Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"Beauty and Meaning Today" with Andrew Gould

H/T: OAJ

Sunday, January 13, 2019

"Is Sisi Good for Egypt's Christians?"

(AINA) - On Thursday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the recently opened Coptic Cathedral of the Nativity, not far from Cairo. "It is a very special thing to have this in the heart of the Middle East, this enormous cathedral where people can come worship in Egypt," he told the press. "It's a land of religious freedom and opportunity. It's remarkable." But many Coptic Christians feel the new house of worship means little given the persecution they face.

Copts make up only about 10% of the Muslim-majority country. But they trace their church back to the visit of the Apostle Mark, the first pope of Alexandria, to Egypt in the year 50. These Christians have faced tough times for nearly 2,000 years, but their recent history is especially disheartening.

On Jan. 1, 2011, Islamists bombed a Coptic church in Alexandria, killing 23 and injuring 97. Nermien Riad, executive director of the nonprofit Coptic Orphans, tells me the attack was a catalyst. She says the bombing, which inspired countless Copts to take to the streets, was one of many factors that sparked the larger protests against Egypt's government that year. Dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, but the persecution of Copts has grown worse.

The most visible threat has been the rise of Islamic State and other Islamist groups. ISIS released a video on Feb. 15, 2015, showing the beheading of 20 Egyptian Copts and a man from Ghana. "This was iconic because until then, we had only read about saints being martyred, but much of the world had never really seen martyrdom," Ms. Riad explains. "The Libyan martyrs taught a lot of the world about who the Copts were for the first time."

Ms. Riad, whose organization provides educational and childhood-development programs to Egypt's fatherless and vulnerable children, says she has noticed a change in recent years. While many orphans' parents had died from car accidents or disease, an increasing number were becoming martyrs of the Christian faith. Among those the group works with are the children of the 2015 martyrs.

Other recent examples: In 2017, two Coptic churches were bombed during Palm Sunday processions. In November 2018, Islamic militants opened fire on two buses carrying Coptic Christians on a pilgrimage to an ancient monastery in Upper Egypt, killing seven and wounding 14. Such large-scale acts of terror get the most coverage. Less appreciated is the social and institutional persecution Copts face daily.

Samuel Tadros, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, says Copts are blocked from nearly all important government positions: "Copts are excluded from Egypt's intelligence service and state security, their percentage in the armed services and police force is capped at 1%, and they are similarly discriminated against in the foreign service, judiciary, education sector and government-owned public sector." It's no surprise, then, that the government hasn't effectively responded to Copts' pleas for better representation and prosecution of those who persecute their community.

Ms. Riad says neighbors are often doing the persecuting. Coptic homes are burned down. Some children change their names from conspicuously Christian ones such as George so they can play on private or national soccer teams. Coptic women face near-daily public harassment. "It doesn't take ISIS to kill, and it could just be your neighbor because you're Christian," Ms. Riad says.

A 2016 law, implemented by Abdel Fattah Al Sisi's government, allows for the legalization of existing churches and the creation of new ones. The implementation of the law is another story. Mr. Tadros notes that the government has approved less than 17% of 3,730 requests submitted by the three major Christian groups--Coptic Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Protestant. The law has instead fueled sectarian violence within Egypt.

Egyptians have rioted and protested against approved churches. In 2016, after Copts in the village of Manshiet El-Naghamish applied to build a church, locals organized and attacked the Christians. Egyptians looted and burned Coptic properties and assaulted Copts. This was only one attack in a string of many, which are often incited before a church is even built.

By all means, the U.S. should celebrate progress on religious freedom wherever it occurs. A new cathedral is nice. Yet it doesn't mean much when the people who worship there are treated as inferior as soon as they step outside its doors.

March for Life on the 18th

Sadly I can't make it this year because I'm traveling in the opposite direction, but please do go if you can.



(OCA) - January 22, 2019 marks the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States, and Orthodox Christians from across the US will be marking the occasion by participating in the annual March for Life in the US Capital on Friday, January 18.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon will join other Orthodox Christian hierarchs, seminarians, and clergy and faithful from around the country in the annual March, which will conclude with the celebration of Memorial Prayers for the victims of abortion near the US Capital.

The theme of this year’s March is “Unique From Day One”.

The March will begin at noon on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Orthodox Christian participants are asked to gather at that time at the “Orthodox Christians for Life” banner, which will be prominently displayed at the southwest corner of 12th Street and Constitution Avenue.

Metropolitan Tikhon, together with Eminence, Archbishop Melchisedek; His Eminence, Archbishop Michael; His Grace, Bishop Daniel; and representatives of the OCA Chancery staff will join other Orthodox Christian marchers for the opening rally and presentations prior to the March. Representing the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America will be His Eminence, Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston.

Metropolitan Tikhon and an entourage from the OCA also will attend the annual Rose Banquet at the Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel on the evening of the March.

