Sunday, December 9, 2018

EP at Great Vespers for St. Nicholas in South Korea

Saturday, December 8, 2018

UOC-MP bans all from Unification Council participation

Kyiv, December 7 (Interfax) - The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said that the Patriarch of Constantinople "has no canonical right to convene any meeting in Ukraine" and has banned its clergy and laypeople from attending the so-called unification gathering, the Church's information and enlightenment department said.

"The Holy Synod also stressed that Patriarch Bartholomew does not have the right to summon to such meetings the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's archbishops. The planned 'unification gathering' is an illegal meeting because it will involve representatives from schismatic groups," the UOC Synod said in a statement after its meeting in Kiev on Friday.

In view of this, and on the basis of the November 13 resolution of the Bishops' Council the UOC episcopate, clergy, monks, nuns and laypeople are not being blessed to attend the so-called unification gathering, the statement said.

"No [UOC] priest or layperson is authorized to represent the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at this gathering," the statement said.
And also...
Kyiv, December 7 (Interfax) - Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine and other bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who received invitations to the unification assembly have returned them without response to Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, the Union of Orthodox Journalists said, citing a source in church circles.

Most of the invitations were addressed to the heads of the local administrations, not the bishops themselves, and the bishops were summoned to the former's offices, where they were given the documents and encouraged to attend the assembly.

The envelopes containing the invitations also contained a copy of a letter from Patriarch Bartholomew to Metropolitan Onufry, which stated that Constantinople will consider Metropolitan Onufry a schismatic if he does not attend the assembly.

The purpose of the unification assembly, scheduled for December 15, is to create a Ukrainian church independent of the Moscow Patriarchate. The canonical Orthodox Church has declined to participate in this project.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Chryssavgis putting out "informational" videos on Ukraine

Let me be blunt and say that the Deacon Chryssavgis' videos put out when the Crete event was in full swing, filled with sweeping hand motions, grandiose delivery, and sometimes farcical statements were possibly my least favorite part of covering the kerfuffl-o-council. They reminded me of the videos of Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf (aka "Baghdad Bob") the Iraqi Information Minister famously claiming victory while the US blew through his forces and took the country in a matter of days. The Crete videos sought to give people some context for what was going on during the meetings in Crete, but often served to either enrage detractors or amuse them.

Chryssavgis, a contributor to the reviled Public Orthodoxy blog, has returned to YouTube with videos (see an example embedded below) on the Ukraine situation that describe what is going on in a way that I think will have an equally insalubrious response from many of the same people who opposed his viewpoints during the "Pan-Orthodox" Council in 2016.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

A score of nations seek to protect Byzantine monuments

(Greek Reporter) - An agreement called “The Charter for the Protection of the Byzantine Heritage Monuments” was unanimously ratified this weekend after a three-day meeting held in the city of Thessaloniki.

Representatives from twenty-one countries agreed on a framework of principles for the protection of Byzantine heritage for all areas comprising the former Byzantine Empire. The Empire spanned three continents, and its monuments are now spread out among 23 countries with different cultures, languages and religions.

The Byzantine Empire outlasted that of the the Romans, flourishing for over eleven centuries.

The creation of the Charter was the culmination of a lengthy process conducted over four meetings held in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2018. The Charter of Thessaloniki meetings were organized by the European Centre of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments.

We welcome the charter of Thessaloniki. The charter for the protection of Byzantine heritage monuments was Approved this morning by the delegates from 21 countries of the wider Mediterranean area 👏👏👏

— paolovitti (@pauvitti) December 2, 2018

The Charter aims to be a useful scientific tool for the countries which contain Byzantine-era monuments within their territories. Its principles encourage the different nations to enact measures to protect, study, and record the priceless monuments they contain.

The Thessaloniki plan also calls for the different countries to incorporate their priceless Byzantine-era monuments into modern society, in order to tell their stories to citizens and visitors.

Representatives of countries from the entire Mediterranean world as well as Bahrain and Syria participated in the Thessaloniki meeting, which was concluded on Sunday. The participation of Tunisia and FYROM, which was initially scheduled, was cancelled.

The Charter will be submitted to UNESCO for ratification. Membership will remain open so that other countries having Byzantine monuments and buildings may join.

The mission field in Africa continues to bear fruit

(OCMC) - The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria convened last week, presided by His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. During the synod, they made a number of major updates in the hierarchy of the Church of Africa.

