Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Strength in Unity" documentary on Memorial Day Pilgrimage

Save one scraped knee, our family has finally recovered from the pilgrimage. Below is another great documentary from from ROCOR media office.

Words of advise: Wear the right shoes (treat this like a mountain hike). A hat is advisable (especially if you are going to wear a cassock) as is sunscreen. Watch your small children and advise them to take breaks if they look like they need them. There will be photos and video before, during, and after the pilgrimage - be comfortable, but recognize that thousands of people will be looking at pictures of you.

Arab Spring a trampoline for Christians into oblivion

(Gatestone Institute) - According to the popular Egyptian website, El Bashayer, Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, just declared that he will "achieve the Islamic conquest (fath) of Egypt for the second time, and make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizya," the additional Islamic tax, or financial tribute, required of non-Muslims, or financial tribute.

In a brief report written by Samuel al-Ashay and published by El Bashayer on May 27, Morsi allegedly made these comments while speaking with a journalist at the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, adding "We will not allow Ahmed Shafiq [his contending presidential candidate] or anyone else to impede our second Islamic conquest of Egypt."

After his interviewer pointed out that the first Muslim conquest of Egypt was "carried out at the hands of Amr bin al-As [in 641]," he asked Morsi, "Who will the second Islamic conqueror be?" Morsi, replied, "The second Muslim conqueror will be Muhammad Morsi," referring to himself, "and history will record it."

When asked what he thought about many Christian Copts coming out to vote for his secular opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, Morsi reportedly said, "They need to know that conquest is coming, and Egypt will be Islamic, and that they must pay jizya or emigrate."

If this interview is accurate, certainly Morsi would not be the first political Islamist in Egypt to say he wants to see the nation's Christians subjugated and made to pay jizya (see here for more examples).

However, considering that the English language media are currently reporting that Morsi is trying to woo Egypt's Christians and women to win more votes, it is difficult to imagine that he actually made those comments: one does not doubt that he favors the idea of a "second Islamic conquest" and the subjugation of Christians; one doubts that he would be so foolish as to reveal his mind now, publicly, and thereby jeopardize his chances of winning the presidency.

Then again, his remarks are reported in the context of a private meeting at the headquarters of the Brotherhood's political party. Perhaps Morsi thought he was speaking to a fellow Islamist who would not expose him? Perhaps he was frustrated at having to win Copts over and was "venting"? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Assembly of Bishops committee updates

(AOB) - The 2011 annual report for the Committee for Pastoral Practice is available here. This committee is charged with the important tasks of identifying the different answers the various jurisdictions have given to sacramental and pastoral problems, and for figuring out a way to provide a single answer for all of the Orthodox churches in North America. This includes such issues as how the Church handles marriages, divorces, and the reception of converts. This committee will try to find a resolution that is in accord with the Church's theology and her canonical practice. Ultimately, however, this committee will not make any decisions. Its proposals will be presented to all the bishops of the Assembly, who can then determine the best approach. Of course, some of these issues can only be settled by the Mother Churches, and it is this committee's responsibility to help the Assembly develop recommendations for the expected Great and Holy Synod which will include all Orthodox bishops throughout the world.

In addition, the Committee for Legal Affairs, which is chaired by Bishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, held its initial meeting by conference call on April 25, 2012. The work of the Committee is being facilitated by seventeen judges and lawyers who currently act as consultants. The Committee is scheduled to hold a face to face meeting in Atlanta on July 10, 2012.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Walking the 108th annual St. Tikhon's Pilgrimage

My family drove in to participate in this pilgrimage. When photos are made available I'll post a few up. My mind knows the almost 12 mile walk is over, but my legs do not yet believe it's ok to relax and quit aching.

The following day the Memorial Day events took place at St. Tikhon's and the monastery grounds were packed with people. Numerous services were offered throughout the day in different locations. In the height of the humidity and heat and in full sun fully vested bishops and clergy led healing services, akathists, molebens, and liturgies. They did so without complaint and in the company of faithful as far as the eye could see.

Looking forward to next year.

(ROCOR-Mayfield) - Full report chronicling the May 27th “Walking in Our Forefathers’ Footsteps” pilgrimage walk from St. John’s in Mayfield to St. Tikhon’s Monastery

With the Blessing of His Eminence, Hilarion Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and His Grace, George, Bishop of Mayfield, His Beatitude, Jonah, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) celebrated Hierarchal Divine Liturgy on Sunday, May 27th, 2012 in Saint John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Mayfield, PA.

This was the first time since 1982 that a Hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America has served in the Cathedral in Mayfield. In the early 1980′s the OCA decided to switch to the new style calendar, at the objection of many parishes. St. John’s in Mayfield held steadfast in the traditions of their forefathers, rejecting the calendar change nearly unanimously. It was then that a few dissenting parishoners, backed by the OCA Bishop at the time took St. John’s to court, in order to seize church property and assets. As a result of this, St. John’s, after an overwhelming majority vote, left the OCA, and joined the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. This was a difficult time for Father John, his family, and the Cathedral, but they endured patiently and the parish thrived.

May 17th, 2012 marked the five year Anniversary of the Reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia. Prior to the Reunification, ROCOR and the OCA were not in canonical communion. Since then, relations between the ROCOR and OCA have been normalized. Some four years ago, with the help of the now dean of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, Fr. Alexander Atty, Father John, the parishioners of St. John’s, and St. Tikhon’s Monastery and OCA bishops began on the road to forgiveness and healing. On May 27, 2012, Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the OCA arrived at St. John’s in the spirit of humility and reconciliation, even though he himself was not involved in any of the actions some 30 years ago. Asking forgiveness from the parishioners for the unfortunate and hurtful actions of previous OCA Bishops, Metropolitan Jonah remarked, “Truly today, an historical day, in which I come to you in the spirit of love, the spirit of forgiveness, the spirit of reconciliation. I know and understand, I fully acknowledge, and weep for the great pain that was caused by the decisions made by my predecessors, and ask for forgiveness.”

