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 2018

  • 10 December 2018: "Stop and go" in Kyiv today

    On the road to the unifying council in Kyiv next Saturday, one must fasten one’s seatbelt because of the many twists and turns.  Today, Monday, was a good example.  In the morning, Filaret, the head of the UOC-KP, was interviewed by the Ukrainian television channel TSN as he left St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.   https://tsn.ua/video/video-novini/za-5-dniv-do-ob-yednavchogo-soboru-patriarh-filaret-zayaviv-pro-vlasnu-nezgodu-z-konstantinopolem.html  Filaret stated that the two major issues now dividing the UOC-KP and the Ecumenical Patriarchate are the latter’s insistence that priests and laypersons as well as bishops be able to participate in the council and that the votes be by secret ballots.  On the other hand, the UOC-KP insists that only bishops be allowed to vote and that voting not be done by secret ballot.  With respect to these differences, Filaret indicated that there would be no flexibility on the part of the UOC-KP.  He stated:

    The Kyiv Patriarchate is the largest church.  And it depends on us, [whether] we will accept what is demanded from us, [or] will not accept it.  If it is beneficial to us, we will accept.  If it is not beneficial to us, either the state or the church, will we simply not cast a vote, reject.

    The Greek website Romfea.gr went so far as to state that this “bomb” was “setting fire to the foundations” of the council.  https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/25639-bomba-filaretou-an-den-mas-ofelei-den-tha-psifisoume-stin-enotiki-sunodo  Also a few days earlier, Filaret had stated:  “I will be patriarch until death.”  https://www.unian.net/politics/10367700-v-obedinitelnom-sobore-po-sozdaniyu-edinoy-pomestnoy-pravoslavnoy-cerkvi-v-ukraine-primut-uchastie-bolee-50-arhiereev-filaret.html

    However, later today, Archbishop  Yevstraty (Zorya) of  Chernigov and Nezhin (UOC-KP) made a much more conciliatory “official” commentary which was first posted on his Facebook page and then on the official website of the UOC-KP.  https://www.cerkva.info/posts/u-kyivskomu-patriarkhati-hotuiutsia-do-soboru-ofitsiinyi-komentar  Archbishop Yevstraty is the head of the UOC-KP information department and also secretary of the UOC-KP Holy Synod. 

    1. The Kyiv Patriarchate is preparing for the Council and intends to take part in it.
    2. According to the blessing of His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the bishops, clergy, monks and laymen will participate in the work of the Council.
    3. The availability of proposals from the Kyivan Patriarchate for the Rules of the Council or the procedure for the election of the primate does not mean that, in the end, there will not be a common vision agreed.  As members of the Council, we obviously have the right to make our proposals, to argue and to support them.

    From the second paragraph, it appears that the UOC-KP is agreeing with the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s position that priests, monastics, and laypersons can participate in the council.

    Some background information may be helpful.  As you recall, the letter from the Ecumenical Patriarch to the Ukrainian bishops specified that each of them should bring with them to the council one priest and one monastic or layperson and that each of the three would have a vote to narrow the field of candidates to three.  Thereafter, on December 6, the UOC-KP Holy Synod adopted a resolution taking the position that only Ukrainian bishops should be able to vote with the results determined by “open” support.  https://www.cerkva.info/church/zhurnal-zasidannia-sviashchennoho-synodu-6-hrudnia-2018-r   On Sunday, Andreas Loudaros, the head of the website Orthodoxia.info, charged that Filaret’s insistence on an open vote solely by bishops was an attempt to ensure that Filaret’s views prevailed in the election. 

    Assuming that a large number of UOC-MP bishops will not come to the council, it is clears that the forty plus bishops of the UOC-KP will constitute a majority of the bishops at the council.  One can imagine a scenario where Filaret obtains a commitment at the UOC-KP council of bishops held on December 13 for all of the bishops to vote for a certain candidate for primate.  If the voting at the unifying council is not secret, it is unlikely for any of these UOC-KP bishops to vote publicly for a different candidate.  On the other hand, if the voters at the unifying council also include priests, monastics, and laypersons and all voting is done by secret ballot, it is much more difficult for Filaret to control how the ballots are cast.    https://orthodoxia.info/news/%CE%B5%CF%80%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%AF%CE%BD%CE%B4%CF%85%CE%BD%CE%BF%CE%B9-%CE%B5%CE%BB%CE%B9%CE%B3%CE%BC%CE%BF%CE%AF-%CE%B1%CF%80%CF%8C-%CF%84%CE%BF%CE%BD-%CF%80-%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%BA%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%AF/?fbclid=IwAR21MnbC5sfZG651UHXSgSbubB0R9Nr6R110Rlz28qdUAUz6Gm4bW99kzEY 

    I personally believe that the Ecumenical Patriarchate desires that the unifying council not be dominated by the UOC-KP and would welcome a primate who was not a UOC-KP bishop.  The other Local Orthodox Churches would probably be more willing to recognize and associate with a primate who had not been a part of a schismatic church.  There is also the problem with respect to episcopal ordination.  For example, 41 year-old Archbishop Yevstraty, whom Filaret appears to favor, received both his priestly and episcopal ordination, in the UOC-KP.  The validity of his ordination depends on the validity of the episcopal orders of Filaret.  A Local Orthodox Church, such as the Serbian Patriarchate, which rejects Constantinople’s rehabilitation of Filaret, would conclude that Yevstraty is not in fact a bishop.  There would be less of a problem if the primate was a bishop from the UOC-MP, one of the two exarchs, or an archimandrite.  If an archimandrite were elected primate, he would presumably receive his episcopal ordination by bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate following the election.

    Yesterday, an interview of Metropolitan Makary, head of the UAOC, was posted.  https://glavcom.ua/interviews/mitropolit-makariy-mi-vzhe-v-pidporyadkuvanni-vselenskiy-patriarhiji-tomu-sobor-majemo-provoditi-tak-yak-vona-skazhe-551999.html  He stated that approximately 15 bishops of the UAOC will attend the unifying council.  These bishops will hold a meeting the day before the council, December 14.  On that day, they are also required to submit the names of the priests, monastics, and laypersons who will participate in the unifying council.  He does not expect anyone from the UAOC to be nominated for primate.  In general, it appears that Metropolitan Makary agrees with the actions taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    This afternoon, Metropolitan Hilarion was in the Georgia Republic to give to Patriarch Ilia relics of St. Tamar, who died in 1936.  He also presented the Patriarch with documents reflecting the position of the Russian Church with respect to Ukraine.  The Patriarch stated that he would examine both the documents presented by Metropolitan Hilarion and the materials provided by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  These will discussed at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Patriarchate.  http://patriarchate.ge/geo/saqartveloshi-wminda-aghmsarebel-tamaris-marjanishvili/   Yesterday, Patriarch Kirill delivered a strong address against the church being established by the schismatics in Ukraine as “the false church serving the devil.” http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5320216.html   

    In other news, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva has stated that it is “very likely” that Pope Francis will visit Bulgaria in May 2019.  https://sofiaglobe.com/2018/12/07/foreign-minister-pope-francis-very-likely-to-visit-bulgaria-in-may-2019/ 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 8 December 2018: Decision of UOC-MP Synod & other development

    The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) met today, December 7.  The minutes of the meeting are published at http://news.church.ua/2018/12/07/zhurnali-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-7-grudnya-2018-roku/ .  Journal entry 41 begins with a reference to the announcement by Ukrainian President Poroshenko of the convening of a “unifying council” on December 15 and the receipt by the bishops of the UOC-MP of invitations by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to attend the council.  The reference also notes that the letters of invitation were delivered to the bishops by representatives of the Ukrainian state.  The reference is followed by a ten-point resolution.  A Google translation of the resolution is set forth below:

    1. To point out that despite repeated appeals of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the state power in Ukraine continues to interfere grossly in church life.
    2. To state that on the basis of the Resolution of the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of November 13, 2018, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, like other Local Orthodox Churches, does not recognize the decisions of the Constantinople Patriarchate of October 11, 2018, in particular regarding the extension of the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate to the territory of Ukraine, the removal of anathemas, the ecclesiastical prohibitions and the renewal in hierarchical and sacred rank of the leaders of the church schisms in Ukraine.
    3. To emphasize that the Patriarch of Constantinople does not have any canonical right to convene any assembly in Ukraine and summon to it the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
    4. Consider the planned "unifying council" as an illegal assembly, because representatives of schismatic groups will take part in it.
    5. In this regard, and on the basis of the Resolution of the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of November 13, 2018, the Episcopate, clergy, monastics and laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are not blessed to participate in the so-called unifying council.
    6. Express concern about the numerous cases of pressure on the Most Reverends [Bishops] of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in order to force them to take part in the so-called unifying council, which is a direct prompting to break the bishop's oath, to which the bishops undertook to adhere even under the threat of death.
    7. Please note that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not authorize any of the episcopate, clergy, monastics and laity to represent the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the so-called unifying council.
    8. To emphasize that in accordance with the Statute on the management of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is convened by the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Onufry.
    9. To emphasize that, as of today, no decisions on the convening of a council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were adopted.
    10. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church will consider any decisions of the so-called unifying council invalid and they will not have any legal and canonical force.

    From the foregoing, it appears that the Holy Synod is seeking to do everything possible to prevent attendance at the unifying council of any persons from the UOC-MP.  The next eight days will tell whether any persons from the UOC-MP will nevertheless “cross the Rubicon” and attend the council.  If they do so, it is certainly possible that the UOC-MP will initiate disciplinary proceedings against them.

    In Journal entry 42 of the minutes, there is a chronological listing of the acts of “pressure and prosecution of the episcopate, clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” by the Ukrainian government.  The resolution then states that these enumerated acts by the state authorities violate “the constitutional right of Ukrainian citizens to freedom of religion.”  It is also resolved that Metropolitan Onufry should  “inform the Local Orthodox Churches, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, international human rights organizations, diplomatic institutions about the pressure and prosecution of the clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

    Metropolitan Alexander of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky (UOC-MP) has posted on his Facebook page a copy of a one-page letter of invitation that he received from the Ecumenical Patriarch.  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2316941028330800&set=a.766283216729930&type=3&theater  Metropolitan Alexander was the personal secretary to now deceased Metropolitan Vladimir, the previous primate of the UOC-MP, and has been a vocal supporter of autocephaly.  The letter to the Metropolitan is also posted in a BBC – Ukrainian Language Service article which provides some additional information.  https://www.bbc.com/ukrainian/features-46469739   From the letter, it appears that each of the bishops is instructed to bring with him two additional people – the first is a priest and the second is to be either a monastic or a layperson.   Each of the three would have the right to vote for one individual for primate of the new church.  From this vote, the field of candidates would be reduced to the top three.  The BBC article then states that a source in Constantinople has informed the BBC that only bishops would participate in the next round of voting to select the primate from the list of three.

    A much longer letter was sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch to Metropolitan Onufry.  A photocopy of the entire three-page letter in Greek is posted at https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/25568-apokleistiko-bartholomaios-se-onoufrio-den-mporeite-na-exete-pleon-ton-titlo-kiebou .   The letter expresses the conviction that Metropolitan Onufry will embrace the regular decisions of the Mother Church of Constantinople, will follow the path of unity in the interest of the Ukrainian people, and support autocephaly.   Metropolitan Onufry is invited to attend the unify council with the ability to nominate himself as primate.  The letter includes the historic arguments on which the Ecumenical Patriarchate bases its right to exercise jurisdiction over Ukraine.  Metropolitan Onufry is reminded that after the election of a new primate by the unifying council, he “will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.”  It is report by the media that after reading the letter, Onufry sent the letter back to Constantinople without comment.

    Yesterday, the UOC-KP held a session of its Holy Synod.  The minutes of this session can be read at https://www.cerkva.info/church/zhurnal-zasidannia-sviashchennoho-synodu-6-hrudnia-2018-r .  The Holy Synod decided to convene a Bishops’ Council of all of its bishops on December 13, two days before the unifying council.  Among the six paragraphs of the resolution made by the Synod was an acknowledgement that the UOC-KP was ready to “postpone for some time the request to recognize it in a dignity of patriarchate, retaining that name within its boundaries and for domestic use.”  https://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/orthodox_relations/73799/

    On a different topic, the Pew Foundation has released a study that ranked 34 European nations in terms of their religious commitment.  http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/05/how-do-european-countries-differ-in-religious-commitment/   It awarded first place to Romania.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA 

  • 6 December 2018: Council on December 15 & more news

    Ukrainian President Poroshenko announced this morning that the unifying council will begin on December 15 and will be held in the historic St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv.  https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/obyednavchij-sobor-yakij-maye-progolositi-stvorennya-avtokef-51746  The official website of the President has videos of the announcement and includes a quotation of the following remarks by Poroshenko at the Forum of Local Self-Government:

    I want to begin my statement with the announcement of important news that is allegedly far from the topic of local self-government, but it is important for the whole country.  And it is long awaited.  We are glad to announce the date of the Unity Council proclaiming the creation of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine.  This Council will approve its charter.  This Council will choose the Primate.  Consequently, the Council will be held on December 15, 2018, in St. Sophia’s Cathedral, which has been the center of Ukrainian religious life for centuries.

    The President’s website also states that Poroshenko had informed his audience that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had already signed the letters with invitations to the hierarchs of the UOC-KP, the UAOC, and the UOC-MP to take part in this extremely important historical event.  After the announcement, Archbishop Clement, Chairman of the UOC-MP Synodal Information Department, informed TASS:  Our stance has not changed.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church will not take part in that council, since the creation of the Ukrainian autocephalous church does not meet canonical norms.  http://tass.com/society/1034475  (English).

    There has not yet been an official announcement by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on this subject.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is now in South Korea and will not return to Constantinople until Sunday, December 10.  http://basilica.ro/en/ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-arrives-in-south-korea/  Perhaps it was believed that if the announcement was delayed until the Ecumenical Patriarch’s return, there would be too little advanced notice of the council.  The Fanarion website and the Orthodoxia.info website, both of which are close to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, have reported the December 15 date without expressing any reservations.  https://orthodoxia.info/news/%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B9%CF%82-15-12-%CE%B7-%CE%B5%CE%BD%CF%89%CF%84%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%AE-%CF%83%CF%8D%CE%BD%CE%BF%CE%B4%CE%BF%CF%82-%CF%84%CE%BF%CF%85-%CE%BA%CE%B9%CE%AD%CE%B2%CE%BF%CF%85/  The latter website also stated that Metropolitan Emmanuel of France will convene the council.

    The Greek website Romfea.gr has posted a photocopy of one page of the draft charter of the new church.  https://www.romfea.gr/diafora/25512-to-montelo-tis-ekklisias-tis-kritis-tha-exei-i-nea-ekklisia-stin-oukrania  The website states that the charter appears to be modeled after the charter of the Church of Crete, which is not an autocephalous church.  However, it is probably unwise to draw definite conclusions from only one page of a multi-page document.

    Metropolitan Hilarion has given another interview --  this time to the French website Orthodoxie.com.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/12/05/news167537/ .  This is perhaps his strongest attack yet on the Ecumenical Patriarch.  Here is one example:

    Patriarch Bartholomew was warned that there would be such consequences, but he continued his line, fulfilling the political order that came to him from the United States of America.  The leadership of this country does not hide the fact that they are the main client.  The order was paid in banknotes, which is also quite well known; information about this was published.  His goal - the destruction of the unity of the Orthodox Church.

    Metropolitan Hilarion also contends that Bartholomew is seeking to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church as a form of revenge for the boycott of the Crete Council by the Russian Church and three other Local Orthodox Churches.

    The Patriarchate of Alexandria has posted on its website a communique relating to the meeting of its Holy Synod, held November 26-29.  http://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/index.php?module=news&action=details&id=1493  Prior to the session, there was some speculation that the Patriarchate of Alexandria would issue a statement relating to Ukraine.  As previously reported, Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria is very sympathetic to the UOC-MP, having served for ten years (1985-1995) in Odessa as the Patriarchal Exarch to the Moscow Patriarchate.  However, the final communique says nothing about Ukraine. 

    The Council of the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe issued an communique on November 30 relating to the recent action of the Fanar in revoking the tomos of 1999.  http://www.exarchat.eu/spip.php?article2260   The communique includes an invitation for the priests of the Archdiocese to attend a pastoral assembly on December 15.  This will be followed by “a general assembly of the Archdiocese, which will be attended by all the clergy and lay delegates elected by the parishes and communities, which are the member associations of the Diocesan Union.”  The  purpose of these meetings is to formulate a response to the action revoking the tomos.

    A good English-language summary of the visit of the Vatican delegation to the Fanar on the feast of St. Andrew is found at  https://www.ecupatria.org/2018/12/05/thronal-feast-at-the-ecumenical-patriarchate-2/#more-1025 .  It includes extensive quotations of the address by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the conclusion of the Liturgy.  The address includes a criticism of the action of the Moscow Patriarchate in interrupting communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and also criticism of “the representatives of anti-ecumenical and anti-dialogal fundamentalism” who oppose the Orthodox – Catholic theological dialogue.  The full text of the letter of Pope Francis to the Ecumenical Patriarch is posted at  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2018/documents/papa-francesco_20181130_messaggio-bartolomeo-i.html .

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 November 2018: Actions by Synod in Constantinople

    The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate ended its three-day (Nov. 27-29) session today.  A communique in English has been released.   https://www.patriarchate.org/announcements/-/asset_publisher/MF6geT6kmaDE/content/anakoinothen-29-11-2018-?_101_INSTANCE_MF6geT6kmaDE_languageId=en_US    The third paragraph of the communique relates to Ukraine and provides as follows: Finally, in the context of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s previously-made decision to grant autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine, and in anticipation of the issuance of the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos, the Holy and Sacred Synod drafted the Ukrainian Church’s Constitutional Charter.  The charter of the new autocephalous church is a critical document that provides the details of how the new church will operate.  This can be seen if one examines, for example, the charter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Archdiocese of America.  https://www.goarch.org/documents/charter    Presumably, the Holy Synod approved a draft of the Charter, which in turn will be submitted to the unifying council for consideration and final approval.

    Many probably anticipated that today’s communique would specify the exact dates in December when the unifying council would be held.   This is because the announcement issued by the chief secretariat of the Synod on November 11 had stated that “the concrete date within December 2018, will be presented for the confirmation and announcement by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”  https://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=2614&tla=gr&fbclid=IwAR13oviG7mBV2CDsLFaZ3YJEHKcMn8Rk83xrc56X0EIHlLGvWSzp5UOhaqo   To the best of my knowledge, journalists have not yet been provided an opportunity to ask questions concerning the communique, and an explanation may be given in the near future.   The website Orthodoxia.info, which has a good relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, has provided some additional details.  https://orthodoxia.info/news/%CE%B5%CE%BD%CF%84%CF%8C%CF%82-%CE%B4%CE%B5%CE%BA%CE%B5%CE%BC%CE%B2%CF%81%CE%AF%CE%BF%CF%85-%CE%B5%CE%BA%CE%BB%CE%AD%CE%B3%CE%B5%CF%84%CE%B1%CE%B9-%CE%BF-%CF%80%CF%81%CE%BF%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B8%CE%AE/  This website states that Metropolitan Emmanuel of France will preside over the unifying council.  It also states that in the event an archimandrite is elected as primate, the necessary episcopal ordination will then take place.

    The first paragraph of today’s communique provides:  Upon the recommendation of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, within the context of his canonical responsibility, the Holy and Sacred Synod reorganized the status of the “Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe,” thereby entrusting its faithful to the Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne in Europe.  A more detailed communique on this topic was released by the Fanar on November 27.  http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=2624&tla=gr&fbclid=IwAR1ddJNZA-8PBa-itFlq_7En1OJmTEoUmaC2yrC3ttRKvEWEZWVb9EG5znY (original in French); https://orthodoxie.com/en/ecumenical-patriarchate-communique-on-orthodox-churches-of-russian-tradition-in-western-europe/ (unofficial English translation)  The Exarchate has had a complex history.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archdiocese_of_Russian_Orthodox_churches_in_Western_Europe  Its predecessor organization under the Ecumenical Patriarchate was established in 1931 for Orthodox of the Russian tradition living in Western Europe.  It had been an “exarchate” during various times of its existence.  In 1999 Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew issued a tomos granting the exarchate substantial autonomy.  The action of the Holy Synod on November 27 revokes that tomos, places the parishes of the Exarchate under the bishops of the various countries, and eliminates the position of a separate archbishop for the Exarchate.  Although now integrated with the other Orthodox parishes, the former parishes of the Exarchate are guaranteed by the Fanar that they will be able to preserve their Russian liturgical and spiritual tradition.

    It is certainly possible that this integration action, recommended by the Ecumenical Patriarch, was motivated by a desire to make it more difficult for the Exarchate to break off and join the Moscow Patriarchate.  You may recall that at the beginning of this month the Exarchate’s parish in Florence, Italy was accepted into the ROCOR.  The Moscow Patriarchate is obviously interested in obtaining all of the parishes in the Exarchate, now that the Moscow Patriarchate is relieved of any restraint to maintain good relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Yesterday, Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, stated that the soil is now maturing for the parishes of the Exarchate to form a self-governing metropolitan district under the Moscow Patriarchate.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=dujour&div=179   The Exarchate on November 28 issued a communique with respect to the actions of the Holy Synod. http://www.exarchat.eu/spip.php?article2257 (scroll down for English text)  It included the following:   This decision of the Holy Synod, which has yet to be received officially at the see of the Archdiocese, was in no way requested by the Archdiocese.  His Eminence, Archbishop John, was not consulted prior to this decision…. Archbishop John asks all the clergy and faithful to maintain their calm and to collect themselves in prayer, so that the Holy Spirit may come to enlighten us all.  The famous Saint Serge Institute of Orthodox Theology in Paris has issued a statement that it is not affected by the decision as it is an independent academic institution.  https://orthodoxie.com/communique-de-linstitut-de-theologie-orthodoxe-saint-serge-de-paris-du-28-novembre/  The Institute also stated that the actions of the Holy Synod on November 27 “closes a historical cycle which, in fact, was already completed while preserving the pastoral needs of the faithful.”  At the close of the communique, the Institute makes a statement creating the impression that it views favorably this change.

    Many of the bishops of the UOC-MP have been holding meetings with the priests of their eparchies to obtain their approval of the 12-paragraph statement adopted by the Council of Bishops on November 13.  So far, 24 eparchies have done so.   They are listed at  http://orthochristian.com/117493.html .    The total number of eparchies in the UOC-MP is 53.  The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has posted an English translation of an Romfea.gr interview of the Metropolitan Anthony, chancellor of the UOC-MP.  One of the Metropolitan’s answers included the following statement: [I]f any of the bishops will really go to that ‘council’, then their faithful and clergy will be the first not to let them come back to their metropolises, as we have seen it in Vinnitsa and in another metropolis whose bishop has made some erroneous steps. They will lose their metropolises and remain with nothing left. https://mospat.ru/en/2018/11/26/news167270/

    According to the polls, the leading challenger to Poroshenko in the election in Ukraine next March is Yulia Tymoshenko.  Tymoshenko has now stated that her “new government will do everything to affirm a single Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine,” while fostering tolerance and understanding between denominations.  https://www.religion.in.ua/news/vazhlivo/41812-yuliya-timoshenko-ogolosila-pro-vsebichnu-pidtrimku-yedinoyi-avtokefalnoyi-cerkvi-v-ukrayini.html 

    The consecration of the National Cathedral in Bucharest and the first Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral was held last Sunday with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Romanian Patriarch Daniel presiding.  Outside it was foggy and a few degrees about freezing.  However, inside there was the splendor of the liturgy and an amazing iconostasis.  The entire liturgy can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=11&v=HORxfUNg9yc .   A video of the consecration of the altar, which preceded the Liturgy, can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjpPisTw_pU .   The text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s remarks at the close of the Liturgy is set forth at http://basilica.ro/patriarhul-ecumenic-dealul-arsenalului-s-a-transformat-in-dealul-harului-si-binecuvantarii-pentru-intreaga-romanie/ .  The Ecumenical Patriarch had high words of praise for Patriarch Daniel.  Although I am sure that the subject of Ukraine was brought up in private conversations, I saw nothing which indicates that Patriarch Daniel ever mentioned Ukraine in his public remarks.  Ukraine was mentioned by the Ecumenical Patriarch once in his remarks to the Romanian Holy Synod. 