Firstly, they established one new metropolis and five new dioceses throughout Africa:
  • Metropolis of Kananga
  • Diocese of Malawi
  • Diocese of Gulu and Eastern Uganda
  • Diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar
  • Diocese of Goma
  • Diocese of Kisangani
Additionally, they elected several new bishops:
  • Metropolitan-elect Daniel for the Metropolis of Axum
  • Metropolitan-elect Theodosios for the Metropolis of Kananga
  • Bishop-elect Fotios for the Diocese of Malawi
  • Bishop-elect Sylvestros for the Diocese of Gulu and Eastern Uganda
  • Bishop-elect Prodromos for the Diocese of Toliara and Southern Madagascar
All of these changes and developments reflect a growing Orthodox Church throughout Africa, and so we are very excited to hear about them! Please keep each of these bishops in your prayers, as well as all the Orthodox Christians of Africa, as they persevere to cultivate their churches and continue sharing the Gospel with all those around them.

Also, please continue to keep His Grace Bishop Athanasius of Kisumu and Western Kenya in your prayers after having fallen critically ill during a visit to the United States. May God strengthen and heal him, and may He comfort the faithful of His Grace's diocese.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"Unification Council" scheduled for December 15th in Ukraine

(UNIAN) - Participants in the unification council will elect the head of the newly created independent autocephalous local Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said the Orthodox churches in Ukraine will gather for a unification council on December 15.

Earlier it was reported that participants in the unification council would elect the head of the newly created independent autocephalous local Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Its head that is to be elected will be given a tomos on autocephaly.

As UNIAN reported earlier, a decision was announced after a meeting of the Holy Synod on October 11 that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceeds to granting autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine.

In addition, the legal binding of the Synod's letter of 1686 was abolished, thus taking the Kyiv Metropolis from under Moscow's canonical jurisdiction. Also, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) Filaret and head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) Makariy were reinstated in their canonical status.

On October 12, the UOC-KP urged the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) to prepare for a special unification council.

On November 3, Poroshenko and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I signed an agreement on cooperation and interaction between Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

On November 19, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople said the Holy Council of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine would be held in December.

On November 29, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate drafted the Ukrainian Church's constitutional charter in anticipation of the issuance of the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos.

A loosening of the church "legalization" process in Egypt

Egypt, throughout all the government regimes of modern times, has used certification of churches as a means of stopping church growth. Christians still build churches and occupy spaces all over the country, but they have historically faced government pressure, forced closures, and even the bulldozing of buildings when they do. If you combine control over church planting, the impossibility of conversion from Islam to Christianity, and the numerous deadly attacks on women and children you get a clear picture of the hostile environment with which this cradle of the Church is confronted.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – The regularisation of more than a hundred new churches and Christian places of worship "is a positive step" and confirms that the government intends to "put into practice" what is in the “law on irregular places of worship approved a year and a half ago," said Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, who spoke to AsiaNews about 168 churches and other Christian places of worship recently approved by a ministerial committee.

Chaired by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly (who is also Housing and Urban Utilities minister), the committee "legalised" 151 churches with another 17 set to follow.

"The approval process touches churches that lacked proper authorisation,” said the clergyman. “This is an administrative issue meant to grant a legal status to buildings" that belong to Egypt’s Christian minority, which has been recently targeted by Islamic extremist groups.

In the past two months, the committee looked at churches that had requested regularisation, giving the go-ahead during a session attended by officials from the ministries of Justice, Antiquities and Parliamentary Affairs. The prime minister also authorised the regularisation of other places of worship if they meet legal requirements.

Back in April, the Egyptian government had approved 166 irregular churches and Church properties, speeding up the process.

Before the 2016 reform, it was difficult for Christian groups to get the necessary papers to build churches and houses of prayer. According to official statistics, almost 3,800 applications have been made for amnesty so far.

In a country of almost 95 million people with a large Muslim majority, Christians (especially Orthodox Copts) represent a substantial minority of about 10 per cent.

In 2016 and 2017, Christians were the victims of several violent attacks. A military court sentenced 17 people to death in mid-October in connection with these attacks.

However, the authorities’ iron fist policy has not stopped attacks or violence. On 2 November, an armed group attacked a busload of pilgrims in a desert area south of the capital, killing at least ten people and wounding several more.

Egypt decides to keep modern-day Judenstern on Christians

(Daily Wire) - The Egyptian government voted down a referendum to remove religious affiliation from their citizen ID cards earlier this week, a move that many believe will usher in further persecution of the Christian minority living in the African nation.

