Friday, March 1, 2024

Antiochian Patriarchate still handling Met. Joseph situation

(Patriarchate of Antioch) - The Synodal Committee formed by His Beatitude Patriarch JOHN X held a meeting to discuss the developments taking place in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. This committee consists of Metropolitans: Elias Audé (Beirut), Antonios Souri (Zahlé and Baalbek), Nicolas Baalbaki (Hama), and Athanasius Fahd (Latakia). 
Its first meeting which took place in Balamand was chaired by His Beatitude and attended by the Metropolitans, members of the Committee. It examined the ecclesiastical transgressions committed by the former Metropolitan of the Archdiocese Joseph Zehlaoui. 
It decided to hold several meetings for further investigation and deliberation, in order to prepare a detailed report to be submitted to the upcoming Holy Synod meeting on March 13,  2024, where the appropriate decision will be taken.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Orthodox-Catholic consultation issues marriage statement

NEW YORK (Episcopal Assembly) – Christians from the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in the United States and Canada have engaged in dialogue for more than a half-century. Most recently, the representatives from the two faith traditions, announced the publication of new agreed statement on marriage, The Pastoral Care of Mixed Marriages: Neither Yours nor Mine – but Ours. The Theological Consultation is currently co-chaired by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, the Archbishop of Newark, and Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston. The document was completed in Spring 2023 at a meeting hosted by St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto, Ontario. Like most dialogue-agreed statements, this document does not speak officially for either Church. However, it has been drafted by prominent theologians and circulated to those representing both traditions for prayerful reflection and discussion.

While commonalities exist between the two faith traditions, the Theological Consultation acknowledged that estrangement can often be seen when a Catholic and an Orthodox Christian enter into marriage. Instead of dividing the parties in a mixed marriage into “yours” and “mine,” the Consultation proposed that the parties begin with a joint solicitude for the spouses and embark on the pastoral care of each mixed marriage as “our” concern. Otherwise, they stated, the division often experienced is a painful reality for the mixed families. The new agreed statement on marriage addresses past understandings, further emphasizing the sacredness of all Christian marriage, the lifelong nature of matrimony, remarriage, the importance of the spiritual formation of children, and the need for shared and continuing pastoral care.

Differences in canonical practice between the Churches were acknowledged regarding the dissolution of the marital bond, as well as in their understanding of the constitutive elements necessary for its formation.  An affirmation was made that, in both traditions, sacramental marriage takes place in an ecclesial context through the ministry of the Church. The Consultation made recommendations on the celebration of mixed marriages in both churches, the recognition of remarriage after divorce, joint pastoral care, mutual recognition of the married life in Christ, updating of pastoral materials, and the avoidance of indifferentism as well as spiritual confusion.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Church of Crete adds some checks on baptisms

(Orthodox Times) - In a recent encyclical published on February 9, 2024, the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Church of Crete has announced stringent conditions for the celebration of the sacrament of baptism.

According to the encyclical, baptisms will now require prior “approval” from the Archdiocese of Crete or the relevant Metropolis.

The encyclical outlines specific requirements for parents seeking baptism for their children. They must provide “required” supporting documents, including a “solemn declaration” affirming that the contractor performing the baptism is an Orthodox Christian. Additionally, if one or both parents are married, they must have undergone a religious marriage ceremony. The encyclical stipulates that the solemn declaration must be certified for the authenticity of the signature.

Notably, the encyclical expressly prohibits the baptism of children born to parents who have only undergone a civil marriage ceremony, without a religious one.

These new measures reflect the Church of Crete’s commitment to upholding Orthodox Christian traditions and values in the sacrament of baptism.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Prayers for Abp. Nathaniel of Detroit & the Romanians

(OCA) - The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America has accepted His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel’s request for a medical leave of absence from his archpastoral duties as he deals with serious health complications. His Eminence went into heart surgery at 11:30 AM on February 15, 2024 and will need a long period of rest to recover and recuperate.

His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon has appointed His Grace Bishop Andrei as the administrator of the Romanian Episcopate, effective February 15, 2024, for the duration of His Eminence’s recovery.