    On Sunday evening, the two patriarchs attended a spectacular concert of folk and choir music at the Palace Hall. If you are interested in some joyous entertainment, you can watch the entire performance at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyQlfCXNWt0 .  I especially enjoyed the Moldovan violinist and conductor Nicolae Botgros, the “magician of the violin.”  You can see his amazing performance, which brought a standing ovation, at 3:03:35 in the video.

    On November 27, Pope Francis made a surprise 40-minute visit to the exhibit "Pilgrimage of Russian Art: From Dionysius to Malevich," now being shown at the Vatican.  http://tass.com/society/1032939   Zelfira Tregulova, the director of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, told TASS that the Pope had informed her, “I have never seen paintings that would be so powerful and meaningful.”  Meanwhile, the Vatican delegation, headed by Cardinal Koch, is at the Fanar as part of a long tradition of visiting the Ecumenical Patriarch on the occasion of the patronal feast day of St. Andrew.  Yesterday (Nov. 28), the delegation met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.   https://www.acistampa.com/story/la-santa-sede-al-fanar-per-santandrea-mentre-il-dibattito-ortodosso-si-infiamma-10110  This year, in view of the Moscow – Constantinople tensions, the visit occurs during a particularly sensitive time.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 25 November 2018: Albania, Romania & more

    On Thursday the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate posted an article containing extracts from an October 10 letter from Archbishop Anastasios, primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church, to Patriarch Kirill.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/11/22/news166940/  The article includes several quotes from the letter including one stating that the autocephaly project would be a “march in a minefield.”  In my opinion the letter is especially significant in that Archbishop Anastasios has enjoyed a very good and close relationship with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew over the years.  However, I also was curious why the DECR had waiting for six weeks to announce this news which was favorable to it.  It should also be remembered that the letter was written before the October 11 decision by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate relating to assertion of jurisdiction over Ukraine and the granting of the appeals by Filaret and Makary.

    Today (Saturday) the Albanian Orthodox Church has posted a notice including an English translation of the complete text of the October 10 letter and the complete text of a later letter written on November 7.  http://orthodoxalbania.org/alb/index.php/en-us/lajme-3/blog/6815-views-of-the-orthodox-autocephalous-church-of-albania-regarding-the-ukrainian-ecclesiastical-question  The notice states that Russian sources had released selected excerpts and that some websites had published articles “with manipulative titles, dates, and arbitrary assessments.”  Therefore, for “the purpose of providing fuller and objective information to anyone who takes interest,” the notice states that the unabridged texts of both letters are being released.

    From reading the unabridged texts, it is apparent that the Russian sources had quoted the parts of the October 10 letter which were favorable to the Russian position but had made no mention of the parts that were critical of the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate.  As an example of such omission, the letter of October 10 stated that the decision of the Russian Church to discontinue liturgical reference to the Ecumenical Patriarch and to interrupt the eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate “has dangerously complicated the whole matter.”  The November 11 letter, while repeating the “march in a minefield” analogy, is devoted almost entirely to criticizing the actions of the Moscow Patriarchate in severing communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  For example, the letter of November 11 states:  It is unthinkable that the Divine Eucharist, the mystery par excellence of the infinite love and utter humiliation of Christ, could be used as a weapon against another Church.

    Today is the second day of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit to Bucharest.  Tomorrow (Sunday) he and Romanian Patriarch Daniel will consecrate the huge National Cathedral in Bucharest.  It appears that the Ecumenical Patriarch has been warmly received.  The Romanian Patriarchate’s news agency Basilica.ro has been providing excellent English language coverage of the visit.  http://basilica.ro/en/   Today Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addressed the hierarchy of the Romanian Patriarchate.  The full text of his address can be read at:  http://basilica.ro/mesajul-adresat-de-patriarhul-ecumenic-ierarhilor-bisericii-ortodoxe-romane-text-integral/ .   The address includes the subject of Ukraine and the historic right of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to grant autocephaly.   He expresses the wish:  “We have hope in God’s help that the process of unification of the divided groups will soon end, in order to proceed to the convening and issuing of the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos of the Church of Ukraine, thus becoming the newest Autocephalous Sister Church.”  He concludes: “I am sure that the Romanian Orthodox Church will be involved in preserving church unity and righteousness.”  The remarks by Patriarch Daniel at the meeting are set forth at http://basilica.ro/en/message-by-romanian-patriarch-daniel-at-the-solemn-meeting-of-the-holy-synod-of-the-romanian-orthodox-church/  (official English translation).

    The official English translation of the statement of the Serbian Patriarchate on Ukraine has now been posted.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/position_serbian_orthodox_church_church_crisis_ukraine_after_newest_decisions_patriarchate_constanti  On November 22, the Ecumenical Patriarch met with Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro (Serbian Patriarchate) at the Fanar.  At the meeting, which lasted approximately two hours, the subjects of Ukraine autocephaly and the status of the FYROM church were discussed.  https://www.romfea.gr/oikoumeniko-patriarxeio/25275-o-mitropolitis-maurobouniou-amfiloxios-sto-oikoumeniko-patriarxeio 

    Today, on the television program Church and the World, Metropolitan Hilarion said the UOC-MP would not be represented at the unifying council.  https://tass.ru/obschestvo/5830621  However, he said that two UOC-MP bishops might attend on their own initiative.  On November 20, the Diocesan Council of the Vinnitsa eparchy resolved that the November 13 decree of the UOC-MP Council of Bishops “is a document binding on all bishops, clergymen and laity of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and confirmed the readiness to implement the decree with the entirety of the Vinnitsa diocese.”    http://orthodox.vinnica.ua/novini/novini-eparhii/4060.html  Therefore, considerable doubt exists whether Metropolitan Simeon, the head of the Vinnitsa eparchy, who has advocated autocephaly, will attend the unifying council.

    The following is a nice article on the exhibit of famous Russian paintings now being shown at the Vatican as part of the Vatican – Russian cultural exchanges.  https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/11/21/vaticans-diplomacy-of-beauty-on-display-in-new-russian-exhibit/ 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 20 November 2018: Compromise in Kyiv? - & more news

    The Ecumenical Patriarchate has been mostly silent with respect to the preparations for the unifying council to be held in Kyiv.  However, today (Monday) the following announcement ( https://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=2614&tla=gr&fbclid=IwAR13oviG7mBV2CDsLFaZ3YJEHKcMn8Rk83xrc56X0EIHlLGvWSzp5UOhaqo )  was issued from the Fanar:

    In preparation of the meeting of the Holy and Sacred Synod on 27-29 November, 2018, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople reiterates its sacred decision to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

    While the preparation process for the Holy Council (SOBOR) of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is underway, the concrete date within December 2018, will be presented for the confirmation and announcement by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    Today also, a statement by Filaret, the head of the UOC-KP, was posted on the website of the UOC-KP.  https://www.cerkva.info/posts/zayava-patriarkha-kyyivskoho-i-vsiyeyi-rusy-ukrayiny-filareta  The statement should be read in its entirety.  However, a translation of part of the statement reads as follows:

    The election of the Primate for a single local Ukrainian Orthodox Church will take place at the Council, after which it will be proclaimed and approved by the unified church.

    Self-nomination for candidacy in the Church is not allowed by the canons.  Earlier it was reported that the episcopate of the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate would offer my candidacy for election as Primate.

    I thank the episcopate for expressing confidence in me, as well as being grateful for the strong support from the entire Kyiv Patriarchate and all society.  Now, I have a prevailing vision of how we should continue to act, and our partners in the ongoing dialogue know about it through our personal communication.  I assure you that in the framework of this dialogue, we adhere and will adhere to the obligations taken on ourselves as well as to the other participants.

    What will be my answer to the above proposal for election, if it is officially announced at the Council - I will also officially inform the Council, substantiating before it my vision and decision and expecting from it support for my position.

    The basis for the answer will be the understanding of the good of the Church and the responsibility to the Lord for the proper fulfillment of the ministry entrusted to me by Him on the throne of Kyiv, which I, with the grace of God, have borne for over 52 years.

    I personally suspect that the notice from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the statement by Filaret, issued on the same day, were coordinated and that the wording of Filaret’s statement was approved by the Fanar.  Essentially, Filaret has stated that he has already decided what his response will be if he is nominated for primate at the council.  He has communicated his decision to “our partners in the ongoing dialogue,” and he promises that he will adhere to his obligations to the participants in the dialogue.  I assume that the obligations include declining the nomination as primate.  In the unlikely event that Filaret does not fulfill his promise, accepts the nomination, and is elected, the Ecumenical Patriarchate can, of course, still veto the election of Filaret as primate, as the new church will not yet have received the tomos and will still be under the direct control of Constantinople.

    I do not know if this likely compromise resolves all of the disputed issues between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the UOC-KP.  I am sure that the Fanar would have preferred to hold the Council earlier than December, as the delay gives Moscow more time to gather support from the other Local Orthodox Churches.  On November 15, Metropolitan Hilarion met in Cairo with the primate of the Patriarchate of Alexandria.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/11/16/news166692/   On November 17, he met in Damascus with the primate of the Patriarchate of Antioch.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/11/18/news166741/  In Damascus, the Metropolitan also chaired a meeting of heads and representatives of various religious communities “to discuss further cooperation between Christians and Muslims in Russia and Syria in the area of aid to the suffering Syrian people.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/11/18/news166756/  Today (November 19) Metropolitan Hilarion met in Nicosia with the primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/11/19/news166809/ 

    If each of the Local Orthodox Churches looks solely at its own self-interest, it will very likely oppose Constantinople’s claim to be able to grant autocephaly unilaterally (as opposed to requiring a consensus of all of the Local Orthodox Churches for a grant of autocephaly) and its claim to have the power to decide appeals relating to discipline imposed by a Local Orthodox Church.  However, all should agree that one’s position should not be dictated by self-interest alone.  There are also the questions: what do the canons provide, what is best for the Orthodox Church as a whole, and most importantly, what model does our Lord desire for his Church.

    The full text of the communique of the Polish Orthodox Church relating to Ukraine has now been posted on the Church’s website.  http://www.orthodox.pl/41419-2/   The following is an English translation:

    1. The Holy Sobor of Bishops [consisting of all of the Church’s bishops] receives distressing news of the church life in Ukraine, often detrimental to the life of Orthodoxy in Poland.
      Taking the above under consideration, as well as the pan-orthodox concern of the Local Orthodox Churches arising from the instability of church life in Ukraine, which destructively affects the whole church life of Orthodoxy in its entirety, the Holy Sobor of Bishops, concerned for the good of the Holy Orthodox Church, maintains the position expressed in the Sobor's resolution of 9 May 2018, No. 340 and reiterates its call to make a decision concerning a meeting of all of the heads of the Orthodox Churches, so that they might together, in the spirit of evangelical love, in humility and in one mind, preserving the dogmatic- canonical teaching and in mutual respect peacefully settle the issue of divided Orthodoxy in the Ukrainian land.

    Persons deprived of episcopal and priestly ordination cannot be leaders in introducing peace in the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.  Their actions cause even greater confusion and discords. 
    Only the observance of the dogmatic-canonical norms of the Church and the preservation of age-old traditions will protect Orthodoxy from difficult ecclesiastical consequences on an international scale. 
    The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church raises fervent prayers for the unity of the Holy Orthodoxy and for the peace of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 
    II.  The Holy Sobor of Bishops prohibits the clergy of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church from entering into liturgical-prayer contact with the "clergy" of the so-called “Kiev Patriarchate” [UOC-KP] and the so-called "Autocephalic Orthodox Church" [UAOC], which have done much harm in their past actions.

    Unlike the statement from the Serbian Patriarchate, the Polish Church does not expressly mention the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its actions.  The statement of the Polish Church prohibits its clergy from entering into “liturgical-prayer contact” with the schismatic UOC-KP and UAOC, but this has always been true.  However, the statement implies that the Polish Church has not accepted paragraph 3 of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s announcement of October 11 that the heads of these two schismatic churches and their followers “have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank.”  Although the statement of the Serbian Patriarchate requests the convening of a pan-Orthodox Council, the Polish Church requests only a decision relating to a meeting of the primates.

    The Russian-language service of the BBC has done a long and detailed interview of Metropolitan Sofrony of Cherkasy (UOC-MP), a long-time vocal advocate of autocephaly.  https://www.bbc.com/russian/features-46229497  He states that he plans to attend the unification council as an observer.  He states that he did not attend the meeting with Poroshenko held by three other UOC-MP bishops because no one told him about this meeting.

    The meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches held at the Bose Monastery has ended, and a brief communique has been issued.  The English communique can be read at https://www.ecupatria.org/2018/11/16/coordinating-committee-of-the-joint-international-commission-for-theological-dialogue-betweeen-the-roman-catholic-and-orthodox-churches-met-in-bose/?fbclid=IwAR0Yd5tKAsUjU2h4f0T9Kinl8A03o8chwvr_NJpuK6CFG9T_WJfVU9V4zXI .  The Italian version with the names of all of the participants included, can be read at https://www.monasterodibose.it/comunita/notizie/vita-comunitaria/12695-commissione-internazionale-mista-per-il-dialogo-teologico-tra-la-chiesa-cattolica-romana-e-la-chiesa-ortodossa  The communique provides:  The Committee examined a draft of the text entitled, “Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today”, prepared by a mixed sub-commission.  The Coordinating Committee will evaluate a revised version of the draft at its next meeting, planned for November 2019.   A year seems to be a long time to wait for the next Committee meeting.  Perhaps the hope is that by that time, Metropolitan Hilarion will be able to attend.

    In other news, President Putin has made a special trip from St. Petersburg to visit the Monastery of the Caves in Pskov.  On the President’s website, you can see many photos of him with Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov at the Monastery.  http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59149  In the media, this sparked further comment about the close relationship between Putin and Tikhon.  It has been reported that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will arrive in Bucharest on Friday for the consecration of the National Cathedral on Sunday.  http://www.radiocluj.ro/2018/11/19/catedrala-mantuirii-neamului-va-fi-sfintita-in-25-noiembrie/  Some photos of the National Cathedral in its present state of construction can be seen at https://www.protv.ro/evenimente/catedrala-mantuirii-neamului-sfintita-la-25-noiembrie-cati-oameni-vor-participa-la-eveniment.html

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 November 2018: Metropolitan Emmanuel arrives in Kyiv & more

    The Ukrainian news agency UNN has reported this afternoon that Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) arrived in Kyiv today (Nov. 15).  https://www.unn.com.ua/ru/exclusive/1762555-do-kiyeva-priyikhav-predstavnik-konstantinopolya-yakiy-maye-ocholiti-obyednavchiy-sobor   The article quotes an “informed source” as follows:  “Metropolitan Emmanuel of France [Ecumenical Patriarchate] arrived in Kyiv.  Now the details of holding the council, which he is expected to head, are being discussed.”  According to the source, the date of the unification council is also being discussed.    

    His arrival today was predicted by an article posted yesterday at https://golos.ua/i/647770 .  This article stated: Metropolitan Emmanuel will arrive on November 15; the council will occur on November 22; the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will meet on November 28-30; and the tomos will be issued to the new primate at the conclusion of the meeting of the Holy Synod.  The article also states that neither Filaret (head of the UOC-KP) nor Makary (head of the UAOC) will attend the council.  However, Archbishop Evstraty, the spokesperson of the UOC-KP, posted on his Facebook page yesterday a statement that all plans to do something without the consent and participation of Filaret “are doomed to failure.”  https://www.facebook.com/yevstr/posts/1893711347343807 

    Today, Glavcom.ua posted a long and detailed interview of Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnitsa, the UOC-MP hierarch who refused to sign the statement issued by the UOC-MP on Monday and who later met with Ukrainian President Poroshenko.  https://glavcom.ua/vinnytsia/publications/tomu-shcho-vinnickiy-pershe-velike-intervyu-z-mitropolitom-simeonom-545059.html  For me it was a very informative interview, and it seemed to me that the metropolitan was candid and realistic in his assessments.  The interview can be easily translated with the Google translation tool.  It includes a detailed description of what occurred at the Council meeting and at the meeting with the President.  Metropolitan Simeon believes that a majority of the bishops at the Council cannot be convinced to join the new church.  However, he still believes that “in the hearts and in the thoughts of many bishops, it is completely different.”

    Metropolitan Simeon attributes to Metropolitan Onufry (primate of the UOC-MP) the following words at the Council:  Dear bishops, everyone represents his own local church, which is called the eparchy, and everyone has the right to decide how to do it without instructions.  Do as your conscience tells you, as your heart tells you.  You see the situation on the ground in your dioceses, in the parishes, so it is up to you to decide.  To me at least, it is not clear that these words attributed to Metropolitan Onufry were intended by Onufry as permission for individual bishops to deviate from the terms of the statement adopted at the Council of Bishops.

    With respect to the attitude of the clergy and faithful in his own eparchy, Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnitsa stated:

    We are diverse.  Depends on whether this is a village or a city.  Vinnitsa [a city of 370,000 southwest of Kyiv] is more according to "Russian World," as it is now expressed, and the villages - on the contrary.  There are some people who are very clearly in favor of the autocephalous church, others are categorically opposed.  And most of the laity, and also, I think, bishops and priests in Ukraine are now in a wait-and see position.  Everyone is waiting for what will happen, above all, from the council and tomos.   And another such interesting fact.  Priests from other dioceses, where bishops are opposed to autocephaly, are calling me today.  So, they are telling me that they along with their parishes will move to the new Local Church.

    With respect to the movement of parishes to the new church, Metropolitan Simeon added: I do not say that it will be massively, but it will be.  It is interesting to compare these remarks with those made by Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil to TASS at the end of September.  https://tass.ru/interviews/5607597   There he said that he believed that “a minority [of the UOC-MP] will enter it [the new church], and mainly in the villagesMetropolitan Anthony also asserted that the UOC-MP will still remain the largest Orthodox church in Ukraine.

    As to whether he would attend the unifying council, Metropolitan Simeon replied that he would make that decision when the council occurs.  Personally, I would suspect that there will be very few (if any) bishops of the UOC-MP attending the council.  Unless one hoped to receive a position of particular responsibility by attending, it makes far more sense to wait and see what the nature of the new church will be before making the huge decision of “crossing the Rubicon” to join the new church.

    Today, Archbishop Filaret of Novokakhovsky, one of the three hierarchs of the UOC-MP who met with President Poroshenko on Monday evening, has posted a statement on the website of his eparchy.  http://eparhiya.org.ua/  He does not deny that he attended the meeting with Poroshenko, but denies that he has joined the schism.

    Romfea.gr reported tonight that the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Poland met today in Warsaw.  https://www.romfea.gr/ekklisies-ts/ekklisia-polonias/25101-stin-idia-grammi-me-tin-ekklisia-tis-serbias-kai-i-polonia  The website states that the Synod decided not to recognize the Ukrainian schismatics or to have a functioning and canonical communion with the new church.  No official communique has yet been issued.

    English translations of the full text of the statement adopted by the Council of Bishops of the UOC-MP on November 13 can be read at http://orthochristian.com/117232.html and https://orthodoxie.com/en/november-13-statement-of-the-assembly-of-the-ukrainian-orthodox-church-bishops/ .

    Metropolitan Hilarion gave an interview to Romfea.gr on Tuesday relating to the events in Kyiv on Monday.  An English translation has already been posted.   https://mospat.ru/en/2018/11/14/news166629/  In the long interview, he states, among other things, that he believes the prospects of actually convening a council in Kyiv “are rather dim.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 November 2018: Today's interesting events in Kyiv

    One thing is certain – the anticipated meeting between Ukrainian President Poroshenko and all of the diocesan and vicar bishops of the UOC-MP did not occur today.  The hierarchy of the UOC-MP insisted that the President conduct the meeting at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, while the President insisted that the meeting occur at Ukrainian House, a conference center in Kyiv.  The deadlock over the location of the meeting meant that it did not occur.  However, it has been reported that at least three bishops of the UOC-MP did go to Ukrainian House and did meet with the President.  https://tsn.ua/politika/stalo-vidomo-hto-z-yepiskopiv-upc-mp-pobuvav-na-zustrichi-z-poroshenkom-1248909.html  The three were Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnitsa, Metropolitan Alexander of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky, and Archbishop Filaret of Novokakhovsky.  According to the Ukrainian-language service of the BBC, Rostislav Pavlenko, Director of the National Institute for Strategic Studies, told reporters after the meeting that the number of bishops of the UOC-MP supporting the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is much larger than those who were present at the meeting with the president.  https://www.bbc.com/ukrainian/news-46198405  Whether or not this statement by Pavlenko is true remains unclear. 

    The vast majority of the bishops of the UOC-MP stayed at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra.  The UOC-MP posted on its website at http://news.church.ua/2018/11/13/zayava-soboru-jepiskopiv-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-shhodo-zustrichi-z-prezidentom-ukrajini-p-o-poroshenkom/ later today the following explanation:

    On the initiative of the President of Ukraine P.O. Poroshenko on November 13, 2018, a meeting with the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was scheduled at the premises of the National Center for Business and Cultural Cooperation "Ukrainian House."  With the blessing of His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Onufy, on the agreed date, the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church gathered at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.  On the same day an emergency meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was held, which decided to convene the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  Having discussed the state of church-state relations, public statements by state leaders that can be regarded as being directed against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, taking into account the attitudes and opinions of the church people and the clergy, and also on the basis of the fact that church matters should be discussed at church territory, the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has decided to meet with the President, but not in the "Ukrainian House", but on the territory of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra.  The decision of the Council of Bishops was immediately communicated to the President.  However, the President refused the meeting.  In view of these circumstances, the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church confirms its readiness to meet with the President of Ukraine, but in the church territory.

    From this it appears that the scheduled meeting was to be held at Ukrainian House.  This official explanation appears inconsistent with earlier reports that agreement had been reached to meet at the Lavra and that the president did not show up.  See, for example, http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14675 .

    The official minutes of today’s emergency meeting of the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP can be read at:  http://news.church.ua/2018/11/13/zhurnali-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-13-listopada-2018-roku/#more-243017  The very brief minutes include a resolution suspending eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and a resolution convening the Council of Bishops of the UOC-MP.  The full text of the 12-paragraph text of the resolution adopted by the Council of Bishops can be read at http://news.church.ua/2018/11/13/postanova-soboru-jepiskopiv-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-13-listopada-2018-roku/.  The Google translation tool does quite a good job in translating this resolution into English.  A video showing portions of the Synod and Council meeting can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=35&v=aTxnnnuGfdM  It appears in the video that the proposed resolution was read to the bishops at the Council by Metropolitan Onufry followed by a show of hands by the bishops.  (video at 4:40)  Although the resolution should be read in its entirety, it does not, in my opinion, contain any surprises.  Paragraph 10 does provide:  The bishops' council calls on the Patriarchate of Constantinople to engage in dialogue with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the brotherly participation of all Local Orthodox Churches for the purpose of  a conciliar solution to this problem.  Like prior statements from the UOC-MP, the resolution does not unambiguously reject any interest in autocephalous status.   Although in practice the UOC-MP has enjoyed considerable independence from Moscow, the Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate (on which the UOC-MP has only a minority voice) legally has the right make decisions binding on the UOC-MP on any subject.  See Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church, chapter X, paragraph 10.  Perhaps the UOC-MP wishes to keep its options open in the future with respect to autocephaly.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 November 2018: Serbian decision & meeting with Ukrainian president

    This afternoon (Monday) the Serbian Patriarchate posted the decision by its Assembly of Bishops relating to Ukraine.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/stav_srpske_pravoslavne_crkve_o_crkvenoj_krizi_u_ukrajini_posle_najnovijih_odluka_carigradske_patrij (full text in Serbian)  The official English translation has not yet been posted.  The decision is a victory for Moscow, and news of the decision has been quickly posted on the Internet in Russia.  The following is a Google English translation supplemented by English quotes of certain sentences found on Russian websites:

    First of all with regret, the Assembly concludes that the Constantinople Patriarchate made a canonically unfounded decision to rehabilitate as bishops and recognize the two leaders of the schismatic groups in Ukraine, Filaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich, together with their episcopates and clergy, the former [Filaret] being canonically deprived of rank, and then excluded from the church community and subjected to anathema, and the latter [Makary] being already deprived of apostolic succession as a spiritual offshoot of the sect of the so-called self-sanctifiers [самосветих; i.e. ordaining themselves as bishops or priests], which is why the Holy Assembly of Bishops resolves that the decision of the Synod of Constantinople is non-binding for the Serbian Orthodox Church.