Egypt has forced its citizens to identify their religious affiliations since the 1950s, a move that many have suggested makes it easier to target religious minorities. The proposed bill would have ended that requirement. It received widespread support from human rights groups within the country who were disappointed by its defeat.

The head of policy for the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms Sherif Azer told the Morning Star News, “Whenever there is a situation that requires showing your ID … you would be categorized right away.”

Azer added he thinks it was voted down out of fear of inter-faith marriages and other ‘societal’ problems perceived by the mostly Islamic legislature.

“This is something no … conservative or even moderate Muslim would accept,” Azer said speaking of Christian men marrying Muslim women.

“They would never say it specifically, but they would say it in the context that taking off the religion from the ID would cause chaos and would cause some social problems and will bring issues that we are not willing to face,” he added.

Christians, Muslims, and Jews are required to include their religious affiliation on their government ID cards. No other religion is listed as a choice for those applying for an ID.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

EP makes fourth visit to South Korea

Patriarch Bartholomew traveled to South Korea for the 50th anniversary of St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Seoul and give the opening speech at the Environmental International Symposium ‘Ecology, theology, and human dignity in Orthodox Christian tradition.'

"So you want to marry a heterodox?"

(OCA) - A new book, Mixed Marriage: An Orthodox History by Priest Anthony Roeber, Professor of Church History at Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Yonkers, NY, “will surely become a standard work on the subject,” according to Archpriest John A. McGuckin, Visiting Research Professor at Oxford University and Emeritus Professor of Byzantine Christian Studies at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary.

The volume—now available through Saint Vladimir’s Seminary [SVS] Press—explores historical documentation of incidents and practices regarding mixed marriages throughout the history of the Orthodox Church.

“Father Roeber’s excellent book offers a lucid and fascinating history of marriage and its relationship to the Church, the authority of the bishop, pastoral practice in relation to the administration of the Mysteries (how can a couple sharing in the sacrament of Orthodox marriage not be allowed thereafter to share in the Eucharist from which it flows?) and how that important, but often ill-defined term of oikonomia can address the issue of mixed marriage today,” said Father McGuckin. “The study’s strength is that it looks to the historical documentation of what happened in relation to mixed marriage in Orthodox past history, rather than following what is vaguely ‘supposed’ to have happened. Brilliantly and elegantly written, with a calm and surefooted perspective, it offers great interest for the specialist and layperson alike. This book will surely become a standard work on the subject.”

Father Anthony is the author of some 50 articles, six books, and three edited volumes. His most recent publications include the co-authored Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran Theological Conversation (Eerdmans, 2012) and Hopes for Better Spouses: Protestant Marriage and Church Renewal in Early Modern Europe, India, and North America (Eerdmans, 2013).

Monday, December 3, 2018

Salvation is not achieved through passive means

From the Palamas Institute, a post entitled “The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation is Therapeutic Not Legalistic!

Unfortunately, Orthodox Christians tend to overemphasize the therapeutic nature of salvation at the expense of our own moral and legal tradition.

This is unfortunate because Holy Tradition is deeper, broader and richer than that can be captured in a slogan.

We have a rich, legal tradition. Not only canon law to govern the internal life of the Church but also of legal theory to guide the Church in its relationship with the State. We also have well-developed moral theology that offers Orthodox Christians objective moral standards on which to base our lives.

To all this, we have an ascetical and liturgical tradition that seeks to heal the soul of the consequences of sin, foster a life of Christian virtue and deepen our relationship with God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But none of this makes any sense if we neglect our moral and legal tradition.

The other reasons these traditions matter is that as Orthodox Christians “therapeutic” means something very different than as we use the term today. Among other things, this means that priests are not psychotherapists in the same way as secular mental health professionals.

Finally, we need to remember that as important as it is, fidelity to the Tradition of the Church doesn’t exempt the person from the laws of human development or an evident need for psychological counseling.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Greeks making another push to complete Ground Zero church

NEW YORK (GOARCH) – The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has taken additional significant steps towards the resumption of construction and completion of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine.

A new Board of Trustees for St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine has been named, and on December 6, 2018, the feast-day of St. Nicholas, a ceremony of Affirmation of Office will take place at the headquarters of the Archdiocese, followed by a meeting to set a course forward and discuss issues of immediate concern. The St. Nicholas Board of Trustees will have the responsibility and care for the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas and the management of the related funds.

