Peter Anderson berichtet aus der orthodoxen Welt

Seit vielen Jahren verfolgt Peter Anderson aus Seattle USA die Entwicklungen in der orthodoxen Welt. Nicht im Auftrag einer Zeitung, sondern aus persönlicher Liebe zu den Ostkirchen und im Einsatz für die Communio von Ost und West gibt er Einblicke in neue Entwicklungen. Mit Zustimmung von Peter Anderson werden seine E-mail-Nachrichten auf der Homepage des Zentrums St. Nikolaus dokumentiert.

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NEWS 2021

  • 30 January 2021: Dispute continues in Montenegro & other news

    On January 23, Montenegro President Milo Đukanović signed the “Re-decision on the Law on Amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Legal Status of Religious Communities.”  https://www.b92.net/eng/news/region.php?yyyy=2021&mm=01&dd=25&nav_id=110259  As you recall, Đukanović had returned the law to Parliament on January 2, but then Parliament had reenacted the law a second time on January 20 by a vote of 41 of the 81 deputies.  Đukanović stated that after the reenactment, he had no choice under the Constitution but to sign the law.  On January 26, the signed law was published in the Official Gazette of Montenegro and legally went into effect.  The text of the new law can be read on the website of the Official Gazette at http://www.sluzbenilist.me/pregled-dokumenta/?id={80A433F1-D986-4ED0-A689-6A0DD388B105}.  Many had assumed, including myself, that the long fight over the controversial law was now over. 

    However, Đukanović had stated when he signed the law that the problems with the law still remained.  He remarked that after the legislation became law following its publication, the issue of the constitutionality of the law could be raised before the Constitutional Court of Montenegro by any entity in society.  https://www.telegraf.rs/english/3293388-this-time-djukanovic-signs-new-laws-adopted-by-assembly-including-that-on-freedom-of-religion.  He did not have long to wait.  On January 26, the same day as the publication of law in the Official Gazette, the NGO Montenegro International filed a petition with the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of the new law and requesting an order from the Court suspending the law until the final decision of the Court.   https://montenegrointernational.org/mi-podnijela-inicijativa-za-ocjenu-ustavnosti-zakona-o-izmjenama-i-dopunama-zakona-o-slobodi-vjeroispovjesti/  The NGO makes the claim that the enacted amendments to the law would legalize the principle of discrimination between religious communities and alienate state properties and cultural treasures of Montenegro to a religious community that has no legal personality in Montenegro but which is a religious community of another state.

    The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ended on January 25, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.  In Rome, the traditional vesper service was held at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, but without the participation of Pope Francis, who was suffering from sciatica.  In the Pope’s absence, Cardinal Kurt Koch presided.  http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/news/2021/2021-01-26-vespers-st-paul-outside-the-walls.html  A video with English commentary of the entire service can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSjTcowPico&feature=emb_logo.  The full text of the English translation of the Pope’s address, read by Cardinal Koch, is available at  http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2021/documents/papa-francesco_20210125_vespri-unitacristiani.html.

    Cardinal Koch processed into the Basilica with Bishop Atanasie of Bogdania (Episcopal Vicar of the Romanian Patriarchate’s Diocese of Italy) and Archbishop Ian Ernest (Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See).  Both of these bishops led prayers in the service and joined Cardinal Koch in blessing those present at the end of the service.  Representatives of other Christian denominations were seated in a semicircle with the three in the choir of the Basilica.  These included Father Alexei Maksimov (a priest at the Moscow Patriarchate’s St. Catherine Church in Rome) and Archimandrite Simeon Catsinas (rector of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s San Teodoro in Palatino Church in Rome).  During the program, the Our Father was recited together in Latin. 

    In Moscow, the traditional prayer for Christian unity was held in the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  https://cathmos.ru/v-moskve-proshla-ezhegodnaya-molitva-o-edinstve-hristian/http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=92688  Aside from Catholic Archbishop Pavel Pezzi and the apostolic nuncio  Archbishop Giovanni d'Aniello, there were also representatives of the Armenian Apostolic, Anglican, Lutheran, Assyrian, Baptist, and Seventh Day Adventist Churches present.  Representatives of the Moscow government were also there.  For the first time in many years, the Moscow Patriarchate did not send a representative to the service this year.  In recent years, Father Alexei Dikarev of the DECR was the Orthodox representative and took an active part in the service.  I have seen no explanation for the absence of the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate this year.

    In St. Petersburg, a prayer service for Christian unity was held on January 24 at the Catholic church of St. Stanislav.  https://cathmos.ru/molitvy-o-edinstve-hristian-v-sankt-peterburge/  A short video of the service can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kiXkmVb-lQ&feature=emb_logo.   The service was led by the new Catholic auxiliary bishop Nikolai Dubinin, who has special responsibility for the northern and western (Kaliningrad region) deaneries of the Archdiocese and who now resides in St. Petersburg.  There was an Orthodox representative at this service – Archpriest Dimitri Sizonenko from the Feodorovsky Cathedral.  The Feodorovsky Cathedral is one of the most dynamic parishes in St. Petersburg.  The parish even has a separate website in English! http://en.feosobor.ru/  Its priests have been open to good relations with the Catholic Church.  Father Dimitry himself was previously in charge of inter-Christian relations at the DECR in Moscow, and later in Brussels he was the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to European international organizations.  Another priest who serves at the Feodorovsky Cathedral is Archpriest Vladimir Khoulap.  Father Vladimir is vice-rector of the St. Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy and a member of the Synodal Theological Commission and the Inter-council Presence of the Moscow Patriarchate.  He is also a member of the Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox–Catholic Working Group.  The rector of the Cathedral is Archpriest Alexander Sorokin.  Father Alexander heads the publishing department of the Metropolia and its magazine Living Water.  In December 2013, Father Alexander hosted Cardinal Kurt Koch at the Cathedral.  In the video of the January 24 service, one can also see Orthodox Archpriest Vladimir Fedorov in the first pew.  Earlier in his life, he was closely associated with the WCC and has long been one of the strongest Orthodox advocates of ecumenism in St. Petersburg.

    Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) has given a significant interview to the popular Greek website Romfea.gr.  https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/41766-bolokolamsk-ilarionas-den-eprepe-na-pistepsoume-ton-patriarxi-bartholomaio-mas-ejapatise (Greek); https://mospat.ru/ru/2021/01/26/news190576/ (Russian); https://orthodoxie.com/interview-du-metropolite-hilarion-de-volokolamsk-au-portail-internet-grec-romfea/ (French)  One of the topics covered was Ukraine.  The following (Google translation) is an excerpt from the Metropolitan’s response on this topic:

    The topic of autocephaly was discussed many times during the pre-conciliar process, namely during the meetings of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission in 1993, 2009, and 2011.  The text of the document "Autocephaly and the method of its proclamation" was almost completely agreed upon.  All Churches, represented by their representatives, agreed that the granting of autocephaly in the future will be possible only with the approval of all Local Churches, and not by the sole decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  It only remained to agree on the form in which the signatures under the tomos of autocephaly would be - an agreement on this topic could not be reached.  And what happened then?  In April 2011, Patriarch Bartholomew sent letters to the Local Orthodox Churches with a proposal to remove the topic of autocephaly from the agenda and hold a Pan-Orthodox Council.

