Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Expelled monk charged with murder of Coptic abbot

(Catholic Herald) - A former monk has been arrested by Egypt’s public prosecutor following the murder of Coptic bishop Anba Epiphanius.

Bishop Epiphanius, 64, who was Prior of the monastery of St Macarius in Wadi Natrun, was discovered dead on July 29 with significant injuries to both his head and hands; the result of multiple blows with an iron pole. According to the monks of St Macarius, Bishop Epiphanios was last seen alive leaving his cell at dawn to attend the Matins Praise that precedes Sunday Mass.

Following Bishop Epihanius’s death, the Coptic Church released a statement in which they described the bishop as a monk and a scholar, adding that Pope Tawadros “mourned in Anba Epiphanius a true monk whose life was steeped in meekness and humbleness; also a scholar who possessed a wealth of knowledge that fruited research and publications in various branches of ecclesiastical studies. The Pope prayed for peace for his soul, and comfort for the St Macarius monk assembly as well as all who loved the late Abbot.”

Pope Tawadros II has since delegated his secretary, Fr Angaelos Ishaq, to head up enquiries into the matter whilst the Church has begun investigations into allegations of improper behaviour among the monks and halted the admission of new applicants to its monasteries for the next year.

The arrested monk, Wael Saad Tawadros, formerly known as Ishaia’ al-Maqari, was expelled from the order in the days following the murder for what ecclesiastical authorities have referred to as “continuous violations” of the duties of his religious life and order. According to sources, Wael Saad had been a frequent troublemaker and a member of a group of six monks who had consistently disobeyed their abbot. In February he narrowly escaped an order to leave the monastery for three years following a successful appeal by his fellow monks, who wanted to give him the chance to change his ways.

On August 4, Wael Saad unsuccessfully attempted to commit suicide by drinking a pesticide and was taken to Damanhour public hospital whereupon, following a brief period of treatment, he was returned to the monastery.

Meanwhile another one of the monks under investigation by authorities has also since attempted suicide. He is currently receiving treatment at a Cairo hospital and has been taken into detention for questioning by the prosecution.

Bishop Epiphanios’s death comes during a tumultuous and uncertain time for Christians in the region. According to Open Doors, 128 Christians were killed in Egypt for their faith in 2017, and more than 200 driven from their homes.

“Who Is Teaching Our Children” webinar upcoming

CHICAGO, IL (OCA-DMW) — His Grace, Bishop Paul invites the faithful of the Diocese of the Midwest to join him for the second in his series of interactive live stream webinars on Family Life at 7:00 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, August 21, 2018.

Bishop Paul will explore the timely theme, “Who Is Teaching Our Children,” and he will field questions and answers from participants throughout the interactive webinar.

“The live, online meeting will offer an opportunity for parents, grandparents, godparents and teachers to pose their questions to Bishop Paul,” said Priest Jacob Van Sickle, a member of the Orthodox Family Life web team. “The Question and Answer Session is part of the broader initiative described on the diocese’s new Orthodox Family Life website, which made its debut in April 2018.”

Register now to participate in the webinar and to receive weekly website updates.

The Orthodox Family Life site offers a detailed, ongoing account of Bishop Paul’s vision with regard to the centrality of the family in the life of the Church. The site features weekly reflections by Bishop Paul on a variety of related themes, reader questions and comments, and a growing collection of writings by noted guest authors.

“Weekly updates in the form of reflections by Bishop Paul and guest contributors will continue to amplify the site’s offerings in the months and years ahead,” added Father Jacob. “We hope that many in our diocese — and beyond — will take advantage of the August 21 webinar and the ever-expanding contents on the Orthodox Family Life website.”

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Blessing of Fruit at Holy Transfiguration Monastery

Mother Christophora and the Sisterhood of the Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA, welcomed hundreds of hierarchs, clergy and faithful from across the United States and Canada to their annual pilgrimage on August 4-6, 2018 - which marked the 50th Anniversary of the monastery’s founding by the late Mother Alexandra. The traditional Blessing of Fruit was celebrated after the Liturgy.