Please pray for the health and swift recovery of Archbishop Nathaniel. Cards and other correspondence can be sent to the Chancery of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America:

PO Box 309

Grass Lake, MI 49240-0309

Orthodox Church in Guatemala: a new era

More than THREE THOUSAND attendees

(Word from Guatemala) - The Orthodox Church in Guatemala began a new era in its short history with the blessing of its newly completed Seminary/Mission Center in Huehuetenango, that will serve the spiritual, educational and administrative needs of the faithful. 
The project, which began some two years ago under the direction of Archimandrite Evangelos Patá, counted on the support of the Orthodox Mission Center, many generous donors and hundreds of volunteers from the church’s many villages throughout Guatemala. The moment was made all the more poignant with the announcement of the retirement of their beloved archpastor – His Eminence Archbishop Athenagoras, who tearfully bade farewell to the faithful. With great nostalgia, he also invoked the memory of Father Andres Giron, a fierce advocate for the rights of the indigenous people and charismatic spiritual leader to his beloved flock, shepherding it into the embrace of the Orthodox Church. 
The more than 3000 in attendance, together with the dedicated Guatemalan Clergy, His Grace Bishop Timoteo from Columbia, OCMC missionaries and San Andres seminarians, sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit, not only throughout the Divine Liturgy, but also during the blessing of the new facility which followed. The palpable joy that filled this day reflected the vibrant Christian faith of the long suffering Mayan people who endured much throughout their tragic history, but never lost hope. May this new beginning be for them a lasting renewal of their life in Christ and a stepping stone to a blessed and glorious future for generations to come.

When patriarchs defrock outside of their jurisdictions

We keep seeing these defrocks and "re-frockings" in contested locales often in recent years (Asia, Western Europe, the US). It's confusing to the people, looks silly to the outside world, and is often more petty than proper.

(Orthochristian) The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria ruled on Friday, February 16, to defrock the Russian Orthodox Church’s second African Exarch.

After an extensive discussion on “the issue of the Russian Church’s encroachment on the spiritual and pastoral jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria on the African continent,” the Holy Synod resolved to defrock His Grace Bishop Konstantin of Zaraisk, according to the Synodal report published by Romfea.

The report states that Bp. Konstantin, who was appointed acting Patriarchal Exarch of Africa by the Russian Holy Synod on October 11, had settled for some time in Cairo, on the territory of the Archdiocese of Alexandria, where he committed a series of canonical offenses, including “encroachment on the jurisdiction of an ancient throne, distribution of antimensia, buying off native clergy, even defrocked clergy, factionalism, ethno-phyletism, etc.”

Bp. Konstantin commented simply: “The fact of the matter is that I am a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. I am subordinate to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia as his vicar and to the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church as any of its bishops.”

Recall that the Alexandrian Synod ruled to defrock the first African Exarch, Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, in November 2022 for the same offenses, though the Russian Church formally rejects this decision. However, he was recently released from all his positions by the Russian Synod and awaits ecclesiastical trial for irregularities connected with his release from the All Saints Church in Moscow that serves as the headquarters for the Exarchate and the handing over of control to his successor.

In February 2022, the Alexandrian Synod also ruled to defrock Archpriests George Maximov and Andrei Novikov, the two most active priests of the Russian Exarchate in Africa.

Monday, February 12, 2024

The Holy Mountain - An Orthodox Pilgrimage

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Blessing of antimins at ROCOR cathedral


Orthodox Christian Homeschooling: Myths and Benefits

It's hard to imagine a more supportive jurisdiction for homeschooling than the Antiochian archdiocese. They are often the best place to go for resources, conferences, and the like. I'd recommend that parents who aren't sure if they want to homeschool to engage in this resource and consider going to the next Homeschooling Conference at the Antiochian Village in PA.

( - Help us help you! Survey for homeschooling families

Despite homeschooling's meteoric rise in the past few years, many myths about homeschooling persist in mainstream thought. In some ways, perhaps the myths have only grown, as many families were introduced to a very particular, narrow version of schooling at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In reality, homeschooling is a varied and multi-faceted little universe! 

Whether you are interested--but hesitant--about homeschooling, have family members or friends exploring homeschooling, or think homeschooling is just plain crazy, we hope this information will offer you food for thought. Did you know that the Antiochian Archdiocese has a Department of Homeschooling? If you have questions or would like to talk about any of the information provided here, please email the Saint Emmelia Ministries office at: (View the Department's introductory video, Why Homeschool?) 