Friday, January 11, 2019

"Raising Believing Children” Parenting Workshops offered

JOHNSTOWN, PA (ACROD) - Our Diocese is pleased to announce a series of Parenting Workshops designed to help parents raise their children in the Faith. The title of the series is “Raising Believing Children” and will focus on the ways parents can help their children stay faithful to Christ and His Church in a world that is filled with doubt and most often works against their Faith. The Workshops are for parents of any age – you’re never too old to be a son or daughter, and likewise you’re never too old to be a parent! This series of Parenting Workshops will be hosted by different Churches and Deaneries around our Diocese starting in March 2019. The first Workshop in the Series will be hosted by Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Rockaway, NJ on March 2, 2019. The first will feature His Eminence Metropolitan Gregory of Nyssa and Very Rev. Stephen Loposky as presenters and workshop facilitators. Each workshop will be broadcast live online and will be archived for later viewing as well, and will include both presentations and small group moderated discussions to allow participants to help each other in their lives as parents. This is an exciting and important endeavor. His Eminence Metropolitan Gregory invites you to join him in support of parents as our Diocese launches this initiative to help them in their parental vocation.


If your parish or deanery would like to host a Parenting Workshop please contact Fr. Stephen or Pani Daria Loposky at 724-662-4840 or campnazareth@acrod.org for more information about hosting.

2018 Orthodox Christian Attorney Conference notes

(CLS) - On October 13th, 2018, Orthodox Christian attorneys and law students from across the nation gathered in Clearwater, Florida, for the second annual Orthodox Christian Attorney Network (OCAN) conference. The event was held in conjunction with the Christian Legal Society (CLS) National Conference, the nation’s premier Christian legal conference.

The OCAN conference addressed a fundamental question that we, as Orthodox lawyers, tend to ask ourselves at several points throughout our careers: Is it possible to be a good Christian and a good lawyer? We were privileged to hear from speakers, who are both devoted Orthodox Christians and successful lawyers, talk about good stewardship of our hearts, minds, and churches through the practice of law.

The keynote address for this event was given by the Honorable Judge Stephanos Bibas. Judge Bibas serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and is also an ordained Deacon in St. Elizabeth the New Martyr Orthodox Church in Rocky Hill, NJ. Judge Bibas delivered a talk entitled “Being a Good Christian Lawyer in a Post-Christian World: On Serving Two Masters,” addressing the ethical and moral dilemmas which regularly challenge lawyers who seek to reconcile their faith with their profession.

The conference continued with a series of panel discussions by Orthodox attorneys who shared their expertise and life experience on living as faithful Orthodox Christians and attaining the highest levels of achievement. The speakers led discussions on topics touching their everyday lives as lawyers, including:

• Bringing sacrament to the billable hour,

• Truth in the legal profession

• Stewardship of the heart and mind

• Providing pro bono legal services, and

• Our role as lawyers and parishioners within our churches

Say 'Ukraine' again, I dare you, I double dare you...

Ukraine has been THE topic of the year (understandably), but I'm happy to cover anything you think has been lost in the mix. So please send your topics to the comment box so they can get more attention. Pretty pictures and videos also appreciated. Really, anything to get a reprieve from 24-hour Ukraine coverage.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

International Orthodox Theological Association notes

(OCA) - His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander of Dallas, the South and the Bulgarian Diocese is among the participants representing the Orthodox Church in America at the inaugural conference of the International Orthodox Theological Association [IOTA], which opened in Iasi, Romania on Wednesday, January 9, 2019.

The theme—“A Call to Pan-Orthodox Unity”—will be explored in a variety of presentations and papers throughout the conference, which concludes on January 13. His Eminence, Metropolitan Kallistos [Ware] of Diokleia, serves as the conference’s keynote speaker, while 50 sessions will highlight the work of some 300 Church leaders, scholars and professionals representing over 30 countries.

In addition to Archbishop Alexander, presentations will be offered by the OCA’s Dr. Peter Bouteneff, Dr. Frank Cerra, Archpriest Michael Oleksa, Archpriest John Parker, and Prof. Richard Schneider, among others. Also attending are Deacon Nicholas Denysenko; Deacon Pavel Gavrilyuk, IOTA founder and president; and Archpriest Chad Hatfield.

In the past year, IOTA has grown into a network of several hundred well-respected Orthodox Christian leaders from around the world. Besides theologians, IOTA’s membership includes philosophers, historians, social scientists, political scientists, and professionals, and it welcomes scholars and scholar-practitioners from other fields related to the Orthodox Christian studies. IOTA is organized into 25 groups, each representing a different area of study, including both traditional theological disciplines, such as Biblical Studies, Dogmatic Theology, Moral Theology, and Liturgical Studies as well as newer fields, such as Missiology, Orthodoxy and International Relations, Orthodoxy in the Public Square and the Media, Religion and Science. These groups are parts of what one might call an Orthodox Republic of Letters, dedicated to free, honest, and respectful exchange of ideas, helping the Church to come to terms with the challenges of our time.