Friday, August 10, 2018

A new map: Orthodox Bishops and Parishes in the US

(AOB) - A new map, Orthodox Bishops and Parishes in the United States, is now available on the Assembly's website. The updated map shows: a) locations, names and jurisdictions of all active Orthodox bishops in the United States and b) the total number of Orthodox parishes in each county. The map is in PDF format and can be downloaded here (PDF).

How can we baptize infants?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

This will amuse... some... of you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Memory Eternal, servant of God Kevin Allen

Kevin Allen and I chatted a bit over the years. We'd discuss current events or formulate questions for upcoming interviews or converse about the state of Orthodoxy in general. He both cared deeply about the Church and was often mystified by the way her leaders acted when Tradition often pointed at a very different way of doing things. He was a very kind and insightful man and I think he did a lot for the Faith in America. We don't need another Kevin Allen. We need another 100 or 1,000 Kevin Allens to fulfill the ministerial role he took up for our Church. That would be a good start, I think, towards putting Orthodoxy on the right track in the New World.

So I join my prayers with the reposed servant of God Kevin that his love for God and His Church flourish in God's Kingdom as it did on earth.

'I also pray to God ceaselessly to turn my heart into a “love vessel” because as Orthodox Christians we do not believe that the afterlife is merely a place where we are sent or go, but an experiential state of being, and love is most important in preparing us for being in God’s all-holy and loving presence.'

Grant rest eternal in blessed repose, O Lord, to Thy servant Kevin, who have has fallen asleep, and make his memory eternal!

Add caption
(orthochristian.com) - Kevin Allen, the award-winning host of the Orthodox podcast “The Illumined Heart” on Ancient Faith Radio, reposed in the Lord early this morning according to a post on his Facebook page.

The message reads:

It is with great sadness that today, August 7th at 3:53am, Kevin Allen, our dear and most beloved father, husband, grandfather, brother, godfather, and friend, lost his battle with ALS and fell asleep in the Lord surrounded by family. May his memory be eternal.

A short biography on Ancient Faith Radio shows Kevin’s long journey into the Orthodox Church:

Kevin's personal faith journey began as a Hindu and it was in a Hindu ashram where he had a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ at eighteen. His subsequent quest led him to exploration of Roman Catholicism, and Evangelicalism before discovering and converting to Eastern Orthodoxy in 1994. His ministry goal is to provide Orthodoxy with a voice in the public square as well as to promote the plausibility of Orthodox Christianity to Christian and non-Christian seekers.

From February 2007 to April 2011, Kevin hosted more than 150 episodes of “The Illumined Heart” podcast, delving into topics such as forgiveness, food and faith, music and hymnology in the Church, marriage as a path to holiness, and much more. He also hosted the podcast “Ancient Faith Today” from April 2012 to February 2016.

Kevin was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in May of 2016. Reflecting upon his diagnosis, he writes:

In the Orthodox spiritual tradition, we are encouraged to be ever-mindful of our mortality, not in a depressed or despondent way of course, but so we can prioritize what is most important, as this life is the entry way to eternal life. But when I heard the diagnosis and in the days that followed I realized that I had been thinking of my mortality in a more theoretical way. I had been kicking the ‘mortality can’ down the road and assumed I’d live to an older age. Now it was right there in front of me and I had to face it.

He goes on to describe how he reacted to his diagnosis and how he began to prepare for death, encouraging others with longer terminal illnesses to “look at this as a blessing from God to prepare themselves.”

Through his ministry, Kevin Allen has been a blessing from God to many. May his memory be eternal!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Several sources confirm Pat. Kirill visiting Constantinople

(RISU) - The office of the Secretary General of the Holy Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate reported that the meeting of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow would be held at the request of the latter.

On August 31, Moscow Patriarch Kirill will meet in Istanbul with Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew, the office of the Secretary General of the Holy Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate reported on Facebook, according to Gordon edition.