    The Assembly does not recognize the aforementioned persons and their followers as Orthodox bishops and clergy and, consequently, does not accept liturgical and canonical communion with them and their supporters [присталицама]. 

    Lastly, the Assembly proposes to the Constantinople Patriarchate and all other local autocephalous Orthodox Churches that the issue of autocephaly and the issue of the Orthodox diaspora should be considered as soon as possible at a pan-Orthodox Council in order to confirm and strengthen the catholicity and unity of the Orthodox Church and to avoid in the future the temptation that holy Orthodoxy is now experiencing.

    As best as I can determine from my research, the Serbian word for supporters used at the end of the second paragraph refers to supporters in the sense of disciples or followers and would not include other Local Orthodox Churches.

    With respect to considering the issues of autocephaly and the Orthodox diaspora at a pan-Orthodox Council, it should be remembered that under the rules adopted by the Local Orthodox Churches in recent decades, a matter can only be referred to a pan-Orthodox Council if all of the Local Orthodox Churches agree to the exact terms of the submission (i.e. the exact wording of the proposed decision), and similarly a decision can only be adopted at a pan-Orthodox Council if supported by a complete consensus of the Local Churches.  Thus, matters such as autocephaly and the diaspora can only be referred to a pan-Orthodox Council if Constantinople agrees to the exact terms, and no resolution can be adopted unless Constantinople agrees to it.  Interestingly, these rules requiring a complete consensus were adopted largely at the insistence of the Moscow Patriarchate.  With respect to the Serbian Patriarchate seeking to submit the issue of the diaspora to a Council, it appears from an earlier interview with Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro (Serbian Patriarchate) that the purpose for it doing so is the desire to challenge the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that Orthodox in the diaspora should generally fall under its jurisdiction.   http://www.pravoslavie.ru/srpska/117075.htm 

    TASS reported today that the meeting scheduled tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon between Ukrainian President Poroshenko and all of the diocesan and vicar bishops of the UOC-MP has not been cancelled and is going forward.  https://tass.ru/obschestvo/5784216  According to the article, Bishop Clement, the head of the information department of the UOC-MP, informed TASS that the meeting is being called at the initiative of the President.  Bishop Clement also stated that he did not know the range of issues that will be discussed at the meeting.  There have been media reports that the unifying council will begin on November 21 or 22.  If this is so, the meeting with the President could be intended as a final appeal by him for UOC-MP bishops to participate in the council.  An article, based on an interview with a UAOC source, states that the meeting could be an occasion for UOC-MP bishops supporting autocephaly, publicly to state their position and urge their fellow bishops to follow.  https://vesti-ukr.com/strana/312060-filaret-i-makarij-otreklis-ot-rukovodstva-avtokefalnoj-tserkovju   If this self-identification is part of the plan, the Serbian resolution could not come at a better time for Moscow to sow some doubts among possible UOC-MP participants in the council.  It will be very interesting to hear what happens at the meeting tomorrow.

    As I previously reported, the Moscow Patriarchate has stated its intention to establish parallel parishes where the Russian Orthodox faithful no longer have access to communion at parishes of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in foreign lands.  Interestingly, the first publicly announced occasion for this to occur is in the Ecumenical Patriarch’s “own backyard.”  Yesterday, the Liturgy was celebrated by a priest of the Moscow Patriarchate at a chapel located at the summer residence of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Istanbul.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/11/12/news166483/  Obviously this was done without the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and presumably the Ecumenical Patriarch was not commemorated in the Liturgy.  The website Orthodoxia.info has stated that this step is “of great symbolic significance” and has the effect of “deepening even more the break with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”  https://orthodoxia.info/news/%CE%B5%CE%BD%CE%BF%CF%81%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BD-%CE%BA%CF%89%CE%BD%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B1%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%B9%CE%BD%CE%BF%CF%8D%CF%80%CE%BF%CE%BB%CE%B7-%CE%AF%CE%B4%CF%81%CF%85%CF%83%CE%B5/rus-1/ 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 10 November 2018: Cyprus Church on Ukraine & more news

    Today the Archbishop's Office of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus issued an announcement relating to the autocephaly issue in Ukraine.  http://churchofcyprus.org.cy/47247  The announcement followed a meeting yesterday between Archbishop Chrysostomos II and Metropolitan Varsonofy of St. Petersburg (Moscow Patriarchate).  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/11/08/news166368/   Also the Russian Ambassador to Cyprus has stated in a radio interview that Archbishop Chrysostomos had informed him that he is in favor of the position of the Russian Church and not in favor of Patriarch Bartholomew with respect to Ukraine.  https://theworldnews.net/gr-news/rosos-presbes-sten-kupro-o-arkhiepiskopos-mou-uposkhetheke-pos-sterizei-te-moskha-kai-okhi-to-phanari   Today’s announcement states:

    On the occasion of various publications which convey that His Beatitude Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos has taken a position on the subject of the autocephaly of the Church of Ukraine, it is well known that the Church of Cyprus maintains excellent relationships of unity with all of the Local Orthodox Churches, from the venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate to the newer Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, including the Holy Church of Russia.   At this critical time, we all have to be alert and avoid public statements that bring forth banner headlines that aggravate the problem.  The A.M. hopes that all problems will be solved in a frank and loving dialogue.  At the same time, it expresses its willingness to contribute in any way in this direction.

    The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Patriarchate opened its fall session on November 6.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/molitveni_pochetak_svetog_arhijerejskog_sabora  An assembly, which includes all of the diocesan hierarchs, is usually held each spring.  The last assembly was held April 29 to May 10, 2018.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/communique_holy_assembly_bishops_1  It is my understanding that the last fall assembly was eight years ago.  To the best of my knowledge, the agenda of the current assembly has not been made public.  However, the assembly has already issued a communique relating to Kosovo.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/communique_holy_assembly_bishops_serbian_orthodox_church_kosovo_and_metohija   (full text in English).  Prior to the assembly, Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro (Serbian Patriarchate) in an interview with TASS expressed his opinion that the Ukrainian issue would be discussed at the assembly.  http://www.pravoslavie.ru/srpska/117075.htm  He suggests that the Crete Council should be reconvened to discuss the issue of the granting of autocephaly generally and believes that this is the position that will be taken by the assembly.

    The latest TASS report relating to the Bulgarian Patriarchate states that the Bulgarian Holy Synod will probably consider the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at a meeting in December.  https://tass.ru/obschestvo/5762052  Metropolitan Cyprian of Stara Zagora, the chairman of the commission examining the question, is quoted as saying:  “This is a difficult decision, which the Synod of the BOC must take.  We will probably consider it at a meeting in December.  Before this our commission will have to consider a lot of documents, and it will take a long time.”

    It has been reported that all diocesan and vicar bishops of the UOC-MP were directed in a letter from Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil, dated November 8, to attend a compulsory meeting with Ukrainian President Poroshenko at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra at 2 p.m. on November 13.  https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2018/11/9/7197708/  A photocopy of the letter is published at this website.  There has been no official word yet as to when the unifying council of the new church will be held.  The UOC-KP has published a statement that Filaret has a canonical right to be nominated [as primate] at the council and that there can be no ban on a nomination by any party.  It further states that the nomination and election process can only occur at the council itself.  https://www.cerkva.info/posts/komentar-shchodo-cherhovoho-moskovskoho-informatsiinoho-vkydannia  It appears that Filaret is resisting any efforts to cause him to withdraw his candidacy as primate of the new church.  One of the names being mentioned in the media for primate is Metropolitan Simeon (Shostasky) of Vinnytsia (UOC-MP).  In response the press service of his eparchy has posted an interesting comment.  http://orthodox.vinnica.ua/novini/novini-eparhii/4042.html  It essentially praises the qualities of the metropolitan without stating whether the metropolitan has an interest in the position or not.

    The harsh statements against the Ecumenical Patriarchate have continued to emanate from Moscow.   In an interview with a Serbian newspaper, Metropolitan Hilarion has stated:  “The coordinating role that the Throne of Constantinople played, though not without difficulties, in the Orthodox world in the second part of the 20th century, cannot be played by it now. The Patriarchate of Constantinople has self-destructed as the coordinating center for Orthodox Churches.”   https://mospat.ru/en/2018/11/07/news166354/  In another development, the Moscow Patriarchate is studying the possibility of opening new parishes in those places abroad where its faithful are deprived of the opportunity to take communion due to the break with Constantinople.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14652   Perhaps due to the decease of financial support to Mt. Athos (under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) from benefactors in Russia, the Greek government has made a monetary grant to 22 monasteries at Mt. Athos.  http://basilica.ro/en/greek-state-grants-e1-240-000-to-monasteries-on-mount-athos/ 

    On the Catholic front, the Catholic bishops of Romania and Moldova met today with Pope Francis for over one hour.  After the meeting, Archbishop Ioan Robu of Bucharest stated that it is almost certain that Pope Francis will visit Romania in 2019.  https://www.acistampa.com/story/papa-francesco-in-romania-nel-2019-annuncia-larcivescovo-di-bucarest-9943?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_newsletter  As I have previously reported, it appears that both the Romanian government and Romanian Patriarchate would welcome such a visit.   For the third anniversary of the Havana agreement to be observed in February 2019, a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate will travel to Rome, and a delegation of the Holy See will travel to Moscow.  https://ria.ru/religion/20181106/1532210216.html  As part of a continuing cultural exchange between Russia and the Vatican, an exhibit of 54 Russian masterpieces (47 from the famous Tretyakov Gallery) will be open to the public at the Vatican beginning November 20.  http://www.askanews.it/esteri/2018/11/06/dalla-russia-con-spiritualit%C3%A0-mostra-evento-ai-musei-vaticani-pn_20181106_00207/ 

    Today Pope Francis met with Mar Gewargis III, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East.  The text of the Pope’s remarks and the common declaration signed by both can be read in English at  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2018/november/documents/papa-francesco_20181109_mar-gewargis3.html.

    In an article posted at https://aleteia.org/2018/11/08/russian-church-withdraws-from-orthodox-catholic-dialogue/ , Monsignor Paul McPartlan, a faculty member at the Catholic University of America and a member of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, confirmed that the next meeting of the Coordinating Committee with be held at the Bose Monastery in Italy next week.  Metropolitan Hilarion (Moscow Patriarchate) is also a member of the Coordinating Committee, but will not attend in view of the Moscow Patriarchate’s decision on September 14, 2018, to  “suspend the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in … theological dialogues … co-chaired by representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/14/news163817/

    This is not the first time that the Moscow Patriarchate has not participated in the work of the Joint International Commission and its Coordinating Committee because of a major dispute with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Because of the dispute involving Estonia, the Moscow Patriarchate left the Ravenna plenary in 2007 after the first day and did not participate in the meeting of the Coordinating Committee in Crete in 2008.

    With respect to next week’s meeting of the Coordinating Committee, you may recall that at the last meeting of the Coordinating Committee, held in Leros, Greece in September 2017, it was decided to prepare two new documents:  “Towards Unity in Faith: Theological and Canonical Issues” to be presented at the next plenary and “Primacy and Synodality in the Second Millennium and Today” to be discussed at the plenary after the first document.  https://www.ecupatria.org/2017/09/11/catholic-orthodox-bilateral-dialogue-on-the-way-to-its-next-plenary/  Two drafting subcommittees were established, one for each document.  The two subcommittees met at the Vatican in December 2017.  In June 2018, there was a second meeting of both subcommittees.  One subcommittee met in Crete and the other in Cyprus.  The results of their work will be considered at the Bose meeting of the Coordinating Committee next week.  If the Committee agrees next week that there are draft documents ready for presentation to a full plenary session of the Joint International Commission, it is likely that a meeting of the plenary will be set for 2019.  It is the turn of the Orthodox side to host the next plenary, as the last plenary was hosted by the Catholics in Chieti, Italy.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 6 November 2018: Bulgaria - no action today but study

    On October 25, TASS reported that Archpriest Nikolai Georgiev of the Bulgarian Patriarchate had informed TASS that an extraordinary meeting of the Holy Synod would be held on November 5 to discuss a convocation of a pan-Orthodox Council with respect to the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine.  https://tass.ru/obschestvo/5717104  (Father Nikolai is the head of public relations for the Synod and is therefore a reliable source.)  At that time, Father Nikolai also stated:  “At the upcoming meeting, the metropolitans will decide whether to support the proposal of Patriarch Kirill to convene a pan-Orthodox Council to resolve the contradictions that have arisen in the Orthodox Church, or will make public their position after first considering the church documents more than three hundred years ago.”  As you recall, the Holy Synod decided on October 4 to refer Patriarch Kirill’s letter to a special committee for study.  http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=273448 

    Today, November 5, the extraordinary meeting of the Holy Synod was not held.   Apparently, there was a change in plans, and there will be no immediate decision today.  Instead, the decision process has been delayed.  In an article today, TASS reported that a commission met today to consider the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine with respect to its compliance with the canons. https://tass.ru/obschestvo/5756996.  According to TASS, Father Nikolai stated:

    The hierarchs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, including Patriarch Neofit, gathered on Monday at the Troyan Monastery [located in the mountains east of Sofia] to consider the problems of the Orthodox Church in connection with the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to provide autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in particular, for the conformity of these decisions to the canons of Orthodoxy.  There will be serious debate, as well as the study of church and historical [documents], no concrete decisions should be expected in the near future.

    It appears to me that this is part of an emerging pattern by the Local Orthodox Churches (other than Moscow and Constantinople) to adopt a “wait and see” attitude and not to take any immediate action that would split the Orthodox world further.  So far only the Moscow Patriarchate and the churches under the Moscow Patriarchate have severed communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Some of the Local Churches have remained silent.  Others have made appeals without taking any definitive action.  The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch has gone the furthest by stating that autocephaly can only be granted by the mother church with the acknowledgement of all of the other Local Churches.  Antioch then requested the Ecumenical Patriarch to convene a meeting of all of the primates of the Local Churches.  https://antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/statement-of-the-holy-synod-of-antioch/2042/  The subsequent joint statement by the Patriarchs of Serbia and Antioch urged the Ecumenical Patriarch to restore “fraternal dialogue” with the Moscow Patriarchate so that, with the assistance and participation of all of the primates of the Local Churches, the conflict between Moscow and Constantinople can be resolved.    http://www.spc.rs/eng/joint_statement_serbian_and_antiochian_orthodox_patriarchates   The Holy Synod of the Romanian Patriarchate urged the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate “to arrive at a solution together.”  http://basilica.ro/en/the-holy-synod-calls-for-moscow-and-constantinople-to-resolve-ukrainian-issue-together-highlights-pan-orthodox-cooperation/   The Georgian Patriarchate continues to monitor developments without taking a position.  Although individual hierarchs from the various Local Churches have made harsh condemnations of Constantinople’s actions, similar to those emanating from Moscow, the official pronouncements from the other Local Orthodox Churches have remained respectful.  In my opinion, there is a reluctance by the other Local Orthodox Churches to “burn their bridges” to either Constantinople or Moscow.  Because of this, an event such as the Schism of 1054 will most likely be avoided.

    On Saturday Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew and Ukrainian President Poroshenko signed an agreement on cooperation and coordination within the framework of the process for granting autocephaly to the unified Orthodox Church in Ukraine.  The press release of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (in English) can be read at:  https://www.patriarchate.org/news-archives/-/asset_publisher/N2gTPQxXwPlE/content/symphono-syntonismou-kai-synergasias-ypegrapsan-o-oikoumenikos-patriarches-kai-o-proedros-tes-oukranias?_101_INSTANCE_N2gTPQxXwPlE_languageId=en_US  The text of the agreement has not yet been released to the public.  Some more information was provided today by an advisor to the President at a press conference.  https://www.vectornews.net/news/politics/80979-stvoryuyetsya-nezalezhna-ukrayinska-pravoslavna-cerkva-yaky-nadayetsya-tomos-rostislav-pavlenko-pro-ugodu-mzh-ukrayinoyu-vselenskim-patrarhatom.html  According to him, the agreement establishes a framework and does not require further ratification.  https://ria.ru/religion/20181105/1532151508.html 

    It has been reported that a parish in Florence, Italy, under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, voted on October 28 to transfer to the jurisdiction of the ROCOR (part of the Moscow Patriarchate) in protest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s actions in Ukraine.    http://orthochristian.com/116958.html  It was reported today that the ROCOR has accepted the parish. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=71176   

    In other news, the Saint Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group has completed its October 17-21, 2018 session in Graz, Austria.  The following is the link to the complete English text of the 42-page finalized joint document, Serving Communion -- Re-thinking the Relationship between Primacy and Synodalityhttp://www.moehlerinstitut.de/pdf/texte/kommuniques/2018_graz_serving_communion.pdf  See also http://www.settimananews.it/ecumenismo-dialogo/sinodalita-e-primato/ .  There is also the sad news that Father Robert Taft, the well-known historian on the Eastern liturgy, died on November 2 at the age of 86.  The following is an interesting article about him.  https://aleteia.org/2018/11/02/fr-robert-taft-feisty-ecumenist-and-liturgical-historian-dies-at-86/ 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 3 November 2018: Extremely important statements by Archbishop Job on Ukraine

    Archbishop Job (Getcha) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who is a Canadian of Ukrainian ancestry, has given an extremely important interview to the BBC Russian-language service.  A transcript of the interview has been posted today at https://www.bbc.com/russian/features-46067230 .  Here are some of the important points:

    1. With respect to the time of the creation of the new church:  “before implementing this decision [to grant autocephaly] there are certain procedures, certain issues that need to be resolved, and in due time it [the new church] will appear.”
    1. How he views the hierarchs and priests of the Russian Orthodox Church:  “I consider them to be brothers, because we, the Church of Constantinople, have not broken off relations with them.”
    1. With respect to Moscow’s reactions to the action taken by Constantinople:  “Moscow’s reactions are understandable, and we waited for them.  But we cannot live under threats and cannot remain indifferent to saving millions of people just because someone does not like it.  All people must understand at some point that they need to find a way out.”
    1. The authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate:  “Based on the canons, according to the teachings of the Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has certain privileges.  Whoever disagrees with this, in fact, splits himself off from Orthodoxy.”
    1. What is happen if Moscow’s breaking of communion with Constantinople lasts for a long time:  “We hope that she will turn to reason and return to unity with the Ecumenical Throne, because the Ecumenical Throne does not want to break off relations with the Orthodox Church in Russia.

    But if such a situation persists for a long time, then of course, the Universal Throne, as the First throne of Universal Orthodoxy, will be forced to take certain measures. To resort to certain decisions to ensure the unity of the church.”

    1. With respect to how many of the Local Orthodox Churches are prepared to recognize the new church in Ukraine:  “ I think most of them are ready.”
    1. Status of the bishops of the UOC-KP and UAOC:  “These bishops have been restored as hierarchs in the bosom of the Ecumenical Church, and now we are waiting for the next step, when all these bishops will unite in the new structure, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which will be given a tomos on autocephaly.  We did not recognize Filaret and Makary as primates of their churches, we did not say that the UOC-KP or the UAOC are legitimate, because it would be very illogical: it would mean that we recognized two parallel church structures in parallel with the third canonical structure, which would be the Moscow Patriarchate.”
    1. The effect of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s decision of October 11:  “It is also very important that the decision of the Synod of October 11 abolished the Act of 1686.  From a canonical point of view, this means that the church of the Moscow Patriarchate no longer exists in Ukraine.  According to the decision of this synod, all the hierarchs in Ukraine are the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne, and now they must wait for the directive of the Ecumenical Patriarchate regarding their future functioning and existence in the long term of providing autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”
    1. Whether the Ecumenical Patriarch should convene the Council: “Yes.” When?  “When he considers that the time has come.”
    1. What should the new church be called?  “’The Orthodox Church in Ukraine’ - it will unite all Orthodox believers residing on the territory of Ukraine, regardless of their origin, nationality, citizenship.  All Orthodox believers who are on the territory of Ukraine will belong to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”
    1. In this new church, will services be held only in Ukrainian? “Each church in a given area should serve the needs of believers.  If there are Russian-speaking, Greek-speaking, Romanian or English-speaking believers in this territory, it should serve them in these languages.”
    1. Will the new church be headed by a patriarch?  “At the moment we are talking about autocephaly of the Kyiv Metropolis.  In the history of the church in Kyiv, the Kiev metropolitan has always been, and soon the Kyiv metropolitan will be presented with a tomos about autocephaly.  Whether he will be promoted to the level of a patriarch or not is another question.”
    1. The UOC-KP contends that it will have a majority of the bishops at the Council and therefore it is guaranteed that Filaret will be the new primate.   “I repeat, if the Ecumenical Patriarchate went in the direction of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church and began the process of providing the tomos about autocephaly, then the goal of all this is not to satisfy some personal ambitions or personal issues. The goal is to heal the schism, to unite Orthodoxy in Ukraine.  Therefore, I personally believe that the main criterion of a person who should be elected head of the new Orthodox Church in Ukraine should be a person endowed with charisma to unite people around him.”
    1. Can Filaret be considered the only candidate?  “At the moment, every bishop in Ukraine can be considered a candidate for the post of primate.”

    The above are only some of the very interesting points made in the interview.  The entire interview should be read.  The foregoing interview was conducted at Chambesy.  In my personal option, it is intended to counter some of the recent statements coming from the Moscow Patriarchate and from the UOC-KP.  The Moscow Patriarchate has already responded to this interview in the strongest terms.  http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=71159  (Patriarch Kirill’s press secretary – “We are seriously concerned about the state of his [Archbishop Job’s] mental and spiritual health.”)

    During the last week, many people have been expressing their views on the Ukrainian situation.  In my opinion, here are some of the most interesting article.  Metropolitan Pavel of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (UOC-MP) predicts that the new church will never be able to unite because of the inflexibility of Filaret who insists that his views will prevail.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14638  Andreas Loudaros, the head of the Orthodoxi.info website, states that “Filaret is doing all in his power to work recent developments to his advantage, imposing, or, to be exact, trying to impose, his personal agenda and interests.”  He concludes: “Although I am much younger than Metropolitan Filaret, I would like to remind him that, in all parts of the world and throughout the ages, history has rewarded the crown of glory graciously to those who chose sacrifice and not to those who could not bear its weight.”  https://orthodoxia.info/news/filaret-part-of-the-solution-or-source-of-the-problem/ (in English)  There is a long and very interesting interview of Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun, whom one metropolitan of the UOC-MP has suggested would make a good primate of the new church.   It is posted at https://glavcom.ua/interviews/arhimandrit-kirilo-govorunbr-moskovskiy-patriarhat-maje-kilka-kandidativ-u-predstoyateli-novoji-cerkvi--539852.html?fbclid=IwAR3JWUt8x-Xv9M0IZt33996AED8z5O9LnJu-XJVm87qPdAOckf2mLhhU25g .  Although referring to himself as just a priest, Hovorun expresses the view that there are several hierachs in the UOC-MP who would be good primates for the new church.  Toward the end of the interview, he states:  “Perhaps I will now say an unpopular thing, but I want to recall the words of the Apostle Paul.  He likens the church to the body of Christ: if one organ of the body suffers, then the whole body also suffers.  I believe that the defeat of Moscow is a defeat for the entire church.  Defeat of Constantinople is a defeat of the entire church, and the defeat of the Church of Kyiv is a defeat of the whole church.  Therefore, I propose not to speak of defeat, but of the fact that there are indeed misunderstandings that must be overcome and to go further, so that in the end, in the church there is peace, and then in Ukraine there will be peace.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 October 2018: Romanian Church speaks on Ukraine

    The Holy Synod of the Romanian Patriarchate met yesterday and today.  The Romanian-language website of the Patriarchate’s news service, www.basilica.ro, has posted several articles about the meeting such as the canonization of Bishop Dionisie Erhan (“a fighter for the good of the Romanians in Bessarabia” in the early 1900s) and activities of the Year 2018 relating to the centenary of the Great Union (the incorporation of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Bessarabia into Romania).  There is no mention in these articles about Ukraine.  However, if one clinks on “press releases,” there is a release listing resolutions made at the Synod.  http://basilica.ro/ce-hotarari-au-adoptat-ierarhii-romani-reuniti-in-sinod/  One of the resolutions is the following:

    In view of recent developments in the Ukrainian church situation, the Holy Synod reiterates the recommendation of May 24, 2018, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarchate of Moscow should come together to a solution, preserving unity of faith and administrative-pastoral freedom, these representing a characteristic feature of Orthodoxy.