    As you know, in 2016 at the Synaxis of the Primates in Chambesy, Patriarch Bartholomew publicly, in front of all the delegations of the Local Churches, said: "We recognize Metropolitan Onufry and welcome him as the only canonical hierarch of our Orthodox Church in Ukraine, together with the holy bishops subordinate to him." ... Patriarch Bartholomew also promised not to interfere in church affairs in Ukraine either before the Council or after it.  We believed these words.  We thought: since the Ecumenical Patriarch says so, let us really, as he promises us, hold a Council, and after that we will continue to discuss the topic of autocephaly.  We couldn't believe him, he deceived us.  This was our big mistake.

    As for the non-participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Cretan Cathedral, you know very well how events developed.  The document "Regulations for the organization and work of the Holy and Great Council," approved by the Local Orthodox Churches, presupposes the convening of a Council with the consent of the Primates of all autocephalous Churches¹.  That is, the Council should be held with the participation of all universally recognized Local Orthodox Churches.

    When three Local Churches - Bulgarian, Georgian and Antioch - refused to participate in the Council, Patriarch Kirill wrote a letter to Patriarch Bartholomew with a proposal to hold an urgent Pre-Council meeting, resolve the existing issues and still invite these Churches to the Council.  But I received an answer from Patriarch Bartholomew: "The new extraordinary pan-Orthodox pre-council meeting proposed by your Holy Church was considered impossible, since there is no legal basis for its convocation."  Who considered it impossible?  There were still two weeks before the Cathedral.  Why was it impossible to take measures so that all the same took part in the Council?

    The legitimacy and bindingness of the decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Council depended on the participation of the fullness of Orthodoxy in it.  Therefore, if the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church took part in the Council of Crete, it would be forced to declare that the Council has no legitimacy, because it lacks three Churches.  This means that the Council would have frustrated.

    Now we are told that if you went to the Cretan Council, then there would be an agreement on Ukraine, and nothing of the subsequent events would have happened.  I heard this from many Greek bishops with whom I met.  But if you remember that the topic of Ukraine was by no means on the agenda of the council, it turns out that the only motive for Patriarch Bartholomew's actions is revenge.  That is, out of a sense of revenge, he decided to grant “autocephaly” to the schismatics, to “legalize” the anathematized Filaret Denisenko?

    As can be seen, Metropolitan Hilarion states the “only motive” for Bartholomew’s action in Ukraine must be “revenge.”  However, there is a question mark at the end of the last sentence quoted above.  On the other hand, Patriarch Kirill in his Christmas interview indicated that Bartholomew’s actions in Ukraine were the result of “pressure from powerful political forces emanating from one of the world superpowers.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2021/01/07/news189972/  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated that “American colleagues … made Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew follow the path of schism….”  https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4527635

    In the Catholic cathedral in Minsk on January 24, there was a “farewell” Mass for retired Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and for the assumption of responsibilities by the new apostolic administrator Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielc.  https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2021/01/at-mass-minsk-archbishop-hands-over-archdiocese-to-administrator/  An excellent article by the leading Belarus website, tut.by, includes a description of the emotional event with photos and videos.  https://news.tut.by/society/716150.html   It is very apparent that although the Archbishop has retired, he will still be playing a very active role in the life of the Catholic Church in Belarus.  On January 22, both Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and Metropolitan Veniamin, the head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, appeared at the Christmas program of the Saints Methodius and Cyril Christian Education Center.  http://church.by/news/mitropolit-veniamin-vozglavil-provedenie-rozhdestvenskogo-vechera-hristianskogo-obrazovatelnogo-centra  The Center is a project of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.  http://christeducenter.by/sentre/  The Christmas program was held in the Great Hall of the Belarusian State Philharmonic.  The following is a video of this major Orthodox event:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwDyuUCRZtw&feature=emb_logo  The address (8 minutes long) by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz begins at 19:20.  I was impressed by the long applause received by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz at the beginning and the end of his address from this large Orthodox audience.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 January 2021: "Farewell" to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz today

    To people interested in the Catholic Church in Belarus.

    Today (January 24), there was the special Mass in the Catholic cathedral of Minsk to say farewell to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and to introduce the new apostolic administrator, Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec (or “Kazimir Velikoselets”).  Tut.by, the most watched Belarusian internet news service, made its article about this event the major piece on its home page today.  The article contains many excellent photos and also videos of the event.  https://news.tut.by/society/716150.html  Because the article contains some paragraphs in Russian and some in Belarusian, there is a slight problem as the Google translation tool only translates one language at a time.  I have therefore pasted below and joined the Google translations for both languages.

    Also on January 22, both Archbishop Kondrusiewicz and Metropolitan Veniamin, the head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, appeared at the Christmas program of the Saints Methodius and Cyril Christian Education Center.  http://church.by/news/mitropolit-veniamin-vozglavil-provedenie-rozhdestvenskogo-vechera-hristianskogo-obrazovatelnogo-centra  The Center is a project of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.  http://christeducenter.by/sentre/  The Christmas program was held in the Great Hall of the Belarusian State Philharmonic.  The following is a video of this major Orthodox event:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwDyuUCRZtw&feature=emb_logo  The address (7 minutes) of Metropolitan Veniamin begins at 10:00 in the video, and the address (8 minutes) by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz begins at 19:20.  The applause received by the Archbishop at the beginning and the end of his address from this large Orthodox audience is impressive (in my opinion, more than received by Metropolitan Veniamin himself).   It is another indication that the Archbishop’s criticism of the violence against protesters, his involuntary exile, and the very unusual acceptance by the Vatican of his resignation letter on the day of his birthday celebration may have increased the sympathy and the regard in which the Archbishop is held by the Belarusian population generally.  In spite of his retirement, I believe that he will continued to be a very public figure in Belarus.  This article supports that belief.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    “Where are you going, Belarus?”  Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz held a “farewell service” in Minsk.  How it was.