The meeting will be held at the request of the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. During the visit, Patriarch Kirill will discuss with Patriarch Bartholomew and “the competent bodies of the Mother Church the issues of mutual interest.”

Greek religious media outlet Vima Orthodoxias reports that the Patriarchs will discuss the issue of providing autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.

In April 2018, the Ukrainian parliament turned to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with a request to bestow the Tomos – a decree of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church urged the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to support efforts to establish a unified Ukrainian Church.

The deputy head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate Mykola Danylevych replied that the initiative would end in a “big nothing”.

On April 22, President Petro Poroshenko said that the Ecumenical Patriarchate began to consider the request of Ukraine.

According to Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zoria), the spokesman of the UOC-KP, the issue of granting the Tomos may already be considered in September.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Met. Joseph initiates new departmental data handling rules

(Antiochian.org) - To: Department Heads
Re: Information Policy and Data Governance

Beloved in the Lord,

Blessings and greetings in the Name of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. I pray this email finds you well.

The Department of Internet Ministry is embarking on creating an Information Policy for the Archdiocese that will define how we manage and communicate information and data that the Archdiocese collects and archives. The Information Policy will not only protect the Archdiocese but also provide transparency to the people we collect the information from, on how their information is being used and stored within the Archdiocese. Members of the Department of Internet Ministry will be reaching out to you to understand the type and nature of information your departments collect and store. Please be responsive to their request.

Wishing you and your families all of God’s blessings, I remain,

Your Father in Christ,
+JOSEPH Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of all North America ​

Coptic Pope Tawadros II issues new laws for monastics

One wishes we in America had such rules and episcopal oversight of our monasteries.

CAIRO (Egypt Today) - 4 August 2018: Egyptian bishops deactivated their social media accounts after Pope Tawadros II had issued a set of rules regulating monasticism on Thursday. Although the decision only addresses monks, the bishops’ initiative aims at setting an example of obedience to younger generations at convents.

The Pope himself deactivated his accounts. The rules consist of:
  1. Halting all applications for monasticism in Orthodox convents in Egypt for a year starting August 2018.
  2. Monasticism and priesthood will be withdrawn from any individuals who had established convents without acquiring consent from the patriarchy. Founding new convents will not be authorized but reviving old ones under the supervision of operating convents is allowed.
  3. The number of monks in each convents would be determined according to its capabilities and circumstances in order to improve the quality of monastic work.
  4. Halting monastic ordination of priests for three years.
  5. Regular Christians are not allowed in any monastic ordinances in preservation of monastic traditions and solemnity.
  6. Convents would receive visits and trips throughout the year. However, visit days will be restricted to Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during fasting. All churches must be cautious of visiting unauthorized places.
  7. Observing monks’ commitment to eternal life and avoidance of any deviations.
  8. Monasticism is deprived from monks in case of:

    • Media appearances by any means and for any reasons.
    • Getting involved in any financial deals or projects not assigned by the covenant.
  9. Leaving the covenant for no reason and going on visits without prior permission from the covenant’s head.
  10. Monks are not allowed to attend wreaths or funerals unless permitted by the covenant’s head with only two monks maximum allowed.
  11. Monks must deactivate their social media accounts within a month and abstain from inappropriate acts or risk facing measures taken by the church.
  12. All Christians should abstain from doing any financial deals or projects with monks. They must only provide donations - regardless of their type - to the head and associates of the covenant.
  13. Putting into effect the monasticism and covenant life management issued by the Holy Synod in 2013.

The rules were issued four days after the murder of Head of St. Macarius Monastery in Wadi El-Natrun, Bishop Epiphanius. However, the Spokesperson of the Orthodox Church Priest Boules Halim denied in statements to Associated Press on Friday any relation between the decisions and the bishop’s death saying that the goal is embedding discipline in monastic life.