    The Holy Synod also underlines the fact that unity is preserved through co-responsibility and co-operation between the local Orthodox Churches, by cultivating dialogue and synodality at the Pan-Orthodox level, this being a permanent necessity in the life of the Church. The unity of the Church is a holy gift of God, but also a great responsibility of the hierarchs, clergy, and loyal believers. That is why the Holy Synod urges to multiply prayer for unity, to cultivate through dialogue and reconciliation the fraternal Christian love that offers true freedom.

    As can be seen, it is a fairly neutral statement.  In this regard, it should be remembered that the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be coming to Bucharest to dedicate the huge National Cathedral on November 25.

    TASS has reported that the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate will hold a special session on November 5 to decide whether to support the call of Patriarch Kirill to convene a pan-Orthodox council to consider the Ukraine question.  https://tass.ru/obschestvo/5717104  To date, there has been no confirmation of this on the official website of the Bulgarian Patriarchate.  You may recall that the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate on October 4 rejected a proposal supported by three of its members to make an appeal for the holding of a pan­-Orthodox council on Ukraine.  Instead the Holy Synod referred Patriarch Kirill’s letter to a special committee to study.  http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=273448  However, the October 4 meeting occurred before the report that the Ecumenical Patriarch had written a letter to the FYROM church denying its request for autocephaly and finding that the FYROM church was under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Patriarchate.  Remember that in July the website Romfea.gr reported that Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit was praying for the granting of autocephaly to the FYROM church and believed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate would help resolve the issue of autocephaly.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/22898-patriarxis-boulgarias-proseuxomai-na-labei-autokefalia-i-makedoniki-ekklisia   News of the reported letter to the FYROM church must therefore have been a great disappointment to Patriarch Neofit and the Holy Synod majority.  The mood of the Bulgarian Synod toward the Ecumenical Patriarchate may well be much different on November 5 from that which prevailed on October 4.

    A date has still not been set for the convening of a unifying council for the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  There is a report that the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) wishes to have the name, statute, and model of the new church resolved before the council.  https://www.religion.in.ua/news/vazhlivo/41488-uapc-xoche-pogoditi-nazvu-statut-i-model-pomisnoyi-cerkvi-do-obyednavchogo-soboru.html   This is understandable as the UAOC has far fewer bishops than the UOC-KP and would be hopelessly outvoted at the council.  The one “lever” that the UAOC possesses is to condition its participation in the council on certain concessions and hope that the Ecumenical Patriarch will resolve any pre-council deadlocks between the two churches.

    The Russian news agency Interfax reports that Metropolitan Sofrony of Cherkassy (a UOC-MP eparchy between Kyiv and Odessa), who has long been a very vocal supporter of autocephaly, said he is ready to participate in the unifying council but strongly opposes the election of Filaret as head of the new church.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14628   The Interfax article includes the following comments by the Metropolitan relating to the bishops of the UOC-MP:  Moreover, even those few hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who positioned themselves as supporters of a church independent of Moscow are now silent, he said.  "I will tell you more: they are all now crawling back, like crawdads, they are scared.  None of them will go [to attend the Assembly], you will see," Metropolitan Sofrony said.  The complete interview can be read at http://cherkasy-orthodox.com.ua/index.php/actualno/3996--lr  In the full interview, the Metropolitan has many other interesting comments.  The following is one of them:  My candidate [for head of the new church] is Archimandrite Cyril (Hovorun).   He is a man of knowledge, enlightened, learned in the works of the holy fathers. He is far from any vices, he is clean and not spoiled.  As I mentioned, I will never agree to Filaret's candidacy.  Archimandrite Cyril is now acting director of the Huffington Ecumenical Institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.  He is the former chairman of the UOC­-MP’s Department of External Church Relations (DECR).

    In other news, Catholicos Karekin II of Armenia met with Pope Francis on October 24.  https://news.am/eng/news/477718.html  On October 23, Patriarch Ilia of Georgia met in Tbilisi with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for relations with states of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.  http://patriarchate.ge/geo/sruliad-saqartvelos-katolikos-patriarqi-vatikanis/  Both expressed concerns over the difficult situation between the Constantinople and the Moscow Patriarchates. 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 October 2018: Unification difficulties in Ukraine & other news

    The job of the two exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to establish a unifying council for the purpose of forming a new autocephalous Ukrainian church is not an easy one.  The latest evidence of this is the television interview on October 20 of Metropolitan Makary, the head of the UAOC.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iYkQsIcpxc&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2x-qd8ibgtx8vl_TlMcspCf_rHw8YA4EPBXDrynOvg3Ly59Zvy25aTNpM  The Russian news agencies have immediately focused on this interview, such as the English-language article posted today by Interfaxhttp://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14616 .  The following is an excerpt from the Interfax article:

    Makary expressed doubt about the success of the unification, because the name, charter and model of the future church were still not determined….Neither Makary nor his bishops or priests are ready for the gathering, he said.  "I said to the exarchs that it would take two weeks to agree upon, but they say that's too long.  But I don't know how to do it faster if there is no charter and no name.  I will gather priests and deacons - what will I tell them?" Makary asked.  The situation could be solved if Patriarch Bartholomew appointed the head of the unified local church of Ukraine, gave him the tomos and gather around him everyone "who wants [to unite]."

    Also on October 20, the Holy Synod of the UOC-KP met.  The Synod found it necessary to change the title of its primate Filaret in light of the Fanar’s October 11 decision which asserted that Ukraine was under the Ecumenical Patriarchate but not yet autocephalous.  Accordingly, Filaret’s title was changed to “metropolitan” with respect to dealing with the Local Orthodox Churches.  However, the Synod determined that he is otherwise still a “patriarch.”  His formal long title now includes being the head of the  Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.  http://orthochristian.com/116683.html  As these two lavras are now in possession of the UOC-MP and are considered the most holy places of the UOC-MP, this title change simply further increases tensions between the UOC-KP and the UOC-MP.  If the UOC-KP is seeking to encourage the UOC-MP to join in the unifying council, why would such a title change be done?  Perhaps the UOC-KP does not want the UOC-MP to join the unifying council, because if the UOC-MP with its very large number of bishops did join the council, the UOC-MP would control the council and not the UOC-KP.

    From Moscow, there has been a steady stream of interviews and articles denouncing the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  These have increasingly involved attacks against the person of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  For example, on the television program Church and the World on Saturday, Metropolitan Hilarion made such statements as the following:  “the legitimization of the split that has now occurred in Ukraine is a serious canonical crime for which Patriarch Bartholomew will be responsible before God at the Last Judgment,” “the Patriarch of Constantinople is now a schismatic,” and “now he will go down in history as the man who split the Orthodox Church.”  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/10/21/news165544/  From the Fanar, relatively little has been said since the October 11 decision.   As shown in the following video, Bartholomew spoke on Sunday at a ceremony to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Holy Apostles church in the Greek Feriköy community in the Istanbul area.   https://www.facebook.com/100010597023532/videos/711666819196546/   He said that he was aware of the efforts by the Russian side to create “black” propaganda against the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  He also said:  “Whether our Russian brothers like it or not, soon enough they will get behind the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s solution, as they will have no other choice.”   https://orthodoxia.info/news/russia-paying-big-money-for-articles-black-propaganda-in-light-of-ukraine-developments-patriarch-bartholomew/  At the Ecumenical Patriarch’s liturgy on Sunday, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow was commemorated together with the primates of the other Local Orthodox Churches, affirming that Constantinople has not broken eucharistic communion with Moscow.  In his homily, the Ecumenical Patriarch stressed the role of the Patriarchate and why it was necessary for the good of the Ukrainian people to intervene.   https://orthodoxia.info/news/%CE%B2%CE%B1%CF%81%CE%B8%CE%BF%CE%BB%CE%BF%CE%BC%CE%B1%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%83-%CE%BF-%CE%BF%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%BC%CE%B5%CE%BD%CE%B9%CE%BA%CF%8C%CF%82-%CE%B8%CF%81%CF%8C%CE%BD%CE%BF%CF%82-%CE%B1/   

    On Saturday the Serbian Patriarchate posted a “Joint Statement of the Serbian and Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate.”  The joint statement, which covers a number of different problem areas, was issued at the conclusion of the nine-day visit to Serbia by Patriarch John X of Antioch.  The official English version of the statement can be read at http://www.spc.rs/eng/joint_statement_serbian_and_antiochian_orthodox_patriarchates  .  While avoiding harsh language, the joint statement confirms “that it is in the best-interest of the Orthodox Church to embark upon a self-critical review of all the unilateral processes and decisions.”  The statement provides:

    We also require a serious, efficient and processual reactivation of the spirit of unity, consultation, conciliarity and the application of the principle of consensus in approaching and deciding on the common matters between Orthodox Churches.  These especially include the decisions related to the granting of autocephaly, based on the principles of Orthodox ecclesiology and canonical order.

    The Ecumenical Patriarchate is mentioned by name only in the final paragraph of the joint statement.  This is an appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch “to restore the fraternal dialogue with the Orthodox Church of Russia in order to, with the fraternal assistance and participation of all the other primates of the Local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, resolve the conflict between the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow and to restore back the bond of peace in the Orthodox Church.”

    The statements also refers to the dispute between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem with respect to jurisdiction over Qatar.  By the terms of the statement, the Serbian Patriarchate acknowledges that Qatar “is in the historical canonical ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East.”  It is interesting that the statement is completely silent about the FYROM church, which has been a very great concern to the Serbian Patriarchate, while there is considerable emphasis on Kosovo.  This silence may be an indication that the Ecumenical Patriarch did in fact send a letter to the FYROM church denying its request for autocephaly and finding that it is a part of the Serbian Patriarchate.

    From October 13 to 20, a meeting of the International Commission for Anglican–Orthodox Theological Dialogue was held in Larnaca, Cyprus.  A communique was issued at the end of the meeting.  https://orthodoxie.com/en/international-commission-for-anglican-orthodox-theological-dialogue-communique/  The Commission discussed drafts on two different subjects, ecology and euthanasia.  I believe that it is particularly significant that this meeting occurred even thought the Moscow Patriarchate had decided on September 14 to interrupt participation “in the Episcopal Assemblies, in theological dialogues, multilateral commissions and all other structures in which the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople are co-chairs.”   The representative of the Moscow Patriarchate did not attend the Larnaca meeting, but Orthodox representatives of the churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbia, Romania, Georgia, Cyprus, Greece, Albania, and Constantinople did.  The churches of Bulgaria, Poland, and Czech Lands and Slovakia do not normally participate on this commission.  This raises some hope that the Orthodox episcopal assemblies, held in various parts of the world and found to be very helpful for the diaspora, will continue to operate after Moscow’s withdrawal.  It also raises the hope that the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches will be able to meet at Bari next month as scheduled.

    A number of the Local Orthodox Churches, such as Romania, have refrained from taking sides on the Moscow – Constantinople dispute.  The existence of such Churches, which continue to maintain communion with both Moscow and Constantinople, could prevent the Orthodox world from dividing into two hostile camps.

    In other news, the press release by the U.S. Secretary of State relating to autocephaly for Ukraine can be read at https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/10/286795.htm .  Patriarch Kirill will visit the Republic of Moldova, October 27-28.  https://tass.ru/obschestvo/5697803  The meeting between Metropolitan Kirill and Pope Francis is summarized at https://mospat.ru/en/2018/10/19/news165499/

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 19 October 2018: Hilarion at Vatican & more on Ukraine

    Today, Metropolitan Hilarion, as a “fraternal delegate,” addressed the participants at the Synod of Bishops who are now meeting at the Vatican to discuss the subject of youth.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/10/18/news165446/   The full text of his address can be read at https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/10/18/news165460/ .   The address focused solely on the issue of youth.  I thought that it was a very inspiring address, and he resisted the possible temptation to use this platform to promote, in any way, Moscow’s views relating to Ukraine.  After the address, he did meet with Cardinal Koch and Father Hyacinthe Destivelle.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/10/18/news165441/  At this meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion briefed the Cardinal on the decision made by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.   Tonight, the Metropolitan attended a concert of sacred music at the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles in Rome.  http://www.askanews.it/esteri/2018/10/17/hilarion-in-vaticano-per-due-giorni-dopo-lo-scisma-ucraino-pn_20181017_00038/  TASS has just reported that Metropolitan Hilarion has informed its Rome correspondent that he will meet with Pope Francis tomorrow (Friday) concerning Ukraine. https://tass.ru/obschestvo/5693098   

    It is logical that Pope Francis, who enjoys very good relations with both Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kirill, will maintain a strict neutrality between Constantinople and Moscow in the Ukraine dispute.  With respect to continuing to enjoy good relations with the Moscow Patriarchate in future decades, I have a personal thought with respect to a theoretical situation where the Moscow Patriarchate suffers a great defeat in Ukraine, such as losing the entire UOC-MP.  Metropolitan Hilarion has been the most visible and vocal defender of Moscow’s position in the dispute.  If the Ukrainian dispute turns out very badly for the Moscow Patriarchate, his close association with this defeat may well damage his chances of being the next Patriarch and may well enhance the chances of his most likely challenger, the much more conservative Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov, who has been keeping a low profile (perhaps intentionally so) on the Ukraine dispute.  With respect to Metropolitan Tikhon’s view on ecumenical relations, see http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Orthodox-Church:-Bishop-Tikhon-(Shevkunov)-wants-to-lead-the-Russian-anti-ecumenical-movement-37354.html

    Metropolitan Hilarion’s interview by the BBC has now been posted in English.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/10/17/news165398/   I thought that the questions were very knowledgeable and perceptive, and as usual Metropolitan Hilarion gave very articulate answers.  A number of the questions related to Mt. Athos.  The Metropolitan stated that although Mt. Athos is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate can still go there as tourists and pray there.  But the priests will not be able to participate in the divine offices there, and the faithful will not be able to receive communion there.  Metropolitan Hilarion acknowledged that he was aware that Russian benefactors have recently donated over 200 millions dollars to Mt. Athos.  He suggested that such benefactors should now switch their attention to monasteries in Russia.  The Metropolitan emphasized that he did “not want to prompt to Athonite starets what to do,” but he said that history has shown that the Mt. Athos monasteries have shown ways to express their protest before, such as when “Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople met with the Pope of Rome.” 

    Bishop Makarios (Griniezakis) of Christoupolis (Ecumenical Patriarchate), who apparently was closely involved with the Fanar’s October 11 decisions, has given a very interesting interview posted today at https://www.ukrinform.ru/rubric-society/2561194-episkop-makarios-hristopolskij-pomosnik-patriarha-varfolomea.html .   The Google translation tool works very well with this interview.  The interview includes the statement:  The results, as we see, are as follows:  Patriarch Bartholomew and the Synod managed to unite the two schismatic groups, restore them to canonicality without requests from these organizations regarding posts and honors. This is a lot.

    However, from comments by the head of the UAOC, it appears that major disagreements still exist between the UAOC and the UOC-KP.  https://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/orthodox_relations/73091/   It appears that Filaret, the head of the UOC-KP, perceives that the new unified church will essentially be a continuation of the UOC-KP with the bishops of the UOAC and some bishops from the UOC-MP joining it and with Filaret as patriarch.  http://orthochristian.com/116602.html     Filaret will be 90 years old in January.  I think that it is very likely that Constantinople will desire that the unified church be a new church and not a mere continuation of one of the schismatic churches.  I doubt that Constantinople is enthusiastic about Filaret being the primate of the new church, but rather will desire a younger primate who commands respect from the three Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and the worldwide Local Orthodox Churches generally.  For years, the UOC-KP and the UAOC have not been able to resolve their differences.  For a successful completion of a Ukrainian unification council, I believe that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will need exercise some very strong direction.

    A results of a new Ukrainian opinion poll, based on face-to-face interviews of 2,000 persons and conducted September 27 to October 4, 2018, has just be released.  https://www.religion.in.ua/news/vazhlivo/41390-54-opitanix-ukrayinciv-pidtrimuyut-stvorennya-yedinoyi-pomisnoyi-cerkvi.html  The detailed results can be accessed at http://ratinggroup.ua/research/ukraine/6541e0064f0288673205fbd06795b94c.html?fbclid=IwAR3RO22oKDaYXuNNtjb-XIPFgLkqtPiuLILRr2jYB0VHMKp003w0LHdhMrs .  Among the questions was the following:  How do you feel about the idea of creating a Single Local Church in Ukraine?   The results for all the participants and the results for those participants who were members of the UOC-MP were quite different.  These results are as follows:

    All pool participants:  Completely negative – 14%; rather negative – 5%; completely positive – 37%; rather positive – 17%; it does not matter to me – 19%; it is hard to answer – 8%

    UOC-MP members:     Completely negative – 40%; rather negative – 13%; completely positive – 15%; rather positive – 13%; it does not matter to me – 10%; it is hard to answer – 9%

    In other news, the Ukrainian parliament today approved a bill giving the Ecumenical Patriarchate liturgical use of the Church of St. Andrew in Kyiv.   https://www.religion.in.ua/news/vazhlivo/41392-parlament-ukrainy-odobril-peredachu-andreevskoj-cerkvi-konstantinopolyu.html  However, it will remain state property and will still continue to operate as a museum.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14605  Metropolitan Hilarion has previously referred to the fact that Serbian Patriarch Irinej has written two letters to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew concerning Ukraine.  An English translation of one of the letters (dated August 13, 2018) was posted today at http://orthochristian.com/116617.html .

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 17 October 2018: Reported - no to autocephaly for FYROM church

    Very important developments are now occurring on a daily basis.  In my opinion the most important news today was the report by the popular Greek website Romfea.gr that the Ecumenical Patriarch has written to the FYROM Orthodox Church denying its request for autocephaly.   http://www.romfea.gr/oikoumeniko-patriarxeio/24418-allagi-stasis-apo-to-oikoumeniko-patriarxeio-gia-tin-sxismatiki-ekklisia-tis-pgdm  The Romfea article in turn refers to the report yesterday by the largest FYROM newspaper Sloboden Pechathttps://www.slobodenpecat.mk/makedonija/po-bugarija-sega-tsarigrad-kreva-ratse-od-mpts-oa/   The following is a Google translation from the Sloboden article:

    After the request of the Orthodox Church from Skopje to be granted autocephaly under the name Ohrid Archbishopric, we made a decision not to decide on this issue because that territory is not within our jurisdiction, but it is under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Pec, or the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC).  This is the answer that the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sent to the Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric (MOC-OA) in writing these days, we learn from high church sources which explain that it is a response to the letter that the Synod of MOC-OA in May this year sent to Constantinople, and whose contents remained an enigma for the Macedonian people after six months.

    In the letter that Constantinople sent to the MOC-OA, it was stated that "the Ecumenical Patriarchate unambiguously and clearly in the tomos registered the Macedonian dioceses as an integral part of the Patriarchate of Pec, and therefore, the jurisdiction of this territory belongs solely to the SOC."  It is also stated that no parallel can be highlighted regarding the request of the MOC-OA to grant it autocephaly after the structure of the schismatic church in Ukraine, because, as pointed out, the situation in Kyiv is very different from the situation in Skopje, that is, Constantinople never divested Ukraine to Moscow, as it did through the deviation[?] of the Macedonian dioceses of the SOC in 1922.

    The article states that this information was obtained from “high church sources.”  Assuming this report is correct, it is great news for the Serbian Patriarchate.  An interview of Serbian Patriarch Irinej, conducted after the October 11 decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and posted today, has very harsh words concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s decisions.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/patrijarh_srpski_irinej_sada_mislim_da_se_predsednik_vuchitsh_lavovski_bori_za_kosovo_metohiju  Patriarch Irinej has major concerns about the precedential effect of the October 11 decisions on his church.  https://balkaneu.com/serbian-patriarch-irinej-ecumenical-patriarchates-decision-about-ukraine-is-leading-to-a-schism/  The above letter indicates that the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s October 11 decision to “revoke the legal binding of the Synodal Letter of the year 1686” should not be construed as a claim by the Ecumenical Patriarchate that it had the right of revoke prior grants of autocephaly to various Local Orthodox Churches.  Rather, the Synod Letter of 1628 was revoked because its conditions had not been fulfilled by the Moscow Patriarchate.  The fact that the letter quoted above very clearly states that the Macedonian dioceses are an integral part of the Serbian Patriarchate should be a great relief to the Serbian Patriarchate.  It should relieve the fear that the Ecumenical Patriarchate might recognize the autocephaly of the FYROM church as is now being done in Ukraine.  Serbia should also be pleased as the letter supports its side of the FYROM dispute and does not support of the position of the Bulgarian Patriarchate which has sought to establish the canonical status of the FYROM church.  Although there has been no confirmation from the Fanar, I am inclined to believe that the article is true in view of the specific details provided.  It also makes great strategical sense from the perspective of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Although I am sure that the Serbian Patriarchate will continue to support Moscow’s position in Ukraine, its high level of concern may be substantially reduced by the denial of autocephaly to the FYROM church.  It would seem that the message implicitly being sent by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the other Local Orthodox Churches is that they should not be concerned about the impact of the October 11 decisions on other situations because Ukraine involves a unique set of circumstances.

