Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Archbishop Elpidophoros visits the White House

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America Meets President Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Also present at the meeting were Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar; and Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Fr. Alex Karloutsos.


  1. I expect Trump wanted to meet him when he heard the archbp.was abbott of a monastery with no monks AND headmaster of a school with no students. Seems like someone he could relate to.

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    2. My my my!!! You sure have an axe to grind vis a vis the new Archbishop?!

      But it doesn't suprise anyone anymore since we live in a time & age when any Tom, Dick, & Harry can be "rebels without a cause or reason" spitting poison & venom whereever they please! Free world indeed.

      CORRECTION - FYI, The Archbishop, soon after he was elected as the Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Halki, has actually managed to REVIVE an active monastic life!
      The monastery is currently populated by 7 monks (and the number is steadily growing)... all of them highly educated... from various countries & cultural backgrounds. Also, he has successfully collaborated with internationally acclaimed Universities, signing MoUs with leading Universites & Research institutions accross Greece, Italy, EU, & America. As a results, Halki Seminary regularly hosted high profile International Academic Seminars & Symposiums, Research Expeditions & Consultations... apart from the many many cultural programs & activities. It also became a popular place of spiritual pilgrimage & popular tourist site for many Orthodox Christians, non-Orthodox Christians, and non-Christians from within Turkey, Greece, Middle East, Balkans, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, America, and all over the world.
      The good Archbishop has also successfully oversaw complete renovation of the buildings and degitization of all precious manuscripts & book in the Seminary Library in collaboration with the prestigious Erasmus grant.

      He has accomplished all that in such abshort time (within 3-4 years) is remarkable considering that the Islamic fundamentalist, hyper nationalistic, & fascist regime of Erdogan is constantly breathing down their (EP's) neck, not to have too much activity, is nothing short of a miracle.

      All this you would have known beforehand if you care to do even a simple background study on his Eminence & his works before making a false commentary!... Instead you end up making wild assumptions based on falsehood & outright lies!

      Kyrie Eleison! Lord Have Mercy!

    3. Dialogist, if there are live monks at his old monastery I apologize! I'd like to see where one could find that information. However, his being the custodion of an utterly empty school is unquestionable. If the Turks let people use the facility as a center for "conferences", meetings, basketball games or anything else that's trivial. The Greeks would like to reopen the place but are prevented for reasons of old religious bigotry by muslims. Sad to see in the 21st century, I hope it ends. The bishop is like most EP bishops, waaaay over-academic, meaningless for 99% of orthodox laymen. He is as is typical very good at photo ops and handshakes. And more pictures. The latest GOA Observer has 48 pages and 47 pictures of him. If it were any sillier it could counter how pathetic it is. If the archbishop were not here, as with the previous two, no one would have missed them.

    4. Bob, I was personally present at the tonsuring of one of the monks at Halki at the Vespers of Pentecost in 2017. The monk who was tonsured had also been the librarian for some time, and was leading the project of cataloguing and digitizing the manuscripts.

    5. @Bob, I am quite surprised & troubled by your zeal and readiness to pronounce judgments on people (no less Orthodox hierarchs) as if you know them & their situations so well, while the opposite is the case.
      Who are you (or I) to make judgments on anybody (especially hierarchs) in this manner?!

      Two things about your comment against the new GOA Archbishop troubled and saddened me:
      1) Factual Inaccuracy - The fact that you are so eager to pass such strong negative judgment & condemnation against him without checking the reliability of your facts. NOTE that he has revived active monastic life at Halki Seminary within a short time! Go research about him and the Seminary from EP sources, not from the Russian Fake News factories, then make an opinion. Complete inertia at serious truth-seeking and utter disregard for verifiable facts have become serious spiritual CANCER within "online Orthodoxy."

      And the fact that he is without acrive students is NOT within his control. (Its in the hands of the Turks). Can anybody be judged, scorned, & belittled for things not of their doing/ not under their control?! How absurd is this?! The reasoning behind your spiteful remarks is quite baffling! It is no different than passing snideful comments at an orphan for not having a father! It is plain simple bullying & bigotry. It has no place in Christian conversations. Period.

      In any case, how does it matter whether he has any monastics or students at Halki Seminary or not?! It has nothing to do with what he is worth as a human being. This is basic Christian gospel. And frankly speaking, it is none of your business, or mine!

      2) Attitude - I am also troubled by your eagerness to pin him down on anything (by hook or by crook). Where is this un-Christian and uncharitable attitude (about an Orthodox hierarch no less) coming from?! Neither you (nor I) know the new GOA Archbishop prrsonally. I am quite willing to bet that neither of us know the vast majority of the GOA hierarchs that well at all.