Friday, May 25, 2012

French documentary on Valaam to be subtitled in English

Way back in March I posted the French trailer (see here). I was just informed by the filmmaker that there will be English subtitle available. Below is the earlier released trailer with an English translation.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

First Things on "Russian Orthodoxy’s Unreconciled Dualism"

In recent days this has gotten a lot of attention. Most commentary I've read has been negative, but give it a read yourself. It's a hit-piece of the lowest order. I'm aggrieved that First Things saw fit to publish it.

(First Things) - At the height of the Cold War, political scientists questioned whether the Orthodox Church had become incompatible with the modern state. Although history textbooks highlight how patriarch and emperor were integral offices to the Byzantine Empire, the West has always had a far more tangible division between pope and prince. I would not say always; the Papal States come to mind. In Russia in particular, church and state have been in elaborate entanglement for centuries, the result of which has paradoxically been widespread abandonment of the practice of the faith. And contrary to those inclined to see a triumphant tale of Christianity emerging from communism, today’s Church remains plagued by the same ills it has borne for centuries. The closeness of the Russian Church to the State did not cause Communism. To say that the "result" of an Orthodox nation being close with its Orthodox hierarchy is a selective rewriting of history that ignores many of the causes of the revolution.

Today, the Cold War is history and the Russian Orthodox Church again enjoys religious freedom, yet it has little influence on public discourse, especially when compared with the impact of the Catholic Church, which weighs in on arguments even in countries where Catholics do not even comprise a majority (consider, for example, the recent successes prelates have had in setting the terms of the American contraception mandate and British gay marriage debates). Some Russians (and a fair number of Westerners) imagine this is simply the impact of Soviet atheism on the Russian people, but the reality is more complicated. Where has he been? The Russian Church's Department for External Church Relations has taken a very vocal and visible role on issues of Christianophobia, abortion, protection of the family and many other topics not only in Russia, but also in Europe. They have spoken at the Council of Europe, meetings of the European Union, and many other bodies in recent years in defense of Christian values. Additionally, the complaint of the day is that the Russian Church is too involved with political and moral debates (Putin, the Pussy Riot issue, gay parades, etc.).

The role of the Orthodox Church in the Russian Empire diverged significantly from that of any Western Christian denomination after 1648. The Tsar’s authority over them was derived from the Tsar’s authority over the Church.

In the 1650s, Patriarch Nikon sought to reform Russian Orthodox services and rituals by making them more true to historical Byzantine ceremonies in line with Moscow’s claim to be the “Third Rome.” And in the early 1700s Peter the Great further consolidated control over the Russian Orthodox Church by replacing the Patriarch of Moscow with the Holy Synod, a council of bishops overseen by a civil servant. The church effectively became a government ministry under the Tsar’s personal authority. Though this restored the Tsar’s legitimacy through the Church, the core ecclesiastical hierarchy fell into disrepute: by the nineteenth century, Orthodox priests were generally illiterate, sons of previous priests (they were required to marry), and unemployed. Forced to scrounge their subsistence from fees for Church services, Orthodox priests were regarded a social parasites by Russian intellectuals.

Monday, May 21, 2012

ROCOR, Russian Church reflect on 5 years of renewed unity

(ROC) - On 20 May 2012, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia met with Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, hierarchs and clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and with members of the working group for discussing issues of strengthening church unity.

Taking part in the meeting that took place at the hall of the Supreme Church Council of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, were also Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations; Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany and Great Britain, first deputy President of the ROCOR’s Synod of Bishops; Archbishop Feofan of Berlin and Germany; Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the USA; Archbishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe; Archbishop Mark of Yegorievsk, head of Moscow Patriarchate’s Administration for Institutions Abroad; Archbishop Innokentiy of Vilnius and Lithuania; Archbishop Yevgeny of Vereya, chairman of the Education Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church; archimandrite Savva (Tutunov), deputy chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate; archpriest Alexander Lebedeff, secretary for inter-Orthodox relations of the ROCOR’s Synod of Bishops; archpriest Nikolai Balashov, deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations; archpriest Serafim Gan, chancellor of the Synod of Bishops and personal secretary of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; and archpriest Andrew Phillips, member of the Spiritual Court of the Berlin and Western Europe diocese.

In his address at the opening, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill underscored that five years that had passed since the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and the ROCOR, were very important for the Church. Many people, who thought the reunification to be a certain dangerous experiment, have believed in unity, and “today we can say that it is not an experiment, but the real life of our Church,” His Holiness said.

The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church drew attention of the audience to the fact that during the last five years the Russian Church has refrained from any hasty steps in the matter of deepening the achieved unity.

As to those who has not accepted the unity and are still separated, His Holiness stated that there were a small number of them in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, yet it remains a problem and causes pain. He emphasized that the Russian Church is willing to do anything possible to help settle the problem thus alleviating the pain.

Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York thanked His Holiness Patriarch Kirill for consideration shown to the problems of the Russian Abroad. He confirmed that the separated communities constitute a small part of the ROCOR.

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, presented a report on the activities of the working group for discussion of the issues of strengthening church unity, noting the constructive and kind nature of the work.

The participants in the meeting exchanged views on the ways to further consolidation if the Russian Orthodox diaspora.

Primate of the Ukrainian Church of the USA reposes

(UOC-USA) - It is with a profound depth of sadness that we hereby inform you of the repose, in the morning of 21 May, 2012 in the 76 year of his earthly pilgrimage, of His Beatitude Metropolitan Constantine, the Ruling Hierarch of the Central Eparchy and the Primate of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

His Beatitude was stricken with a serious illness just a few weeks ago and was released only three days ago from a local Pittsburgh hospital, which enabled him to participate in the celebration of his 40th anniversary of Archpastoral ministry among the faithful of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. This celebration took place at the Dormition of the Mother of God Ukrainian Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks, PA with the presence of his brother Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchs and visiting bishops of other Orthodox jurisdictions, his family from the United States and his beloved spiritual children, the clergy and faithful of the UOC of the USA, South America and Europe.