Additional information is available on IOTA’s website, together with a comprehensive list of presentations and papers.

A video of Archbishop Alexander’s homily, delivered in the Iasi Metropolitan Cathedral during the Divine Liturgy on the eve of the conference’s opening, is also available for viewing.

Georgian Church clarifies position on Ukraine

Tbilisi, January 10, (Interfax) - The Georgian Orthodox Church will not rush its decision on whether to recognize the autocephaly of the new church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Nikoloz of Akhalkalaki and Kumurdo told reporters.

"The Churches that are ahead of us in the hierarchy have to state their positions first. The decision of the Constantinople Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian church needs to be studied. On the one hand, the Georgian Church can support the right of the Ukrainian state to have an autocephalous church, but on the other hand, one needs to take into account who should recognize this autocephaly and on what conditions. In particular, who the head of the Ukrainian church and other hierarchs should be," Metropolitan Nikoloz told the Georgian information agency Interpressnews.

It is especially important to determine the canonicity of those Ukrainian clergymen who are represented in the new church of Ukraine, as some of them were anathematized in a decision shared by all Orthodox Churches, including the Constantinople Patriarchate.

"Today we cannot recognize these clergymen and serve with them," the metropolitan said.

The Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church has not yet studied the tomos received by the Ukrainian church in detail, he said.

"We need to study the tomos in the original, not one of the translated versions published a couple of days ago. There can be no rush here, given that the Constantinople Patriarchate has still not made a decision regarding a similar tomos for the Georgian Orthodox Church and has not settled the diptych issue. It took the Constantinople 1,500 years to recognize the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church. If the Ukrainian church has to wait a little, there will be nothing special in that. We restored our autocephaly in 1917, which was recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1943 and by the Constantinople Patriarchate in 1990. The issue of recognition is a lengthy and complex process, so it's tactless and inappropriate to talk about our position right now," Metropolitan Nikoloz said.

The Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church discussed the Constantinople Patriarchate's letter on granting autocephaly to the new church of Ukraine, he said.

"The official letter contains a very dangerous phrase to the effect that the Constantinople Patriarchate has the exclusive right to interfere in the affairs of any local Church. This is unacceptable and could lead to many challenges in the future," the metropolitan said, without ruling out that the kind of situation surrounding the granting of autocephaly to Ukraine may occur with the self-proclaimed Abkhaz Church in the future.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A review of the text of the Tomos of Ukraine

(Orthodox Synaxis) - "The Tomos for Ukraine: What’s Typical and What’s Specific" by Vladimir Burega

We will start with the fact that the tomos signed at the Phanar on January 5, 2019 carries on a certain tradition of issuing similar documents that has been formulated at the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the past two centuries. It began with the issuing of the tomos on the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Greece (that is, the church within the borders of the Greek state) in 1850. This was followed by the tomoi on the granting of autocephaly to the Churches of Serbia (1879), Romania (1885), Poland (1924), Albania (1937), Bulgaria (1945) and Czechia and Slovakia (1998). In 1990, a tomos was likewise issued on the recognition and approbation of the autocephalous status of the Orthodox Church of Georgia. Thus, the tomos for Ukraine wasn’t created from scratch. Both its form and its content follow a certain rule. In ecclesiastical documents of this level, there are always traditional, ritual phrases as well as clear, practical, immutable formulations. At the same time, almost every one of these tomoi has its own characteristics, reflecting the specific situation in each local church. We will try to sort out what in the Ukrainian tomos is typical and what is, so to speak, specific.

Name, Primate, Diptychs

Let’s start with the banal things. It is understandable that in tomoi the name of the newly-established church is always indicated. Moreover, this name is always (!) tied to the name of the state on whose territory it is being created. For example: “The Orthodox Church in the Kingdom of Greece”, “The Holy Autocephalous Church of the Kingdom of Serbia”, “The Orthodox Church of the Kingdom of Romania”, “The Holy Orthodox Church in Poland”, “The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania”. Such names indicate that the basis of the creation of autocephalous churches always relies on the territorial principle. Each local church is a church that brings together the Orthodox Christians in a certain territory.

The tomos from January 5 names the newly-created church “The Holy Church of Ukraine. In the charter of the newly-created church, accepted in Kiev in December, it is called “The Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU). So far as we know, during the preparation of the tomos the Patriarchate of Constantinople a slightly different name: “The Orthodox Church in Ukraine”. Such a name would, of course, further emphasize the territorial character of the ecclesiastical structure being created, but a slightly corrected formulation was adopted. This, however, also fits quite well with the tradition of naming local churches according to the names of the states.