    January 24, 2021 at 05:40 PM

    Snezhana Inanets / Photo: Daria Buryakina / Video: Anna Gorbacheva/ TUT.BY

    A service was held in Minsk today with the participation of Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, which can be considered a farewell service.  Since January 3, he has not been the head of the Catholic Church in Belarus, but today, January 24, he introduced its temporary leader to the parishioners.  Bishop Kazimir Velikoselets will be the administrator of the church in our country until the Vatican appoints a new metropolitan.  We saw how the historical service was held.

    Retirement after exile and difficult times

    Recently, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk and Mogilev.  On January 3, the archbishop turned 75, at this age, according to canon law, the bishops ask the head of the church to release them from the duties of administering dioceses.  This request could be either accepted or rejected. The resignation letter of Kondrusiewicz was accepted.

    It is important that Kondrusiewicz's departure from the post of metropolitan was preceded by dramatic events: for about four months he was not allowed into the country.  This was explained by problems with the passport, but Alexander Lukashenko several times accused the Catholic Metropolitan of going to Poland “for consultations” on “how to destroy our country.” Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz has repeatedly spoken out against the violence that was observed in the country after the presidential elections on 9 August.  During his absence, believers prayed for the return of the metropolitan to the country, and the Pope even sent a special envoy to Belarus to resolve this problem.  On December 24, 2020, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was finally able to return and even held a service on Christmas Eve in a Minsk church.

    Farewell service.  White roses and "Mighty God" [a Belarusian hymn often used by the protesters] in the church

    Without reservations, it is impossible to call this service of Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz a farewell - nominally, he no longer heads the Belarusian church since January 3, but in retirement will continue to participate in its life.  On January 24, at the Cathedral on Freedom Square, the former Metropolitan introduced Bishop Kazimir Velikoselets to the parishioners.  The latter was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Minsk-Mogilev Archdiocese until the time when a new Metropolitan will be introduced to the Catholics of Belarus.

    Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, as always, was warmly greeted by the parishioners.  Some prayed with tears in their eyes, but the most emotional today was the Metropolitan himself.  He thanked the believers for their support.
    -- “I would like to thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for your solidarity with me, when I went through a difficult time for four months, when I was in exile,” said Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz – “I apologize to all of you: maybe someone was offended.  I want to assure you that everything was done for the glory of God, for the church and for the salvation of people.  I leave as a ruling bishop, but as a bishop I remain.  Therefore, I will continue to work in the Conference of Bishops, I will be among you, I will celebrate various services, take part in other activities.  I ask further for your prayers that I may perform my duties as bishop.  Sincere thanks to you all!” 

    Introducing Kazimir Velikoselets, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz noted: -- “Bishops change, but the church remains… (…) please love and serve.”  The former head of Catholics of Belarus added that now is a crucial time “for our Church and for our Fatherland.”

    He addressed Bishop Kazimir with warm words and figurative phrases:  “Do not be afraid to go to the depths of the tasks facing the church, the tasks facing our Fatherland.  Do not be afraid to look into the depths of the problems we face - and society, and everyone.  Do not be afraid to preach the word to those who have power and those who do not have, those who are scholars and those who are simple, those who are older and those who are young, those who are healthy and those who are sick, those who are free and those who are prisoners.  People demand this living word of God that carries the truth.  And only the truth will make us free.”

    During the service, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz also said that today we are faced with the following question: What will happen tomorrow, where are you going, Belarus?

    As during the Christmas services, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was greeted with applause.  Today, both he and Kazimir Velikoselets, who took up his duties, were presented with large bouquets of white roses.   Towards the end of the day, parishioners in the church sang the song "Mighty God".

    What did the people say near the church?
    Some left the Metropolitan's farewell service with tears in their eyes.

    Elena  is a Catholic, a parishioner of the Church of St. Roch.

    - I came here today because it is a great happiness to see such an important service. For me, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz does not leave, he stays with us.  It's good that they stopped mocking him.  He again has the opportunity to be with the flock, to preach. The fact that he made such a penetrating speech today is also important.

    Tatiana with her friend Svetlana and daughter Elena are Orthodox.  But they also came to the church today:

    “We have come to pay tribute to this great man.  A man lives by conscience.  We declare that you cannot take away a person's right to express their freedom.  You cannot force a person to do what you want with physical violence. These are the ordinary normal moral Christian principles.

  • 20 January 2021: The different views of Lavrov and Koch & other news

    As you recall, Patriarch Kirill in his Christmas interview stated that he has information that Patriarch Bartholomew “was under pressure from powerful political forces emanating from one of the world superpowers.”  According to Patriarch Kirill, the Patriarch Bartholomew did not have the fortitude to say “no,” and this led to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s actions in Ukraine.   According to Patriarch Kirill, “the intention is quite simple: tear the Russia Church away from the Orthodox Christians of Greece, the Arab world, and the Middle East so that Orthodoxy itself would be become weaker.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2021/01/07/news189972/

    On January 18, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave a major news conference in Moscow on the results of Russian diplomacy in 2020 and answered the questions of journalists.  The official English translation of the news conference is found at https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4527635 .  In answering a question regarding Russian relations with Greece and Cyprus, the Foreign Minister made reference to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and made statements very similar to those previously made by Patriarch Kirill.  The following is the text relating to that part of the answer:

    I have recently visited Greece and Cyprus.  Moreover, I have recently talked with Foreign Minister of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides by telephone.  I can see no reason why these countries should be persuaded that Russia is an enemy of theirs or has carried out an unfriendly policy towards them.  Someone is trying to convince them, but politicians with common sense can see the whole truth: that they are only trying to make an enemy out of the Russian Federation and saying that our presence in the Balkans prevents these countries from moving into NATO, hinders their Euro-Atlantic integration.

    There is no diplomacy here, only crude public leverage.  Not everyone in such countries as Cyprus and Greece can publicly respond to such battle cries because they are scared to offend “Big Brother.”  There is no underlying enmity between anyone in Russia, Greece and Cyprus.

    We have very warm and close relations, a spiritual connection.  Our American colleagues are actively trying to undermine this spiritual connection: they made Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew follow the path of schism, undermining centuries-old traditions of Orthodox Christianity, the path called Popery.  It has always been rejected by the Eastern Orthodox Church.  It is a reason that there is no analogue of the Pope in the Orthodox world.  There is the Ecumenical Patriarch, who until recently was revered as the first among equals.  Under the gross and open pressure from Washington, he chose schism in Ukraine creating a puppet Orthodox Church of Ukraine and deceived the Church by cutting off the rights promised to it.  Now, together with the Americans, he is trying to work on other Orthodox churches, including the Greek Orthodox Church and the Primate of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, in order to continue deepening these subversive anti-canonical actions against Eastern Orthodoxy.  The Pandora’s Box Bartholomew opened has already led to a split in the Cypriot Orthodox Church and unrest in other Orthodox churches.  The mission the Americans have assigned to him (they do not even hide that they are actively working with him under the slogan of “freedom of religion and confession”) is to bury Orthodoxy’s influence in today’s world.  I can see no other explanation for his actions.