Coptic abbott murdered in Monastery of St Macarius in Egypt

(Wataninet) - Further to news circulated this morning of the death of Anba Epiphanius, Abbot of the Monastery of St Macarius in Wadi al-Natroun in Egypt’s Western Desert, it has been revealed that Anba Epiphanius met an unnatural death; he was murdered.

Monks of St Macarius’s say he had left his cell at dawn to attend Matins Praise that precedes Sunday Mass, but was obviously intercepted by someone who came from behind him and hit him on the head with a sharp, heavy object.

The Abbot was later found by the monks lying in a pool of blood, dead. They directly called Pope Tawadros who hastened to delegate a number of bishops to check on the matter, as well as on the monks and monastery. The homeland security authorities and the prosecution were directly notified; they headed to the monastery, together with a criminal investigation team and forensic medicine investigators. The monastery is now closed until investigations are completed.

It is not yet clear whether the culprit came from inside or outside the monastery.
And also...
(MEE) - Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II has ordered himself and all monks off social media, calling it a "waste of age, life and purity", following the mysterious murder of a bishop in a monastery northwest of Cairo.

Bishop Epiphanius, the abbot of Saint Macarius Monastery in northern Egypt's Wadi el-Natrun, was found dead on Sunday in an incident authorities have said is highly suspicious.

As speculation began to swirl over the events, Tawadros II on Thursday instructed all monks under his authority to suspend their social media accounts, going one step further the next day by revealing he too would be leaving Facebook.

“Time is the most precious gift that God gives us every day and we must use it properly,” the pope said in his final Facebook post.

“A Christian should treasure his time, and the monk should leave everything and let his entire life be sanctified for the sake of God.”

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Pope of Rome changes mind, so entire Church changes mind

If this pope has highlighted anything that the Orthodox (read: me) find unsettling about the pontifical configuration of the Catholic Church, it is that he "speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals." The result of which is that a single man can change foundational Church teaching at will as he just did...

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has decreed that the death penalty is "inadmissible" under all circumstances and the Catholic Church should campaign to abolish it, a change in church teaching that could influence Catholic politicians and judges in the U.S. and across the globe.

The change, announced Thursday, was hailed by anti-death penalty activists and scorned by Francis' frequent conservative critics, who said he had no right to change what Scripture revealed and popes have taught for centuries.

The Vatican said that Francis had amended the Catechism of the Catholic Church — the compilation of official Catholic teaching — to say that capital punishment can never be sanctioned because it constitutes an "attack" on the dignity of human beings.

Previously, the catechism said the church didn't exclude recourse to capital punishment "if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor." Past popes have upheld that position, though St. John Paul II began urging an end to the practice and stressed that the guilty were just as deserving of dignity as innocents.

The new teaching says the previous policy is outdated because there are new ways to protect the common good, and the church should instead commit itself to working to end capital punishment.

"Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme means of safeguarding the common good," reads the new text.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

UOC-USA to remain under EP if Ukraine made autocephalous

(RISU) - Upon receipt of the Tomos of autocephaly, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-USA will remain a jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and will not join the One Local Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Anthony (Scherba) of the UOC-USA said this in an interview with the Voice of America.

“The UOC-USA is most likely to remain a jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” the hierarch believes.

At the same time, he does not rule out that, in the long run, the Orthodox believers of America will join the newly established Ukrainian Church.

“I do not say this will never happen. I have abandoned the word “never” long ago, when Ukraine gained its independence,” he adds.

Metropolitan Anthony has also defined the condition under which this association might occur. “This may happen when the newly-established Church in Ukraine reaches a certain level of maturity and operates beyond the limits of political processes and personal ambitions and interests. But in any case, we will continue to communicate and for us it is the greatest blessing,” said the hierarch of the UOC-USA.

More on the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix legal troubles

(CNA) - On April 26, the Phoenix eparchy filed a suit claiming that an employee benefits company had wrongly started a self-insured health plan with funds from the eparchy, which believed it was paying premiums to secure insurance products for its employees, Danielle Smith reported at Law360 (see here).