In all the tomoi on the granting of autocephaly, the title of the new church’s primate is clearly established. True, there have been cases when a synodal form of government was introduced into the church being created (for example, in Greece). In such cases, the synod was at the head of the church, as a kind of “collective primate”. In the case of the OCU, her primate bears the title “His Beatitude the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine”. At the same time, in the tomos it is especially emphasized that “no additions or subtractions to this title are allowed without the agreement of the Church of Constantinople.” We have not seen such reservations in any other tomos. Its appearance in the Ukrainian tomos of January 5 was, of course, Patriarch Bartholomew’s reaction to the Kiev Patriarchate’s attempts to a reference to the patriarchate in the new primate’s title. We should emphasize that the tomos from January 5 does not suggest using one title for the primate “for internal use” and another for communication “with the outside world”… The title is secured in the tomos rather firmly and unequivocally.

All tomoi about the granting of autocephaly without exception contain the requirement that the primate of the church being created commemorates the Patriarch of Constantinople and all the other primates of the local churches in the diptychs. We should explain that the diptych is the generally-accepted list of heads of local Orthodox churches. Each primate commemorates at each of his liturgies all the other primates in the order of the diptychs. Moreover, the primate of each autocephalous church is obliged when entering into his rights to send letters announcing it to the Patriarch of Constantinople and the other heads of local churches. There are analogous requirements in the tomos from January 5.

These quite standard clauses raise one awkward question in the Ukrainian context. The head of the OCU, Metropolitan Epifany, today is commemorating in the liturgy all the primates of the local Orthodox churches with the exception of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. He has bluntly stated that he refuses to commemorate Patriarch Kirill on account of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine. At the same time, Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew does commemorate the Patriarch of Moscow. The tomos on the granting of autocephaly directly obliges the Metropolitan of Kiev to commemorate all the primates of the local churches without exception (and hence also Patriarch Kirill). The refusal to commemorate the Patriarch of Moscow in the diptychs contradicts the unequivocal requirement of the tomos.

Constantinople as the Highest Juridical Authority

In all the tomoi on the granting of autocephaly, there are requirements to refer to the Patriarch of Constantinople and the other local church on the most important dogmatic and canonical issues. Of course, this requirement has been formulated in different ways in different historical periods. In the 19th century tomoi, it sounds quite soft, almost like an optional recommendation. For example, in the tomos on the autocephaly of the Serbian Church (1879), it is stated that the Metropolitan of Serbia should, “according to ancient custom” refer to the Orthodox patriarchates and other autocephalous churches “on issues of common ecclesiastical significance which require a common voice and approval.” Here the Patriarchate of Constantinople is in no way set apart from the other local churches. But in the 20th century tomoi one can see completely different rhetoric.

Already in the tomos on the autocephaly of the Polish Orthodox Church it states that the Patriarchal See of Constantinople is entrusted with the duty “of caring for the Orthodox churches finding themselves in need.” Therefore, on issues “exceeding the jurisdictional boundaries of each autocephalous church,” the Metropolitan of Warsaw should refer to the Patriarchal See of Constantinople, “through which communion with the entire Orthodox Church is maintained.” This requirement is practically repeated verbatim in the tomos on the autocephaly of the Albanian Church, while in the tomos on the autocephaly of the Church of Czechia and Slovakia, it is quite clearly stated that the See of Constantinople is “entrusted with taking care of all the holy churches of God.” In this tomos it even states that the Church of Czechia and Slovakia can invite hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in important cases.

All these expressions are not merely ritual phrases. Since the early 1920s, a doctrine has been formulated about the special rights of the Ecumenical Patriarch. As is well known, today this teaching is actively challenged by the Patriarchate of Moscow, wherein lies one of the sources of the profound conflict between the Sees of Constantinople and Moscow.

In the tomos on the autocephaly of the OCU, we also find unequivocal statements about the special status of the See of Constantinople. Here it is clearly stated that for resolving important issues of a ecclesiastical, dogmatic or canonical character, the Metropolitan of Kiev should refer to the Ecumenical See in order to receive an authoritative explanation about it. The tomos does not suggest appeals to other autocephalous churches for similar explanations.

Additionally, in the tomos from January 5 stipulates the Patriarch of Constantinople’s right to receive appeals from the Ukrainian bishops if they disagree with juridical decisions about them. In such cases, the verdict of the Ecumenical Patriarch will be final and not subject to revision.

Church and State

In the 19th century tomoi, the special role of the state in creating new autocephalous churches was always emphasized. In that century, the Patriarchate of Constantinople always emphasized that the desire to proclaim autocephaly came not only from ecclesiastical hierarchs, but from the leadership of their respective states. For example, in the tomos on the autocephaly of the Serbian Church (1879), it is stated that the request for the proclamation of independent ecclesiastical status was directed to Constantinople first of all by the Serbian King Milan Obrenovic and secondly by Metropolitan Michael of Belgrade. In the tomos on the autocephaly of the Church of Greece (1850), no mention is made of ecclesiastical hierarchs appealing to Constantinople. Here it is stated that the Patriarch of Constantinople learned of the desire of the Greek people and clergy for their own independent church “from the letter from the pious ministers of the God-protected government of Greece.” That is, it was the Greek government’s appeal that initiated the process of granting autocephaly.