    Also on January 18, an important article authored by Cardinal Kurt Koch was published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18 to 25.  https://www.osservatoreromano.va/it/news/2021-01/quo-013/camminare-insieme-br-sulla-stessa-via.html (in Italian, but translates well with the Google translation tool)  The article focuses on synodality from an ecumenical point of view and is entitled, “Walk together on the same path.”  The article first reminds us that the “great” 1700th anniversary of the first ecumenical council, Nicaea, will be celebrated in 3025.  According to Cardinal Koch, this first ecumenical council “documents the way in which controversial issues are discussed and resolved synodally in a council in the Church.”  One section of the article discusses the emphasis placed by Pope Francis on synodality,  and other sections discuss synodality and primacy in the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.  The Cardinal points out that the Ravenna document (http://www.christianunity.va/content/unitacristiani/en/dialoghi/sezione-orientale/chiese-ortodosse-di-tradizione-bizantina/commissione-mista-internazionale-per-il-dialogo-teologico-tra-la/documenti-di-dialogo/testo-in-inglese.html ), adopted by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches (without the participation of the Moscow Patriarchate) in 2007, recognized the need for a protos at the universal level.  The Cardinal also observes:

    On the part of the Orthodox Churches, we can instead expect that, in ecumenical dialogue, they will come to recognize that primacy at the universal level is not only possible and theologically legitimate, but also necessary. The intra-Orthodox tensions, which emerged in a particularly evident way on the occasion of the Holy and Great Synod of Crete in 2016, should make us understand the need to consider a ministry of unity also at the universal level of the Church, which obviously should not be limited to a simple honorary primacy, but it should also include legal elements.  Such a primacy would in no way contradict Eucharistic ecclesiology, but would be compatible with it, as is often recalled by the Orthodox theologian and metropolitan John D. Zizioulas.

    It is not surprising that Cardinal Koch favors the view of Constantinople on the issue of whether the Ecumenical Patriarch possesses certain legal powers and not simply honor alone.  A goal of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which Cardinal Koch heads, is to restore eucharistic unity between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  No one expects that the Orthodox will ever adopt a view of universal primacy with the great powers possessed by a Catholic pope.  However, if the Ecumenical Patriarch’s has certain limited legal powers and not simply honor, there is the hope that the fact that the Catholic protos has far greater powers that the Orthodox protos may not be deemed a difference so great as to prevent the restoration of eucharistic unity. 

    On January 20 Pope Francis devoted his address at his general audience to the week of prayer for Christian unity.  http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2021/documents/papa-francesco_20210120_udienza-generale.html (text of address in English).  The Pope’s remarks included the following:

    To pray means to fight for unity.  Yes, fight, because our enemy, the devil, is the one who divides, as the word itself says.  Jesus asks the Holy Spirit for unity, to create unity.  The devil always divides.  He always divides because it is convenient for him to divide.  He fosters division everywhere and in any way, while the Holy Spirit always joins in unity.  In general, the devil does not tempt us with high theology, but with the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters.  He is astute: he magnifies others’ mistakes and defects, sows discord, provokes criticism and creates factions.  God has another way: He takes us as we are, He loves us so much, but He loves us as we are and takes us as we are; He takes those of us who are different, He takes sinners, and He always nudges us towards unity.

    In other news, the Parliament of Montenegro today approved for a second time the amendments to the controversial law on religion.  https://www.cdm.me/politika/skupstina-usvojila-sve-zakone-koje-je-dukanovic-vratio-na-ponovno-odlucivanje/  As you recall, President Milo Đukanović had returned the amendments, first passed on December 29, to parliament because of alleged procedural irregularities that occurred at the first session.  Presumably, those irregularities have now been cured.  See also https://balkaninsight.com/2021/01/20/montenegros-president-flexes-muscles-with-new-government/ 

    Metropolitan Simeon, one of the two metropolitans who left the UOC-MP to join the OCU, has given a very long interview to RISU.  https://risu.ua/mitropolit-simeon-yedina-avtokefalna-pravoslavna-cerkva-v-ukrayini-bude---za-mogo-zhittya_n115105  It appears to be a very candid interview including a description of the great number of parishes that he lost as a result of the transition.  Simeon discusses the “unifying council” and many aspects of the current religious disputes in Ukraine.  The long interview is worth reading in its entirety.

    In Minsk, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz celebrated on January 15 a special Mass at the Catholic cathedral in memory of Metropolitan Filaret.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12735-u-minskaj-arkhikatedry-pamalilisya-za-spachylaga-mitrapalita-filareta  It was the day of the burial of the Metropolitan at the Zhirovichi Monastery.  The personal friendship between Filaret and Kondrusiewicz is captured at 8:00 is the following video of persons congratulating Metropolitan on the occasion of his 85th birthday on March 21, 2020.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rckCPbIhGs 

    In Zagreb, there was a cordial meeting on January 12 between Cardinal Josip Bozanic of Zagreb and Orthodox Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana, who may be the next Serbian patriarch.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/meeting_between_metropolitan_porfirije_and_cardinal_bozanic_overcome_all_difficulties_together  They discussed the pandemic and recent earthquake.  The Cardinal stated that the meeting was occurring on the eve of the Octave for Christian Unity and that “the Catholic Church has much in common with the believers of Serbian nationality and the Serbian Orthodox Church.”  Metropolitan Porfirije stated that if “we recognize our neighbor in the other, then the difficulties, whatever they may be, will at least be easier.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 January 2021: Tributes to Metropolitan Filaret & other news

    Metropolitan Filaret (Vakhromeev), Honorary Patriarchal Exarch of Belarus, died from the coronavirus on January 12 at the age of 85.  https://eng.belta.by/society/view/metropolitan-filaret-honorary-patriarchal-exarch-of-all-belarus-passes-away-136486-2021/  He headed the Orthodox Church in what is now Belarus from 1978 to 2013.  Since his retirement, he has not been in good health and has not appeared in public in recent years.  During his active years as bishop and metropolitan, he was an extremely important hierarch in the Moscow Patriarchate.   The Divine Liturgy and funeral for the Metropolitan will be held at 7:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. in the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk on Thursday, January 14 and can be viewed live on the BOC YouTube channel.  http://church.by/news/prjamuju-transljaciju-china-otpevanija-pochetnogo-patriarshego-ekzarha-vseja-belarusi-budet-vesti-telekanal-belarus-3 

    A very detailed English-language chronology of his life is found at https://orthodoxcanada.ca/Metropolitan_Philaret_(Vakhromeyev).  See also https://mospat.ru/ru/2021/01/12/news190064/ (Russian).   Filaret was well-known in the West and was very well-liked.  His mentor was Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) of Leningrad, who was very open to ecumenical relations and who ordained Filaret as a bishop in 1965.  After the death of Metropolitan Nikodim in 1978 and until the appointment of Metropolitan (now Patriarch) Kirill as head of the Department of External Relations in 1989, Metropolitan Filaret was the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate who travelled the most to the West.  Some of his assignment involving contacts with other Christian churches include the following:  From 1961 to 1965, he was the secretary of the Synodal Commission for Christian Unity.  In April 1973, he became Patriarchal Exarch to Central Europe (seat in West Berlin).  When Filaret was made Metropolitan of Minsk and Byelorussia in October 1978, he was also made Patriarchal Exarch of Western Europe.  From April 1981 to November 1989, he was chairman of the Department of External Church Relations.  He travelled widely in the West including visits to the United States and Canada.