“The Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix said in its complaint that Aetna-owned Meritain Health Inc. and Ohio-based Employee Benefits Services Inc., or EBS, flouted their fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by using assets meant to pay insurance premiums for the eparchy's roughly 21 employees to pay for expenses and fees, among other things, instead,” Smith wrote.

It said EBS had also, prior to 2012, been selling health insurance also to the other Ruthenian eparchies in the US: Passaic, Pittsburgh, and Parma.

The Phoenix eparchy in 2012 joined the Eastern Catholic Benefit Plan, which the eparchy called in its complaint “the unregistered, fictitious name provided by Defendants of an employee welfare benefit plan … that was established and maintained to provide welfare benefits to participants.”

The eparchy said that “EBS falsely promoted ECBP … as a fully-insured health plan that would provide equivalent benefits at lower costs than the insurance previously in place.”

It said it opened a joint checking account with EBS, which it understood and intended that all of the assets in the account were to be held in trust and used for the sole and exclusive purpose of paying insurance premiums for medical, dental and drug insurance benefits to the approximately 21 employees of the Eparchy of Phoenix who participated in ECBP and their eligible beneficiaries.”

This joint account “created a fiduciary relationship by and among ECBP, the participants of ECBP, the Eparchy of Phoenix and EBS,” the eparchy maintained.

Latin bishop placed in charge of Greek Catholic eparchy

WASHINGTON (Diocese of Phoenix) — Pope Francis has appointed the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted as the Apostolic Administrator Sede Plena of the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix. Bishop Olmsted will also retain his current Office as Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix.

The announcement was publicized in Washington on August 1, 2018 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Olmsted has served as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix since December 20, 2003.

Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, Bishop Olmsted served as Bishop of Wichita, Kansas from 2001-2003, after being ordained Coadjutor Bishop on April 20, 1999. Before serving in Wichita, he served as the Rector and President of the Pontifical College Josephinum, a Catholic Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. Since 1974, Bishop Olmsted has been a member of the Jesus Caritas fraternity of priests. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., July 2, 1973.

For 16 years, Bishop Olmsted lived in Rome, where he obtained a master’s degree in theology and a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University (1981) and worked more than nine years as an official in the Vatican Secretariat of State from 1979 to 1988. During his time in Rome, he was also an assistant spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College.

Bishop Olmsted is currently a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Bishop Olmsted’s full statement follows:

“The Holy Father has named me as the Apostolic Administrator for the Eparchy of Phoenix, also known more formally as the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix. (An eparchy is the same as a diocese in the Roman / Latin Church.)

Let me first state that this appointment has not come about because of any personal misconduct of any kind on the part of Bishop Pazak. Indeed, Bishop Pazak remains as the Bishop of this Eparchy.

However, over the past year there have been some disagreements about administrative matters within the Byzantine Ruthenian Church here in North America, of which the Eparchy of Phoenix is a part. Because of some unfortunate legal developments in these matters, their resolution has been unnecessarily complicated, which have unintentionally endangered the peace, unity and communion within the Eastern Catholic Church.

The Holy Father has determined that it is necessary to appoint an Apostolic Administrator for the time being in order to:
  • facilitate the task of resolving these legal matters, and;
  • to support the efforts on everyone’s part to build up the communion within among the other eparchies of the Eastern Catholic Church.
There is no fixed term to my appointment, and I am happy to serve in any way that will support my brothers and sisters in this Eparchy.”

The Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix (formerly known as the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Van Nuys) is the Catholic eparchy (diocese) governing most Byzantine Ruthenian Catholics in the Western United States. The Eparchy’s territorial jurisdiction consists of thirteen Western States. Currently, Holy Protection Eparchy of Phoenix has 19 parishes and one mission under its canonical jurisdiction.

The Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona comprises 43,967 square miles. It has a total population of 4,734,036 people of which 1,188,243 or 25 percent, are Catholic.