Homeschooling Myths

  1. Homeschoolers cannot succeed in college or in the workforce. By the numbers: Homeschoolers have an average standardized test score of 87th percentile, compared to public schoolers in the 50th percentile. 66.7% of homeschooled students graduate college, 10% higher than public school students. College students who were homeschooled earn higher first-year and fourth-year GPAs when controlling for demographic, pre-college, engagement, and first-term academic factors. Here's the deal. The modern school system is built to accommodate working parents and not children. You need nothing like eight hours of instruction to match with what your child is doing at school. At the same time, you have to be consistent and intentional. It's a trivial thing to be better than most schools at educating your children, but you can also put out little effort and your child will not learn. The rewards are great but the safety net of public school minimum standards for matriculation is gone, too.
  2. Homeschoolers are all socially awkward. While it is difficult to qualify what "socially awkward" means, 87% of peer-reviewed studies on social, emotional, and psychological development show homeschool students perform statistically significantly better than those in conventional schools[4]. Additionally, homeschool students self-report a high level of comfort interacting with people from all age groups. Ask a librarian, museum docent, etc. their experiences working with homeschool students–they will almost certainly say that homeschoolers tend to be polite, well-behaved, and curious. School students are very accustomed to associating only with kids in their grades. As a result, the idea of being in 5th grade and talking to a 7th grader is unthinkable. Homeschoolers are a bit precocious here; they'll talk to adults as readily as a two-year-old. This can seem awkward, but they more defy being hemmed in by age distinction than anything else. All that said, and to be fair, school children can spot a homeschooled child from a thousand paces.
  3. Homeschool parents are unqualified to teach their children. Parents' education level statistically makes no impact on the success rates of their children. There are multiple factors that contribute to this: typically, homeschool parents are driven to provide their children with an excellent education; there are many wonderful curriculum options, and homeschool families know how to make use of the resources available to them! There are so many resources out there that you could offload a lot of this elsewhere. Or if you want to do certain classes that way. I recommend the St. Athanasius Academy and the CLRC.
  4. Families homeschool so that they can brainwash their children. While it is true that many families homeschool so that they can cultivate their values in their children, that is rarely the only goal (and it is a very different goal from "brainwashing"!). In fact, the number one reason 80% of polled families homeschool is to protect their children from unsafe environments and negative peer pressure; for 61% it is to offer their children a higher quality education. Homeschooling is not a defensive reaction; it is a positive, proactive step; not an emergency, but rather a difficult, but treasured calling. If anyone is brainwashing anyone, it's not parents.
  5. The only people who homeschool are rich, white, religious fundies. Homeschooling is far from homogenous. Not only do families homeschool according to a variety of methods and belief systems (everything from Classical Liberal Arts to Charlotte Mason to Montessori to Waldorf), but homeschooling families across the political and religious spectrums are choosing to homeschool. The vast majority of homeschoolers are lower middle class (which makes sense, considering most homeschool families are single income), and 17-26% of homeschool families are Hispanic, 6-8% are black, and 2-3% are AAPI, 4-6% identified as other (29-41% of all homeschool families). This falls roughly along the lines of the national race demographics (59.3% white, 18.9% Latino, 12.6% black, 5.9% AAPI, 3.7% other). Fundamentalist is just another term for saying they are religious and actually meaning it. It's a convenient derogatory term to dismiss or revile someone. Also, it costs less to homeschool a child than to send them off to school. 
  6. Homeschooling hurts public schools. While homeschool families support the public schools via taxes, homeschoolers receive no tax breaks or special government support. When families choose to homeschool their children, they free up resources (especially teacher time and energy!) for other students. In fact, homeschooling saved taxpayers 51 billion in 2021-2022. 
  7. Homeschoolers miss out on extracurricular and other opportunities. 98% of homeschoolers participate in an average of 5 extracurricular activities per week. Additionally, not being tied to a traditional school day allows students to take part in internships, apprenticeships, and other skill-strengthening activities. The flexibility of homeschooling gives students an opportunity to explore a range of interests to figure out what they are passionate about. Every state/school district is different. Some will let your children do sports, some will not. But often the highest level athletes are homeschooled. Regardless, you can fill up every waking hour with activities or do none. Up to you.

Like any group of people, homeschoolers are not a monolith: their experiences, interests, and other traits run the gamut of every possible human experience, interest, and trait. The only thing that just about every homeschool family shares is that the recognition that the greatest responsibility for their children's education rests on their shoulders. And what a joyful responsibility it is...

Complete article here.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

ROCOR reminds clergy that seminaries exist

(HTS) - In that 2023 was the 75th anniversary year of Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, NY, the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR, in a meeting of the Synod during September, 2023, discussed encouraging ROCOR clergy who do not have and formal theological formation/training to look to pursue this.