      Who makes us Judge over them?! The answer is: No one has!!... NOT our Parish Priest, not our Diocesan Bishop, not our jurisdictional hierarchy, not the Holy Canons, not even the Holy Scripture (the Canon of all Canons)!
      In fact the Holy Canons (since much of "online Orthodoxy" talk so much ad nauseam about "Canons") forbid Christians to slander Bishops & hierarchs. And the Holy Scripture (the Canon of all Canons) is even clearer against slander and judgmentalism.

  2. A very unwarranted comment. As they say in Arabic aibushum ,,,,,naughty,naughty

  3. As Dialogist noted, Archbishop Elpidophoros accomplished much before coming to America. There is a real Christian revival happening in Turkey right now: It is slow, and not explosive, with fits and starts, but it is happening. Under the label of "religious tourism" to put money in Turkish coffers, Churches are being restored and rebuilt, and Liturgies are being served. When anti-EP people sneer and say that it is a church without a flock, they ignore this reality and insult those who are carefully and quietly doing Our Lord's work in Turkey. As for the Archbishop, by all accounts he is a kind and conscientious man (I think even his detractors would concede that, even if they find his ecclesiological views suspect).

    1. I definitely think theres a religious revival going on in Turkey right now, just not under the EP. Many protestant groups have been gaining ground, and the MP has sent a priest or two to a flock that have been previously neglected. The EP definitely has been doing some good, serving liturgies in some of the old great monasteries in Cappadocia, but has unfortunately seemingly been unable to evangelize or gain any sort of flock native to Turkey, outside of Istanbul.

    2. Evangelization is a bit difficult in Muslim societies, for reasons we all know about. As for the Russians living in Turkey, they were and are not neglected. They have Slavonic Liturgies and all their pastoral needs met. Before this Ukraine business, MP priests would come with the blessing of the local bishops and serve Liturgies. The relationship was quite friendly, until the MP decided to set up "missions" in Turkey, a gross canonical violation and disproportionate response to the Ukraine Crisis (the EP has not set up any parishes in Russia itself). It is also a slap in the face to the Greek Bishops who have gone through the pains to learn Slavonic, recruit Slavophone clergy and take care of the people who live there. Quite diabolical.

    3. Granting a "Tomos" to a schismatic group in Ukraine is far worse setting "setting up parishes" in Russia. And when the EP decided to blow up the peace of the Church by its actions, it lost any grounds for complaints about anything the Russian Church might do without their permission in Turkey, or anywhere else.

    4. Father, Bless.

      Whatever one thinks about the EP's actions in Ukraine, there is still the question of Moscow's response. Not a single pro-MP person I have talked to has been able to answer this question: How is the solution to division, more division?

      If what the EP is doing in Ukraine is truly wrong and horrible, how can turning around and sowing division elsewhere in the world be the answer?

      The MP had multiple options on how to respond to what the EP was doing. They went right for the nuclear option, and in so doing, set off a chain of events that have seen Orthodox communities around the world schisming from each other. Additionally, their breaking of Communion has paralyzed the Pan-Orthodox process. The MP talks about finding a pan-Orthodox solution, but there can be no Council on this issue while the MP is out of communion with the EP.

      The MP can blame HAH Bartholomew all they like. THEY chose to involve the laity in this dispute. THEY chose to respond in this way. THEY chose the path of escalation and retaliation. As someone who initially sympathized with the MP on this, their reaction and subsequent actions have DEEPLY repelled me.

      I think anyone who sows division in the body of Christ will have to answer for it before the Judgement seat. You know this better than I, Father. If HAH Bartholomew is in the dock, he won't be sitting there alone.

    5. The canons say that a bishop that does with the EP has done is to be deposed. He has entered into communion with deposed clergy and schismatics. Refraining from concelebrating with those guilty of these crimes is a normal response, pending a conciliar verdict on the matter. The EP broke communion with the Jerusalem Patriarchate over a whole lot less early in Patriarch Bartholomew's tenure. He also threatened to do the same to Greece over the status of parishes in Northern Thrace.

  4. Talk to any Turk (the Reddit Orthodox group is a good place, they have a couple), and they will tell you there is no such Christian revival happening under the EP in Turkey.

    Why has it been mostly protestants that have been gaining ground? Because they use the Turkish language and they don't act like a Greek social club. I'm not giving credit to the Russian since I would imagine their "growth" is due to the many, many Russians that live in Turkey (there are twice as many Russian Orthodox than Greek Orthodox in Turkey).

    If the Russians start using Turkish in their liturgies, I'm all for it. The EP is obviously constrained by the Turkish government to do any evangelizing (if he even wants to), why let his bishops, who oversee basically non-existent sees and cannot evangelize, have a monopoly on everything? The EP exists basically bc of tradition as they have essentially a flock that will not exist within Turkey within the next 50 years if not less.

    If there truly is a Christian revival happening in Turkey under the EP, I would ask for hard proof as I would imagine there isn't any

    Apologies for the harsh words, but, if it was not for the diaspora the EP would cease to exist. The fact that it wields so much power is laughable given its circumstances

  5. @Menas, lets put some things into perspective a little bit shall we?!
    My goodness! Why is it that we Orthodox always jump to conclusions about things that we either care so little to learn or have no way of knowing?! Fake News & half-baked opinions with no basis have become the most common Orthodox disease!
    Let us forget about any notion of "revival" of Orthodoxy in Turkey for the moment. Because NONE of us know what exactly is happening right now... neither you, nor me, nor ordinary Turks.

    Nevertheless any serious observer or scholar of Turkey will tell you that the Turkish state ever since their independence, and now especially Erdogan, have always run a pretty tight control regime. All national identities except that of bring "Turkish" is violently suppressed. And the 2 main markers of "Turkishness" is Turkish language-culture and Islam. Everything else to the contrary is violently suppressed. You might be familiar with the catastrophic genocide of the Armenians, the Greeks, and the Syriacs in the 1920s. And the Muslim Kurds and Alevis do not fare much better.
    Most serious scholars on Turkey will tell you that the old strategy of ethnic cleansing of minorities continues unabated all these years, and have actually accelerated with Erdogan, albeit in a much more invisible fashion.

    Forget about any active EP evangelization on Turkish Muslims. The Turkish government barely allows them to exist at all! EP today had to go through a daily crucifixion to hold on to their Apostolic See in Constantinople, and not having to move their headquarters to some other place.
    Do you know that every time the EP has to ask the Turkish govt. for fresh permissions to go on pilgrimages to their historic holy sites in Asia Minor Cappadocia and Pontus (i.e., Ephesus, Philadelphia, Smyrna, Galatia, Chaldia, Trebizond, Caesarea, Tarsus, Iconium, Nicopolis etc.)??!!

    The Greek Orthodox population in Turkey is dwindling every year due to adverse discriminatory policies of the Turkish govt.
    Meanwhile, the Turkish govt. also denies any legal personality to the Ecumenical Patriarchate... hence all legal actions has to be done only under Rūm (Greek) Orthodox Foundation. In this way the Turkish govt. has managed to confiscate around 8000 historic properties (churches, monasteries, schools, hospitals etc) from the Patriarchate.
    On top of that, it had also unlawfully closed the Halki Seminary (since 1970s) without any proper justification... thereby denying the EP the very possibility of sustaining & renewing itself by training new clergymen within Turkey.

  6. @Menas: (contd.)
    The history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople has always been a history of suffering and martyrdom from the political powers right from the Byzantine Era. Even Patriarchs as influential as St. John Chrysostom or St. Gregory the Theologian or St. Photios (to name a few) have regularly been persecuted & even exiled by the Emperors of the day for daring to speak and act in defence of what is right. Many more sainted Patriarchs have been deposed or martyred.
    This cycle of suffering & martyrdom have continued in the Ottoman Era. Too many martyr Patriarchs & Bishops to name. In the more recent massacre of Greeks in Constantinople (1821), the EP Gregory V was hanged on the Phanar main door by Ottoman Turks as punishment for the Greek War of Independence.
    The history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is full of hierarchs who confess the faith in martyrdom. Little had changed even today.
    It is actually a miracle from above that the EP has still survived at all (in fact thriving slowly & gradually) inspite of all this.

    So dear brother, before you indulge yourself in sanctimonious judgments and pompous lecturings at EP, walk a mile in their shoes! Study their history of witness & martyrdom under conditions neither you nor I could ever imagine.
    And study their long & rich theological and spiritual legacy. Learn about their central role in the formulation of Christian dogma & doctrine throughout the centuries. Study their important role in the Councils of the Church, and the special canonical privileges that the Ecumenical Councils have bestowed them, some of which are shared only with old Rome and some of which are unique to their See alone.

    After doing all that, perhaps God-willing your criticisms will sound less like an empty ideological witch-hunting. It will hopefully be more grounded in substance and tempered with reality... just the way any truly Christian exercise of constructive criticism (filled with charity and the sincere desire to help them transform) should necesarily be practised.

    "You hypocrite! First, remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye." (Mathew 7:5).

  7. I would second Menas in the call for evidence that a monk or two here or there (mostly political posturing), a service here or there allowed for tourism, is somehow a Orthodox "revival" in Turkey.

    The Imperial Church of the East's death warrant was signed in 1453, and the idea of anything but a token Orthodox culture surviving the population exchange of 1923 in Turkey and so called "Constantinople" is wishful thinking.

    The whole apparatus of the EP and for that mater ALL of Orthodox ecclesiology stands upon the bones of a dead Empire. The EP exists only because Orthodoxy has not had a real council in 1300 years. A (I would argue "the") sign of a real council will be the rationalizing of our ecclisology for the "new" situation of the Empire's demise, east/west split,the rise of nation states, protestantism, secularism, etc. etc.

  8. @Dialogist,

    While your wagging your sanctimonious finger, why don't you take your own advice and connect the theological and historical dots. In cultural/religious/political terms, what is the fruit of all the very real martyrdom of which you speak? Answer: Islam "won" and Christianity (in the form of the Imperial Church of the East) "lost". It did not just lose, it was crushed - as in a complete route - as in 100-0 style Dallas Cowboys vs. local high school team punishment - in Turkey (as a political, Islamic, cultural entity).

    The population exchange of a 100 years ago was Orthodoxies complete surrender in Turkey - and a very understandable one.

    Now, why are "we" (i.e. Orthodox Church, Orthodox ecclesiology) still pretending that none of this happened and that a "Ecumenical Patriarch" is anything but a paper construction (one, as the EP's actions in the Ukraine have shown is without *authority* in spirit even if he holds onto ancient canons misapplied to a very changed circumstance) in the modern Orthodox world? You speak of "substance and tempered with reality", help me find the substance and reality of your point...

  9. @Jake:
    Wow! You guys are just amazingly unbelievable! Didn't even know that entirely new species like this exist in the 21st century... much less in a "Christian/ Orthodox" discussion forum!
    But its a very good thing that you have come out of the woodworks because it brings to light the CANCER that ails so much of White Western societies today, and increasingly our own Orthodox Church in the West.
    It will take a determined and courageous Church leadership to stamp out this lethal spiritual CANCER. May it be so. Kyrie Eleison!

    If your idea of Christianity or Orthodoxy is set in term of who WINS and who LOSES, Im sorry to say that is NEITHER Christianity NOR Orthodoxy!
    That is purely raw political and geopolitical game! Pure unbridled lust ang hunger for POWER! Thats it.
    NOTHING to do with the Gospel of the crucified Christ, who has actually went to his own martyrdom at the Cross (in case you don't realise).

    If all that you care about is numbers, winning, losing, empires, church politics, geopolitical games, then WHY THE HELL do you call yourself a Christian at all, much less an Orthodox Christian??!!
    If talks of the Church's martyrdom and sacrifice and loses and humility and weakness in the midst of persecution from the powers that be (all themes central to the life of Christ himself and his Holy Church since the Pentecost) disgust and rile you up so much, then why do still remain in the Church?! It sounds like you don't belong there at all. Why not join some New Age therapy for self-cultivation and self-aggrandizement instead? It seems you long for such a thing.

    Because the primary task of every true Church of Christ is to talk and proclaim these very things that disgusted you! That is exactly what the gospel of the crucified Christ is all about.
    A place where every human ego, every supremacist ideology (be it White racism or Black ghettoism or Islamic fundamentalism, be it Hellenic or Turkish pride, be it Russian pride in Russkiy Mir or Ukrainian pride in unbridled nationalism, be it Serbian extremist nationalism or Bosnian fanaticism etc etc) is CRUCIFIED!!!
    You speak exactly as a Nietzchean, NOT as a Christian!

    Orthodox Christianity, or any form of Christianity that claims fidelity to the Christ, should NOT be a hiding place for anybody obsessed mainly with winning/losing, massaging group egos, protecting geopolitical empires (Putin's Russia, or Greece, or Serbia etc etc) hatred for weakness, defeat, humility, loss!
    The Church is not pandering to your whims. It teaches you instead the path of self-crucifixion. A very bitter pill to swallow.

    As for the Ukrainian issue, if you do not have the necessary dedication & hardwork required to do a proper academic study of the complicated issues and questions involved that existed for at least a century, kindly so not have a fanatic opinion about it one way or the other... simply because you not competent to speak on anyone's behalf. If you are really serious about understanding the issues involved in all their complexity (instead of pamphleteering from nowhere), I suggest you begin by listening equally (without any bias) to what actual Ukrainian intellectuals within Ukraine themselves are saying from both sides of the sharp political divide. Perhaps then, your "judgment" may be more tampered with substance and reality.

    Why is it that "online Orthodox forums" are generally filled with people who are obsessed with politics, culture wars, church politics, geopolitics... but knew and cared so little about the Gospel of the crucified Christ?!
    Because they confuse geopolitical empires with the Kingdom of God maybe??!!
    Thank God most of our local parishes cutting across jurisdictions are NOT AT ALL as crazy, deranged, & toxic as most pseudo-Christian & pseudo-Orthodox online forums!
    That fact itself is heartwarming. Very hopeful sign that the Holy Spirit protected our parishes from fanatics & bigots.

    1. So your not going to connect the dots - your going to cry racism...

    2. After a number of decades as a Christian, passing through several different iterations of the creed, I'm convinced Christianity needs a Christendom.