The new Board of Trustees will be comprised as follows: seven members will be of the original St. Nicholas parish, seven members are appointed by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and six ex-officio members will be the heads of six major organizations i.e.: The President of the National Ladies Philoptochos Society, the President of the Archdiocesan Presbyters Council, the National Commander of the Order of St. Andrew-Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Chairman of Leadership 100, the President of Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism, and the President of AHEPA.

Additionally, a new entity, the “Friends of St. Nicholas, Inc.,” has been created and a Certificate of Incorporation has been filed with the State of New York. It is a not-for-profit corporation, which has been created according to the recommendations of the Phase II Report produced by the Special Investigative Committee and PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services LLC (“PwC”) regarding the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine.

The Corporation has been formed in order to raise, invest, gift and disburse funds for the construction and improvement of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine. The initial directors of the corporation (who shall also be known as “trustees”) are Elaine T. Allen, Olga Pavlakos and Michael Psaros. The number of trustees will be increased up to 15 people and is expected to include individuals from all Metropolises of the Archdiocese. The articles of incorporation provide that the Corporation shall dissolve one year following the consecration of St. Nicholas and all the assets and property of the Corporation shall be distributed to or for the benefit of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine.

HR 390: Iraq & Syria Genocide Relief & Accountability Act

DENVER (Crux) - On Wednesday, the U.S. Congress adopted HR 390, titled the “Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018,” which now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk, where he’s expected to sign it into law.

First introduced two years ago, the bill makes it clear that victims of the ISIS genocide in Iraq, including Christians and Yazidis, should be included in American assistance to the region. It also features American aid for holding perpetrators accountable, including funding to develop local judicial and investigatory capacities.

For those concerned about the plight of suffering religious minorities around the world, very much including Christians, it’s obviously good news. In fact, there are at least three levels upon which HR 309 seems something to celebrate.

First, it means the world to the Christians on the ground in Iraq right now, struggling to keep one of the world’s most ancient Christian communities alive.

Second, it shows that 21st century America once in a while can still transcend partisan divides, as the author of the bill is a staunch Republican and the lead co-sponsor a liberal Democrat.

Finally, it’s a win for Catholic political engagement in America, as probably the lead non-governmental force behind the bill was the Knights of Columbus. (The Knights are also a principal sponsor of Crux.)

To begin, the bill provides for various forms of help to Iraq’s genocide victims:

Funding groups (faith-based and not) offering humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery.
Assessing needs and triggers inducing these survivors to flee.

Identifying warning signs in Iraq or Syria among groups that have been victims of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

Support for criminal investigations into ISIS perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Encourage foreign governments to add identifying information about suspected ISIS perpetrators to security databases and screening and to apprehend and prosecute perpetrators.

God knows these people need the help. Here’s how Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), author of the bill, laid out the argument when he introduced it in January 2017.

“Iraq’s Christian population is less than 250,000, down from up to 1.4 million in 2002, down from 500,000 in 2013 just before ISIS began targeting Christians for genocide,” Smith said.

“Having fled ISIS, these Christians may have to flee their homelands. Perhaps they will take the little money they have left and pay smugglers to get them to Europe,” he said. “They would risk becoming prisoners of human traffickers or perishing in the Mediterranean Sea, where more than 5,000 refugees and migrants died or went missing in 2016.”

The politics of the bill are also encouraging.

Smith is the author, and Representative Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) is the lead co-sponsor. In many ways, they’re a political odd couple. Smith has a 100 score from the National Right to Life Committee, Eshoo gets 100 percent from the National Abortion Rights Action League. Smith voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, Eshoo against. They clash over taxes and budgets, health care policy, and most other contentious issues.

Yet they’re both committed to persecuted Christians - a natural for Eshoo, the only member of Congress of Assyrian descent and co-founder of the House’s Religious Minorities in the Middle East caucus.

For Americans, it’s good news that such clear ideological rivals can find common ground on anything, despite today’s toxic partisan divides.

For persecuted Christians around the world it’s maybe even better news, because it suggests their suffering doesn’t necessarily have to be swept into the ideological sausage grinders that have come to dictate virtually every other debate in Western politics.

Finally, consider the NGOs supporting the legislation: The Knights of Columbus, Family Research Council, In Defense of Christians, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, Commission for International Justice and Accountability, HIAS, Aid to the Church in Need USA, Open Doors, A Demand for Action, Yezidi Human Rights Organization International, Religious Freedom Institute, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Syrian Accountability Project, and Civitas Maxima.

It’s an ecumenical lineup, including Catholic, Protestant and avowedly secular groups, and probably the prime mover was the Knights - who was also the leading force behind the U.S. government’s official recognition of what happened in Iraq as a “genocide”.