    The Moscow Patriarchate has very promptly provided an official English translation of the detailed statement relating to severance of communion with Constantinople.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/10/15/news165263/  One of questions now being raised is the effect of the statement on the many Russian pilgrims who travel to Mt. Athos.  As you know, Mt. Athos is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  A representative of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR has stated that pilgrims will not be able to confess or receive communion there.  http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=71015 

    Today the two “exarchs” of the Ecumenical Patriarchate met with Ukrainian President Poroshenko.  The meeting was described at https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/patriarh-varfolomij-podyakuvav-prezidentu-za-zusillya-u-obye-50490 .   Archbishop Daniel, one of the exarchs, stated at the meeting that he and Bishop Ilarion had returned to Ukraine  “to continue work on the last stage, which will bring us to the unifying Council and then to the presentation of the final document to the new primate - the Tomos of independence, autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church."  This confirms that the anticipated order of events is: (1) holding of a unifying council; (2) election of a primate; (3) presentation of the tomos of autocephaly.  It has also been reported that Poroshenko plans to seek approval from the Ukrainian Parliament to transfer the spectacular church of St. Andrew in Kyiv to the Ecumenical Patriarch.  https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/poroshenko-offers-to-transfer-of-st-andrews-church-to-permanent-use-by-ecumenical-patriarch.html   At the present time the church has been used by the UAOC.  Today, Poroshenko stated that church officials (presumably of the UAOC) have approved this transfer.  https://nv.ua/ukr/ukraine/politics/poroshenko-prokomentuvav-mozhlivu-peredachu-andrijivskoji-tserkvi-vselenskomu-patriarkhu-2500495.html  The Apostle St. Andrew has said to have visited the area of Kyiv.  The Apostle St. Andrew is the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    Yesterday, I reported on a Facebook statement by Archpriest Georgi Kovalenko, who had served as personal press secretary for Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv, the previous primate of the UOC-MP.  Today, Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko) of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky (UOC-MP), who served as the personal secretary of Metropolitan Vladimir, has also made the news.  He stated that he and his flock at the Transfiguration Cathedral will make a joint decision as to whether to join the new Ukrainian church.  He said, “when the general opinion of our community is formed, then my voice will be the last.”   https://ria.ru/religion/20181016/1530785526.html  The Metropolitan also stated that for the process to go peacefully, each of the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) should hold a diocesan meeting, and the clergy, respectively, [hold] parish meetings, to decide who wants to be in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church or remain subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate.  https://www.interfax.ru/world/633541  However, I personally do not believe that this will happen.  You may recall that at the meeting of the most of the bishops of the UOC-MP held on June 25, 2018, the bishops were asked to confirm their episcopal oath given at the time of ordination to remain faithful to the UOC-MP.  I am sure that Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the UOC-MP, will says that the bishops do not have a choice but must remain faithful to their oath.  It should be noted also that Metropolitan Alexander has been a controversial figure in the past.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 16 October 2018: Moscow severs communion with Constantinople

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, meeting in Minsk for the first time, decided today to break Eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. [The Moscow Patriarchate has a practice of always avoiding the use of the phrase “Ecumenical Patriarchate.”]  This action was expected based on prior comments by Metropolitan Hilarion and others.  In fact some within the Moscow Patriarchate had mentioned possible sanctions over and above this, such anathema directed at Bartholomew, excommunicating Ukrainian President Poroshenko, or the establishment of parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Turkey, but these did not occur.  In connection with today’s decision, the Moscow Patriarchate issued a long and detailed statement.  The full text of the statement can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5283708.html .  According to the statement, the actions of the Constantinople Patriarchate, “to our great sorrow, makes it impossible for us to continue Eucharistic communion with its hierarchs, clergy and laity.”  Until the Patriarchate of Constantinople ceases its uncanonical actions, “for all clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church, it is impossible to serve with the clergy of the Church of Constantinople, and for the laity to participate in the sacraments performed in its churches.”   With respect to bishops or clergy from the UOC-MP transferring to the newly formed Ukrainian Church, the “transition of bishops or clergy from the canonical Church to schismatics or entering into Eucharistic communion with the latter is a canonical crime and entails appropriate interdictions.”  The statement makes the appeal: “We call the Primates and Sacred Synods of the Local Orthodox Churches to properly evaluate the aforementioned anticanonical acts of the Constantinople Patriarchate and jointly search for ways out of the hardest crisis, tearing apart the body of the United Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”  The statement recognizes that the Ukraine dispute also involves the very important question of whether primacy at the universal level involves simply a primacy of honor (which all Local Orthodox Churches agree is accorded to the Constantinople Patriarch) or whether it also involves some form of authority (such as the right to establish a new autocephalous church) greater than possessed by primates of the other Local Orthodox Churches.  Thus the statement asserts:  “In conditions of such a profound undermining of the foundations of inter-Orthodox relations and complete disregard for the thousand-year norms of church canon law, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church considers it its duty to defend the fundamental principles of Orthodoxy, to defend the Holy Tradition of the Church, replaced by new and alien teachings about the universal power of the Primate.”

    After the Synod concluded its meeting, a press conference was given by Metropolitan Hilarion.  You can watch the entire press conference (17 minutes) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=stKpjBtgp38.   I have not yet seen a written transcript of the press conference.  Here is one press report about the press conference.  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-church-russia/russian-orthodox-church-breaks-with-constantinople-in-row-over-ukraine-idUSKCN1MP24G 

    The full minutes of the October 15 session of the Holy Synod are posted at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5283687.html .  It was interesting to see that the Synod, in addition to its business relating to Ukraine, appointed a new bishop for Italy, Bishop John (Roshchin), who has been administrator of the patriarchal parishes in the USA.

    Yesterday (Sunday) in Ukraine was not only the feast day of the Protection of the Mother of God but also the Day of the Defender of Ukraine.  A religious service was held in the square in front of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.  A video of the entire service is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=26&v=bo_7FE9a-QQ .   At the service, Ukrainian President Poroshenko stated: 

    We have never had and we will never have a state church.  And no one will invite anyone to the Orthodox church sanctified by the tomos by force.  I am saying it again: it's an issue of free choice to every believer.  I guarantee that the authorities will respect the choice of those who will stay in the church structure that will stay united with the Russian Orthodox Church.  It is their choice, and we need to respect it.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14575

    According the President’s website:  The Head of State stressed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate made a decision on autocephaly, and the Tomos will be handed over to a primate of the church - a worthy, authoritative, experienced leader who will be chosen by the united Bishops' Council.  According to him, with the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Mother Church, the Council will convene all bishops of the UOC of Kyiv Patriarchate, the UAOC, as well as several [низка] bishops of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate….   https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/v-osvyachenu-tomosom-cerkvu-nihto-silomic-ne-zaproshuvatime-50458   From this and from other statements, it appears that the actual tomos will not be issued until a primate is elected at the bishops’ council called to form the new autocephalous Ukrainian church.

    A big question is how many bishops, priests, monastics, and faithful will move from the UOC-MP to the new church.  In my opinion, no one really knows.  I found interesting a Facebook entry by Archpriest Georgi Kovalenko, who was the personal press secretary and head of the UOC-MP information department under Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv (primate of the UOC-MP from 1992 to 2014).  When in office Kovalenko was very outspoken with respect to preserving the territorial integrity of Ukraine and was removed from his office the month after Metropolitan Onufry became primate of the UOC-MP.  In his entry Kovalenko stated:   Even if the Moscow Patriarchate decides on a complete rupture with Constantinople, we, the clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, will not accept this and will remain in prayer and Eucharistic unity with Ecumenical orthodoxy, and with that clergy and faithful of the MP, who will be open to this, as well as with the hierarchy and faithful of the future Local Orthodox Church of Ukraine, recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.   Is this simply the grumbling of a disgruntled former office holder or are there many in Ukraine who share these views?  Only time will tell.

    Metropolitan Hilarion was interview on October 13 on the television program Church and the Worldhttps://mospat.ru/ru/2018/10/13/news165111/  He states that in addition to Poroshenko, America is also behind the efforts to establish an autocephalous church as it “is interested in weakening the Russian Orthodox Church and splitting it.”  When asked which of the Local Orthodox Churches openly support the Moscow Patriarchate with respect to Ukraine, Metropolitan Hilarion stated:

    We are openly supported by the Serbian Orthodox Church, which has made a corresponding statement.  The Serbian Patriarch wrote to Patriarch Bartholomew twice.  We are supported by the Antioch Orthodox Church, which, through the mouth of its Holy Synod, declared that any provision of autocephaly must be a process in which the Local Orthodox Churches take part.  We were supported by the Head of the Polish Orthodox Church, who also called for such issues to be resolved at the inter-Orthodox level.

    I do not think that, as schismatics speculate now, the Russian Church will remain in isolation - we are not at all afraid of this.  But we will never compromise when it comes to church canons and our flock.  The flock that belongs to our Church, wants to belong to it and will belong to it.

    In addition, Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro (Serbian Patriarchate) has called the recent decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate “devastating both for the Fanar and for the unity of Orthodoxy." http://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-serbias/24394-maurobouniou-amfiloxios-oi-apofaseis-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxeio-einai-katastrofikes  Patriarch Irinej of Serbia related to a television station today that the Ecumenical Patriarch has no right to recognize a schismatic church and grant autocephaly.   http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/24399-patriarxis-serbias-protakousto-auto-pou-kanei-o-oikoumenikos-patriarxis  Metropolitan Rostislav, primate of the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, has responded to Patriarch Kirill’s letter of October 1.  http://orthochristian.com/116436.html  Dated October 11, Metropolitan Rostislav’s letter focuses on the interference of state authorities in the internal life of the church in Ukraine.  He also states:  As the Orthodox Church is anchored on the principle of conciliarity, we are firmly convinced that any conflict situation and dispute that threatens the unity of Orthodoxy will be resolved in a conciliar manner, in strict accordance with the generally accepted Church traditions and sacred canons.

    Prayers are need for Archbishop Chrysostomos II, primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, who has announced that he is being treated for two cancerous tumors on his liver.  http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/archbishop-chrysostomos-of-cyprus-announces-he-is-suffering-from-cancer/ 

    Finally, two Orthodox bishops are attending as “fraternal delegates” the Catholic Synod of Bishops meeting on youth, now occurring at the Vatican:  Metropolitan Nikitas (Lulias), Director of Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute at Berkeley USA (Ecumenical Patriarchate), and Bishop Atanasio (Rusnac), newly appointed Bishop Vicar of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Italy (Romanian Patriarchate).    https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/09/15/0644/01374.html   

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 October 2018: Constantinople's important decision & reaction in Moscow

    Earlier today the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued its communique relating to the decisions reached during the meeting of its Holy Synod, October 9-11.  https://www.patriarchate.org/-/communiq-1  The consequences of these decisions are huge.  First, although the Synod did not issue a tomos of autocephaly, it “renewed” its decision to do so.  It is very possible that the tomos will issued after a future council is held in Ukraine to form a new church consisting of the UOC-KP, the UAOC, and any parts of the UOC-MP that chose to participate in the council.  Second, the Synod decided to “reestablish” the Stavropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Kyiv.  A stavropegion is an office under the direct control of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and would establish the physical presence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Kyiv.

    Third, Filaret Denisenko (head of the UOC-KP) and Makariy Maletych (head of the UAOC) and their followers “have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church.”  From the viewpoint of Constantinople, this is probably a necessary prerequisite for the bishops of the UOC-KP and the UAOC to participate in a future council relating to establishment of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  However, this decision may also have some immediate consequences.  The UOC-MP has maintained that the sacraments of the schismatic UOC-KP and UAOC are invalid.  For the UOC-MP this has been a major selling point in persuading its faithful not to join the UOC-KP or the UAOC.  The UOC-KP and UAOC can now argued that they have been “restored to communion with the Church” and that the faithful should no longer have any concerns about the validity of their sacraments.  Whether this results in some of the faithful of the UOC-MP now joining the UOC-KP or the UAOC remains to be seen.  From the perspective of the Moscow Patriarchate, the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were not canonical and the sacraments of the UOC-KP and UAOC are still invalid.

    Fourth, the Holy Synod decided to “revoke the legal binding of the Synodal Letter of the year 1686.”  This is the letter in which the Ecumenical Patriarchate provided the Moscow Patriarchate certain rights over the Ukraine metropolitan see.  From the perspective of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Constantinople granted the Moscow Patriarchate jurisdiction over Ukraine by this letter.  Before today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has argued that this letter was not effective as Moscow had not complied with all of the conditions established by this letter.  To further strengthen its argument in this regard, Constantinople now “revokes” the letter entirely.  If Ukraine is in fact now under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a further argument for its power to grant autocephaly to Ukraine in addition to its basic argument that granting of autocephaly is the sole prerogative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.   As a practical matter, it is certain that the UOC-MP and its primate Metropolitan Onufry will not acknowledge any allegiance to Constantinople and will consider this action void as not canonical.

    Fifth and lastly, the Holy Synod appeals  “to all sides involved that they avoid appropriation of Churches, Monasteries and other properties, as well as every other act of violence and retaliation, so that the peace and love of Christ may prevail.”  There have been many concerns expressed, especially by the Moscow Patriarchate, that the anticipated actions by the Ecumenical Patriarchate will cause turmoil, violence, and even bloodshed.

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate will be meeting in Minsk on Monday, October 15.  It is predictable that the Holy Synod will now suspend communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and may well take other actions as well.  There have already been reactions tonight by the Moscow Patriarchate.  Metropolitan Hilarion has stated:  The decision was predictable.  The whole logic of Constantinople’s actions led to this since April.  Church canons were violated, inter-Orthodox unity was violated, the invasion of the Constantinople Patriarchate into the canonical limits of the Russian Church was documentedhttps://ria.ru/religion/20181011/1530495401.html  Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and Media, stated:  The Patriarchate of Constantinople performed an unprecedented anti-canonical act, which is an attempt to destroy the foundations of the Orthodox canonical systemhttps://ria.ru/religion/20181011/1530496122.html   Father Alexander Volkov, the Moscow Patriarch’s press secretary, has stated:  The situation we are now confronted with is absolutely unprecedented and absolutely new for everyone.  This is a complete break with tradition and perception of churchliness, and, of course, everything that Constantinople is taking now will cause catastrophic harm, first of all, for the Orthodox in Ukraine.  Because something terrible is about to begin.  https://ria.ru/religion/20181011/1530486851.html

    Patriarch John X of Antioch arrived in Belgrade today.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/historical_visit_his_beatitude_patriarch_john_antioch_and_all_east_belgrade  It is very possible that Patriarch John and Serbian Patriarch Irinej will issue a joint statement relating to today’s decisions and the situation in Ukraine.  Both Patriarchates have been supportive of Moscow’s position with respect to Ukraine.

    If Moscow severs communion with Constantinople, it will not be something new.  In 1996 Moscow broke communion with Constantinople for three months over the situation in Estonia.  For several years now, Antioch has severed communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem with respect to jurisdiction over Qatar.  However, it is possible for the Ukrainian dispute to have far greater ramifications.  It is possible for some actions to be taken on a pan-Orthodox basis.  However, in recent decades the Local Orthodox Churches have agreed that a complete consensus is required for any pan-Orthodox decisions.  Thus, any pan-Orthodox action or resolution would be possible only if both Constantinople and Moscow agreed to the action or resolution --- something that is very unlikely to happen.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 11 October 2018: Decision by Ecumenical Patriarchate!!!

    Decision Ecumenical Patriarchate

  • 7 October 2018: Antioch backs Moscow & more news

    On October 2, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that it was informed by Father Nikolai Balashov, deputy head of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate, that Patriarch Kirill had written letters to all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches with respect to the situation in Ukraine.  https://ria.ru/religion/20181002/1529846223.html  Father Nikolai stated: “The letters set out the position of the Russian Orthodox Church on the so-called Ukrainian autocephaly and the possible negative consequences of the actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople for the unity of universal Orthodoxy.  They also propose to undertake efforts to start a general Orthodox discussion of the situation.”   On September 28, the Patriarchal Press Secretary Father Alexander Volkov had informed TASS:  “We cannot initiate any formal Church-wide discussion in the format of a synaxis, because that’s the prerogative of the first among equals—the Ecumenical Patriarch, who gathers the synaxis… There can be other forms; there are older Churches that could take this upon themselves.  If we look at the diptychs, then the next is the Patriarch of Alexandria, or in general the entire council of the so-called ancient patriarchates—Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch, that could, in my view, gather and propose something.”  http://orthochristian.com/116175.html

    Moscow must be very pleased with the news that came from Damascus today.  Earlier today, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch issued a statement which very much reflects Moscow’s view on the Ukrainian dispute.  The entire official statement in English can be read at https://antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/statement-of-the-holy-synod-of-antioch/2042/ .  It includes the following appeal:  The Church of Antioch calls upon His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch to call for an urgent Synaxis for the primates of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, in order to discuss the current developments that the Orthodox world is facing about the issue of granting autocephaly to new churches, and the efforts made to find common solutions before taking any final decisions about this issue.  This support by the Patriarchate of Antioch is not totally surprising in view of the fact that the Antiochian Patriarchate has historically had a close relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate – a relationship that might have been recently further strengthen by Antioch’s appreciation of the greater security to Orthodox Christians provided by the presence of Russian forces in Syria. Personally, I believe that any joint effort by Antioch and Jerusalem with respect to Ukraine (as suggested by Father Alexander above) is highly unlikely in view of the fact that Antioch has severed communion with Jerusalem because of the Qatar dispute.   Interestingly, the last call for a gathering of all of the primates was made by the Ecumenical Patriarch with respect to the Crete Council, and Antioch decided to boycott that Council – due in part to the presence of Jerusalem at the Crete Council.

    It has already been reported by one source that Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Orthodox Church of Poland, has also written a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch urging him to call a meeting of all of the primates to discuss the church issues in Ukraine.  https://orthodoxia.info/news/exclusive-polish-archbishop-asks-ep-to-convene-synod-of-primates-in-light-of-ukraine-developments/  On the other hand, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate on October 4 rejected a proposal supported by three of its members to make an appeal for the holding of a pan­-Orthodox council on Ukraine.  Instead the Holy Synod referred Patriarch Kirill’s letter to a special committee to study.  http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=273448  On September 30, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Patriarchate declined to take any immediate action with respect to Ukraine.  http://patriarchate.ge/geo/saqartvelos-sapatriarqos-gancxadeba-30-09/;     Rather it stated:  At this stage, it is necessary to refrain from preliminary assessments until each of the parties fix their official and final position based on the norms of canonical law.  http://georgiatoday.ge/news/12537/Church-Issue-In-Ukraine  On October 5, Georgian Patriarch Ilia met with the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and reaffirmed this statement by the Synod.  http://patriarchate.ge/geo/sruliad-saqartvelos-katolikos-patriarqi-ukrainis/ 

    On September 29, Serbian Patriarch Irinej met with Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew in Greece at the celebration of the centenary of the end of World War I.  The communique about the meeting simply stated that the “two Patriarchs had a long and fruitful conversation regarding inter-Orthodox matters, in the spirit of mutual understanding and brotherly love.”  https://www.ecupatria.org/2018/09/29/meeting-of-the-ecumenical-patriarch-with-the-patriarch-of-serbia/#more-979 ; http://www.spc.rs/sr/stogodishnjica_proboja_solunskog_fronta   As I have previously reported, the very prominent Serbian Bishop Irinej of Backa has made strong statements in favor of Moscow’s position on Ukraine, and these have been posted on the official website of the Serbian Patriarchate.

    On October 1, Patriarch Kirill sent a letter concerning Ukraine to Archbishop Hieronymos, the primate of the Church of Greece.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/10/02/news164565/  This was immediately before the October 2-5 meeting of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece.  It is reported that although certain Greek bishops wished to include the letter on the agenda of the Synod, Archbishop Hieronymos ruled against this.  https://ria.ru/religion/20181004/1529969031.html   Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had scheduled a meeting with Archbishop Hieronymos in  Athens for the morning of Friday, October 5.  However, the meeting was suddenly cancelled by the Archbishop.  The reason given was that the Archbishop needed to participate in the Synod meeting. https://ria.ru/religion/20181005/1530070275.html?inj=1 

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was in Crete for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Orthodox Academy of Crete – which had hosted the Crete Council in 2016.   Also present were the primates of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Churches of Cyprus and Albania, as well as the President of Greece and representatives from the Romanian Patriarchate.   http://basilica.ro/academia-din-creta-a-aniversat-50-ani-de-existenta/   The religious website Orthodoxia.info has posted an article concerning an address by the Ecumenical Patriarch at this celebration.  Before discussing this very interesting article, I might first mention that this Greek website,  which appears to be supportive of the Ecumenical Patriarch, seems to be filling the void left by the closing of the Greek website, Amen.gr, which was also supportive of the Ecumenical Patriarch.  Orthodoxia.info is headed by Andreas Loudaros  and owned by the non-profit organization Aenaos (http://aenaos.org/portal-orthodoxia-info).  It provides a different perspective than the popular and more conservative Greek website Romfea.gr, headed by Emilios Polygenis, who has been very supportive of Metropolitan Hilarion.  Unlike Romfea.gr, Orthodoxia.info provides its news not only in Greek, but also in English, French, and Russian.  However, a word of caution.  Recently, Orthodoxia.info posted an “exclusive” of excerpts of the transcript of the August 31 meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch and Patriarch Kirill.  (https://orthodoxia.info/news/exclusive-the-dialogue-between-the-patriarchs-of-constantinople-and-moscow-during-their-meeting-at-the-phanar/)  Patriarch Kirill’s press secretary has now stated that these excerpts are false.  https://ria.ru/religion/20181003/1529929441.html 

    The following is a portion of the Orthodoxia.inf article (https://orthodoxia.info/news/ecumenical-patriarch-schism-an-easy-solution-for-those-without-valid-arguments/ ) relating to the address by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Orthodox Academy of Crete :

    “If the Ecumenical Patriarchate abandons its responsibilities and withdraws from the inter-Orthodox scene, then the other local Churches will be like sheep without a shepherd, engaged in ecclesiastical initiatives which mix up humility derived from faith with arrogance derived from power,” said the Ecumenical Patriarch. “Thus the coordinative role assigned to the Ecumenical Patriarchate within the pan-Orthodox family.  Orthodoxy needs the Ecumenical Patriarchate so that it does not become a loose grouping of Churches hopelessly scattered in different places.”

    Furthermore, Patriarch Bartholomew reminded his audience that, “The responsibility of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is to put things in ecclesiastical and canonical order, for only it has the prerogative and the blessings of the Church as a whole through the Ecumenical Councils to fulfil this grand obligation as the loving Mother Church and first Church within Orthodoxy.”

    This highlights the fact that the present confrontation between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Moscow Patriarchate is not only about Ukraine but also about the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect to the other Local Orthodox Churches.  In term of long-term history, the latter issue may be more important than what happens to the three Orthodox churches in Ukraine.  Although the Ecumenical Patriarch is not claiming powers similar to a pope, he is claiming that his role is not simply an honorary one, but does involve a limited leadership role in the Orthodox world.  This leadership role is disputed by the Moscow Patriarchate which contends that there is no primacy on the universal level with respect to the 14 autocephaly Orthodox churches and that the only leader of the 14 churches is Christ.  This issue of whether there is a universal primacy is also critically important for the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches which is presently focusing on the issue of primacy.  The Catholic – Orthodox dialogue has been impeded due to the fact that the participating Local Orthodox Churches have not been able to reach a consensus among themselves on the universal primacy issue.

    The Facebook page of Archbishop Daniel continues to provide some information on the activities of the two exarchs to Ukraine.  https://www.facebook.com/bishop.daniel.3  Archbishop Daniel has spent considerable time during the last two weeks in California and Australia.  However, he is now back in Ukraine.  The two exarchs met with the Ukrainian Minister of Culture and also with the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament.  The latter invited Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to come to Ukraine and address the parliament.   It is reported that Archbishop Daniel indicated that this might be a possibility.  https://www.unn.com.ua/ru/news/1755879-ekzarkh-ne-viklyuchiv-vizitu-patriarkha-varfolomiya-v-ukrayinu  ; https://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/state/church_state_relations/72929/ 

    In other news, Patriarch Kirill will visit Belarus October 13-14, and the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate will meet there on October 15.  https://ria.ru/religion/20181002/1529779702.html  The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has posted an English-language document summarizing the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect to Ukraine.  https://www.goarch.org/documents/32058/4830467/The+Ecumenical+Throne+and+the+Church+of+Ukraine+%28ENGLISH%29.pdf/8c509846-38e4-4610-a54e-30121eec77ef  It is reported that the next meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be held next week, October 9-11.  https://tass.ru/obschestvo/5642265 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 September 2018: Ukraine - many new developments

    The Russian news agency TASS has now posted a new interview of Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP).  https://tass.ru/interviews/5607597  I was particularly interested in the following statements by Metropolitan Anthony in this new interview:

    The autocephalous device, as we have often said, is just a form of the existence of the Church in certain historical conditions.  As of today, there is no unity among believers in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church regarding the issue of autocephaly.  With regard to this issue, people occupy different positions, and we, taking this into account, do not want to make a division and a confusion among them by making a decision.