    In July 1985, Metropolitan Filaret travelled to Velehrad, Czechoslovakia to join the Catholic celebration of the 1100th anniversary of the death of St. Methodius.  In addressing the 200,000 pilgrims (the largest religious gathering in the history of Czechoslovakia), Metropolitan Filaret surprised many by emphasizing the unity between Eastern and Western Christianity.  He also praised the various popes who popularized the veneration of Saints Cyril and Methodius.  In another major surprise, Metropolitan Filaret invited Cardinal Glemp, primate of Poland, to visit the Catholics in Byelorussia in September 1988 – the first post-War visit of a Polish bishop to the territories which were part of Poland between the two world wars.  These are just two examples of Filaret reaching out to Catholics.

    Patriarch Kirill in his condolence letter (https://mospat.ru/ru/2021/01/12/news190058/) stated in part:

    I would like to note the significant contribution of the late Metropolitan Filaret to the strengthening of fraternal ties between the Local Orthodox Churches and the development of interfaith dialogue.  Fulfilling various responsible obediences in Europe, being chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, he diligently performed the ministry entrusted to him and gained sincere love and respect from many people outside his country.

    Today, Cardinal Kurt Koch sent a letter of condolence to Metropolitan Veniamin.  A photocopy of the letter in English is found at http://www.christianunity.va/content/dam/unitacristiani/Cardinale/2021/2021%2001%2013%20Koch-Veniamin.pdf.  The letter noted that the Metropolitan Filaret “contributed to deepening reconciliation among Christians of the East and West, and particularly to strengthening fraternal bonds between the Orthodox Church and Catholic Church by building up a fruitful network of spiritual friendships with many Catholic brethren.”  Retired Catholic Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, who in 1989 was the first Catholic bishop appointed in Byelorussia in over 60 years, has also written a letter of condolence praising Metropolitan Filaret.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12712-artsybiskup-kandrusevich-vykaza-spachuvanni-suvyazi-sa-smertsyu-mitrapalita-filareta  The letter includes the following:

    As a faithful servant of the Church of Christ, Metropolitan Filaret has earned the high respect of his fellow believers, Catholics and representatives of other religions, as well as the entire Belarusian society.  The late Primate of the Belarusian Orthodox Church paid much attention to the development of relations with other religions, including the Catholic Church.  Vladika Filaret, with whom I was united by the bonds of fraternal friendship, in many ways became an example and a teacher for me, for which I am especially grateful.

    In Moscow on Christmas day, January 7, Patriarch Kirill gave an important televised interview.  The complete text of the interview in Russian is found at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5746352.html and a video of the interview is found at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mfjo0QNYGm0&feature=emb_logo (34 minutes).   An official English translation of certain parts of the interview can be read at  https://mospat.ru/en/2021/01/07/news189972/.  The interview contains the strongest statement made by the Patriarch to date with respect to Belarus.  This statement is far stronger than any yet make by Metropolitan Veniamin of Minsk. The statement included the assertion that the “authorities permitted instances of unjustified violence and excessive use of force.”  The Patriarch also stated that  “all issues should be resolved peacefully, but if there are issues, then they have to be resolved, and that is why I am appealing to the Belarussian authorities.”   He continues: “It is wrong to put on a backburner issues which cause discord and unrest in society.  Ways have to found for a wise, business-like discussion of problems with a view to concrete decisions.  May God grant that all attempts to resolve these problems in Belarus through violent means will cease and may, through God’s grace, dialogue develop between the authorities and the people, the authorities and society, with the participation of all forces, including the faith communities, aimed at stabilizing the situation and the general growth of fraternal Belarus..”  With respect to the issues dividing society, it would seem that the validity of the August elections would be one of them.  However, the Lukashenko government will probably argue that reference to dialogue with “all forces” does not include the protesters because of the reference by the Patriarch to a “force…aimed at stabilizing the situation.”

    The part of Patriarch Kirill’s statement that received the greatest media attention relates to Ukraine.  With respect to the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill states that he has information that Patriarch Bartholomew “was under pressure from powerful political forces emanating from one of the world superpowers,”  but did not have the fortitude to say “no.”  According to Patriarch Kirill, the logic of those behind Patriarch Bartholomew “was to tear Russia, Orthodox Russia away from her Orthodox brothers and sisters in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.”  Patriarch Kirill then contends that the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque was “divine retribution” for the “sin” of bringing the schismatics into the Church of Saint Sophia in Kyiv.  Kirill states:  “You have taken away the Church of St. Sophia in Kiev from Orthodox people, from the Orthodox Church, you have gone there and brought with you schismatics, and then you lost your own Church of St. Sophia.”  With respect to the phrase “taken away,” Patriarch Kirill must be referring to the use of the Church of St. Sophia in Kiev” as the Church is now and has been since 1934 a museum operated by the State.   The OCU was allowed by the museum authorities to use the historic Church for its “unifying council” on December 15,  2018, and on a few occasions after that.  The museum denied the UOC-MP the use of the Church in October 2020, allegedly because of the pandemic.  https://news.church.ua/2020/12/15/pcu-dozvoleno-te-shho-ne-dozvoleno-upc-v-sofiji-kijivskij-proveli-moleben-popri-obmezhennya-z-pandemijeyu/  However, I am not aware of any decision by the museum authorities to deny all future use of the historic Church to the UOC-MP.  On a positive note, Kirill stated that he and Bartholomew should pray for each other in their personal prayers.