On Wednesday, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson hailed the House approval.

“The Knights of Columbus applauds the passage of HR 309, which makes clear that those targeted for genocide by ISIS should be included in American government assistance in the region,” Anderson said.

“The fact that this bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously shows that the American response to genocide transcends partisanship and that there is enormous political will to protect and preserve religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians and Yazidis, who were targeted for extinction,” he said.

Anderson’s statement included a reminder that since 2014, the Knights of Columbus has committed more than $20 million for relief efforts on behalf of Christians and other religious minorities in the region.

Assuming Trump signs HR 309 into law, it’ll be an object lesson that determined political engagement by faith-based groups can still make a difference.

In other words, there’s a lot to celebrate about what happened in the House of Representatives on Wednesday - and these days, being able to celebrate anything that happens in American politics pretty much defines a good day.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Pat. Bartholomew: Catholic & Orthodox concepts of primacy

Orthodox Synaxis is republishing documents from the Patriarchates and noted theologians that are pertinent to synodality in general and the recent unpleasantness in Ukraine in particular. Recently they posted the Ecumenical Patriarch's "A Declaration by Patriarch Bartholomew on the differences between the Catholic and Orthodox concepts of primacy in the Church" from 1995. It make for interesting reading in light of recent events. The entire thing is work reading, but some selections can be read with especial attention. Here's such a a snippet:

... This system of administration of the Church’s affairs, based on the joint responsibility and decentralization that our Orthodox Church applies, fundamentally explains the fact that, as much as is humanly possible, she preserves the ancient tradition intact. Because, in the absence of centralized administration and responsibility, in order to introduce an innovation in teaching or praxis, this must be agreed upon by all the bishops or by a very large number of them, which is difficult. Otherwise, the aberration has no reach beyond the territory of the one who is in error and typically does not outlive him, whereas in a centralized system where there exists the possibility of the preponderant voice, it is enough for the one who enjoys such a voice to accept the innovation and impose it on the others for the entire teaching or ethos of the Church under his jurisdiction to be changed. Moreover, it is much easier for one innovator rather than several to put himself at the head of the Church; it is easier for only one, rather than several, to be mistaken.

Furthermore, it is the Lord Himself who guarantees the judgment of two gathered in His name, having declared that He is in their midst (Matthew 18:20) and that if they agree to ask for anything, it will be granted to them; even more so if their demand is to be preserved in the truth.

There is no similar promise of the Lord that He will be with and collaborate with just one who separates himself from the others and places himself above the others.

According to the experience of the Orthodox Church, the decentralized conciliar system has moreover the advantage of preventing someone from imposing himself upon the Church and arrogating for himself central power which, in any case, does not exist. He must apprehend all the bishops installed in their local bishoprics, a dangerous enterprise. Given that each Church enjoys a complete organization, the eventual abolition of the spiritual center to which she belongs does not influence her functioning.

The apparent inconvenience of the Orthodox Church — that, not having a central administration, she lacks power — proves in the end to be an advantage, as the Orthodox Church does not rely on secular power, which has no reality, but rather on the power of God...

Official Communiqué from Constantinople

(EP) - The Holy and Sacred Synod convened under the chairmanship of His All-Holiness for its regular sessions from Tuesday, November 27, to Thursday, November 29, 2018.

During its sessions, it examined all of the items on the agenda, upon which the appropriate decisions were made, including the following:

a. Upon the recommendation of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, within the context of his canonical responsibility, the Holy and Sacred Synod reorganized the status of the “Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe,” thereby entrusting its faithful to the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne in Europe.

b. The Holy and Sacred Synod, in unanimously accepting the proposal of the Autonomous Church of Finland under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, recorded in the Hagiologion of the Orthodox Church the Venerable John of Valamo (1873-1958), and the Holy Martyr and Confessor, John of Ilomantsi (1884-1918), both of whom lived and worked there.

c. Finally, in the context of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s previously-made decision to grant autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine, and in anticipation of the issuance of the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos, the Holy and Sacred Synod drafted the Ukrainian Church’s Constitutional Charter.

At the conclusion of these sessions, His All-Holiness and His Eminence Metropolitan Panteleimon of Vryoula, on behalf of the Holy and Sacred Synod, exchanged festal addresses for the upcoming feasts of Christmas and the New Year.

At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 29th of November, 2018

From the Chief Secretariat
of the Holy and Sacred Synod