    However, in an answer to a subsequent question, Metropolitan Anthony stated:

    And most of the people who make up these 12,500 parishes [of the UOC-MP] agree and insist on maintaining the present status of our Church.  Of course, there are few believers and even a small part of the clergy of our Church, who are impressed by the possibility of our church acquiring an autocephalous status.  But still they are a minority…. I think that a parallel structure will be formed, a minority will enter it, and mainly in the villages.  Because in the village, as a rule, there is one temple and there is no alternative.  It is easier to put pressure on believers through local authorities.  In cities, I think, these will be isolated cases.  In any case, we will remain the largest Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

    In an earlier interview, Metropolitan Anthony acknowledged that two bishops of the UOC-MP have publicly spoken in favor of autocephaly.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/18/news163936/  In June 2018, the official website of the UOC-MP posted an article relating to a poll conducted by an independent foundation as to an interest in autocephaly.  http://news.church.ua/2018/06/27/sociologi-bilshist-ukrajinciv-bajduzhi-do-cerkovnoji-avtokefaliji/  The UOC-MP article stated:  It is also noted that 40% of the respondents who called themselves parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [of Moscow Patriarchate] do not support this idea [of autocephaly].  The poll itself showed that among members of the UOC-MP: 39.1 % did not support autocephaly; 24.4% supported autocephaly; 23.7% were indifferent; and 12.8% found the question difficult to answer.   https://dif.org.ua/article/stvorennya-pomisnoi-avtokefalnoi-pravoslavnoi-tserkvi-v-ukraini-shcho-dumayut-ukraintsi 

    Today, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria Theodoros II served the Divine Liturgy in the Holy Trinity Cathedral (UOC-MP) in Odessa, Ukraine.  http://news.church.ua/2018/09/28/oleksandrijskij-patriarx-feodor-zvershiv-liturgiyu-v-odeskomu-sobori-de-sluzhiv-protyagom-10-ti-rokiv-video/  He had served for ten years (1985-1995) in this cathedral as Patriarchal Exarch of the Alexandrian Patriarchate to the Moscow Patriarchate.  http://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/index.php?module=news&action=details&id=1466  He has always considered himself very close to the Russian Orthodox Church.  This month marked the 80th birthday of his friend Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa (UOC-MP).  On this visit, the Patriarch also received an honorary doctorate degree from the Odessa Law Academy.  http://eparhiya.od.ua/sobyitiya/sobyitiya/4865--blajenneyshiy-patriarh-feodor-ii-byil-udostoen-pochetnogo-zvaniya-doktora-honoris-causa-natsionalnogo-universiteta-odesskaya-yuridicheskaya-akademiya-video  At the end of today’s liturgy, the Patriarch is reported to have said:  Dear children, I would like to ask you before Christ to remain faithful to the Canonical Church.  But all this will be done if we learn to pray and ask for the mercy of God, for the Church is Christ and only he rules it.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/24091-patriarxis-alejandreias-i-ekklisia-einai-tou-xristou-kai-mono-autos-tin-kubernaei  The last part of this quotation reminds me of the position of the Moscow Patriarchate that there is no primate or primacy in the universal Church and that the only head is Christ.  The previous night, the Patriarch had stated:  In these difficult days in Ukraine there is a canonical church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry - a blessed man of God and a real monk.  http://eparhiya.od.ua/sobyitiya/sobyitiya/4862-patriarh-aleksandriyskiy-feodor-ii-vozglavil-moleben-o-edinstve-pravoslaviya-v-spaso-preobrajenskom-kafedralnom-sobore-g_-odessyi-video ; http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14510 

    On Wednesday, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, met with the Ukrainian ambassador to Cyprus.   http://churchofcyprus.org.cy/46043  The Archbishop stated the willingness of the Church of Cyprus to be a “bridge to normalize the erratic situation that has been created.”

    Also on Wednesday, Metropolitan Hilarion received an honorary doctorate degree from the State University of Belgrade.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/27/news164244/  That same day he met with Serbian Patriarch Irinej and certain members of the Serbian Holy Synod.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/27/news164239/  The report of the Serbian Patriarchate gave some additional information.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/susret_patrijarha_srpskog_irineja_mitropolita_volokolamskog_ilariona_u_patrijarshiji_srpskoj  According to the latter, there was an exchange of views on current topics and “complete agreement was reached on positions with respect to the problems from the life of the Orthodox Church.”  Remember also that Patriarch Irinej and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be at the same event in Greece this Sunday.  The Serbian Patriarchate is, of course, very concerned that the granting of autocephaly in Ukraine might lead to a similar action by the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect to the schismatic FYROM Church which broke away from the Serbian Patriarchate.

    Yesterday, Metropolitan Tikhon, the head of the Orthodox Church in America, issued a pastoral letter relating to the events in Ukraine.  https://oca.org/news/headline-news/metropolitan-tikhon-issues-archpastoral-letter-concerning-recent-developmen  It includes the following paragraph:  The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America supports the need for regular dialogue at every level and appeals to all local Orthodox Churches to address the current crisis in Ukraine through the convening of a Pan-Orthodox synaxis, or similar conciliar process, wherein an authentic solution can be found to this problem. We are prepared to participate in such fraternal discussions and will be reviewing the on-going developments of this situation at our Fall Session.

    Thursday, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met with the Orthodox metropolitan and pilgrims from Patras, Greece.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/24072-oikoumenikos-patriarxis-upirja-stoxos-pollon-alla-exo-isuxi-ti-suneidisi-mou  He stated that in his 27 years as Ecumenical Patriarch, he has been a target of many articles against him.  However, he has “calmness in my conscience.”  The following is a very recent English-language interview of the Ecumenical Patriarch done by the Armenian weekly in Istanbul.  https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/09/moscow-struck-unity-of-orthodoxy-and.html  The Patriarch has some strong words concerning the relationship between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian State.

    On a different topic, there is an interesting article on Russian Orthodox involvement in the recent World Meeting of Families in Dublin.  http://www.lanuovaeuropa.org/chiesa/2018/09/26/irlanda-incontri-imprevisti-nell-incontro-con-il-papa 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 26 September 2018: Ukraine & More

    The Holy Synod of the UOC-MP met today.  It was the first meeting of the Synod since May 25.  The complete minutes of the meeting can be read at http://news.church.ua/2018/09/25/zhurnali-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-25-veresnya-2018-roku/ .  The following is a Google translation of the resolution found in Journal Entry 17, which relates to the presence of the two exarchs in Ukraine:

     Express concern about the appointment of the "Exarchs" by the Constantinople Patriarchate to Kyiv and consider this a ruthless interference in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and in violation of its canonical territory.

    1. Call on the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I to stop interference in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and not to violate its canonical territory.
    2. To consider the activity of the "exarchs" of the Constantinople Patriarchate as anti-canonical and violating the inter-confessional peace in Ukraine.
    3. The "Exarchs" of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Archbishop of Pamphilion Daniel and Bishop of Edmonton Hilarion, must leave the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
    4. Episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to suspend concelebration with the hierarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate.
    5. The clergy, the monastics and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to strengthen their prayers for preserving the unity of the Holy Orthodoxy.

    Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil has also give another extensive interview.  http://news.church.ua/2018/09/23/keruyuchij-spravami-upc-stvorennya-paralelnoji-cerkovnoji-strukturi-poxovaje-ideyu-jedinoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-v-ukrajini-ros/ 

    Unfortunately, now there is no dialogue [with the Phanar], because the very principle of the existence of the Local Orthodox Church is grossly violated.  Those representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople who arrived in Ukraine with a specific task, in our opinion, are here and act uncanonically.  Therefore, when they asked the Primate of our church to receive them, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry categorically refused to do so.  In particular, because their arrival to the territory of our church must be discussed in advance, and they should have received permission from the UOC.  These bishops arrived on their own, and not simply as pilgrims, but with a clear goal - to implement some of their projects.  Given all this, we must state that there is no direct dialogue with Phanar.

    When asked whether the dialogue will begin if they ask permission, Metropolitan Anthony responded that “the opportunity is always there.”

    In reading the resolution of the Holy Synod and the long interview of Metropolitan Anthony, I am struck by the fact that there is no statement that the UOC-MP is not interested in autocephaly.  I suspect that the reason is that there is no unanimity within the UOC-MP as to the interest of the UOC-MP in autocephaly.  You may recall that on the day following the adoption of the June 25 statement by many of the Ukrainian bishops, UOC-MP Bishop Victor (Kotsaba)(UOC-MP) stated:  “The Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not stand categorically against the idea of autocephaly, which today our opponents are trying to accuse us.”   http://news.church.ua/2018/06/27/golova-predstavnictva-upc-pri-mizhnarodnix-jevropejskix-organizaciyax-vzyav-uchast-u-zasidanni-mizhparlamentskoji-asambleji-pravoslavya-v-afinax/  This statement by Bishop Victor was posted on the official website of the UOC-MP.  Although advocacy for autocephaly may be a minority view within the UOC-MP, it may be easier for the UOC-MP to avoid stating its view on autocephaly in view of the lack of unanimity among the UOC-MP bishops.  Rather, the UOC-MP is basing its refusal to discuss the idea of a single autocephalous Ukrainian church with the exarchs on the grounds that the exarchs have not obtained the permission of the UOC-MP to come to Ukraine – a position with respect to which there may be a consensus among the bishops of the UOC-MP.

    Last Sunday, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew reaffirmed at the Church of Saint Fokas in Istanbul’s Ortaköy neighborhood his intention to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.  http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2018/09/blog-post_33.html?m=1;   http://www.ekathimerini.com/232881/article/ekathimerini/news/patriarch-repeats-stance-on-autocephaly-of-ukrainian-orthodox-church   The statement of the Ecumenical Patriarch included the following:

    Now it is the turn of Ukraine to receive the status of autocephaly in due course, I hope, despite the existing reactions and this will happen because it is right.  It is her right to receive the status of Autocephaly and, on the other hand, it is a right, and indeed the exclusive right of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, to grant the Autocephaly as granted to all the newer Orthodox churches, beginning with Russia in the 16th century and to the Czech and Slovakian Church, as I said earlier.  We are not scared by the threats….

    In other news relating to Ukraine, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria and Metropolitan Sawa of Poland in Warsaw on September 23.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/24/news164185/   Serbian Bishop Irinej of Backa has given an interview in which he again strongly expresses his support for the Moscow Patriarchate.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/epsikop  Interestingly, both Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Serbian Patriarch Irinej will be together at an event in Greece on September 30.  http://www.imnst.gr/wp/%CE%BF-%CE%BF%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%BC%CE%B5%CE%BD%CE%B9%CE%BA%CF%8C%CF%82-%CF%80%CE%B1%CF%84%CF%81%CE%B9%CE%AC%CF%81%CF%87%CE%B7%CF%82-%CE%BA-%CE%BA-%CE%B2%CE%B1%CF%81%CE%B8%CE%BF%CE%BB%CE%BF/   Archbishop Job (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has already issued a rebuttal to the resolutions made by the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP today.  http://cerkvarium.org/ru/novosti/ukraina/arkhiepiskop-telmisskij-iov-gecha-v-mezhtserkovnykh-otnosheniyakh-upts-ne-yavlyaetsya-samostoyatelnoj-edinitsej-i-ne-imeet-kanonicheskogo-prava-osuzhdat-konstantinopol.html 

    In other news, Pope Francis participated in an ecumenical prayer service at the Lutheran cathedral in Riga, Latvia yesterday.  Metropolitan Alexander of Riga and All Latvia (Moscow Patriarchate) was also one of the major participants.  You can watch the entire service at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=287&v=7KGFuOquyss .  In the video, the prayer recited by Metropolitan Alexander can be viewed at 45:00, and his exchange of the sign of peace with Pope Francis can be seen at 57:35.  During Metropolitan Hilarion’s recent trip to Portugal, he visited the famous Catholic shrine of Fatima. https://www.fatima.pt/pt/news/o-metropolita-hilarion-alfeyev-responsavel-pelos-assuntos-externos-e-o-dialogo-com-a-igreja-catolica-visitou-o-santuario-de-fatima-2018-09-18  In the past Metropolitan Hilarion has advocated the idea of Catholics visiting Orthodox holy places, and Orthodox visiting Catholic holy places.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 25 September 2018: Metropolitan Hilarion's visit to Fatima

    Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, responsible for external affairs and dialogue with the Catholic Church visited the Shrine of Fatima

     

    Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, responsible for external affairs and dialogue with the Catholic Church, visited the Shrine of Fatima this afternoon.

    Number two of the Russian Orthodox Church was welcomed by Cardinal António Marto, Bishop of Leiria-Fatima.

    The meeting began at the Retreat House of Nossa Senhora do Carmo. The two leaders spoke and the Bishop of Leiria-Fatima thanked the "testimony that the Russian Orthodox Church has given to foster good relations between the two Churches."

    Cardinal António Marto said that he always "is always interested in the relationship between the Patriarchal Church of Moscow and the Holy See, especially when Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev visits Pope Francis."

    "I know that there has been a flourishing of Christianity in the Russian Orthodox Church, and in this way we are living a moment of important collaboration between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Europe to defend the great Christian values," the Cardinal reiterated, thanking " Russian Orthodox Church has worked to foster good relations between the two Churches. "

    The prelate also asked the person responsible for external affairs and the dialogue with the Catholic Church to convey "cordial greetings" to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

    It is the first time the Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev comes to Fatima, in Portugal had previously been.

    Number two of the Russian Orthodox Church explained that when the program for the two days in Portugal was outlined, the request to visit Fatima was immediate because it had already read much about this place, but personally it was important to see this one called "a place of peace ".

    The book of honor was signed next. Cardinal António Marto offered the Medal of the Centenary, the Centennial Symbol and the book Memories of Sister Lucy , translated into Russian.

    Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev is still a renowned composer and writer, and left to the bishop of Leiria-Fatima his book The Mystery of Faith - Introduction to orthodox dogmatic theology , and a cd with works of his own.

    After this meeting, a visit was made through the various points of the Sanctuary of Fatima. In the Chapel of the Apparitions the Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev prayed in silence, and asked to place a candle in the likeness of what so many thousands of pilgrims do.

    In his visit to the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, the person responsible for external affairs and the dialogue with the Catholic Church was surprised to learn that the project of this place was written by the Greek Orthodox architect Alexandros Tombazis.

    The stop next to the Berlin Wall was also quite emblematic, for all that the monument represents.

    The meeting ended with a dinner at the Retreat House of Nossa Senhora do Carmo.

    Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev is in Portugal for two days, and tomorrow he will speak at the Portuguese Catholic University.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle

  • 23 September 2018: Vilnius, Romania, Ukraine & More

    Today Pope Francis is in Vilnius, Lithuania.  As a very Marian pope, he, of course, greatly desired to visit the famous Lithuanian shrine of Our Mother of Mercy – “Dawn Gate”  (Lithuanian: Aušros vartai; Polish: Ostra Brama; Russian: Острая брама).  The miraculous icon of the Mother of God at this shrine is highly venerated by both Catholics and Orthodox.  On July 27, 1997, Russian Patriarch Alexei visited the shrine and together with Catholic Archbishop Bačkis of Vilnius jointly blessed from the window of the shrine the thousands of pilgrims below.  In 1987, Metropolitan Hilarion began his religious life as a monk at the Orthodox Holy Spirit Monastery, located only a few hundred meters from the shrine.

    You can watch a video of the complete visit of Pope Francis to the shrine at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2117&v=Jh_tyyyZDDs .  At the very beginning of the video, there was something that really warmed my heart.  When the Pope arrived at the shrine in his car, there were two men standing side-by-side to greet him – one had a white veil.  It was Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Innocent of Vilnius and Lithuania and Catholic Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius.  You can see their greetings and encounter in the video.  In the photo pasted below, you can see Pope Francis, in one of his spontaneous gestures, kissing the panagia of the Metropolitan. 

     

    The Pope’s address at the shrine can be read at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/prayers/documents/papa-francesco_preghiere_20180922_preghierasantuario-vilnius-lituania.html  Earlier, in a meeting with civil leaders and diplomats, the Pope stated: Here you Lithuanians have a word of your own to contribute: “welcoming differences.”  Through dialogue, openness and understanding, you can become a bridge between Eastern and Western Europehttp://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2018/september/documents/papa-francesco_20180922_autorita-vilnius-lituania.html  The Moscow Patriarchate has often stated that its relationship with the Catholic Church in Lithuania is very good.

    Today in the Catholic diocese of Iaşi, Romania, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, beatified a young Romanian woman, Veronica Antal, who was murdered in 1958 at the age of 23 protecting her virginity.  A video of the entire ceremony, before thousands of faithful, can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMDKAYm8a0Q .  Veronica wished to become a nun, but because of the suppression of religious orders by the communists, she was unable to do so.  Nevertheless, she adopted a life of prayer and chastity.  She made a small room next to the family home into her “convent.”  She did works of mercy for both Catholics and Orthodox.  On the long 8-kilometer walk from Mass to her home on a summer evening, she was attacked and stabbed 42 times as she would not surrender her virginity.  When her body was found, a rosary was in her hand.  Later, her grave was regularly visited by both Catholics and Orthodox.  A representative of the Romanian Patriarchate was present at the beatification ceremony.  Cardinal Becciu’s homily is posted at https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/09/22/0674/01470.html.   The homily includes the following paragraph:

    Her charitable help to those in need was characterized by profound humility and generous commitment, seeking nothing more than the building up of the kingdom of God in the midst of his brothers, without making any distinction between members of the Catholic or Orthodox Church.  It thus gave rise to a fervent testimony of fraternity and sincere dialogue, always necessary in order to make reconciliation and collaboration prevail over divisions and disagreements.  And precisely in that period of suffering, the Christians, divided in the course of history, discovered themselves closer to each other or found themselves in solidarity.  Their sacrifice offers a very clear message for us too: rediscovering solidarity and mutual communion, increasing that ecumenism of martyrdom, which the Holy Father Francis recalls incessantly.  A particularly important field of collaboration between Orthodox and Catholics today regards the defense of the Christian roots of Europe and of Christian values ​​and the common witness on issues such as the family, bioethics, human rights, honesty in public life, the ecology.  The unitary commitment on these topics will make an important contribution to the moral and civil growth of society. 

    On September 18, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had signed a new apostolic constitution, Episcopalis Communio, which allows for a mechanism in the which the final documents of the Synod of Bishops can be included in the official Church teachings.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-approves-new-constitution-for-synod-of-bishops-79689  The Italian text of the document can be read at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/apost_constitutions/documents/papa-francesco_costituzione-ap_20180915_episcopalis-communio.html.  It appears that in strengthening the synodal aspect of the Catholic Church in this way, the Pope may well have had in mind the Church’s dialogue with the Orthodox.  At the end of the document, the Pope trusts that: the activity of the Synod of Bishops will in its own way contribute to the re-establishment of unity among all Christians, according to the will of the Lord (see Jn 17 : 21).  In doing so, it will help the Catholic Church, according to the hope formulated by John Paul II years ago, to “find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.”

    Although I have seen no further reports on the activities of the two exarchs in Kyiv since their meeting with the Ukrainian president, many church leaders continue to express their views with respect to Ukraine.  Yesterday, Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and Metropolitan Sawa, primate of the Polish Orthodox Church, issued the following joint appeal:  we appeal to all on whom depends the elimination of the church misunderstandings regarding the acquisition of autocephaly by the Ukrainian Church; please, do whatever is in your might to stave off the conflict concerning the question in order to install the church order on the Ukrainian territory.  A photocopy of the signed appeal in English can be viewed at http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/23968-koini-ekklisi-prokathimenon-gia-to-oukraniko-zitima .  The following is a long and detailed interview (translated into English) of Archbishop Job in support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s position.  https://www.ecupatria.org/2018/09/20/ukraine-has-always-been-the-canonical-territory-of-the-ecumenical-patriarchate/#more-974  It includes many historical details.  He expresses regret that “the representatives of the UOC (Moscow Patriarchate) are still abandoning the dialogue with representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and with other parts of the Ukrainian Churches” but hopes that they will “open their hearts to dialogue.”   The following is an English translation of a long interview of Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP):  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/18/news163936/  When asked what the response of the UOC-MP will be to the appointment of the two exarchs, Metropolitan Anthony states:  The most important decisions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are taken by the Synod. We make all decisions collectively. Perhaps, even the Bishops’ Council will be convened. Yet, we have already expressed our position: these are the unfriendly, uncanonical actions taken by Constantinople against another Orthodox Church.  This raises the possibility that the UOC-MP may have a meeting of its synod or even a bishops’ council to reject formally any offer of autocephaly for the UOC-MP.  To date, it has not yet done this.  The following is a strong statement by Bishop Irinej of Backa (Serbian Patriarchate) in support of the position of the Moscow Patriarchate:  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/09/21/news164048/ 

    On September 18, Metropolitan Hilarion made an address in Lisbon, Portugal on the subject, The Future of Christianity in Europe.  The compete English text of this interesting address can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/19/news163956/ .  In Lisbon, Metropolitan Hilarion also met with the Catholic Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manual Clemente.   https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/09/19/news163960/ 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 September 2018: Exarchs meet with Poroshenko

    Archbishop Daniel and Bishop Ilarion, the exarchs appointed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, met today with Ukrainian President Poroshenko.  The website of the President has posted in English a fairly extensive description of the meeting.  https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/mi-priyihali-pracyuvati-nad-uzhe-virishenim-pitannyam-zustri-49646  A 12-minute video of the meeting (the discussion is entirely in Ukrainian) can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=rm-PMUVe5tk .  During the meeting a letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to President Poroshenko was read.  The letter included a statement that the appointment of the exarchs “will definitely contribute to the processes of granting autocephaly, which we pray for and work over day and night.” 

    As quoted by RIA Novesti (https://ria.ru/religion/20180917/1528714195.html ), Archbishop Daniel stated at the meeting: 

    We are ready for cooperation with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and, of course, we are ready for dialogue and cooperation with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church.  We have no prejudices to meet with representatives of various religious organizations, to hear their opinion and cooperate constructively with them, as well as simultaneously with government authorities.

    According to the President’s website, the President remarked:  “And from our part we will do everything to enable you to communicate with all religious communities.”  Archbishop Daniel also stated that several meetings have already been set up with various representatives of religious organizations.  As you recall, Metropolitan Onufry has stated that because the exarchs came to Ukraine without the blessing of the UOC-MP, representatives of the UOC-MP “will not communicate” with the exarchs.   https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/14/news163769/ 
    Yesterday, a very interesting interview of Metropolitan Hilarion by the Russian RT television network was posted on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=foB6NQiy8FM   The entire 28-minute interview is conducted in English.  In the interview, Metropolitan Hilarion covers many aspects of the Ukrainian issue.  Metropolitan Hilarion is very emphatic that the UOC-MP is not interested in autocephaly.  He states that if autocephaly is given to the UOC-MP, it will not accept it (at 6:45).  He states (at 20:15) that a majority of the Ukrainian faithful are against autocephaly and wish to remain united with the Moscow Patriarchate.  To the best of my knowledge, although the UOC-MP has made statements that it is satisfied with the status quo, it has not yet made a public statement which directly and clearly states that it is not interested in autocephaly.  Metropolitan Hilarion also states that the plan of the Ukrainian government is to form a single Ukrainian church from four churches – the fourth being the UGCC (at 3:45).

    Archbishop Job (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has given an interview supporting the grant of autocephaly.   http://cerkvarium.org/ru/novosti/pomestnye-tserkvi/arkhiepiskop-telmisskij-iov-gecha-avtokefaliya-eto-sredstvo-obespechit-edinstvo-i-tserkvi-vnutri-gosudarstva-i-mezhdu-pomestnymi-tserkvami.html  An English translation can be found at https://risu.org.ua/en/index/expert_thought/interview/72661/ .

    A long interview of Filaret, the head of the UOC-KP, has been posted at  https://daily.rbc.ua/rus/show/patriarh-filaret-gotovy-prinyat-arhiereev-1536917516.html .   From the interview, it appears to me that Filaret envisions that the UOC-KP will control the newly formed autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  He states that there will be a council in which the three churches are united and a patriarch will be elected.  If bishops of UOC-MP wish to join the new church, none of them, according to Filaret, will be allowed to participate in the Council except for the ten bishops who have allegedly made an appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch for autocephaly.  Obviously, Filaret does not want the UOC-KP to be outvoted by another church.

    It was announced today that the Moscow church center which publishes the Orthodox Encyclopedia will be publishing on its website a large body of newly-discovered documents relating to the reunification of the Kyiv Metropolis with the Russian Orthodox Church in 1685-1686.    http://www.sedmitza.ru/text/8368197.html  Some of these documents are already available through the foregoing link.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 September 2018: Today's big news from Moscow

    An emergency meeting of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate was held today in Moscow.  The minutes of the meeting are now posted at  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5268260.html.  At the meeting the Holy Synod adopted a detailed statement relating to Ukraine. https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/09/14/news163803/  Presumably an English translation will be posted by the DECR in the near future.  Below is a Google translation of three critical paragraphs from the statement.

    In a critical situation, when the Constantinople side practically refused to resolve the issue through dialogue, the Moscow Patriarchate is forced to suspend the prayerful remembrance of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople during the divine service and with deep regret to suspend the service with the hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and to interrupt the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Episcopal Assemblies, in theological dialogues, multilateral commissions and all other structures in which the representatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople are co-chairs.

    In case of continuation of the anti-canonical activity of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, we will be compelled to completely break the eucharistic communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.  All responsibility for the tragic consequences of this division will fall personally on the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and the bishops who support him.