    In other news relating to Belarus, President Lukashenko on Christmas Day, January 7, visited the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Minsk to light a candle and present an icon to Metropolitan Veniamin.  https://eng.belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-lights-candle-at-church-in-minsk-to-mark-christmas-136428-2021/; https://eng.belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-we-needed-a-year-like-2020-136431-2021/   The following are two different videos of the occasion.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnyjGBTYruc&feature=emb_logo ;  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn0Pi4WIul4  On January 10 Lukashenko gave a long interview to a Russian journalist.  https://eng.belta.by/president/view/lukashenko-fields-questions-ranging-from-the-serious-to-the-personal-in-an-unusual-interview-136437-2021/  One of the topics was the Belarusian People's Congress set for February 11-12 and possible amendments to the Constitution of Belarus.   Lukashenko stated that he believed that a draft of the new constitution would be available by the end of 2021.  Presumably, an election to adopt the new constitution would be held in 2022.  It appears that Lukashenko is not in a rush especially in view of the fact that the street demonstrations are now smaller.

    Finally, there is the sad news that Bishop Florentin Crihălmeanu, bishop of the Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Cluj-Gherla in Romanian, died on January 12 at age 61 from complications following the coronavirus.  https://www.vaticannews.va/ro/biserica/news/2021-01/a-murit-episcopul-florentin-crihalmeanu-cluj-gherla.html;   https://www.stiridecluj.ro/social/a-murit-episcopul-florentin-crihalmeanu-infectat-cu-covid-19  He was a valued member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches beginning in 2006 and attended all plenaries since that time.   His funeral will be held on Saturday, and the Orthodox Metropolitan of Cluj is expected to attend.   https://cluj24.ro/funeraliile-episcopului-greco-catolic-de-cluj-gherla-florentin-crihalmeanu-vezi-biografia-acestuia-41624.html  On January 13, Orthodox Patriarch Daniel of Romania sent a letter of condolences (https://basilica.ro/mesajul-patriarhului-daniel-la-trecerea-in-vesnicie-a-episcopului-greco-catolic-florentin-crihalmeanu/ ) in which he stated in part:

    Throughout his priestly mission, he was an erudite, diligent and gentle pastor for his clergy and believers, while at the same time standing out for his thorough theological training and sincere openness to inter-Christian dialogue and the values of the Byzantine tradition .  At the same time, His Grace was sensitive to the cultural and mental transformations in the contemporary world, affected by the crisis, not only in the social, economic and health field, but, especially, in the spiritual one.

    With respect to both Metropolitan Filaret and Bishop Florentin, I pray that their memories be eternal!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 8 January 2021: An emotional encounter for Kondrusiewicz in Grodno

    Last evening (January 6), now retired Archbishop Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mogilev, celebrated Mass for the feast of the Epiphany at the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier in his hometown area of Grodno.  It was a very emotional time for the Grodno Catholics and for the Archbishop himself.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12700-grodna-imsha  Two short videos, each of which shows different parts of the evening, can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMP_P7MGoXk  (4+ minutes with many emotional comments by viewers) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1vkKAzhjuk (2+ minutes).   An excellent article about the evening was written by a journalist from Tut.by, one of the most popular websites in Belarus.  https://news.tut.by/society/714025.html  (the article also contains many excellent photos)  I have pasted below a Google translation of the article, parts of which were written in Russian and parts in Belarusian.  It believe that the article captures the spirit of the evening very well and is very much of a tribute to the Archbishop.

    I would also like to add my own personal tribute to him.  In 1988 a group of us in Seattle decided to form an ecumenical “sister churches” program between the Christian churches of Seattle and the Christian churches of Leningrad.  It was during those exciting times when the churches of the Soviet Union were first regaining their freedom after over 70 years of persecution.  The future patriarch Metropolitan Alexy of Leningrad was an enthusiastic supporter of the program and was in Seattle as the guest of the program for eight days in September 1989.  Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, then Apostolic Administrator of European Russia, was in Seattle at the invitation of the program for three days in June 1993.  During that time, he stayed at our home.  When I picked him up at the airport, I was surprised that his total luggage was one very small handbag.  He was a wonderful guest with no pretensions.  He was quite athletic, and each day would put on some short athletic pants and jog through our neighborhood.  Both my wife and I were very impressed by him both as a bishop and a person.  At the end of his visit, my wife told him that he must return and spend a short vacation with us.

    The next year Archbishop Kondrusiewicz was in Los Angeles and gave us a telephone call.  He accepted Ann’s invitation and spent April 10-18 with us.  He wanted to improve his English, so we arranged a week-long intensive English-language instruction for him at Seattle University (the local Catholic university run by the Jesuits).  However, we also took him on the weekend for a real vacation in the beautiful San Juan Islands.  He was a very easy guest to have.  He said daily Mass for us at our home, and it was a very special time for us.  He became very close to our hearts.

    On February 11, 2002, the Vatican announced that the four Catholic apostolic administrations in the Russian Federation had become dioceses.  The Vatican also made Archbishop Kondrusiewicz a metropolitan archbishop responsible for an “ecclesiastical province” consisting of the four Russian dioceses.  This administrative move caused an uproar in the Russian media and harsh criticism by the Moscow Patriarchate.  It was claimed that it was an effort to make Russia a province of the Vatican!  Of course, a “province” is simply a Catholic term used for the area of a metropolitan archbishop.  In fact the United States has 35 Catholic “provinces”!  Being in Moscow, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz was in the center of the storm.  Furthermore, there continued to be accusations against the Catholic Church will respect to alleged proselytism.   Archbishop Kondrusiewicz spoke out against the criticism of the Catholic Church, and this in turn caused irritation on the part of the critics.  In subsequent years, efforts were made by the Vatican to improve its relationships with the Moscow Patriarchate.  In my opinion, one of the elements of the attempt to improve relations was to transfer Archbishop Kondrusiewicz to Minsk in 2007.

    I talked to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz by telephone shortly after his transfer.  He referred to himself as a soldier of the Church.  He accepts orders without complaining.  He also said that in term of relations with the Orthodox, the difference between Moscow and Minsk was the difference between “night and day.”  In Moscow, he had headed the Catholic Church in Russia during the time when relations were at their lowest, due in part to the strong desire of Pope John Paul II to visit Russia.  In Minsk, the Orthodox Church was headed by Metropolitan Filaret who was very open to good relations with Catholics.

    In my personal opinion, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz deserves very high marks for what he did both in Moscow and Minsk.  As in Moscow, he spoke out against what he considered wrong in the current crisis in Belarus.  Now, as a good soldier, he accepts without grumbling the decision of Pope Francis with respect to his retirement.  To Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, I sing “Many Years.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    “WE ARE STRONG WHEN WE ARE TOGETHER.”  HOW TADEUSZ KONDRUSIEWICZ WAS MET IN GRODNO FARNY CHURCH

    By Olga Komyagina / Tut.by

    A festive and very touching service was held in Grodno at the Farny [this word means “parish” – not a church of a religious order] Church, in which Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz took part.  It contained both traditional prayers and sermons, and the Metropolitan's memories of his childhood in Grodno, and conversations about faith and unity.  And also loud and long applause, real emotions, jokes and even tears (there were a lot of them).