In the 19th century tomoi, there was one more characteristic detail. In them, the proclamation of new autocephalous churches is always motivated by the creation of independent states. The appearance of the Greek, Serbian and Romanian Churches followed shortly after international recognition of Greece, Serbia and Romania, respectively.

In the texts of the 20th century tomoi, the government’s role is, as a rule, not so forcefully emphasized. In the tomoi on the autcephaly of the Churches of Poland, Bulgaria and Czechia and Slovakia, nothing is said about civil authorities. In the tomos on the autocephaly of the Albanian Church, although the state is mentioned, it is not the initiator of creating the new church. Here it is only stated that the civil authorities gave the Patriarch of Constantinople guarantees that members of the Orthodox Church of Albania would have “complete independence and freedom to prosper.” It is quite obvious that the 20th century tomoi reflected a new situation in church-state relations. Governments now declare their secularism and non-intervention in ecclesiastical affairs.

In this regard, the Ukrainian tomos clearly takes us back to the 19th century. Here the creation of an autocephalous church is motivated, above all else, by an independent Ukrainian state having existed for almost three decades. It is especially stressed that throughout this time the leaders of Ukraine have repeatedly appealed to the See of Constantinople with requests for autocephaly. It is specifically stated in the tomos that it is being awarded not only to the Metropolitan of Kiev, but also to the President of Ukraine. It could be said that the tomos was written from a perspective of symphonia between secular and ecclesiastical authority, which looks like a blatant anachronism at the start of the 21st century.

Holy Chrism

In almost all the tomoi on the granting of autocephaly, there is discussion of the need for newly-created churches to receive holy chrism from the Patriarch of Constantinople. This rule also requires a brief explanation.

Holy chrism is the special substance used in performing the sacrament of chrismation. In the Orthodox tradition, chrismation is performed on a person immediately after baptism. Through chrismation, the person is given the gifts of the Holy Spirit, allowing him to fully enter the life of the Church. For this reason, the sacrament of chrismation has great significance for the Church.

Holy chrism is prepared by the heads the local churches. Today, however, not all primates have the right to prepare and sanctify chrism. This right is reserved only for patriarchs. Thus the heads of such churches as Greece, Albania, Poland or Czechia and Slovakia receive chrism from Constantinople. Note that, as I saw when I visited Syosset, the OCA does not follow this convention.

The tomos from January 5 states that the OCU should also receive chrism from the Patriarch of Constantinople. In the text of the tomos, it is stated that this is a symbol of the Church’s unity.

It must be said that attempts by patriarchs of Constantinople to retain their right to prepare holy chrism for newly-created autocephalous churches has sometimes given rise to conflicts. Young churches saw in this a restriction of their independence and and Constantinople’s aspiration to hold on to power over them. Thus, for example, in the early 1880s, the Romanian Church entered into a tough conflict with Constantinople in order to gain the right to independently prepare its own holy chrism. And it won. In the tomos on the granting of autocephaly to the Romanian Church (1885), there is no rule about the mandatory receiving of chrism in Constantinople. Neither is there such a rule in the tomos on the granting of autocephaly to the Bulgarian Church (1945).

Internal Structure

As a rule, tomoi on the granting of autocephaly do not contain a detailed description of the internal structure of the church being created. They merely state the the primate should lead the church together with the bishops who make up the synod. In this regard, the tomos on the autocephaly of the Church of Czechia and Slovakia (1998) is a distinct exception. Here, its internal structure and system of upper leadership is spelled out in significant detail.

The tomos on the autocephaly of the OCU also pays attention to certain aspects of the new church’s structure. Here, for example, it is indicated how the synod of the OCU should be formed. It should include in alternation all bishops who have eparchies in Ukraine, in order of seniority. It is specifically stipulated that the provisions of the OCU’s charter must fully comply with the tomos.

This last rule is also not accidental. There is a recent case where the rules of a tomos on autocephaly and the rules of the charter of an autocephalous church differed significantly. I have in mind the Orthodox Church of Czechia and Slovakia. Its charter, adopted in 1992, was significantly different from the rules provided by the tomos issued in 1998. After having received the tomos, the Church of Czechia and Slovakia continued to abide by its former charter. Only in 2016 did the Patriarchate of Constantinople definitively put forward the requirement that that the charter be brought in line with the provisions of the tomos. So far as we know, this requirement is still unfulfilled.

It is quite obvious that today the Patriarchate of Constantinople is trying to rule out such conflicts with the OCU. For this reason, a strict requirement is made in the tomos for the mandatory complaince of the charter with the provisions of the tomos.

Diaspora, Exarchates and the Right of Stavropegia

The tomos’ most painful provision may perhaps be the requirement that the OCU refrain from creating its own structures outside of Ukraine. Not a single one of the previously-issued tomoi had such requirements. In the tomos from January 5, however, it is clearly stated that the jurisdiction of the OCU is limited to the territory of Ukraine. The Metropolitan of Kiev “cannot place bishops or found parishes outside the state.” All ecclesiastical structures existing outside the borders of Ukraine should henceforth come under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Here it is necessary to explain that under the “Orthodox diaspora” it is customary to include all Orthodox residing in territories where local Orthodox churches do not exist (this is primary Western Europe and America). The Patriarchate of Constantinople considers the spiritual nourishment of Orthodox believers in these territories to be its exclusive right.

However, contemporary emigrants try to maintain ties to their national churches. Not only Orthodox Ukrainians, but also Romanians, Serbs and Bulgarians finding themselves outside their homeland are extremely reluctant to integrate into the ecclesiastical structures of other churches. Thus practically all local churches today have foreign structures entrusted with the care of emigrants. But the OCU is straightforwardly deprived of the right to create such structures. It is thought that it will now have to conduct difficult negotiations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the procedure for appointing Ukrainian priests to serve in Ukrainian churches of communities abroad. It is clear that the subordination of these communities to Greek priests is unrealistic.

The last thing to which it is necessary to pay attention is a brief phrase that the Patriarchate of Constantinople maintains its own Exarchate in Ukraine as well as “sacred stavropegia”. Of course, it would be important to read just how this rule is formulated in the Greek original. In the Ukrainian translation, this sounds like the creation of an exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on Ukrainian territory. In such a reading, the exarchate is apparently understood as a special territorial structure separate from the jurisdiction of the OCU and directly subordinate to the Ecumenical Patriarch. But it is possible that here it is talking not about a territorial structure, but about the exarchs of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who even after the granting of autocephaly will continue to conduct their ministry in Ukraine. In any case, this means that an official representation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople headed by an exarch (or exarchs) is maintained on the territory of Ukraine.

Stavropegia is the name for ecclesiastical structures (monasteries, churches, brotherhoods) which are removed from the authority of the local ecclesiastical hierarchy and are directly subordinate to the patriarch. At one time, the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, the Kiev-Bratsk Monastery, the Uspensky Brotherhood in Lviv and other ecclesiastical structures on the territory of contemporary Ukraine were stavropegia of Constantinople. There is no clarity about what will now be transferred to the jurisdiction of Constantinople, but it is quite clear that a certain number of stravropegia will be created in Ukraine.

* * *

As we see, the tomos establishes a rather rigid framework for the further development of the OCU. The Patriarchate of Constantinople has established quite a few restraints designed to prevent processes undesirable to it within the OCU. And through the institution of exarchs and stavropegia, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is creating for itself a convenient mechanism for influencing the ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine in the future.

It is not hard to predict that the OCU will not feel quite comfortable within this framework. Will it somehow tear it up? Will the Patriarchate of Constantinople demand strict observance of the provisions of the tomos, or will it turn a blind eye to deviations from the rules? The immediate future of the newly-established ecclesiastical structure depends on the answers to these questions.

[Translated from the Russian original here. Vladimir Burega is a professor at the Theological Academy of Kiev.]

Pat. John X of Antioch's response to EP's letter

Damascus, 31 December 2018 (AOCANA) - Your All-Holiness, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, beloved brother and concelebrant in Christ the Lord, Kyrios Kyrios Bartholomew. With great joy, we embrace Your Beloved person in the Lord and we say,

In these blessed days of the Holy Incarnation of our Lord, we lift up our warmest supplications for the abundance of your good health and deep prosperity. May this upcoming year bring forth God's mercies and blessings on the Orthodox world and all the world.

We are in receipt of your letter dated December 24th, 2018, in which you inform us of the developments related to the Orthodox church in the State of Ukraine, with which we are familiar. We do not hide from Your Loving Person that it was alarming to us, not just for the disunity it has generated in the Orthodox Church, but also because it continuously disregards the opinions of the local Orthodox Churches.

Your All-Holiness,

We would like to assure you, and out of our love for your noble person, that it is our desire to see the unity of the Orthodox world strengthened and consolidated during your auspicious era. It seems from your letter that you have resolved to continue the process of granting autocephaly and finalizing it on the day of the Holy Theophany. Thus, we appeal to you not to take any decision that does not carry the consensus of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. For it is unreasonable to end a schism at the expense of the unity of the Orthodox world.

In this letter, we wish to express to you, with fraternal love, that we continue to consider that the most beneficial for the peace of the Church and Her unity, and for the common Orthodox witness in our world today, is to suspend and postpone this process until the Ukrainian issue is examined, and a pan-Orthodox solution is found.

We therefore adjure Your All-Holiness to call your brothers, the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, to examine these matters, in order to safeguard our Church from the dangers that will not lead to peace and harmony, neither in Ukraine nor in the Orthodox world.