    Realizing that what is happening is a danger to the entire world Orthodoxy, we are addressing this difficult hour for support to the Local Autocephalous Churches, we call upon the Primate of Churches to understand the common responsibility for the fate of world Orthodoxy and initiate a fraternal all-Orthodox discussion of the church situation in Ukraine.

    The statement stops short of a complete break of eucharistic communion between the two Churches.  Although the statement prohibits divine services with the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the press secretary of Patriarch Kirill has explained “this decision does not deprive the clergy of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church of performing joint services.”  https://ria.ru/religion/20180914/1528598431.html   Apparently joint services by clergy (priests) would be prohibited only if there is a complete break of eucharistic communion.

    With respect to Catholics, the statement means that the Moscow Patriarchate will suspend its participation in the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  Metropolitan Hilarion met yesterday in Moscow with the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation,  Archbishop Celestino Migliore.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/13/news163673/   It is likely that Metropolitan Hilarion gave some indication to the nuncio that Moscow would suspend participation in the international theological dialogue.  I understand that a session of the Co-ordinating Committee is scheduled for November 13-17, 2018, at the Bose Monastery in Italy.  Metropolitan Hilarion is a member of this Committee.  It is a very important meeting to consider the draft documents for a future plenary of the entire Commission.

    Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP, was not physically present at the Synod meeting for health reasons.  However, before the commencement of the session, he informed the members of the Synod concerning the present situation in Ukraine by video conferencing. https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/14/news163769/    His remarks included the following:

    It is true that both so-called “exarchs” of the Patriarchate of Constantinople have arrived in Ukraine -- One was assigned to conduct negotiations with the party of the so-called “patriarch” Filaret, and the other – with the party of “metropolitan” Makary, head of the “Ukrainian autocephalous orthodox church.”  We have not met with them and have no intention to meet, because they came here without our blessing.  As representatives of the canonical Church in Ukraine, we will not communicate with them.  We will see how the situation will unfold.

    From the foregoing it appears that Metropolitan Onufry is in effect closing the door to any discussions with the two exarchs as to the possibility of the UOC-MP, UOC-KP, and the UAOC forming a single autocephalous church for Ukraine.  In a television interview this morning, Metropolitan Onufry stressed the existing independence of the UOC-MP.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/09/14/news163814/  In this regard, he states:  The Tomos [of autocephaly] will be a restriction of the freedom that we have today.

    The statement today by the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate not only condemns the appointment of the two exarchs but also includes a long and interesting account of historical relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The account is very critical of the conduct of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  It indicates that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is attempting “to rebuild Orthodox ecclesiology according to the Roman Catholic model.”  It also condemns a recent decision by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to allow a second marriage for clergy in certain cases.

    Late this evening, the DECR posted an article covering an interview of Metropolitan Hilarion by journalists.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/09/14/news163805/  Here are some interesting excerpts from the interview:

    The decision of the Holy Synod to suspend a prayerful remembrance for the services of the Patriarch of Constantinople does not mean a complete rupture of eucharistic communion.  Those laity who come to Mt. Athos or find themselves in the temples of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, may take communion with them.  But we refuse to serve with the hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, because each time they celebrate their patriarch, and we suspended his commemoration.

    I do not think, of course, that all this completely closes the door for dialogue, but our today's decision is a signal to the Patriarchate of Constantinople that if such kind of actions continue, we will be compelled to completely break the Eucharistic communion.

    The Patriarchate of Constantinople positions itself as a kind of leader of the 300 million-strong Orthodox population of the planet, so the mass media talk about it.  But after the break of the Eucharistic communion, at least half of this 300 million people will no longer recognize it even as the first among equals.

    Metropolitan Hilarion has made additional comments on his Facebook page today.  https://www.facebook.com/metr.hilarion/   He begins:  The war of the Patriarchate of Constantinople against Moscow continues for almost a hundred years.  It includes allegations that the Ecumenical Patriarchate failed to support the Moscow Patriarchate during the brutal Soviet persecution but actually sought to weaken the Russian Church.  He also alleges that the Ecumenical Patriarchate refuses to give autocephaly to the Orthodox in North American  because it does not wish to lose their money.  These are certainly words that will heighten emotions.  With respect to Facebook, Archbishop Daniel, one of the two exarchs, is also on Facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/bishop.daniel.3   

    Today a website close to the Ecumenical Patriarchate has posted the text of a November 1-3, 1991, appeal for autocephaly signed by the present Metropolitan Onufry (as bishop of Chernivtsi) and by many other Ukrainian church leaders.   http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2018/09/blog-post_98.html?m=1  The English translation of the text can be read at https://www.scribd.com/document/388598013/%CE%A0%CE%B1%CE%BB%CE%B1%CE%B9%CF%8C%CF%84%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%B5%CF%82-%CE%B1%CF%80%CE%BF%CF%86%CE%AC%CF%83%CE%B5%CE%B9%CF%82-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9-%CE%B5%CE%BA%CE%BA%CE%BB%CE%AE%CF%83%CE%B5%CE%B9%CF%82-%CF%84%CF%89%CE%BD-%CE%9F%CF%85%CE%BA%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%BD%CF%8E%CE%BD-%CE%99%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%81%CF%87%CF%8E%CE%BD-%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CF%87%CE%BF%CF%81%CE%AE%CE%B3%CE%B7%CF%83%CE%B7-%CE%91%CF%85%CF%84%CE%BF%CE%BA%CE%B5%CF%86%CE%AC%CE%BB%CE%BF%CF%85#from_embed

    I believe that all of us can agree that many prayers are needed.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 11 September 2018: The courtship of the UOC-MP?

    Since my last report on Friday evening, there have been a number of very important developments relating to the appointment by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Archbishop Daniel and Bishop Ilarion as its exarchs in Kyiv within “the framework of the preparations for the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”  On Saturday, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate issued a statement condemning this action by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The official English translation of the full text of the statement can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/08/news163522/ .   The statement includes the following:

    This decision has been adopted without an agreement with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine and has constituted a gross violation of the church canons prohibiting bishops of one Local Church to interfere in the internal life and affairs of another Local Church (Second Ecumenical Council Canon 2; Council of Trullo Canon 20; Council of Antioch Canon 13; and Council of Sardica Canons 3, 11 and 12).  It entirely contradicts the up-until-now invariable position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and personally Patriarch Bartholomew, who has repeatedly stated that he recognizes His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry as the only canonical head of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

    The Patriarchate of Constantinople’s decision to admit to examination the issue of granting autocephaly to ‘the Orthodox faithful of Ukraine’ has been made against the will of the episcopate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who have unanimously spoken for the preservation of her existing status.

    To justify its interference in the affairs of another Local Church, the Patriarch of Constantinople has produced false interpretations of historical facts, referring to his alleged exclusive powers, which he actually does not have and has never had.

    These actions lead the relations between the Russian Church and the Church of Constantinople to a deadlock and create a real threat to the unity of the whole world Orthodoxy.

    The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church states that the full responsibility for these uncanonical actions falls personally on Patriarch Bartholomew and those persons in the Church of Constantinople who support these actions.

    The reaction of the Moscow Patriarchate will follow at the earliest possible date.

    At the present time, Patriarch Kirill, accompanied by Metropolitan Hilarion and others, are on a pastoral visit to the Siberian far north, including the city of Norilsk.  They will be back in Moscow on Wednesday.  It is very possible that soon thereafter the Holy Synod will decide on what its “reaction” will be.

    In addition, Metropolitan Hilarion on Saturday gave an extremely important interview on the subject to the Russia 24 TV channel.  The official English translation of the interview can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/08/news163536/ .  A video of the interview can be watched at  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5264464.html  .   At the end of the interview, he gave a statement to the media.  The official English translation of this statement can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/08/news163543/ .  Because the interview and the statement made so many important points, I will not attempt to summarize them here – they should be read in their entirety.  It should be mentioned, however, that they relate not only to the appointment of the exarchs but also to the role that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is seeking to assume in the Orthodox world.  Although the Metropolitan’s words are very strong, he does state at the end of the interview:

    However, we, in our turn, should wait whether these exarchs will come or not, whether Constantinople will reconsider its decision or not.  Therefore, as we have noted in our statement, we will, of course, take retaliatory measures.  I believe that the time to take these steps will directly depend on the dynamics in the implementation of the project of “granting autocephaly,” in other words, of legitimizing the Ukrainian schism.

    A key question is what the two exarchs will seek to do in Kyiv.  This weekend Metropolitan Emmanuel of France made the following statement, posted at https://agensir.it/chiesa/2018/09/10/metropolitan-emmanuel-ecumenical-patriarchate-through-dialogue-faith-becomes-an-agent-of-peace/ ,  to the Italian religious news agency SIR:

    Your Eminence, could you better explain this appointment and especially the role that the two Exarchs will have in Ukraine?

    The recent appointment of two exarchs in Ukraine on the part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate stresses the determination of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to successfully resolve the divisions among the Ukrainian Orthodox while highlighting a historical progress.  Seeking the meaning of history is a never-ending responsibility as it is the responsibility to constantly safeguard the unity of the ecclesial body.  The two Exarchs are thus called to pave the way leading to autocephaly.  It should be pointed out that in this case the process is as important as the goal.  In fact, through this process the various branches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church can be drawn closer together.  Their main mission thus is to facilitate contacts, to build bridges, to promote dialogue and finally, to contribute to the construction of a local independent Church.

    From this it appears that the Ecumenical Patriarchate hopes that the two exarchs will dialogue with the UOC-MP, UOC-KP, and the UAOC with the intent of bringing the three churches closer together to form a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which in turn would be granted autocephaly.  This strategy is consistent with the words of the Ecumenical Patriarch on August 11:  “We desire with all our heart the restoration of unity for the divided ecclesiastical body in Ukraine.”   https://www.patriarchate.org/-/message-by-his-all-holiness-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-on-the-occasion-of-the-100th-anniversary-of-the-ukrainian-orthodox-church-in-canada-saska    

    However, it is not at all clear that the UOC-MP would be interested in participating in a dialogue especially with respect to “exarchs” who will presumably be entering its canonical territory in the future without its consent.  Furthermore, as Metropolitan Hilarion has correctly stated, the UOC-MP has never requested autocephaly.  Still, what are the points that the exarchs may attempt to make to the UOC-MP? 

    First and foremost, there may be an appeal to the UOC-MP to join the other two churches in forming a single autocephalous Local Orthodox Church as this will end the existence of three separate churches which everyone agrees is a scandal and undesirable.  The UOC-KP and the UAOC are adamant that they will never come under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Would the UOC-MP be willing to leave the Moscow Patriarchate as the price that it would need to pay in order to unite all three churches?

    Second, the exarchs would probably argue that autocephaly will give the resulting Ukrainian Orthodox Church the maximum freedom possible to any church in Orthodoxy.  They would probably also state that the statement signed by most of the bishops of the UOC-MP on June 25 did not reject completely the idea of autocephaly.    Rather, the bishops found that the present status of the UOC-MP provides more freedom than being “transformed into a structure of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.”  http://news.church.ua/2018/06/26/zayavlenie-arxiereev-ukrainskoj-pravoslavnoj-cerkvi-prinyavshix-uchastie-v-arxierejskoj-soveshhanii-25-iyunya-v-kievo-pecherskoj-lavre/?lang=ru  Third, because the UOC-MP is by far the largest of the three churches, it may have a controlling influence in the selecting the primate of the new autocephalous church.

    Will the UOC-MP be open to a dialogue with the two exarchs or other representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect to such issues?  I suspect that we will know fairly soon. 

    On Sunday, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (part of the Moscow Patriarchate) has issued a statement joining in the condemnation of the appointment of the exarchs.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/10/news163555/ 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 7 September 2018: Exarchs in Kyiv and reaction

    Today the Ecumenical Patriarchate posted on its Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ecumenicalpatriarchate/?tn-str=k*F ) the following important announcement:

    Within the framework of the preparations for the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has appointed as its Exarchs in Kiev His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon from the United States, and His Grace Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton from Canada, both of whom are serving the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in their respective countries under the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 7th of September, 2018

    From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy and Sacred Synod

    What will these exarchs do in Kyiv?  One possibility is that they will seek to arrange an All-Ukrainian Council consisting of the three Orthodox Churches in Ukraine – UOC-MP, UOC-KP, and UOAC.  The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA (Ecumenical Patriarchate) Metropolitan Anthony (Scharba) told Voice of America last month:  “Most likely, an All-Ukrainian Council will be gathered from representatives of all churches in Ukraine.  And at this Council there will be elected a patriarch.  This is one of the options for development. Then Constantinople will have to recognize this leader of the church and the tomos will be given to him.”  https://ukrainian.voanews.com/a/4535112.html 

    Later today, the DECR of the UOC-MP issued a strong statement condemning this action by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  http://news.church.ua/2018/09/07/zayava-vzcz-upc-u-zvyazku-z-priznachennyam-konstantinopolskim-patriarxatom-ekzarxiv-v-kijiv/   The statement provides:

    With the blessing of His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Onufry, the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is authorized to declare that the appointment of the exarchs is a gross violation of the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This decision of the Constantinople Patriarchate contradicts the 2nd rule of the Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople):  "Without being invited, let bishops not go beyond their borders . "

    The appointment of exarchs in Kyiv took place without the knowledge of His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Onufry, as the only canonical bishop of Kyiv.  Responsibility for the possible negative consequences of this act will lie on the Constantinople Patriarchate.

    Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Church, Society and Media Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, has issued a statement on social media this evening.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14450  He stated:

    The appointment by the Patriarch of Constantinople of his episcopal representatives in Ukraine, without agreement with the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine, is nothing but an unprecedentedly gross incursion into the Moscow Patriarchate's canonical territory.  These actions cannot be left unanswered.

    The Greek website Romfea.gr has now posted a photocopy of the complete text of the August 13 letter from Serbian Patriarch Irinej to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  http://www.romfea.gr/images/article-images/2018/9/epistoli_serbias_bartholomaios.pdf 

    Romfea.gr has also reported that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his opening address to the Synaxis stated that any solution to the status of the FYROM Orthodox Church would not include the use of the word “Macedonia” or any of its forms in the name of the Church.  http://www.romfea.gr/diafora/23666-xoris-to-onoma-makedonia-i-paragogo-tou-tha-einai-i-ekklisia-ton-skopion

    On September 2 and 3, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation, was in Kazan for the tenth anniversary of the Catholic church there.  While he was there, he gave an interview to Tatar-inform.  https://sntat.ru/religiya/arkhiepiskop-chelestino-milore-v-tatarstane-puteshestvuya-po-rossii-po/  It included the following statement by the Archbishop:  “After the meeting in Havana, there were many telephone conversations between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill.   And above all, we are working to ensure that the Catholic people and the Orthodox people acquire an increasingly mutual understanding and mutual cooperation.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 5 September 2018: The Synaxis ends & other news

    The synaxis of the ruling metropolitans and archbishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which commenced on September 1 (the day after the Bartholomew – Kirill meeting), ended yesterday, September 3.  The press office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a press release on the first day stating that over 100 hierarchs were participating and provided relatively short quotations from the opening address of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2018/09/blog-post_24.html?m=1 (in Greek).  The official group photo has been posted at https://www.facebook.com/ecumenicalpatriarchate/photos/a.10150700490834158/10156662989219158/?type=3&theater  Today, there was also a press release relating to the conclusion of the synaxis including an excerpt from the closing address of the Ecumenical Patriarch.   http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2018/09/blog-post_26.html?m=1 (in Greek)   A video of the closing ceremony can be watched at https://www.facebook.com/ecumenicalpatriarchate/videos/320172172052151/ .

    However, I believe that far more Internet attention is being focused on the website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (Ecumenical Patriarchate).  https://www.uocofusa.org/news_180901_1.html   It includes extensive quotations in English from the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s address at the opening of the synaxis.   In my opinion it is a extremely important statement relating to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s retention of jurisdiction over Ukraine as well as its right to consider appeals from hierarchs of other jurisdictions (as you recall Filaret has appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarch the sanctions imposed on him by the Moscow Patriarchate). 

    An English translation of Metropolitan Hilarion’s interview last weekend on the Russia-24 TV channel has just been posted by the DECR.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/09/01/news163263/  Much of this important interview relates to Ukraine.  It includes the following statement by the Metropolitan:

    Because if, God forbid, a development of this kind happens – of which some in Constantinople are dreaming – that is, if a Tomos of Autocephaly is granted it means that a majority of the church people will not accept such an autocephaly; it will be accepted only by a handful of schismatics while the schism will thus be legitimized.  It will be a heavy blow to Orthodoxy in Ukraine; actually, another schism will be created.  And most importantly, it will divide the whole body of world Orthodoxy.  And we are stating it quite clearly.

    He also states later:

    But an absolute majority of the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine is the flock of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church – the Church which did not ask for autocephaly and which will not accept any Tomos from the Patriarchate of Constantinople issued and written against their will.

    The deputy head of the DECR for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has stated that any grant of autocephaly must be ratified by all of the Local Orthodox Churches and that is “stupid” to grant autocephaly when one knows beforehand that other Churches may not ratify it.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14443  From all of this, it appears that statements from the two sides relating to Ukraine have not appreciably soften since the August 31 meeting between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kirill.

    It has been reported by Romfea.gr that the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided that a priest may remarry in the event his wife dies or abandons him.  It states that an official letter will be sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch with details in a few days.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/23626-apofasi-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxeiou-gia-deutero-gamo-iereon   In response to this report, two priests of the Moscow Patriarchate have already stated that such remarriages would be uncanonical.  https://ria.ru/religion/20180904/1527826946.html 

    Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of death of Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) of Leningrad, who died during a meeting with Pope John Paul I.  This evening, Patriarch Kirill attended a special memorial at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy marking this event.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5262471.html ;  http://mitropolia.spb.ru/news/mitropolit/?id=146057https://spbda.ru/news/chelovek-cerkvi-v-akademii-proshel-vecher-pamyati-mitropolita-nikodima-rotova/    The DECR has also posted on its home page a long tribute to Metropolitan Nikodim.  https://mospat.ru/ru/nr2018/ 

    The Holy Synod of the Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church began its meeting in Lviv on September 2.  https://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/catholics/ugcc/72483/   At the beginning of the Synod, Archbishop Filaret (Kucherov), Archbishop of Lviv and Halych of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) extended greeting to the bishops.  Included in his remarks was the following: “There may not be fruitful relations between our Churches, but I know that in some dioceses the bishops of our Church communicate well with the hierarchs and clerics of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.  Proceeding from this, there are good intentions and work to prove the mission of the Church.  Good human relationships between bishops and priests can serve as an example of inter-confessional understanding in the regions.”

    The Archbishop of Qatar (Jerusalem Patriarchate) has stated that Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem will come to Qatar in February 2019 for the opening of the new church building there.  https://ria.ru/religion/20180903/1527737411.html  It shows that Jerusalem is not retreating from its jurisdictional claims over Qatar in spite of the continuing extremely strong protests of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

    The following is the program for the ecumenical conference Discernment and the Christian Life, which begins at the Bose Monastery in Italy tomorrow.    https://www.monasterodibose.it/images/stories/ospitalita/convegni-spiritualita-ortodossa/2018/2018_CEISO_GRE.pdf 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 31 August 2018: What happened at the Phanar today

    The meeting between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kirill occurred at the Phanar this morning.  It is a meeting that has been awaited with some anxiety and great interest because of its potential effect on the Orthodox world and on Ukraine.  From the public portions of the meeting, it appears that the two primates made every effort to treat each other with kindness and mutual respect.  This was good to see.

    The Ecumenical Patriarchate has now posted its official English-language communique concerning the meeting.  https://www.patriarchate.org/-/his-beatitude-patriarch-kirill-of-moscow-at-the-phanar  The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has also posted an English-language summary of the meeting.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/08/31/news163239/  The latter link includes a translation of the public remarks made by the two primates before the beginning of the private meeting which lasted for two and one-half hours.  Both Metropolitan Hilarion and Metropolitan Emmanuel were present at the private meeting.  A 15-minute video (not good quality) of the initial public portion of the meeting can be viewed on the Facebook site of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  https://www.facebook.com/ecumenicalpatriarchate/videos/227648404574493/  A very short video has been posted by Ruptly.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWlbXJHPQPc 

    The Moscow Patriarchate has portrayed the meeting in a positive light.  At his departure at the Istanbul airport, Patriarch Kirill referred to the meeting as “‘a talk between two brothers” and “was a very correct talk – a talk between the Primates of two Churches who are aware of their responsibility for the state of Universal Orthodoxy and for the state of human souls in the places and countries under our responsibility.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/08/31/news163232/  Upon the return to Moscow today, Metropolitan Hilarion spoke to journalists and answered questions about the meeting.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/08/31/news163244/  Metropolitan Hilarion stated that the conversation “was very frank, very cordial; it really was a conversation from heart to heart.”  When asked by a journalist as to whether Ukraine was discussed, Metropolitan Hilarion stated that he did not have “the right to disclose now the content of the conversation between the two Patriarchs.”    Metropolitan Hilarion also stated:  “The conversation that has taken place may lead to some decisions of the Synods of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church, but these decisions are too early to speak about.  Most importantly, a very fruitful exchange of views took place, and, again, from the beginning to the end the conversation was very sincere and fraternal in nature.  We left Constantinople with very bright feelings and a very good mood.”

    The Greek website Orthodoxia.info states that Metropolitan Emmanuel told a reporter from the website that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had informed Patriarch Kirill that the decision to grant autocephaly to Ukraine has been made.  In this regard, Metropolitan Emmanuel also stated, “We do not want to create yet another schism but to unite the Church.”  http://orthodoxia.info/news/%CE%BF-%CE%BA%CF%8D%CE%B2%CE%BF%CF%82-%CE%B5%CF%81%CF%81%CE%B9%CF%86%CE%B8%CE%B7-%CE%B7-%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%BA%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CE%B1%CF%80%CE%BF%CE%BA%CF%84%CE%AC-%CE%B1%CF%85%CF%84%CE%BF/  When Metropolitan Hilarion was asked in Moscow about this statement by Metropolitan Emmanuel, Metropolitan Hilarion noted the part of the statement that the Patriarchate of Constantinople will not try to heal the existing split by creating another split.  The Greek website Romfea.gr likewise reported that Patriarch Kirill was informed that the decision to grant autocephaly has been made and that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is moving forward.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/23595-bartholomaios-se-kurillo-eilimmeni-apofasi-i-autokefalia-stin-oukrania 

    AP has now reported on the comments by Metropolitan Emmanuel.  https://www.wftv.com/news/national-news/ap-top-news/cleric-no-going-back-on-ukraine-split-from-russia-church/824441528  The following are some quotes contained in the AP article:

    "Today, the Ecumenical Patriarch repeated in person, in this meeting of the two primates, that the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is reached and we are not going backwards," Emmanuel said.  "So we are following this decision, we are implementing the decision."

    He added: "We have not reached the end of the procedure.  The Tomos, which is the decision that is issued, is at the last stage of this implementation.  But we have still some work to do and this is what the Ecumenical Patriarchate is coordinating."

    Another source quotes Metropolitan Emmanuel as saying the decision was made in April.  https://www.religion.in.ua/news/vazhlivo/40887-konstantinopolskij-patriarx-povidomiv-glavi-rpc-pro-vprovadzhennya-avtokefaliyi-v-ukrayini.html 

    Yesterday, the Greek website Romfea.gr posted, as an “exclusive,” quotations from a private letter written by Patriarch Irinej of Serbia to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/23581-apokleistiko-epistoli-bomba-tou-patriarxi-serbias-ston-oikoumeniko-patriarxi  An English translation of the article has been posted at https://orthodoxie.com/en/patriarch-irinej-of-serbia-addressed-a-letter-of-protest-to-patriarch-bartholomew-of-constantinople-about-the-ukrainian-autocephaly-and-other-similar-schismatic-entities/ .  The Serbian Patriarchate very much sides with Moscow on the Ukrainian question.  This is not surprising as the Serbian Patriarchate is facing similar concerns about the possible grant of autocephaly to the schismatic FYROM Orthodox Church, which has been under the Serbian Patriarchate.