    On January 6, Catholics celebrate the feast of the Three Kings or Epiphany.  By tradition, believers come to churches on this day for a solemn Mass, and priests also consecrate chalk, incense, and gold.  But now almost no one brings jewelry to the church, and Kondrusevich jokes that if someone has golden teeth, you can smile, but he talks more about pieces of chalk that parishioners brought to the service, and then they will write on the doors of their houses and apartments of the letters K, M and B, symbolizing the names of the wise men who came to worship Jesus.

    At the evening celebratory Mass in the Farny Church, it was more crowded than ever.  Some parishioners even stood in the street.  Someone says that he came to the festive mass, but did not know that Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz would attend it, and someone, on the contrary, decided to visit the temple precisely because of the arrival of the Archbishop.  By the way, Orthodox Christians also came to the church.

    Kondrusiewicz says that these days he not only arrived in Grodno, but also visited his small hometown - in Adelsk, where he also held a service.  And even mentioning faith, he suddenly remembers how, as a schoolboy, he was going along Kirov Street, saw the already blown up Vytautas  Church [the largest church in Grodno, constructed in the 1300s by Grand Duke Vytautus and blown up by the communist authorities in 1961] and then remembered the words of the people: "That's it, the church is gone."  But at the same time, he says, he also remembers how the townspeople defended the Farny Church, where this festive service is taking place right now.  Kondrusiewicz recalls that people literally laid down on the floor of the church in order not to allow the shrine to be closed, and the church “survived”.

    In general, the service in the Farny Church was very touching.  Kondrusewiez’s voice kept breaking and trembling, and it seemed that he did not want to hide his emotions and tears.  The parishioners, listening to the Metropolitan, at first secretly wiped away their tears, and then they did not hesitate to cry.

    The Metropolitan conducted the service in Polish, switching from time to time to Belarusian and Russian.  He said that Belarusians now have many tests - both the coronavirus epidemic and the crisis that the country is currently experiencing.  “And everyone must give himself an answer, who I am before God, before Jesus Christ, and what kind of future I wish to build for myself, my family, city, my country, and land where I live,” the Metropolitan said.  “Today our society is divided […], but someday it will all end and the wounds of hatred will heal.  These wounds require an elixir of love and forgiveness.  Everything depends on us, and our destinies also depend on us.

    After the service, people reached out to the Metropolitan - to say something, to congratulate him on the anniversary and to wish him good health.  We talked a lot, emotionally.  About love, pride and faith.

    -- And you taught us to love the Belarusian language, because you speak it, you taught us to pray.  We are proud of you and all these four months we have been praying for you and at a distance with you.  And God heard our joint prayer -- says one of the women.

    Young parishioners told the Metropolitan that all the time that he was abroad, they came to the Farny Church every day and at a certain time began a joint prayer for his return.

    “You -- the archbishop of our hearts,” said one of the girls.  Tadeusz Kondruisiewicz was moved, of course, by the words of the Grodno residents.

    -- “Thank you to everyone who prayed these four months, it was very important for me, and I felt this prayer, because I know about it, being in contact with priests in Belarus.  I am often asked what was the worst.  I had a place to live, I had something to eat, I had a place to celebrate Mass, but I waited.  Every day started with looking at the email.  Or maybe there is some news that I can come back?  It wasn’t long, but it came.  God works miracles, but with the help of people.  Sincere thanks to those who (here the metropolitan switches to Russian. - Comment TUT.BY) supported me, it was important.  Prayer pierces the heavens, and it was another sign of solidarity.  We are strong when we are together.”

  • 5 January 2021: Catholic changes in Belarus & Orthodox developments

    On January 3, 2021, the 75th birthday of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Pope Francis accepted the Archbishop’s resignation letter (required under canon law for all bishops upon reaching age 75) and appointed Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec, O.P. [a Dominican] as apostolic administrator of the Minsk-Mogilev Archdiocese.  https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2021/01/03/0006/00009.html   The speed of the acceptance of the resignation letter came as a surprise.  The Reuters news agency observed: “It is highly unusual for the pope to accept a bishop’s resignation precisely on his 75th birthday and even more so to announce it on a Sunday.  The speed with which the resignation was accepted indicated the possibility that a face-saving deal for both sides was found in negotiations between the Vatican and the Belarus government to win Kondrusiewicz’s return from exile in December, a diplomatic source in Rome said.”  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belarus-election-vatican/pope-accepts-resignation-of-belarus-archbishop-who-angered-lukashenko-idUSKBN2980JI  One journalist who has covered the Vatican for many years could not recall a prior case where the resignation letter was accepted on the bishop’s exact 75th birthday.  The appointment of an apostolic administrator is also not a common practice after the retirement of a bishop at age 75.  One practical effect of the appointment of an apostolic administrator is that the vicar general will not head the archdiocese during the period after the resignation of the archbishop and before the appointment of a new archbishop.  With respect to the Minsk archdiocese, the vicar general has been Bishop Yuri Kasabutsky, who has been very outspoken in defense of the protesters and who has been official warned by the Belarusian government concerning his remarks. 

    Archbishop Kondrusiewicz announced the acceptance of his resignation letter during his homily at the festive Mass to celebrate his 75th birthday.  https://news.tut.by/society/713560.html?utm_source=news.tut.by&utm_medium=news-bottom-block&utm_campaign=relevant_news   The Archbishop stated:

    “You know that according to canon law, a bishop who has reached the age of 75 must ask the pope to release him from his duties.  Today at 12.00 Roman time, at 14.00 Belarusian time, the Vatican announced that the Pope had accepted my request.  This is reality, we cannot escape from this.  The Minsk-Mogilev archdiocese does not remain without a leader.  Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec has been appointed apostolic administrator.  I ask you to receive him with an open heart.  You probably know him well.  The church must live.  People change, but the church remains.  Thank you all, accept the blessing.”