Our love for our Orthodox Church and for your Beloved Person prompts us to write these words, with our hope to see the Orthodox world united, especially in your auspicious era, attesting to the Truth of our Lord Jesus Who was incarnate for the salvation of the world. I conclude with the best greetings from Damascus, filled with the love of the Holy Church of Antioch's children.

JOHN X
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

Tomos of autocephaly for Ukraine

Why does Constantinople restrict the UOC-KP from expanding outside of the state border? Canon 28 of the 4th Ecumenical Council which states that the diaspora is Constantinople's. The below codifies the Ecumenical Patriarch's assertion that this canon means everything not within the boundaries of the other autocephalous Churches is Constantinople's. So for those who continue to email in and ask: No. The UOC-USA will not be under this new body, but will remain under the EP.


(EP) - Bartholomew, by God’s mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch:

“You have come to Mount Zion . . . and to the Church of the first-born” (Heb. 12.22–23), as the blessed Paul, apostle to the nations, declares to all the faithful, appropriately likening the Church to a mountain to affirm conviction and recognition as well as steadfastness and stability. For although the Church of God both is and is called one flock and one body of Christ—everywhere sharing the confession of Orthodox faith, the communion through the sacraments in the Holy Spirit, and the constancy of apostolic succession and canonical order—already from the earliest apostolic times it also consists of local and native Churches internally self-administered by their own shepherds, teachers and servants of the Gospel of Christ, namely, their regional Bishops, not only for the historical and secular significance of these cities and lands, but also for the particular pastoral needs of these places.

Therefore, inasmuch as the most devout and divinely-protected country of Ukraine has been fortified and magnified by heavenly providence, while also acquiring comprehensive political independence, and inasmuch as its civil and church leaders have avidly sought its ecclesiastical self-administration over more than thirty years—thereby further echoing previous similar requests periodically addressed by its people to the most holy Apostolic Throne of Constantinople, which is obliged by a lengthy canonical tradition to care for the holy Orthodox Churches facing difficulties, especially those with which it has always been associated through canonical bonds, such as the historical Metropolis of Kyiv—our Modesty, along with our most reverend Metropolitans and most honorable beloved brothers and concelebrants in the Holy Spirit, in the imperative concern of the Great Church of Christ within the Orthodox world for healing long standing schisms and divisions in the local Churches, unanimously determine and declare that the entire Orthodox Church contained within the boundaries of the politically constituted and wholly independent State of Ukraine, with its sacred Metropolitan, Archdiocesan and Episcopal sees, its monasteries and parishes, as well as all the ecclesiastical institutions therein, operating under the Founder of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, our Godman Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, shall hereafter exist as canonically autocephalous, independent and self-administered, having and recognizing as its First Hierarch in all church matters its presiding canonical Primate, who shall bear the title “His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine,” without any lawful addition or deletion to this title without permission from the Church of Constantinople. This Primate shall preside over the Holy Synod, annually comprised of Hierarchs invited by rotation and seniority from those serving within the geographical boundaries of Ukraine. This is how the affairs of the Church shall be governed in this land, as the sacred and holy Canons declare, freely and in the Holy Spirit and unimpeded, far from any other external interference.

Moreover, we recognize and declare this Autocephalous Church, established within the boundaries of the sovereign territory of Ukraine by means of this signed Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos, as our spiritual daughter, and recommend that all Orthodox Churches throughout the world acknowledge and commemorate it by the name “Most Holy Church of Ukraine” with its see in the historic city of Kyiv, without being henceforth entitled to establish bishops or found extraterritorial altars in regions already lawfully dependent on the Ecumenical Throne, which bears canonical competence over the Diaspora, but instead restricting its proper jurisdiction within the territories of the State of Ukraine. Indeed, we bestow upon this autocephalous ecclesiastical Authority all the attending privileges and sovereign rights, so that from this day the Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine shall commemorate “Every Orthodox Diocese” during the liturgy, while the surrounding choir of most holy Hierarchs shall commemorate his name as First Hierarch and Primate of the most holy Church in Ukraine. As for matters related to internal ecclesiastical administration, these shall be arbitrated, adjudicated and determined absolutely by the Primate and the Holy Synod, adhering to the evangelical and other teachings—in accordance with sacred Tradition and the venerable canonical regulations of our Holy Orthodox Church, as well as the teaching and injunction of Canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, which dictates that “whereas the common vote of all is reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical canon, in cases where two or three disagree by reason of personal rivalry, let the vote of the majority prevail”—while further preserving the right of all Hierarchs and other clergy to address petitions of appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who bears the canonical responsibility of irrevocably passing judgment over matters related to bishops and other clergy in local Churches, in accordance with the sacred Canons 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tomos signing update

(Kyiv Post) - Ukrainian Church’s autocephaly tomos to be briefly returned to Istanbul to be signed by Constantinople Patriarchate’s Synod

All members of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople must sign the tomos of authocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Andriy Yurash, the director of the Ukrainian Culture Ministry’s department of religions and interethnic relations, said.