The following is an excerpt from the ROCOR Synod meeting on September 6, 2023:

“During the meeting of the Synod of Bishops which occurred on August 24/September 6, 2023, the bishops heard the request of Protodeacon Andrei Psarev to remind the clergy (of ROCOR) who do not have formal theological formation how they may receive such training.

The decision was made to remind the clergy who do not have theological formation, and wish to receive it, to inform them how (and where) to apply to study online, including at Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary or the Pastoral of School of Chicago and Mid-America.

Metropolitan Nicholas, First Hierarch of ROCOR

Archbishop Kyrill, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops”

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Ancient Faith investigates deaconesses

Some weeks ago Ancient Faith was going to have a chat with a proponent of deaconesses in the Orthodox Church. I commented on it elsewhere (X) and, my goodness, did it raise a ruckus. AFR got punched in the nose both for the proposed talk by opponents and by proponents for eventually pulling out of the talk. There was a general distrust in what was going to be broadcast and people let them know about it. It got quite personal and not a little destructive, but I didn't see much sign that it was AFR's intent to subvert traditional orthodoxy and inaugurate some great feminizing Council of Portland that would forever change the Church. But, where things like this are on the table, people are going to respond viscerally.

They later announced a reformulated discussion with a very much expanded production. It became a 10-hour documentary which brought John Maddex out of retirement and involved interviews with fourteen people (clergy and theologians). Last night they hosted a two and a half hour preview of that documentary with some commentary by Mr. Maddex and Fr. Tom Soroka between segments. It finished with some call-in questions and a chat with Fr. John Whiteford before the episode ended.

I listened to it while I put kids to bed, tried unsuccessfully to move the dog off the couch, debated a grocery shopping list, and extemporaneously summarized it for my wife who had enough interest to want such a précis but not enough patience to endure the entire 180 minute event. It allowed both "sides" of the argument to speak. And, with a very active YouTube live chat, was much like reading the comments on a political debate with a mix of zingers, insults, and careful parsing of the issue. 

The primary complaint was that by even bringing up the topic Ancient Faith was giving an alien presence purchase on the Body of Christ (pictured right; see Life for cinematic treatment). I think if the current deaconess movement were not receiving some jurisdictional, financial, and academic backing this might be true. And there were also several (lightly attended) Zoom events and a conference as well in the mix putting the idea out into the world. In this case I don't believe engaging with the topic strengthened it at all. The more people heard, the more entrenched those in the live chat seemed to become in their positions. This might be a situation where daylight served as cleansing treatment on the topic.

The YouTube event touched on the historical deaconess role, what the church has been discussing on the topic in recent councils, what is being demanded by proponents, and what would happen if some or all jurisdictions brought in this role in any of the proposed forms. There was not agreement in what the historical role was. There was not agreement on what shape the "revitalized" form would take. There was not agreement on a safe way to roll this out should a bishop or synod choose to do so.

I could summarize this thing for pages, but I do encourage you to listen to it all the way through. Fight the urge to fast forward through some people. For me it was worth hearing how strong some positions were and comforting to see how weak others were. You also learned where things might go next, which might prove helpful at a future coffee hour discussion on the topic.

Did you listen? What were your thoughts?

When to baptize and who?

Baptism is a good thing. It is in fact the greatest thing. But, as with everything, along with the benefits you also have responsibilities. If I give my daughter a pony, she is immediately happy to have him. She names him, she pets him, she wants to go on a ride. She is less enamored with the idea when it comes time to muck his stall, feed him in the morning and evening, get back on when she's knocked off, or take riding lessons in the rain. I, as a parent, would not have bought the pony if I didn't believe she'd ever care for him or enjoy his company. But such is owning an animal that you own the delights and the obligations.

In the same way Christ was clear, in speaking of the life of the Christian, that he is obliged to keep His commandments. In fact, it is a visible sign of our love for Him. A child raised completely ignorant of what those promises made at his baptism were is thus imperiled. Imagine a young Congolese boy who has no understanding of English nor of American sports being teleported across the globe without pads into a game in the NFL. How would he fare? Poorly and painfully we might expect. In the same way, when we baptize children who have parents and family with no church participation, with godparents chosen for familiarity over piety, and a situation where all concerned are not only ignorant of the Christian way but are often hostile to it, we are transporting him into that football game and should expect the bruising ramifications of our actions.