O God of spirits and of all flesh, Who has trampled down death; You have overthrown the devil and have given Life to Your world: now give rest, Lord, to the soul of Your departed servant Metropolitan Constantine, in a place of light, a place of refreshment and a place of repose, where there is no sickness, sighing nor sorrow. As You are a Good God, Who loves mankind, pardon every sin, which he has committed, whether by word or by deed or by thought, for there is no man who lives and has not sinned. You alone are sinless, Your Righteousness is Eternal and Your Word is Truth. For You are the Resurrection, the Life and the Repose of your newly presented servant, Metropolitan Constantine, Christ our God and we give glory, together with Your Father, Who is Eternal and Your All-Holy, Good and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

11 martyrs glorified by Constantinople

(ERR) - The Synod of Constantinople has canonized 11 clerics and lay persons who perished during the first two years of the Soviet occupation of Estonia.

A decree of canonization was read today in the Church of Transfiguration of Our Lord in Tallinn that added 9 men and 2 women to the Orthodox Church's list of saints.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate canonized five priests, two deacons and four lay persons who were executed by the Soviet authorities or died in prison or in forced labor camps in 1940 to 1941.

The Orthodox Church of Estonia will hold a memorial service to the martyrs on the anniversary of the June 14, 1941 deportations.

Assyrian Church of the East considers restarting dialogue

(Business Standard) - The Synod of the Assyrian Church of the East (COE), one of earliest Christian congregations which has adherents in many countries, including India, will be held in Chicago, US, from May 24 to discuss topics like resumption of dialogue with the Catholic Church.

Three prelates from India would attend the eight-day meet of 15 metropolitans of COE from different continents.

According to Mar Apream, Metropolitan of the church in India, besides himself bishops Mar Yuhannan and Mar Augin from the country would attend the synod.

The Assyrian Church, which flourished in West Asia and whose adherents scattered over different countries over the centuries, has now its headquarters in Chicago.
Aprem, who is also the church's Patriarchal Delegate to India, told PTI here that the Synod would take up the key issue of resumption of Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and ACOE.

The dialogue between the Vatican and the COE began in 1985 with a view to ironing out the theological and liturgical differences between the two churches and a common "Christological Declaration" was signed by the head of the Assyrian Church, Mar Dinkha IV and the late Pope John Paul II in 1994.

Mar Apream, who is the Co-chairman of the Dialogue Committee, said the schism in the Church occurred at the council of phesus (Greece) in 431 AD, about 1600 years ago, centring mainly on the vexed issue of Theotokos (Mother of God or Bearer of God) and Christokos (mother of Christ or Bearer of Christ).

Friday, May 18, 2012

Serbian Church to glorify new saints

(SOC-NASA) - The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, during today's session rendered the decision to enter two priest martyrs and forty students-martyrs of Momisici and that their celebration (formal declaration of sainthood; canonization) be at the Holy Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the St. Sava Memorial-Church on Vracar on Saturday, May 19, 2012, led by His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia at which their long and prayerful respect among the faithful of the Serbian Orthodox Church will be confirmed.

History of the Martyrs of Momisici

Two priests, serving as religious education teachers, and their forty students, children from the parish mostly from the brotherhood of Popovic were burned alive in 1688 at the St. George Church in the modern day Podgorica suburb of Momisici, at the hand of the Sulejman-Pasha army of Skadar, as a sign of retaliation which the Osmanlija Turks suffered from the hill tribes the previous months, particularly from Kucha.

Their relics were gathered and buried beneath the holy altar table of the St. George Church. During the entire time of Turkish rule, the relics remained in this church until 1936 when, with great honor and the litiya-procession of the people the relics were transferred to the renovated St. George Church in Momisici and placed beneath the holy altar table there. In 2006 the relics were taken out for the faithful to venerate on the feastday of the Holy 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, known commonly among the people as Holy Youths Day, after which Metropolitan Amphilohije, together with the clergy, washed them with wine and anointed them with rose oil according to the ancient Orthodox custom. Since then they can be found in a reliquary on the left hand side of the iconostasis of the Momisici church of St. George, which, since then, has also been dedicated to their holy memory. In commemoration of the last finding of their relics, for some years now in the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Coastlands their liturgical commemoration is celebrated on the feast of the Holy Martyrs of Sebaste.

Obedient everywhere but where it counts

This was a letter to the editor at the New York Times earlier this week. I think this letter highlights something, but not what the author had in mind. The Fathers speak of obedience as a thing of unquestioned importance. Matched with humility, a life of askesis lived in community requires much of a monastic. So how did the Latin nuns of America go from the habited, pious women seen in black and white movies of old to the business suits and sensible shoes of today? That road was paved when living in community, a shared prayer life centered in a convent, was replaced with an emphasis on activism and social justice.

Often the goals were laudable, but they were striven for at the cost of the foundational construct that makes monasticism what it is. So today a nun can say that she knows what the orthodox opinion is (repeated for aeons in the Tradition of the Church), but believe that she knows better. I can no more imagine any Orthodox nun I have ever met saying this than imagine an Orthodox convent with a highly developed space program with aims on a lunar landing.

The current Pope of Rome acknowledged that his church will be a smaller and stronger organization in the future. He has rejected the idea that numbers matter as a benchmark of health and fidelity to the goals of the Church. It's safe to assume that many of the women religious in this country will break away individually or in groups, and there's no way to avoid it. Sometimes the ties that bind are so tenuous that any strain will sever the connection. So be it.

(NY Times) - Re “Nuns on the Frontier,” by Anne M. Butler (Op-Ed, May 16):

The account of the Vatican’s edict reprimanding American nuns for their liberal views on political and social issues is a stirring reminder of the courage and activism of American nuns.

Between 1971 and 1975 I taught in a college with one such nun I greatly admire. She was instrumental in the formation of the college, which served a primarily African-American population in Brooklyn, and in forming one of the first Harlem-based storefront schools for children.