“The tomos will be displayed so that everyone who wishes may come and see this unique document until the evening (on Monday). (..) In the near future, it will return to Istanbul, to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, because at present it was signed only by the Ecumenical Patriarch [Bartholomew],” Yurash said during a Christmas liturgy at the St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv broadcast on Ukrainian television channels on Monday. If anyone has the Greek original or an English translation from the original, please send it over.

“All members of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holiest Synod should sign it later. The Synod will convene just in two days to do that. Afterwards, the tomos will return to Ukraine for good and will be under special protection,” the Ukrainian official said.

As reported, the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphanius (Epifaniy) of Kyiv and All Ukraine, received the tomos from Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul on January 6.

Patriarch Bartholomew signed the tomos on Saturday, January 5.

On Monday, Metropolitan Epiphanius and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko brought the scroll with the tomos to St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv for the Christmas liturgy.

Following the liturgy, the scroll was moved to St. Sophia’s Cathedral’s refectory church for public viewing.

On January 7, hundreds of people gathered in St. Sophia’s Square to watch the broadcast of the holiday service on a big screen and see the tomos scroll.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Curious what the Serbian Patriarch thinks about Ukraine?

He's pretty clear on that point. The below from Patriarch Irinej's Nativity Encylical available here.



(SOC) - "... our very close and brotherly Ukraine, where the passion filled chauvinist-Russophobes, led by corrupt politicians with the assistance of Uniates and, unfortunately, with the uncanonical cooperation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, deepened and spread the existing schism and seriously jeopardized the unity of Orthodoxy in general."

Tomos of Autocephaly of Orthodox Church of Ukraine signed



(President of Ukraine) - President Petro Poroshenko took part in the ceremony of signing the Tomos of Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul. The solemn ceremony took place in the Patriarchal Church of St. George.

After the ceremony, the Head of State appealed to the attendees: "Your All-Holiness, Your Beatitude, Your Eminence, Ladies and Gentlemen. Dear Ukrainians who are watching us today in Ukraine and around the world, who have been waiting for this event for thousands of years. Thank God! For without God's will this event would have been impossible".

"I am grateful to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for his faith. Your All-Holiness, these applause are heard all over the world," Petro Poroshenko said.

The President thanked Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for his faith and love for Ukraine, for his prayer for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, for the courage that His All-Holiness has demonstrated throughout his life, but especially after the Great Monday - the first day after Easter in 2018, when the public process of granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine started.

"I want to thank the Holy Synod, the Ecumenical Patriarchate Council. I want to thank every hierarch who signed the appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch to provide autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine," the President said.

The Head of State expressed gratitude to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and Chairman of the Parliament Andriy Parubiy, to every deputy who voted for the support of the President's appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch on the provision of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

"And most importantly - I want to thank millions of Ukrainians around the world who responded to the call to pray - pray for the Church to come true. Due to your prayers it became possible," Petro Poroshenko emphasized.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Beloved Bp. Athanasius of Kisumu has reposed in the Lord

A hierarch known to many in the US from his travels among to tell us about the evangelical work of the Church in Africa.


(Orthodox Africa) - It is with great saddness that we have to report that His Grace Bishop Athanasius of Kisumu and Western Kenyan has gone home to be with our Lord. Please pray for his eternal repose and for the peace of the many people all over the world who have lost a true Father in Christ. May His Memory Be Eternal!

O God of spirits and of all flesh, Who hast trampled down death and overthrown the Devil, and given life to Thy world, do Thou, the same Lord, give rest to the souls of Thy departed servant Bishop Athanasius in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, sighing, and sorrow have fled away. Pardon every transgression which he has committed, whether by word or deed or thought. For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind; because there is no man who lives yet does not sin, for Thou only art without sin, Thy righteousness is to all eternity, and Thy word is truth.

For Thou are the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of Thy servant who has fallen asleep, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father, who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever unto ages of ages. Amen.
And also...
(Uganda Orthodox Church) - Today January 4, 2019, We have received the sorrowful news of the repose in Christ of His Grace Bishop Athanasios Akunda of Kisumu and all Western Kenya, MAY HIS SOUL REST IN ETERNAL PEACE!

His Grace has been bed ridden in Intensive care Unit (ICU) at St Vincent hospital in Worcester Massachusetts ,USA since early December 2018 with alternating health condition and hope of recovery but this morning he was called by his Father in Heaven.

He has been much known for his Kind and loving personality, being humble in nature and undoubtedly portraying characteristics of a living Saint.

Uganda Orthodox Church joins the Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters in Kenya in celebrating the Life of our beloved Bishop and May the Almighty Father rest his soul in peace and eternity.

Follow this link to read Bishop Athanasios’ biography.