I am reminded of a baptism I did where after having a discussion with the parents about godparents and their role that I received confirmation of their ability to be sponsors and their desire to be such. Imagine my chagrin when it was time to recite the creed and neither one seemed to have ever hear it before and one of them pronounced Pontius Pilate (ˈpɒnʃəs pɪˈlɑːtiːz) so that one might assume the governor was a devotee of Contrology exercise routines.

The question many have is: "Is it better to baptize a child of a non-Orthodox background as if he were going to be in an Orthodox family because baptisms are good and there's a chance he might one day find his way to the church?"

If we immerse a child in the waters of Jordan and then know he will immediately jump out of those waters (or more precisely be cast out by the circumstances of his heterodox environment), have we thrown a fish out of water a la Nemo and just hoped he'll find his way back? We have all seen a fish struggling to breathe in a boar or pier. We have all probably taken a goldfish home when we were children. Did any of us just let the fish die because we had no plan to put it in a fishbowl, to feed it, or keep it away from the family cat?

Optimally, a baptism is an opportunity for the parents, godparents, et al. to be called to account for their behavior. It's a chance for them to reflect on THEIR baptismal promise and find conversion. In fact, I think for proponents of these irregular baptisms, that is what they imagine will happen. Sadly, it often has the opposite effect.

Imagine two friends go off to college. One friend works hard, studies incessantly, and comes out of the experience in some debt, but equipped for her next phase in life. Her friend picks one of those novel majors akin to underwater basket weaving and walks across the stage having spent more time in fraternity houses than classrooms. For her college was "stupid," her friend "wasted her time" in school not partying enough, and she is looking for ways to continue her profligate lifestyle into her twenties and beyond. Who values college more? Who will recommend it more? Who will be a better example of what college can do for a young person?

So, if we transfer that dichotomy to a church setting we find a similar divide. One family attends church regularly, prays as a family, and celebrates the feasts as a family. The other does none of those things. Both of them attend a baptism. The former considers the event to be one of the high points of their lives. The latter asks for the third time "how long is this thing again." The family who elevates God in their lives elevates the sacrament as a means of connection to God and His grace. The other finds the event silly and wonders if this is going to hold up brunch so that they'll miss the limitless mimosas deal they have going on at the reception restaurant. One comes out finding even more heavenly treasure from the Body of Christ and the other wonders why there's no free wifi. 

The American Church has no idea what to do here. Jurisdiction to jurisdiction, parish to parish, we take each situation as a unique one and act in contradictory ways just miles apart from one another. And without an official approach we struggle to reinvent the wheel daily. It doesn't have to be that way and yet it is.  I wonder if the answer will come from far distant patriarchates or from our own hierarchs. I suspect things will percolate for years until we fumble into a rough consensus on the matter.

(Orthochristian) - The children of gay couples should be baptized when they’re older and have expressed a desire to receive the Sacrament, believes the Archbishop of Athens.

The issue has been a hot topic in the Orthodox world since Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America baptized the children of a celebrity gay couple in the summer of 2022. One of the men praised the Archbishop for serving what he called “the first openly gay baptism in the Greek Orthodox Church,” though it became a scandal in Greece where the Baptism was celebrated. The Greek Synod even sent letters of protest to Abp. Elpidophoros and Pat. Bartholomew.

The issue resurfaced earlier this month when the abbots and representatives of the 20 monasteries of Mt. Athos expressed their concern about the public spectacle surrounding the Baptism that gave the impression that the Church approves of gay marriage. They also unanimously voted not to accord Abp. Elpidophoros the typical hierarchical greeting in Karyes during his recent visit to Mt. Athos.

Following his pilgrimage, Abp. Elpidophoros visited Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens yesterday. Answering a journalist’s question about the Baptism of children of gay couples, the Greek primate said it should be delayed, reports Romfea:

Alexandria, Crete, & Constantinople on same-sex relationships

(Orthodox Times) - On Sunday, January 28, Pope and Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria presided over the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Missionary Spiritual Center of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa in Rodia, Crete.

After concluding the Divine Liturgy, the Patriarch was asked about the impending legislation regarding civil marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, set to be submitted to the Greek Parliament. In response, he reflected on the inclusive message of Christ, emphasizing, “I came into the world to save every man, sinner, tax collector, Pharisee, prostitutes, poor people.”

Expressing a desire for everyone’s happiness regardless of their chosen path, he refrained from criticism or personal opinion, urging consideration for the well-being of the children involved. Emphasizing the Church as a haven of love rather than a court, he concluded, “If they have chosen this path, the Church will continue to love and await them.”