I remember being startled one afternoon when a group of college faculty members were discussing reproductive rights, and Sister Ruth firmly stated her belief in a woman’s right to choose. She said she thought abortion should be legal and accessible.

I am not Roman Catholic, and Sister Ruth was the first nun I had ever met. I said: “Didn’t you take a vow of obedience? Don’t you have to oppose abortion rights?” She answered: “The church can tell me where to go and what to do, and I will obey. But no one can tell me what to think.”

I greatly admire the liberal, progressive nuns who are willing to take principled stands because they think for themselves. They are role models for all of us.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sometimes ecumenism goes too far...

More information on this ecumenical event in Trier, Germany here (in Greek). I don't have much in the way of specifics. This is said to be water being used.

The Oriental Orthodox participated.

No ecumenical event is complete without liturgical dancers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Antiochian House of Studies updates web resources

( - The Antiochian House of Studies School of Orthodox Theology, home of the St. Stephen's Program, has launched a new website section. The project centered on the work of two House of Studies graduate students, Keith Buhler and Mani Gergos, who worked with the staff of the House of Studies and the Dept. of Internet Ministry to update the web presence of this special Archdiocese ministry.

The new House of Studies section offers an introduction to the distance-learning school, a list of its academic programs, information for prospective and current students, and links for faculty, news and contact information. With affordable tuition and flexible scheduling, the House of Studies offers students, parents, or full-time professionals the ability to pursue an Orthodox theological education.

Browse the House of Studies section here.

Copts teach West Point cadets about diversity

( - After a tour of Ellis Island and a lunch featuring Egyptian cuisine hosted by a Coptic Orthodox Church, 25 West Point cadets visited the church on Bergen Avenue to learn about Coptic history and the church’s role in the community.

The next stop for the cadets who are studying “Winning the Peace” at West Point’s Department of Social Science on their packed three-day trip was a Catholic Church and then a mosque.

“This trip is about learning about aspects of warfare that do not involve a gun,” said David Shields, 22, a cadet from Tampa, Fla. “We are here to learn about different faiths and communities and how they all interact.

“It’s been awesome, getting to interact with different people. Everyone here has been hospitable,” he added.

The Rev. David A. Bebawy, pastor at St. George and Shenouda Church, provided a slide show presentation about the Coptic faith, which started with a history of the language and religion.

After Cadet Lt. Nate Freeland, 23, of Keyville, Va., asked what role the church plays in Jersey City’s diverse community, the Rev. Anthony Basily explained a range of services the church provides such as helping new immigrants, bringing comfort to housebound people in the community and feeding the homeless.

The purpose of the cadets’ program is to immerse them in one of the most diverse cities in the country to give them a greater respect and understanding of different cultures.

Retired Jersey City Police Detective Rich Boggiano, who has two children who graduated from West Point, initiated the program at the suggestion of one of his sons, who was asked by the school to talk to cadets about his experiences with the culture and religion in Iraq.

“This is our eighth year,” said Maj. Andrew Gallo, the course director and assistant professor of American politics at West Point. “The community has been incredibly helpful and gracious.”

At the Islamic Center of Jersey City, where the cadets stay, program organizer Ahmed Shedeed said the visit to the city is an eye-opener for some students.

“Some of these soldiers have never seen anybody different. Some have never seen a black person or eaten Chinese food, and they come to a place like Jersey City and they understand they’re not the only ones in the world, that there are civilizations and cultures that came before theirs,” he said.

Many of the cadets who will be commissioned officers when they graduate next month will be sent to Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries where an understanding of other cultures will help them in their assignments.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Patriarch Kirill gets a Facebook page

(RIA-NOVOSTI) - The information department of the Russian Orthodox Church has opened a Facebook account called Patriarch Kirill to inform internet users about his life and work, a deputy chief spokesman for the patriarch said on Tuesday.

“It is not a personal page of Patriarch Kirill. It is an official information resource of the Moscow patriarchate maintained by the Synod information department,” said Deacon Alexander Volkov, adding that the account would not make it possible to contact the church leader personally.

The Facebook account offers rare photos of Kirill, including some from his younger years.

The partriarch’s press service already has a separate Facebook account and LiveJournal includes a web page on Patriarch Kirill. In 2010, the Russian Orthodox Church opened its own YouTube channel.

Eastern Catholic bishops make ad limina visit

This story has caused more of a stir than I thought it would after it was posted. It seems to have reopened a discussion on clerical celibacy and on the supposed "scandal" a married priesthood in the West might cause the Latin faithful. More broadly, it has spurred some energetic conversations on the relations of the American and Canadian Eastern Catholic hierarchs with Rome, and their perceived obsequiousness on matters where "equal dignity" is believed to be challenged. I would not be surprised to see an editorial or clarification posted soon.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) - While their numbers are small and their material resources are few, members of the Eastern Catholic churches in the United States have much to offer the country in terms of their fidelity to Christ despite persecution and their deeply religious cultures, said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Eastern Catholics "are a bridge" supporting Catholics in their homelands with prayers, advocacy and financial support while at the same time enriching the United States with their cultural and religious identity, Cardinal Sandri told U.S. bishops from the Chaldean, Ruthenian, Maronite, Ukrainian, Armenian, Melkite, Syriac and Romanian Catholic churches.

The cardinal met with the 14 bishops May 15 to discuss a wide variety of common concerns at the beginning of the bishops' "ad limina" visits to the Vatican. Earlier in the morning, the cardinal was the main celebrant and homilist at a Mass with the bishops in St. Peter's Basilica.

The heads of every diocese or eparchy -- as the Eastern Catholic jurisdictions are known -- send detailed reports on their dioceses to the Vatican before the "ad limina" visits.

Summarizing what was common in the reports of the Eastern Catholic dioceses, Cardinal Sandri said, "Your territories are enormous, and your communities often find themselves far from each other. Some of the eparchies are young and still in need of adequate structures." Many of the dioceses -- some of which cover the entire United States or even the United States and Canada -- have few financial resources and the situation has been "exacerbated by the economic crisis," the cardinal said.

The arrival of new immigrants, many fleeing persecution in places like Iraq, have increased the size of several of the Eastern churches, like the Chaldean Catholic Church. But the cardinal said other Eastern churches, whose membership is composed largely of people who have been in the United States for several generations, "are experiencing a dramatic fall" in their numbers.

"You are not immune to the same corrosive effect on morals and family life as are your fellow Latin Catholics," Cardinal Sandri said.

All the churches are hurting for clergy, he said. Even those that have a relatively high proportion of clergy to faithful are stretched by the great distances those priests must travel to minister to the faithful. And in the case of Eastern Catholics in particular, many parishes rely on Latin priests with bi-ritual faculties to keep their churches open.

The cardinal urged care in helping young people discern their vocation, "maintaining formation programs, integrating immigrant priests (and) embracing celibacy in respect of the ecclesial context" of the United States where mandatory celibacy is the general rule for priests. A sticking point that caused the largest mass conversion to Orthodoxy in centuries and is still a major bone of contention between Eastern Catholics in the New World and Rome.

On vesperal liturgies

In his recent clergy conference, Bp. Matthias of Chicago (OCA) is quoted as saying he "wants the use of Vesperal liturgies eventually to be discontinued, perhaps in one year..." Below Fr. John Whiteford espouses a similar opinion in his most recent blog post entitled "Why doing Vesperal Liturgies in the place of the appointed services is a bad idea."

Vesperal Liturgies are appointed by the Typikon to be done only on days of strict fasting, and they are preceded by either the Lenten Hours or by Royal Hours. It is done in the evening because on days of strict fasting you do not break the fast until vespers -- though the latest that these services are actually appointed to be done is about 3 p.m. So to use this liturgical form for a day of feasting is to set the form on its head. Also, if you were doing a vesperal liturgy for the feast of the Dormition for example, you should do it on the day of the feast, not on the eve. Another problem is that on a feast day, you normally have a Vigil, and then the hours and the Liturgy. The Vigil usually consists of Vespers, with a Litia, Matins, and the first hour. When you reduce a feast to a Vesperal Liturgy you are taking about the first 30 minutes or so of the Vigil, and slapping it on to the second half of the Liturgy, and skipping everything in between, which is the bulk of the liturgical material appointed for the feast.

Now the issue of people attending the Liturgy on a weekday is a problem, but there are better solutions. The Antiochians (at least under Bishop Basil) have started doing Vespers, Matins, and the Liturgy all straight through in evening prior to the feast.... which is consistent with the Greek Style Agrypnia (amusingly I know this term primarily from medicine, where it means insomnia). More traditionally, an Agrypnia begins in the evening, and the Liturgy concludes after midnight, but at least this solution actually celebrates the festal services in a fairly full manner.

Complete post here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Metropolitan Hilarion interviewed on reunification

(ROCOR) - From the Editors: As we approach the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Vladyka Hilarion grants an interview to the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate.

-Your Eminence, you recently called the reunification of the two parts of the Russian Church “the greatest good.” What fruits has reconciliation brought forth that you deem most important? What has changed in the life of the Church Abroad in the last five years?

I immediately remember the words of the first troparion of the Triumph of Orthodoxy: “Let us and all the faithful cry aloud and leap with joy today; How marvelous are Thy works, O Christ! How great is Thy might! For Thou hast made us of one mind and brought about our agreement.” And also “Seeing the great blessing we have received: how the divided members of Christ have been brought to unity, let us clap our hands for joy and praise God who has granted us peace!” The first fruits are the unity of mind, concord, peace and joy in the miracle God has wrought. It is interesting to note that the first word with which the Lord addressed His followers, having risen from the dead, was “Rejoice.” The second phrase was “Peace be unto you.” This blessed peace and grace-filled joy has been bestowed upon us, by Divine mercy, which reestablished the fullness of brotherly communion within our Mother, the Local Russian Orthodox Church.

The joint celebration of Divine Liturgy and communing of God is the main fruit of the reestablishment of unity. During Divine Liturgy we hear the words: “And grant that with one mouth and one heart we may praise Thine all-honorable and majestic name.” This bears witness to the fact that during Divine Liturgy, our prayers and thoughts must piously concentrate on one thing. This state of mind of those who celebrate the service, those helping them and the faithful forms a powerful bond. Thank God, all the children of our Russian Orthodox Church are now merging with this unifying and strengthening current.

As a result, we have attained mutual understanding, brotherly interaction and cooperation in good works, which has greatly eased the bearing of our common cross of salvific service to God and mankind.

Over the last five years, the archpastors, clergymen and flock of our Church have actively begun to emerge from our isolation during the years of separation, and to share our most wealthy legacy, handed down to us by our fathers, who humbly bore the cross of exile and, being scattered throughout the world, yet preserving the Russian Church outside of her canonical territory, declaring the truth about her sufferings and martyrs. As a result, many not only grew interested in the history, legacy and mission of the Russian Church Abroad, but have joined with our church. I am especially happy to accept clergymen from various schismatic groups who have grown tired of the Phariseeism, the politics, anger and conflicts, seeking a Gospel life in Christ and communion with the spirit of piety within the holiness of the Russian Orthodox Church.

-What challenges do you still face as a result of the reunification?

Pastoral attention must be paid to those who doubt the benefit of reestablished unity, but remain in the Church, which is very praiseworthy, and attention is also due to those who have turned away from the Church and have joined schismatics.

"Meditations on Monasticism"

(Vimeo) - The Monastery of St. John is a community of Orthodox Christian monks striving to follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, working out their salvation in discipleship to Christ in the Orthodox Church. MEDiTATIONS on Monasticism is a documentary film created for Orthodox people, that they may reflect upon the deep waters of their Church, and be inspired to further dive into that great depth.

Feature length documentary film available from

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A walkthrough of the Office of Oblation

H/T: Orthocath

It is quite possible to go your entire life in the Church and not know about Proskomedia. While long (some 40 minutes), Fr. Barnabas Powell is an engaging presenter who will keep your attention. You might also be interested in the Slavic practice outlined here.