    According to an article in The Tablet by Jonathan Luxmoore, “a senior Catholic academic [presumably in Belarus] said the resignation had caused ‘shock and consternation’ among Church members and would be widely seen as a victory for the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.”   https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/13715/exiled-belarus-archbishop-resigns-after-return

    Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec (the transliteration of the Belarusian spelling of his name is actually “Kazimir Velikoselets”) is the oldest of the Catholic bishops in Belarus and will be 76 years old in May.  In May 2020 he submitted his resignation to the Pope but was informed that he would continue his functions donec aliter provideatur (until determined otherwise) for at least the next two years.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/11549-b-skup-kaz-m-r-vel-kaselets-pratsyagne-vykonvats-svae-funktsy  He has been the auxiliary bishop of the Pinsk diocese for over 21 years and vicar general of the diocese for 29 years.  Of the four Catholic dioceses in Belarus, Pinsk has by far the fewest Catholics – approximately 50,000 or 1.6% of the total population of the area.  I found the best descriptions of his interesting past life at https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/9960-biskup-dzyam-yanka-zvyarnu-sya-z-pavedamlennem-da-vernika-z-nagody-yubileya-svyatarstva-i-biskupskaga-sluzhennya-kazimira-velikaseltsa ; https://katolik.life/rus/news/tserkov/item/4333-lyudi-ego-lyubyat-starejshij-katolicheskij-episkop-belarusi-otmechaet-75-letie.html; and  https://gp.by/mneniya/news215617.html .  I found the best video of him at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nSayoorHzo (2019 Easter message 2+minutes).

    In December 2012 Bishop Wielikosielec moved to the Gomel area (within the Pinsk diocese), a city with a population of 500,000, which then had only one Catholic parish, and has lived there in a room at the parish house since that time.  https://katolik.life/rus/news/v-gomele/item/96-u-gomelya-poyavilsya-svoy-katolicheskiy-episkop.html    In 2018 he was instrumental in the beginning of construction of a new parish church in Gomel. https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/8920-u-gomeli-asvyatsili-kaplitsu-pobach-z-budo-lyaj-novaga-kastsjola   At the present time, there is a temporary small wooden chapel at the site, and apparently construction of the new church has been very slow because of lack of funds.  Bishop Wielikosielec appears to be a very spiritual person and is very well-liked.  He has stated that the problems that he has faced in his past life were overcome through prayers before the Blessed Sacrament and through the intercession of Our Lady.  Since the Belarus election, the following letter appears to be the only public statement made by him with respect to the current situation in Belarus:  https://catholic.by/3/pub/auth/12159-najstarejshy-belarusi-katalitski-biskup-zaklikae-da-abudzhennya-sumlennya-i-malitvy-ab-vyartanni-artsybiskupa-kandrusevicha  In the letter, he prays for the return of Archbishop Kondrusiewicz to Belarus but does not specifically mention the protests.  He appears to live a quiet life and is seldom the subject of media coverage.  On January 4, he told the Catholic.by website that he was completely surprised by the announcement and is grateful to Pope Francis for “the trust placed in my humble person.”  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12690-biskup-kazimir-velikaselets-vysoki-daver-da-majoj-stsiplaj-asoby  It should be remembered that the appointment of Bishop Wielikosielec is temporary until an ordinary is appointed to the Archdiocese.  Under Belarusian law, the future archbishop must be a citizen of Belarus.

    Archbishop Kondrusiewicz has been chairman of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of Belarus since 2015.  The vice-chairman has been Bishop Alexander Kashkevich of Grodno.  Kashkevich (now age 71) had been chairman from 2006 to 2015.  The officers of the Conference are determined by an election held by the Belarusian Catholic bishops themselves, usually every three years.  The website Catholic.by, the official portal of the Catholic Church in Belarus, has immediately posted that Kashkevich, by virtue of his vice-chairmanship, is now the head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops upon the retirement of Kondrusiewicz.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/12690-biskup-kazimir-velikaselets-vysoki-daver-da-majoj-stsiplaj-asoby  One website has made the point that Kashkevich as chairman of the Conference will actually be the head of the Catholic Church in Belarus.  https://euroradio.fm/ru/pochemu-ne-kosobuckiy-kto-dolzhen-vozglavit-belorusskiy-kostyol 

    In an interview on January 3, Metropolitan Veniamin, head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC), has stated:  “Not only the church, but every person should take care of harmony and peace in our society.  Analysis of the past year and correction of mistakes, repentance, correction of wrong actions, smoothing them out with good deeds is the main contribution.  In addition, caution in business and actions, everything must be balanced, done with love, so that there is no new development of opposition.”  https://www.belta.by/society/view/kazhdyj-chelovek-dolzhen-zabotitsja-o-soglasii-i-mire-v-obschestve-mitropolit-veniamin-422710-2021/  The Metropolitan also stated that the BOC has submitted to the government proposed constitutional changes in such areas as marriage and allowing religious instruction in public schools.

    In other Orthodox developments, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate decided on December 29 to hold a Bishops’ Conference November 15-18, 2021.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5742428.html  The statute of the Patriarchate requires that a council of bishops be held at least once every four years, and the last conference was held in 2017.  There has been no announcement with respect to the agenda of the forthcoming council.   In Montenegro, President Milo Đukanović has refused to sign and has returned to parliament the amendments relating to the very controversial law on religion.  https://www.cdm.me/politika/dukanovic-vratio-skupstini-na-ponovno-odlucivanje-sve-zakone-usvojene-29-decembra/  The basis for the return relates to the quorum at the beginning of the session and the substitution of a new deputy for one who resigned.  The president of parliament has stated that parliament will vote on the amendments again, presumably with the technical procedural objections cured.  https://www.cdm.me/politika/becic-izglasacemo-ponovo-sve-zakone/  The new majority clearly has the votes to approve the amendments.  It appears that the President does not have a veto power.  One must feel sorry for Montenegro.  As I previously reported, the government in Montenegro claimed on May 25 to be the first European nation to become “Covid-free” after a number of weeks of no positive tests.  Now, the statistics show that Montenegro has the highest number of total cases per population of any nation in the world except for Andorra.  https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries 

    Bishop Irinej of Backa, who may be the next Serbian patriarch, has given a very long interview covering a number of different subjects.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/episkop_bachki_irinej_bulovitsh_ako_pristanemo_da_nam_uzmu_kosovo_nestatshemo_sa_lica_zemlje  The interview includes a discussion of “neo-papism,” which Irinej claims has now been adopted by Constantinople.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in a very recent interview has rejected the accusation of papism.  https://orthodoxtimes.com/ecumenical-patriarch-there-is-no-schism-in-orthodoxy-i-have-no-right-to-take-a-step-back/  Patriarch Kirill has sent Christmas greetings to Archbishop Chrysostomos, primate of the Church of Cyprus.  https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/41389-mosxas-se-kuprou-thlibomai-gia-tin-apofasi-na-dexteite-se-koinonia-tous-sxismatikous-tis-oukranias;  https://orthochristian.com/136552.html  In the letter, Kirill appeals to Chrysostomos to “reconsider your decision [to recognize the OCU] or to postpone it until a pan-Orthodox decision is made on the Ukrainian issue.”

     

    To all of you celebrating Christmas on January 7, I wish you a very blessed Nativity of Our Lord!

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA