (Yet I have known homosexuals who have indeed transformed their relationship in this way.) The priest, faced with this refusal, may well feel that he cannot bless the penitent to receive the sacrament.

“Now here certainly is a paradox. The homosexual committed to a stable and loving relationship is treated more harshly than the homosexual who is casual and promiscuous, and who is seeking not true love but passing pleasure. Something has gone wrong here."


“Why do we put so great an emphasis upon genital sex? Why do we seek to enquire what adult persons of the same sex are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms? Trying to gaze through the keyhole is never a dignified posture. What harm are they doing to others? (“Ah!” it will be said, “they are doing harm to themselves.”) I am not suggesting here that we should bluntly set aside the traditional Orthodox teaching, but we do need to enquire more rigorously into the reasons that lie behind it.”

The full commentary appears in the current edition of The Wheel, here.

See a PDF of Ware’s full commentary here.

Russian Church speaks on Ukrainian autocephaly issue

Moscow, June 18 (Interfax) - The Moscow Patriarchate believes that the creation of "a unified local church," for which the country's administration is calling, may have fatal consequences for the global Orthodox Church.

"Our unity with the Orthodox Church worldwide is real and undoubted for all its children. I am certain that the hierarchs, the clergy and the flock of the Constantinople Orthodox Church, like all other local churches, understand that and feel the same way. And our common duty now is to make every effort to prevent this unity from being destroyed and to prevent the attempts of healing the schism from leading to a new, deeper and more serious schism, which will cut into parts the whole body of the global Orthodox Church," Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, said in an interview with Interfax-Religion.

For those who are outside the Church, who are already divided from it, church unity does not mean anything, "it is really a phantom, just a sound," the metropolitan said. "They are ready to continue undermining it to secure their interests and the interests of a specific political administration," he said.

Metropolitan Hilarion said he disagrees with those who believe that there is no consensus in the Orthodox world on the issue of autocephaly, and that means that Constantinople can act at its own discretion on the "Ukrainian issue."

"The inter-Orthodox agreements on the issue of granting autocephaly exist. I am surprised to hear that they didn't exist. The document Autocephaly and Means of Proclaiming It was drafted and approved by the Orthodox Center of the Constantinople Patriarchate in Chambesy. All local Churches, including the Constantinople and Russian ones, signed it 25 years ago," Metropolitan Hilarion said.

The document contains a clear and detailed description of the main two aspects, he said. Firstly, autocephaly is granted to a specific part of a local Church with the consent of the Patriarchate to which this church region now belongs. Secondly, autocephaly is granted with the consent of the Assemblies and all other autocephalic Churches, the metropolitan said.

The document was updated and was approved at the inter-Orthodox preparatory commission in Chambesy in December 2009, he said.

"In my view, it's a model for achieving all-Orthodox consensus. Initially, all local Churches had different viewpoints on this issue, but as a result of free and fair discussions they managed to achieve a compromise that suited all parties and took into account all positions," the metropolitan said.

"Ignoring and overturning the very mechanism for granting autocephaly, which was developed by all Orthodox Churches together, means nixing the results of their interaction in the past 25 years," he said.

Metropolitan Hilarion said he doubts that the 12,000 communities, thousands of clergymen and monks and hundreds of monasteries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will agree with the attempt to decide their future behind their back.

Met. Nathanael of Chicago interviewed by local magazine

(Chicago Mag) - His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael (Symeonides) was chosen to lead the Greek Orthodox Christians of the region this year, formally assuming his role on March 24. Supervising fifty-eight parishes and two monastic communities spread across Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri, Metropolitan Nathanael follows a predecessor who led the Metropolis for 38 years. Born in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 1978, he served as a priest in New York City-area parishes and as Director of the Office of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

I sat down with Metropolitan Nathanael to talk about his particular background and interests, and what he envisions for the role of his church in the region.

What are your impressions so far of the city and the region?

Chicago is kind of a smaller version of New York. Much cleaner. People are friendly like people in New York. It’s a big city that has everything that you could ever want. The churches themselves, our Orthodox churches, are very similar in makeup and the kind of services they offer.

But then whenever you get into the outer states, that’s very different. In Iowa you have churches that are three hours apart from one another. You have churches that are forced to figure things out on their own because they don’t have anyone else around them, priests that are at the mercy of their parishioners. There’s very little support around them.

In the other states, are these long established parishes or are they missions? Are they both?

In Sioux City I have a church that’s celebrating a centennial, and our national archdiocesan presence is less than 100 years old. We have parishes that were established long before the Archdiocese was formally incorporated. We consider them mission parishes because they’re not as large.

But I’d like them to be more centers of evangelism, because our understanding of missions in the United States is more like a small parish that’s figuring things out. A startup rather than a place for expansion. I’d like for these churches to teach us how to be better evangelists. Because here when you have a church with a thousand families you forget that we all have that same mission to go and share the gospel. We just get comfortable and content with a thousand people. Whereas the [small parishes] have no choice but to be evangelists.

You have a background in ethics and bioethics. There are major centers of research and higher education in the Chicago area and in the region, as well as industry and agriculture. Bioethics seems like an area where there is there’s a lot of important things happening and where the church might have a distinctive voice. Where do you see that background coming into play in your in your work here?

Bioethics can be applied on a daily basis. Most of what we eat has some sort of genetic modification in it. Plastic and chemicals seep through the bottles that we use and that affects our biologies. We have some of the largest medical centers here in Chicago and in the Midwest. People are coming to take advantage of advancements in biotechnology. People will ask the church to offer some insight on how to approach some of these challenges—whether it’s artificial or assisted reproduction, organ transplantation, automated cars, and slowly moving into artificial intelligence. How is that going to affect who we are in the interplay between humanity, biology, and technology?

It will be helpful that I can understand the science behind all of this. As we confront new challenges and new opportunities, it’s always good for the church to understand where science is coming from before we respond to it. At first these things begin outside of the scope of daily use but eventually they become more and more common. It’s good for us to respond in an informed way and to use that as a way to engage in a dialogue with the rest of society.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Ukrainian autocephaly discussions continue worldwide

Tsilisi, June 5 (Interfax) - The Georgian Patriarchate is awaiting the Constantinople Patriarchate representative's visit to discuss the recent events related to the future of Ukrainian autocephaly.

The Constantinople Patriarchate has already informed the Patriarchate about his representative's upcoming visit, the Georgian Patriarchate secretary Archpriest Mikhail Botkoveli told reporters on Tuesday.

This visit is expected in mid-June, he said.

The Ukrainian church's issue was discussed at a meeting between Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia and the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who is visiting Tbilisi, on Monday, he said.

Metropolitan Hilarion briefed Ilia II of the Russian Orthodox Church's stance on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's autocephaly, the priest said.

As to the Georgian Orthodox Church's stand, "it is a very complicated issue" determined by canonical rules, he said.

The Georgian Orthodox Church will take a stance, which the Churches will agree on, he said.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Of Rome, Russia, Unia.

Moscow, May 31 (Interfax) - The Vatican strongly supports the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church, Pope Francis said during a meeting with a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate led by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk.

"In your presence, and especially in front of you, my dear brother, I would like to emphasize again that the Catholic Church will never use an approach provoking divisions. We will never let that happen. I don't want that. There is only one Patriarchate in Russia, yours. And we will not have another," the pope was quoted as saying on Thursday by the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The pope also said he sees the Unia as an unacceptable method of achieving church unity in relations between Orthodox and Catholic Christians and believes that brotherly dialogue is the only possible way to achieve greater unity, the Patriarchate said.

"Catholic Churches should not interfere in the internal affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, including for political reasons. Such is my position and the position of the Holy See today. Those who do differently do not obey the Holy See," the pope said.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

New Primate for Estonian Church elected

Moscow, May 30 (Interfax) - The Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate held an extraordinary session at the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Tallin with the view of electing the Primate of the Estonian Church.

As the result of the secret vote, Archbishop Yevgeny of Vereya, vicar of Patriarch Kirill, chairman of the Education Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church, rector of the Moscow theological schools, was elected Primate of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, website of the EOC MP reports.

Archbishop Yevgeny (Valery Germanovich Reshetnikov) was born in Kazakhstan in 1957 and spent some of his childhood and youth years in the city of Kirov. He did his military service in 1977-1979.

Upon demobilization he worked at the diocesan administration of Vyatka, at the same time serving as subdeacon of Bishop Khrisanf (Chepil) of Vyatka and Slobodskoy.

He graduated from the Moscow Theological Seminary in 1983 and from the Moscow Theological Academy in 1987. Candidate of Theology, Archbishop Yevgeny wrote his thesis on the Pastoral Ministry in the Russian Church in the 10th – 13th Centuries.

He took monastic vows with the name Yevgeny on July 27, 1986, was ordained hierodeacon on August 3, and hieromonk on August 28. In March 1988 he was elevated to the rank of hegumen.

On January 1, 1989 he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed vice-rector for administrative work of the Moscow theological schools. From November 16, 1990 onwards he served as inspector at the Moscow Theological Seminary.

On August 6, 1991 he was appointed rector of the Stavropol Theological Seminary. On February 28, 1994 he became acting chairman of the Education Committee of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

On April 16, 1994 he was consecrated as Bishop of Vereya, vicar of the Moscow Diocese.

On July 18, 1995 he was appointed rector of the Moscow theological schools, having retained his position as acting chairman of the Education Committee.

By the decision of the Holy Synod of July 18, 1998, he was appointed chairman of the Education Committee.

On February 25, 2000 he was elevated to the rank of archbishop.

Since March 22, 2011 he has been a member of the Supreme Church Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Archbishop Yevgeny is a member of the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission, the Synodal Canonization Commission (since 2015), and the Coordinating Centre for Promoting Theological Science in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Evangelical - Orthodox conference set for June at Holy Cross

(OCA) - Since 2010, Orthodox and Evangelical scholars and leaders from around the world have been meeting annually to promote better understanding. Known as the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative [LOI], the group’s conference this year will be hosted by ​Hellenic College-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and its Missions Institute of Orthodox Christianity on the school’s campus in Brookline, MA June 5-7, 2018.

Representing the Orthodox Church in America at the gathering will be Archpriest John Jillions, OCA Chancellor; Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary; Archpriest David and Matushka Rozanne Rucker, Orthodox Christian Mission Center Alaskan missionaries; Archpriest Edward Rommen, Adjunct Professor at Duke University Divinity School; and Priest Christopher Moore, former OCMC missionary in Mongolia who will be serving as a missionary in South Korea. Also attending will be Dr. Grant White, Sessional Assistant Professor of Liturgical Theology at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY, who resides in Finland.

As part of the conference, two of LOI’s founders—His Grace, Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, and Bob Doll, Chair of the Lausanne Movement’s Board—will offer a free public lecture titled “Workplace Discipleship” at the Archbishop Iakovos Reading Room at 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6.

The goal of the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative is to reflect constructively on the history of relationships between Orthodox and Evangelicals in order to work towards better understanding and encourage reconciliation and healing where wounds exist. Through this process, Evangelicals and Orthodox are mutually enriched and strengthened in the work of mission, working towards mutual respect, support, and cooperation in the spirit of our Lord’s prayer for His Church in John 17.

The conference is open to the public. There is no cost to participate.

The Holy Spirit as fire - St. Gregory the Dialogist

(orthognosia) - You have heard that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in tongues of fire. But why did the Holy Spirit, co-eternal with the Father and the Son, appear as fire? Why as tongues of fire? Why does He sometimes appear as a dove and at other times as a flame? Why did He descend as a dove upon the Only-begotten Son, but as a flame upon the disciples? The Holy Spirit appears as fire because, in the words of the holy Apostle Paul, God is an ethereal, indescribable, and invisible fire: “For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). God is also called fire because He destroys the rust of sins.

But the Lord sends fire down to earth when with the breath of the Holy Spirit He enflames the hearts of mortal men. And the earth lights up when a heart of flesh, that is cold in its iniquitous pleasures, abandons the desires of the modern world and becomes enflamed with love for God. Thus the Spirit very properly appeared as fire, because from every heart in which He chooses to dwell, He dispels the numbness of ice and enflames such a heart with a desire for eternal life. And the reason He appeared in tongues of fire was because the Spirit is co-eternal with the Son, while the Son is the Word of the Father; thus, just as the tongue is in close proximity to the word, so the Holy Spirit appeared in flaming tongues, in order to show the Spirit’s particular closeness to the Word of the Father. Furthermore, the Spirit also appeared in tongues of fire because He causes everyone in whom He dwells to be ardent and cogent.

Church teachers possess tongues of fire, because in their sermons on the need to love God they kindle the hearts of their listeners. This flame was acquired from the mouth of the Lord Himself by those who said: “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us… and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32), because from the spoken word the spirit is kindled, its cold rigidity is dispelled, the soul begins to burn with lofty aspirations, and distances itself from earthly desires. Celestial commandments are never heeded with a cold heart, but with a heart burning with the fire of inner love for them.

The Holy Spirit appeared both as a dove and as fire, because He makes all those whom He encompasses both pure and ardent – pure as a dove and fiery in their ardor. Such a combination of ardor and purity is the only one acceptable to God. Thus, since the Spirit teaches both righteousness and purity, He had to appear as a dove, so that every heart touched by His grace would be tranquil with meekness and fiery with ardor for the truth.

Yet why did the Holy Spirit appear as a dove over our Redeemer, our Intercessor between God and men, but upon the disciples He descended as fire? It is well-known that the Only-begotten Son of God is the Judge of mankind. But who could have borne His judgment if He, before gathering us together in meekness, had judged our sins with ardor for truth? Thus, having made Himself Man for the sake of men, He appeared meek before men. He did not want to destroy sinners, but wished to gather them to Him; He wished first to rectify them through meekness, in order to have with Him those who could later be saved on the Day of Judgment. For this reason the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove over the One Who came not to destroy sinners through ardor, but to bear them a while longer through meekness. On the other hand, upon the disciples the Holy Spirit had to descend as fire, so that they, being plain people and even sinners, could spiritually enflame other slaves of sin to rebel against their sins and to cleanse by means of repentance those sins which God had spared through meekness. And the fact that even adepts of the Heavenly Teacher are not without sin is confirmed by St. John, who says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Thus the Holy Spirit descended as fire upon people and as a dove upon the Lord because we, in our ardor for truth, must carefully notice and burn with the fire of constant repentance those of our sins which the Lord mercifully bore through meekness. Consequently, the Spirit appeared over the Redeemer in the form of a dove and over people in the form of fire, because the more moderate is our Judge’s strictness towards us, the more must our weakness be enflamed against its own self.