Proverbs 31 for Mother's Day

Today in particular we celebrate the kenotic love a mother pours out for her children. It's an interesting thing that Mother's Day is as much celebrated by husbands as it is by the children themselves. Before I was married with children, it was curious to me that men honored their wives not once (on their anniversary) but twice. As with so much, personal experience has elucidatory. Mothers and fathers have different roles. Having been raised by one parent (my mother) I know that no matter how much one tries a mother cannot be a father and vice versa. So today we honor our wives for the things they do we cannot. We honor them for those things small and large that make our houses homes. For the prayers they offer for our families. God grant them many blessed years!

Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands.

She is like the merchant ships,
She brings her food from afar.
She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants.

She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.

She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle.

She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
For all her household is clothed with scarlet.

She makes tapestry for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants.
Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.

Friday, May 11, 2012

OCA issues lengthy post-synodal notes

This is how it should be done, people - lots of information with explanations for decisions where appropriate. Photo gallery available here.

(OCA) - Holy Dormition of the Mother of God here provided the setting for the Spring Session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America May 7-10, 2012.

In addition to reviewing a variety of matters affecting the life of the Church, the hierarchs participated in the daily cycle of services at the monastery, including the Divine Liturgy, which provided an essential spiritual dimension to their undertakings. They also visited the Ascension of the Lord Monastery, Clinton, MI, and the Vatra, the headquarters of the OCA’s Romanian Episcopate, Grass Lake, MI.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, presided at the opening Divine Liturgy and the sessions. In his address to his fellow hierarchs, he offered a comprehensive overview of his activities and ministries. The members of the Holy Synod also approved his travel schedule, as presented.

Highlights of the session include the following...
Complete article here.

British Isles Episcopal Assembly met in London

(ROC-UKIE) - The fifth meeting of the Pan-Orthodox Episcopal Assembly for Britain and Ireland took place at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition, Wood Green, London on May 10th, 2012. Among other matters, the Assembly discussed a draft response to the current Government consultation on Equal Civil Marriage (Same-Sex Marriage) prepared by its Pastoral Committee, of which Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh is currently the Chairman. The response analyses the proposed change to the law on marriage in the context of the progressive weakening of the traditional understanding of marriage and family life and expresses the conviction of the Orthodox Church that the divinely-inscribed patterns of human relationship cannot be ignored without negative consequences for society as a whole.

The Assembly unanimously approved the document, which is to be signed by the Chairman, Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain, and sent to the Home Secretary and other interested parties.

Conference to discuss fertility issues in Chicago later this year

(OCAMPR) - Announcing the 2012 OCAMPR annual conference in Chicago, Illinois! The 2011 conference examined the science and theology of conception. The 2012 conference will take a look at the pastoral and theological implications of what happens when a woman conceives or fails to conceive. So come and grow with us as we consider The Child Conceived. Details forthcoming as they become available.

Arch. Ephrem on church services and modern languages

You will probably know of Arch. Ephrem from his much referenced Anastasis website of liturgical texts. This is a good interview on "liturgy as performance," understanding what is going on, and the importance of language.

(Youtube) - An interview with Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash), the well-known translator of church services into English -- on the significance of the liturgy, the unacceptability of the symbolic interpretation of church services, and on the work of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Holy Trinity Monastery to host "open house"

Jordanville, NY (Herkimer Telegram) — Holy Trinity Monastery will open its doors to the public later this month to educate people on their history and the Russian Orthodox faith.

“It’s the first time ever we’ve had an open house,” said Protodeacon Victor Lochmatow on Tuesday. “We’ve been talking about the need to let people around us know what we are about.”

The open house will take place on Saturday, May 19, from 2 to 5 p.m. Visitors will be able to tour the monastery, including the cathedral, a cemetery for the brotherhood and a larger cemetery.

“We want to show we’re not hiding and that we are open for people to come and visit the Russian Orthodox monastery,” said Lochmatow during the telephone interview.

Visitors will also get to see and learn about the history of Russian Orthodox icons, which include paintings and wood carvings at the cathedral. Two slide shows will be presented during the open house; one will focus on the Orthodox Church and the other on the history of the monastery.

The monastery has a five-year seminary program where students can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in theology.

“We’re especially interested in having young people from around here to have an opportunity to come and visit,” said Lochmatow, noting they put up bulletins for the open house at local colleges.

Lochmatow said there are several other Orthodox churches throughout Herkimer and Utica from various regions, such as Serbian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian and other Slavic countries.

The monastery’s recognizable Byzantine-style architecture dates back to the early 20th century. According to its website, the monastery was first settled by Fr. Panteleimon. With the help of four new brothers, the construction was completed in 1935. A fire, however, destroyed the buildings later that year during a dedication ceremony and a new monastery was later built.

In December 2011, Archimandrite Luke Murianka, the abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery, was presented with a certificate commemorating the monastery’s addition to the National Register of Historic Places. The effort to get on the register was a culmination of over four years of work by the monastery, local preservation groups, including the Preservation League of New York State and Otsego2000, and the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

Receiving the status is significant because the church is now eligible for federal grant money and investment tax credits on rehabilitation work, said Lochmatow.

More information about them monastery can be found at

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Assembly of Bishops committee chairs to meet this month

We'll see which model the assembly chooses to use on providing an update after this meeting. Will it be a perfunctory listing of people who showed up with a reference to the joy they have at being together or will it be a "meaty" report with details and future plans.

(AOB) - Since much of the work of the Assembly of Bishops falls within the purview of its thirteen committees, the success of these committees is essential for the success of the Assembly as a whole. Therefore, the Secretariat’s Coordinator for Committees, Bishop Maxim, is organizing a face-to-face meeting of the Assembly’s thirteen committee chairmen, scheduled to meet on May 30. The chairmen will gather for the day at the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, where they will be hosted by Archbishop Antony, who currently serves as the Assembly’s Treasurer and the chairman of the Committee for Financial Affairs.

This historic meeting will include a dozen bishops as well as most of the committee liaisons from the Secretariat. In the instances where a committee has yet to meet, it is hoped that this will help its chairman organize an initial meeting and so begin to address the goals outlined in the committee’s Terms of Reference. In those instances where committees have already begun meeting, this gathering will allow the chairmen to share the concerns and difficulties with which they have met and to find common ways of addressing them.

Ukrainian Church takes firm stance on proposed legislation

(RISU) - The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate on 8 May opposed to the laws restricting the rights of believers and threatening the institute of family or promoting homosexuality. According to the web site of UOC-MP, the bishops spoke against introduction of the following laws and bills in Ukraine:

Personal identification documents with electronic carriers of information (chips),

The effective Law of Ukraine “on Protection of Personal Information,”

Introduction of juvenile justice in Ukraine,

Spread and promotion of Sodom sins, permissions to organize gay parades and same-sex relationships.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pan-Orthodox efforts ongoing in Oceania

( - On Monday, April 30, 2012 in the Greek parish of Holy Unmercenaries in Melbourn, the First Assembly of Priesthood of Melbourn and the surroundings.

The assembly was led by Bishop Ezekiel of Dervis (vicar Bishop of Ecumenical Patriarchate), as the host of the meeting: His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, first hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad; His Grace Bishop Irinej, Bishop of Metropolitanate of Australia and New Zealand of the Serbian Orthodox Church; His Grace Bishop Michael, Bishop of Australia and New Zealand of the Romanian Orthodox Church; and as the special guest His Grace Bishop Longin, and also His Grace Bishop Jakobos of Miletupolis (vicar Bishop of Ecumenical Patriarchate).

This assembly was held according to the decision of the Second Episcopal Conference of Oceania, held in Sidney, on October 16-17, 2011. Lots of priests from all canonical jurisdictions took part in the conference, and the goal was meeting and bonding of the priests for the successful joint work in their missions on the Fifth continent.

Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos delivers SS. Cyril & Methodius lecture

I drove out for the 12th Annual SS. Cyril and Methodius Lecture in Pittsburgh last night. Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos (consultant on canonical affairs to the Greek Archdiocese, the Carpatho-Russian Diocese, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate) gave a talk on unity and the state of the Church called Challenges Facing the Orthodox Church in America. Met. William (Skurla) for the Byzantine Catholics and Met. Savas for the Greek Archdiocese were in attendance along with Catholic and Orthodox clergy and laity from the area.

Dr. Patsavos' version of the history of the entrance and growth of Orthodoxy in America was in opposition to what he called the "St. Vladimir's account." If you are a proponent of the "Greek" version of how things developed over the last two hundred years and how things sit now (the Chambésy process, connection with the mother churches, etc.) you would have felt quite at home. If you are a reader and espouser of the "OCA/Schmemann" chronology and position, you would have found yourself biting your tongue and sitting on your hands at phrases like diaspora, under the care of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and sidelong references to canon 28.

Less divisive were his comments on issues of one-city-one-bishop, even and uniform pastoral care irrespective of jurisdictional boundaries, duplication of efforts, etc. After the talk, a short Q&A session was held. Met. Savas stood up and spoke in glowing terms about the work of Matthew Namee and the Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas over at I was surprised that many people were not aware of the historical research SOCHA has been doing.

I'm already looking forward to next year and will try and do a better job of advertising the talk here some weeks in advance.

Finally, below is embedded a talk he gave last year on the Sunday of Orthodoxy at St. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Catedral in Potomac, MD. If you hear the accent and are reminded of the Kennedys, it is because he is from Cambridge, MA. Much of the same material of last night's talk is covered in this video. Enjoy.

"The Fountain of Living Water" from Fr. Valery Lukianov

I have to say that the caliber of videos coming out of ROCOR's media department recently is of unequalled production quality, not to mention the importance of the material itself. The bar has been raised. I hope other dioceses aim higher as a result.

(ROCOR-EAD) - The first video lecture in a series of videos to come thanks to the Pastoral Resources Program.

In this lecture, Fr. Valery speaks on homiletics, the impact it can have on the souls of parishioners, as well as how we can cultivate this spiritual practice in an effective and edifying way. As a vital part of our Orthodox tradition, it is crucial that we learn how to best develop our work in this area to maintain our Tradition, our faith, our knowledge of the Saints and also our how the faithful can better understand their life through Orthodox ways. God willing this video can help prepare those who have been called to serve, how to better carry out their ministry through proper grounding and education.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Arch. Alexander consecrated Bishop of Toledo

(OCA) - Archimandrite Alexander [Golitzin] was consecrated Bishop of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese during a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy here at Saint George Orthodox Cathedral on Saturday, May 5, 2012.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, presided at the consecration Divine Liturgy. Concelebrating were His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel; His Grace, Bishop Nikon; His Grace, Bishop Tikhon; His Grace, Bishop Benjamin; His Grace, Bishop Melchisedek, who served as Locum Tenens of the diocese; His Grace, Bishop Michael; His Grace, Bishop Matthias; His Grace, Bishop Irineu; His Grace, Bishop Mark; and His Grace, Bishop Irenee.

Joining members of the Bulgarian Diocese were clergy and faithful from sister OCA dioceses, other Toledo-area Orthodox parishes, monastics from Saint John of Shanghai Monastery in Manton, CA, Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Elwood City, PA, and Holy Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, MI, together with representatives from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, including seminary Dean, Archpriest John Behr, and a number of Bishop Alexander’s former students from the USA and Canada.

A special guest taking part in the consecration was Bishop Alexander’s brother, Protodeacon George Golitzin, who was representing Bishop Alexander’s family. Also in attendance were representatives from the Theology Department of Marquette University. Another special guest at Friday evening’s service was Bishop Leonard Blair, Roman Catholic Bishop of Toledo.