And also...

(Orthochristian) - The Greek government is moving ahead with its plans to legalize gay marriage and adoption. Stefanos Kasselakis, the openly gay banker and head of the radical left Syriza party, pledged the votes of his party members earlier this month.

A number of hierarchs of the Orthodox Church of Greece have spoken out individually against the initiative, and the Holy Synod adopted a statement in December, preceded a few days by a statement from the Sacred Community of Mt. Athos.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

A worthy apology

Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzos issued an apology for his participation in the Hindu celebration discussed here. As I said elsewhere online, I was quite surprised to see such a heartfelt and unreserved apology. It wasn't couched in words akin to "I'm sorry you feel that way," it was done publicly, and it was also quite clear. I struggle to think of any other hierarch apologizing for anything in the last few years; to this day no one has apologized for the craven response to COVID, for example. 

Also, let me say that some have taken exception to me singling out the Greek Archdiocese in some way. As if I let the Russian Church do whatever it wants, but hold the GOA to a different standard. To that, let me say two things. First, this blog is replete with articles on the topic of ecumenism by all sides. Second, the Russian Church - when it was helmed by Met. Hilarion of the DECR on such topics - had a much more sustainable model. Find areas where people of different faiths agree on things (human rights, peaceful resolution to conflict, the family, etc.) and work together, but do not do so in such a way that we pretend unity or equivalency are at hand. That sort of cooperation I can recommend.

Monday, January 15, 2024

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.

“Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the Lord.

- Jeremiah 7:8-10

There was a time when people really believed in God, but also demons and malign forces in general. A time when people feared the power of such fiendish beings and fought against them whenever possible. We see such a time in the Bible and in much of the life of the Church when it called out demons for what they were, destroyed statues and false gods, and spoke out against their lies for what they were.

Sadly, the time we live in now has turned religion into a form of currency. You're religious? I'm religious! Let's celebrate. And yet we know that the Hindu deities are demons. The church is clear there. A cleric should never walk into one of their blasphemous temples much less rejoice in the building of a new one.

Pluralism means we must respect the religions of others to the borders of permitting them to exist whether we deem them worthy or not. In the United States we could not level a synagogue or mosque and make room for a cathedral for example. What pluralism (in an Orthodox context) does not mean, is celebrating a new temple to the demons when we should lament the souls of those wayward people.

Who sees this picture and thinks "Orthodoxy is the way." Photo ops, as much as we try to say they are not, are signs of support and affirmation. That's why people print these things and put them on their walls. Please, for the love (not to mention mercy) of God, please stop.

( - On October 4, 2023, a hierarch of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America participated in the “Interfaith Harmony Day” held at a large Hindu temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

The event, which gathered representatives from Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Mormonism, Judaism, and Buddhism, was part of the celebrations that culminated in the consecration of the temple on October 8.

The site of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, the overarching organization that includes the new temple, states that, “The gathering was a testament to the core principles of Akshardham, where unity emerges from diversity, and the common threads that bind humanity together are celebrated with reverence and appreciation.”

The same sentiment was expressed in a letter from Archbishop Elpidophoros, head of GOARCH, which was read by His Grace Bishop Athenagoras Nazianzos, Chief Secretary of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who personally attended the event.

Citing the holy Apostle Paul, Abp. Elpidophoros wrote: “In the boundless tapestry of creation, we are called to recognize and celebrate the diverse ways in which humanity seeks to connect with the divine. As Orthodox Christians, we are continually reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words, for from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.”

The Archbishop also offered his blessing to all the Hindu community’s endeavors.

Read the full address presented by Bp. Athenagoras:

Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, brothers and sisters, with profound joy and a heart filled with gratitude, I extend my warmest congratulations on the momentous occasion of the grand opening of the BAPS Akshardham Mahamandir in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

In the boundless tapestry of creation, we are called to recognize and celebrate the diverse ways in which humanity seeks to connect with the divine. As Orthodox Christians, we are continually reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words, for from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.

Indeed, the beauty of faith and worship is a reflection of the divine’s infinite wisdom and love. This Hindu temple represents a sacred space where individuals gather in devotion, seeking spiritual fulfillment and understanding through prayer and worship and dialogue. As His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew reminds us, we must have faith in dialogue itself. Any encounter and every dialogue require risk at both the individual and the community level. All dialogues are personal, since they involve the interaction of unique, irreplaceable persons, Christian or not, whose personhood is intricately connected to their individual social, cultural, and religious specificities.