A choir including singers from parishes throughout the Bulgarian Diocese and guests from other OCA parishes sang the liturgical responses.

During the Liturgy, Bishop Alexander ordained Subdeacon Basil Frenchek to the diaconate.

On the evening of Friday, May 4, prior to celebrating Great Vespers, Bishop-elect Alexander made his public acceptance of his election. In his address he stated that, “when standing before the holy altar at the anaphora, the bishop images forth the one and unique High Priest, Christ, Who acts through His celebrant.” He then added that, “while it is true that our Lord Jesus is true God and true King, it is also true that He did not come to us, His creatures, with the pomp and splendor of the King, attended by the legions of heaven, but rather in humility He emptied Himself and was found in the likeness of a servant.”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Arch. Alexander to be consecrated bishop for Bulgarians

(OCA) - His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, and the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America will consecrate Archimandrite Alexander [Golitzin] to the episcopacy at Saint George Cathedral on Saturday, May 5, 2012.

On October 4, 2011, the members of the Holy Synod canonically elected Archimandrite Alexander to the vacant See of Toledo and the OCA’s Bulgarian Diocese. The election followed a year-long search on the part of the diocese, during which a number of candidates to fill the See proclaimed vacant upon the repose of His Eminence, the late Archbishop Kyrill, were considered. He was nominated by delegates to the diocese’s Fifth Congress-Sobor June 9, 2011.

The consecration weekend will begin with the celebration of Vespers at the cathedral on Friday, May 4, at 7:00 p.m. During Vespers, Archimandrite Alexander will make his profession of faith before the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops. A reception will follow in the cathedral hall.

At 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, May 5, Metropolitan Jonah will be greeted at the cathedral entrance, after which he will join his brother hierarchs for the Consecration Divine Liturgy at 9:00 a.m. A banquet will follow in the cathedral hall. Great Vespers will be celebrated at 6:00 p.m.

On Sunday, May 6, Bishop Alexander will serve the Divine Liturgy at the cathedral at 9:30 a.m., at which time he will be enthroned. A brunch will follow in the cathedral hall.

Metropolitan Jonah blesses Archimandrite Alexander after canonical election in October 2011.
Raised at Saint Innocent Church, Tarzana, CA, Archimandrite Alexander received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of California at Berkeley and a Master of Divinity degree from Saint Vladimir’s Seminary. He spent seven years pursuing doctoral studies at Oxford University in England under His Eminence, Metropolitan Kallistos [Ware]. During this time, he also spent two years in Greece, including one year at Simonos Petras Monastery on Mount Athos...
Complete article here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Serbian hierarch visits Mexican Church

Mexico City, Mexico (SOC-NASA) - His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America made his first official and historical visit to the Orthodox faithful in Mexico April 26- 29, 2012, together with V. Rev. Blasko Paraklis. They arrived in Mexico City on Friday, April 26, 2012. The pastoral-episcopal responsibility of the bishop of Western America to the Serbian residents living in Mexico is expressed in the decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops.

In an effort to preserve the gathering and meetings with our Orthodox compatriots during the Pascal period, a great help was Bishop Alejo (Exarch of the Orthodox Church in America – OCA) who showed his unselfish support, inviting Bishop Maxim and showing him the hospitality of Abraham. Through the goodness of Bishop Alejo, there were two liturgical encounters at the Cathedral church of the Ascension of our Lord on Saturday and Sunday. His diocese is celebrating their fortieth anniversary (

As Bishop of Western America and representative of the Serbian Orthodox Church for the Diaspora, Bishop Maxim met with the Minister of Religion and Diaspora. Our fellow Serbs living in this city and the surrounding areas were informed that the Divine Liturgy would be served in the coming days in Serbian.

The Orthodox residents of Mexico have three bishops: Athenagoras of the Greek Church, Anthony of the Antiochian Church and Alejo of the OCA. There is also a Russian monastery under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. The total number of Orthodox who live in this country whose population is in the millions, is unknown but it is calculated to be around 50,000. Orthodoxy has a future here only if it frees itself of the “jurisdictional” ties.

During this visit, Abraham, a native of Mexico and a student of the St. Tikhon's Academy, served as their guide. The first day, April 27 was very dynamic. Bishop Alejo welcomed the guests at midnight at the airport and the following day he showed his guest the cathedral church and the central part of Mexico City, the sights, fortresses and museums. Bishop Alejo is a wonderful man and bishop who is characterized by his humility, love and care for his neighbor. He is surrounded by young clergy, of Mexican background; and the guests were housed at his sister Julia's house who prepared chicken tortillas for them on their first day.

Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers fights with Holy Water

(RIA-NOVOSTI) - Activists from a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox organization dispersed with Holy Water a group of protesters who gathered on Sunday in downtown Moscow to support jailed female Pussy Riot punk group.

Several dozens of opposition activists gathered near the main Russia’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow for an unsanctioned rally in support of the members of the all-female punk group Pussy Riot who had been put in custody for performing a song against president-elect Vladimir Putin in the Cathedral in late February.

The rally, a new episode of the anti-government protests that have spread across Russia since December, was designed to unite both believers and atheists in a mass prayer.

Police however cordoned off the territory in front of the Cathedral and detained two organizers of the protest to avoid “provocations.”

Members of the Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers calmed down other participants of the prayer by pouring Holy Water on them and chanting: “No Sodom!”

The Cathedral authorities refused to comment on the rally.

Vandalism and church desecration cases have become more frequent in Russia after Pussy Riot performed what it called “a punk prayer” in February next to the Christ the Savior Cathedral’s main altar, which is off-limits to all but priests. Five group members, clad in balaclavas, chanted a song entitled “Holy Sh*t” against Putin that also contained lines such as “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”

The girls said the performance was a response to Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill’s backing of President-elect Vladimir Putin in the run-up to his landslide March 4 election victory. The patriarch called the 12 years of Putin's rule a "miracle of God" in a televised meeting.

Pussy Riot can face up to seven years in prison if found guilty on hooliganism charges.