    A year ago it was announced that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew would come to Bucharest in the fall of 2018 to consecrate the new magnificent National Cathedral in Bucharest.  In my earlier reports I speculated that this consecration could be the occasion for a gathering of most or all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.   However, this will not be the case.  The news agency of the Romanian Patriarchate has stated:  “As earlier announced, the consecration ceremony of the National Cathedral, built as a homage to all Romanian heroes from all times, will be presided over by His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The ceremony will take place on November 25.  His Holiness will be the only Orthodox Primate to attend the National Cathedral’s consecration ceremony besides His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel.”  http://basilica.ro/en/patriarch-of-jerusalem-to-lead-celebrations-on-national-cathedrals-first-patronal-feast/   It has also been announced that Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem will arrive in Bucharest on November 29.  He will preside at the Divine Liturgy at the National Cathedral on the feast of the apostle St. Andrew the First Called, the patron saint of the Cathedral and protector of Romania.  Last October, when Patriarch Kirill was in Bucharest, he was invited by Patriarch Daniel to return to consecrate the iconography of the National Cathedral.  http://basilica.ro/en/four-primates-of-autocephalous-orthodox-churches-concelebrate-the-divine-liturgy-on-the-feast-of-st-demetrius-the-new/  I do not know the present status of this invitation to Patriarch Kirill.

    The AP news agency has posted an article claiming that “Russian hackers indicted by the U.S. special prosecutor last month have spent years trying to steal the private correspondence of some of the world’s most senior Orthodox Christian figures.”  https://www.apnews.com/26815e0d06d348f4b85350e96b78f6a8/Nothing-sacred:-Russian-spies-tried-hacking-Orthodox-clergy  The Russian Interfax news agency has referred to the story and stated that the Russian Orthodox Church has declined to comment on the story.  http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=70535 

    The fourth annual Summer Institute, in which students from the pontifical universities in Rome and other Catholic representatives come to Russia to broaden their knowledge of Orthodoxy, the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian culture, is being held August 24 to September 2.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/08/27/news163050/  One of the major financial supporters of this excellent exchange is the Urbi et Orbi Foundation, headed by the editor-in-chief of the magazine Inside the Vatican, Dr. Robert B. Moynihan.  https://www.pro-oriente.at/?site=ne20180827133455 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 17 August 2018: "We desire with all our heart the restoration of unity for the divided ecclesiastical body in Ukraine."

    While I was away in Norway for two weeks and not able to prepare my report, there was the big news that Patriarch Kirill will be traveling to the Phanar to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on August 31.  https://www.patriarchate.org/-/anakoinothen-05-08-201-2 ; https://mospat.ru/en/2018/08/06/news162782/  It is significant that this meeting will occur on the day before the “Synaxis of all Hierarchy of the Venerable Throne,” which will bring together in Istanbul on September 1-3 all of the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate  who hold an episcopal office.  https://www.patriarchate.org/-/anakoinothen-05-08-2018-    The last such synaxis occurred exactly three years earlier, August 29 – September 2, 2015.  http://ocl.org/synaxis-of-hierarchs-of-the-ecumenical-throne-august-29-2015/  As was true of the meeting three years ago, the purpose of this year’s meeting “is to inform the Metropolitans and Archbishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of current ecclesial affairs and provide them with an opportunity to exchange ideas….”  This year’s meeting therefore appears not to be a special meeting called to address the issues involving Ukraine, although it is very logical to assume that Ukraine will be one of the subjects discussed.

    On the other hand, it seems clear that the subject of Ukraine will be the most important item on the agenda of the meeting between Kirill and Bartholomew.  The Moscow Patriarchate is probably somewhat relieved that the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus passed without the issuance of a tomos of autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  On the other hand, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred in his letter to the Ukrainian president to “the ultimate goal of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian church.”  I believe that it is highly unrealistic to expect that the August 31 meeting will cause the Ecumenical Patriarch to abandon this “ultimate goal” or for the Moscow Patriarch to agree to autocephaly with respect to Ukraine.  Rather, I expect that Patriarch Kirill will use the August 31 meeting to attempt to find a solution for healing the division between the three Orthodox churches in Ukraine.  Interestingly, the Ecumenical Patriarch has very recently made a statement that indicates that he also agrees with the importance of this focus. https://www.patriarchate.org/-/message-by-his-all-holiness-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-on-the-occasion-of-the-100th-anniversary-of-the-ukrainian-orthodox-church-in-canada-saska    In his letter on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada, posted on August 11, the Ecumenical Patriarch made the following statement:

    Today, we are particularly involved and preoccupied by settling the current Ukrainian ecclesiastical problem.  We desire with all our heart the restoration of unity for the divided ecclesiastical body in Ukraine.  As in the past, the Church of Constantinople—while exercising its canonical rights and pastoral care—worked to successfully resolve difficult and complicated ecclesiastical problems, always guided by what is beneficial for the people of God and the preservation of the unity of the Orthodox Church as a whole.

    There are certain steps that the Ecumenical Patriarchate could take to encourage serious negotiations between the three churches.  At the present time, the UOC-KP hopes that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will grant it autocephaly at some time in the near future.  If the Ecumenical Patriarch states that any autocephaly would only be granted to a united Ukrainian church, this hope would be dispelled, and the UOC-KP might realize that the only possible road to autocephaly involves serious negotiations with the UOC-MP.  It is also possible to conceive of a more comprehensive plan.  The following is just one idea:

    Negotiations between the three churches could occur under the supervision of a pan-Orthodox commission consisting of hierarchs who are from various Local Orthodox Churches and who are known for their objectivity and fairness.  After the formation of a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the commission could then supervise a convening of a Local Council of the united church to determine whether the united church wished to fall under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate or be autocephalous.  The plan could even involve a commitment by both Moscow and Constantinople to support the decision of the Local Council.  For example, if the Local Council decided that the united church should be under the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ecumenical Patriarchate would abandon its “ultimate goal” of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.  Obviously, the three Ukrainian churches would need to agree before the convening of the Local Council to abide by the decision of the Local Council.

    Many difficult decisions would need to be made in negotiating the unification of the three churches and in determining who would participate in the Local Council.  One possibility might be to give the pan-Orthodox commission authority to make recommendations or even decisions in the event of a deadlock in the negotiations.

    I know that this simple description does not address many other issues (such as the selection of a primate) that would need to be resolved.  I also know that there must be better plans than this.  My point is simply that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there is hope that the meeting of August 31 could be the beginning of a resolution of the tragic divisions among the Orthodox churches in Ukraine.  

    There is also some other interesting news.  Not only Catholics but also Orthodox supported the defeat of the pro-abortion bill in the Senate of Argentina.  http://orthochristian.com/115121.html  The UGCC celebrated the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus in Kyiv on August 14. https://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/catholics/ugcc/72225/   An interesting article concerning the healing of a schism within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church can be read at https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/august/ethiopia-orthodox-tewahedo-church-schism-ends-abiy-ahmed.html .

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 July 2018: Celebrations in Kyiv and Moscow

    Friday (July 27) was the day for the UOC-MP to fill the streets of Kyiv for the 1030th anniversary celebrations.  A prayer service was conducted at St. Vladimir’s Hill and was followed by a “procession of the cross” from the Hill to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra.    http://news.church.ua/2018/07/27/250-tisyach-viruyuchix-upc-vzyali-uchast-u-xresnomu-xodi-z-nagodi-1030-littya-xreshhennya-rusi/   The UOC-MP did everything that it could to maximize the attendance in the procession including bringing thousands from dioceses throughout Ukraine.   It appears that the UOC-MP was very successful.  You can see the amazing crowds in the aerial views shown in the following 8-minute video.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ufoCGgbVRM  It is well worth watching.  The UOC-MP estimated that 250,000 participated.   A official of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs estimated the number participants as 20,000, but there seems to be far more people than 20,000 in the video. 

    https://www.religion.in.ua/news/ukrainian_news/40535-policiya-naraxuvala-20-tisyach-uchasnikiv-xresnogo-xodu-v-upc-mp-do-250-tisyach.html  After the procession, a news briefing was given by Metropolitan Anthony of Borysil including short addresses by hierarchs from the Local Churches of Alexandria, Cyprus, and Georgia.   http://news.church.ua/2018/07/27/predstavniki-pomisnix-cerkov-rozpovili-pro-svoji-vrazhennya-vid-uchasti-u-velikomu-xresnomu-xodi-upc/  The delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, consisting of Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, and Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton did not participate in the celebrations of the UOC-MP, but rather met with the President of Ukraine on this day.  As I reported yesterday, Metropolitan Emmanuel presented a letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the meeting.  As far as I can determine, the complete text of the letter has not yet been released.

    Today, the feast day of St. Vladimir, the UOC-MP held a Liturgy in the square in front of the Dormition Cathedral of the Pechersky Lavra.   http://news.church.ua/2018/07/28/ukrajinska-pravoslavna-cerkva-urochisto-vidznachila-1030-richchya-xreshhennya-rusi/  The bishops of the UOC-MP also issued a letter to the Ukrainian faithful.  The text of the letter can be read at http://news.church.ua/2018/07/28/zvernennya-jepiskopatu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-do-kliru-chernectva-ta-miryan-z-nagodi-1030-littya-xreshhennya-kijivskoji-rusi/.  The letter includes language from the June 25 statement signed by many UOC-MP bishops that the present canonical status of the UOC-MP is sufficient to perform its mission among the faithful and that attempts to change this status will restrict its broad rights of autonomy.

    Today (July 28) was the time for the UOC-KP to fill the streets with its procession.  You can see a video of this procession at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2216&v=nLt0mmMwPiA .  Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his wife participated in this procession.  There was also a service at St. Vladimir’s Hill in which a number of different Christian denominations participated.  Metropolitan Emmanuel spoke at this service.  I have pasted below a very interest and surprising photo from https://focus.ua/society/402797/  showing Metropolitans Onufry and Anthony of the UOC-MP speaking with the head of the UOC-KP Filaret with Metropolitan Emmanuel also participating in the conversation. 

    Metropolitan Emmanuel’s speech is reported at http://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/ukrayinska-cerkva-ta-yiyi-providniki-mayut-pravo-na-svoye-mi-48882.  He stated that the “Mother Church” has already begun “the procedure for achieving the ultimate goal - to provide autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church."   He added:  “We are sure that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is on your side. You will not be orphaned because the Mother Church will find a way to become involved in your progress, your success, your growth in the faith of Christ.”

    For the celebration by the Moscow Patriarchate in Moscow, ten Local Orthodox Churches sent representatives.  Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria personally attended.  (The only Churches that did not send representatives to Moscow were the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Romanian Patriarchate, and the Church of Greece.)  On Friday, Patriarch Kirill held a meeting with many of the delegations.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/07/27/news162491/    You can watch Patriarch Kirill’s address to these delegations at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWns5pa01ts.  His remarks included the following statements:

    "The Russian Orthodox Church, guided by the unshakeable holy canons and irrefutable documentary evidence, will never renounce its Dnieper baptismal font, the tradition going back to St. Vladimir the Great Prince and Equal-to-the-Apostles.  Attempts to artificially tear apart the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate could lead to a catastrophe of pan-Orthodox scale."  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14397

    Today Patriarch Theodoros and Patriarch Kirill presided at the Divine Liturgy, held for the first time in the Cathedral Square at the Kremlin.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5244432.html  There was then a procession to the St. Vladimir monument in Moscow.  President Putin joined in the procession and walked between the two Patriarchs to the monument.  http://tass.ru/obschestvo/5411138 

    On a completely different topic, the Greek website Romfea.gr reported on July 19 that Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria prays to God to assist in granting autocephaly to the schismatic FYROM church and that he believes that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will help resolve the issue of autocephaly.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/22898-patriarxis-boulgarias-proseuxomai-na-labei-autokefalia-i-makedoniki-ekklisia 

    Lastly, I will not be able to report any news during the next two weeks as I will be away from home.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 28 July 2018: Meeting of Metropolitan Emmanuel with Ukrainian President

    This is a very short report with a fuller report to come tomorrow.  Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko this afternoon.  The Metropolitan presented to the President a letter from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  Here are some of the remarks of the Metropolitan from the President’s website, http://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/rishennya-pro-nadannya-tomosu-pro-avtokefaliyu-ukrayinskoyi-48866 :

    Representative of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Metropolitan of France Emmanuel emphasized that the address of His All Holiness, conveyed today to the Ukrainian President, demonstrated the continued support of Kyiv on behalf of the Mother Church of Constantinople. “It shows that we are proud to be here now at the celebration of this anniversary. It takes place at a very important moment,” he said, adding that after the visit of the Ukrainian President to the Ecumenical Patriarchate on April 9 and the decision of the Holy Synod of April 20, the way to a new era had been paved.

    “This is a historic moment for Ukraine, because it opened the procedure for granting the autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. Kyiv has always been under the protection of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We have all the historical documents that prove it. The Mother Church has never stopped taking care, as stated in the address of His All Holiness, and the care of the Mother Church is noticeable," Metropolitan of France Emmanuel noted.

    The Representative of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch assured that the delegations of the Ecumenical Patriarchate had been officially informing other autocephalous orthodox churches of the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and urged them to come together in that procedure. “This is the first part of the implementation, which has already been started, and we openly receive anyone who visits His All Holiness to discuss the next step,” he added.  "We are very grateful for your efforts in uniting the churches of Ukraine, because we need Ukraine to have united churches and all our efforts are directed towards this. Be sure of that, Mr. President. We also pray for your mission, God and the Mother of God protect you and your Government and give blessings to the Ukrainian people," Metropolitan of France Emmanuel noted.

    The President’s website,  http://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/vselenskij-patriarh-varfolomij-kinceva-cil-daruvati-ukrayins-48862, stated the following concerning the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter:

    Representative of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Metropolitan of France Emmanuel emphasized that the delegation of the Patriarchate is here in Ukraine on behalf of His All Holiness. “It is with great pleasure that I convey to you the address of His All Holiness,” he said.

    Bishop Ilarion of Edmonton and the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada read the address of Patriarch Bartholomew who noted the importance of the baptism St. Vladimir from the First Holy See Church of Constantinople in the metropolis of Chersonesos. “The newly baptized nation came under the spiritual guidance, unrestrained care and church cover of the Church of Constantinople through the creation of the metropolis of Kyiv and All Rus’, which became the sixtieth metropolis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” the address reads.

    In the address of the Ecumenical Patriarch it was emphasized: "Recognizing the high responsibility of the First Holy See Church of Constantinople, which never ceased and did not reconcile to illegal and non-canonical situations that shocked the natural functioning of the Orthodox Church, during these crucial times, it took the initiative to restore the unity of the Orthodox believers of Ukraine with the ultimate goal of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian church.”

    From the above, it seems fairly clear that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has taken no steps with respect to Ukraine aside from its April 20 decision to discuss the matter with the other Local Orthodox Churches.  Very significantly, the Metropolitan states that “we openly receive anyone who visits His All Holiness to discuss the next step.”  If a decision has not been made as to what the next step should be, it seems extremely unlikely that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will grant autocephaly to Ukraine in the near future.  On the other hand, it appears clear that the “ultimate goal” of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is to grant autocephaly.  Also it appears clear that the Ecumenical Patriarchate believes that it has retained jurisdiction over Ukraine.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 July 2018: Yekaterinburg, Ukraine & more

    Last night (July 16-17) marked the 100th anniversary of the slayings of Tsar Nicholas II, members of his family, and certain members of his household.  This tragic event was commemorated in a very impressive way.  Very late on Monday in Yekaterinburg, a night Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Patriarch Kirill and others at the entrance of the “Church on the Blood in honor of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land,” built (consecrated in 2003) on the site of the Ipatiev House, where the slayings occurred.  http://tass.com/society/1013579;   https://www.orthodoxmagazine.com/2018/07/17/in-the-one-hundredth-anniversary-of-the-execution-of-the-royal-family-the-primate-of-russian-church-celebrates-divine-liturgy-in-front-of-the-church-on-the-blood/  Near midnight, the Liturgy ended, and a “procession of the cross” began in which approximately 100,000 faithful walked 21 kilometers to Ganina Yama, the location of the mine where the assassins took the bodies that fateful night to destroy the remains.  The following is a four-hour video by the Russian Orthodox television network Soyuz showing the Liturgy, procession, and moleben at Ganina Yama.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeXJZq1j3sE  In the video, the Liturgy ends and the procession begins at 2:35:00.  Beginning at 3:54:00, you can obtain a good view of the procession, including Patriarch Kirill, as it crosses a bridge.  At 4:08:00 you can see the moleben.  In an one-hour video, one can get a good sense of walking along in the procession and talking to some of the participants.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4gnY4GKrN0  In my opinion, the number of participants walking 21 kilometers in the middle of the night was another impressive manifestation of the faith of Russian believers.  Seventy-one-year-old Patriarch Kirill not only presided at the long Liturgy but he then walked the entire 21 kilometers!

    Yesterday, the spokesperson for the Moscow Patriarchate referred to a new DNA examination confirming that the remains in the mine are those of the Tsar, his family, and entourage.   http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14375   The Moscow Patriarchate has not yet taken an official position on the authenticity of the remains, and these results will be referred to the Church for further consideration.

    Today the European Court for Human Rights ruled in favor of the three members of “Pussy Riot” and assessed damages and costs against Russia in an amount approximating 48,000 euros.  You can read the entire decision (which is not long) in English at  https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng-press#{%22itemid%22:[%22003-6147945-7951852%22]}  .  The following is some of the key language of the decision:

    The Court accepted that a reaction to the applicants’ performance on account of their breaching the rules of conduct in a place of religious worship might have been warranted.

    However, the domestic courts had failed to justify why it had been necessary to convict and sentence the applicants to terms of imprisonment.  In particular, the courts had not at all examined the lyrics of the song “Punk Prayer – Virgin Mary, Drive Putin Away”, basing the applicants’ conviction primarily on their conduct, namely the clothes and balaclavas they had worn, the way they had moved their bodies and their strong language, without analysing in any way the context of their performance.  Nor had the courts examined whether the applicants’ conduct could be interpreted as a call for violence or as a justification of violence, hatred or intolerance, which would have been the only acceptable reason, according to international standards, for restricting the applicants’ right to freedom of expression in the form of a criminal sanction.

    Presumably, the Russian courts did not consider the words of the song so as to avoid any suggestion that the sentence against the Pussy Riot members was a violation of free speech.  Ironically, the ECHR uses now this failure as a factor in finding a violation of human rights by Russia.  Russia intends to appeal the decision.

    On July 10, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate met at its new Synodal Hall, located at the Holy Trinity Monastery at Halki.   https://orthodoxie.com/en/archimandrite-maximos-pothos-elected-metropolitan-of-switzerland-ecumenical-patriarchate/;   http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2018/07/blog-post_88.html?m=1  According to the itinerary of Archbishop Demetrios of America (https://www.goarch.org/archbishop/itinerary), the meeting was scheduled to continue until July 13.  On the first day,  Metropolitan Jeremiah of Switzerland became the new Metropolitan of Ancyra, and Archimandrite Maximos Pothos was elected Metropolitan of Switzerland.  However, aside from the elections of three metropolitans, there has been no news as to other subjects discussed or decided at what seems to have been a four-day session of the Holy Synod.  In view of the fact that the visits of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s delegation to the other Local Orthodox Churches concerning Ukraine have apparently been completed, it seems very likely that the Holy Synod at its July session discussed Ukraine.  We must now wait and see whether any decisions concerning Ukraine were in fact made. 

    July 28 will be the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.  For the 1025th anniversary, the Ecumenical Patriarch sent a letter to the Ukrainian people.  http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=1709&tla=en  It is logical to expect that the Ecumenical Patriarch will send a letter for this anniversary as well.  This year’s letter may give some clue as to what, if anything, was decided at the meeting last week at Halki.  During the June 23 visit of the UOC-MP’s delegation to the Phanar, the UOC-MP extended an invitation for a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to attend the celebrations in Kyiv.  In Moscow, the celebration will include the first open-air liturgy ever held on the grounds of the Kremlin.  http://orthochristian.com/114420.html 

    Last Saturday, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its summer session, for the first time in Yekaterinburg.  Perhaps because of the silence from Constantinople, there were no warnings from the Moscow Synod to Constantinople concerning the possible granting of autocephaly to Ukraine.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/07/14/news161972/  The Holy Synod approved Patriarch Kirill’s letter to the faithful for the 1030th anniversary.  The full text of the letter can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/2018/07/14/news161975/ (English).  One interesting decision made at the summer session was to promote the highly-regarded rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, Archbishop Amvrosij, to be the rector of the Moscow Theological Schools.  The new rector of the St. Petersburg Academy will be 33-year-old Bishop Serafim, the head of the Synodal Department of Youth Affairs.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4017069.html

    On Sunday, the annual UGCC pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Zarvanytsia occurred.  Those in attendance included Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.  https://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/catholics/ugcc/71829/  Perhaps in response to assertions made by Metropolitan Hilarion, UGCC Major Archbishop Sviatoslav remarked with respect to possible autocephaly for Ukrainian Orthodox:  “As Greek-Catholics, we consider this issue to be an internal affair of the Orthodox Church….For the UGCC, nothing will change with the granting of autocephaly.  But we will seek all possible ways -- according to the ecumenical spirit of our Church -- to achieve unity between all Christians, among all the members of the Kyivan Church baptized in the times of St. Volodymyr.”

    The following is an interesting article relating to the construction of the new National Cathedral in Bucharest, including a video with drone views of this huge cathedral.   http://basilica.ro/au-inceput-lucrarile-de-fixare-a-mozaicului-la-catapeteasma-catedralei-nationale/  The dedication of the Cathedral is scheduled for the end of November and should be a major gathering of Orthodox leaders.  The Ecumenical Patriarch has already accepted the invitation to come.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 10 July 2018: Moscow & Bari

    On July 3, the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, consisting of Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and Metropolitan Bartholomew of Smyrna, met with Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit and others in Sofia.  http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=267147  Today (Monday) was an even more important meeting.  The same delegation met in Moscow with Russian Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/07/09/news161846/  Although not specifically mentioned on the websites of the Bulgarian and Moscow Patriarchates, both of these meeting must have related primarily to the possible grant of autocephaly to Ukraine by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The Moscow Patriarchate’s website simply stated, “The participants in the meeting discussed various issues pertaining to the preservation of the inter-Orthodox unity.”  The clear implication is that if autocephaly is granted to Ukraine, inter-Orthodox unity would not be preserved.   In a TASS interview at Bari, Metropolitan Hilarion was very explicit in this regard.  He said: "If, God forbid, there will be a legitimization of the schism, and with the gift of autocephaly to the schismatic structures, it is difficult even to imagine the consequences for the whole family of Orthodox churches.  This would mean a schism, similar to the schism of 1054.”   http://tass.ru/obschestvo/5355444  After today’s meeting, Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, deputy chairman of the DECR, who was present at the meeting, told journalists:  “The parties held a useful meeting, and the positions of the Russian Orthodox Church, which were expressed at that meeting, were promised by the members of the delegation of the Constantinople Church to be conveyed to the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and the Holy Synod of the Constantinople Church."   https://ria.ru/religion/20180709/1524239530.html  As best as I can determine, the Moscow visit is the last stop on the series of visits made by the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the other Local Orthodox Churches.  Perhaps, one must now wait and see what, if any, action the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate may take with respect to Ukraine.  The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate is scheduled to meet on July 14, and a strong warning from this body is certainly possible.  This drama has even drawn the attention of the secular media.  The Economist has concluded:  “But Patriarch Bartholomew, whose relations with Moscow have fluctuated sharply since he took office in 1991, will think very carefully before making any final adjudication on the religious affairs of today’s Slavs.  The earthly stakes, as well as the heavenly one, are high.”  https://www.economist.com/erasmus/2018/07/06/ukraine-wants-a-national-church-that-is-not-beholden-to-moscow

    The CEMES website has now posted an English translation of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s comments made on July 2 relating to Ukraine.   https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/07/ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-as.html  The Ecumenical Patriarch’s comments included the follow:  “Let us not forget that Constantinople never ceded the territory of Ukraine to anyone by means of some ecclesiastical Act, but only granted to the Patriarch of Moscow the right of ordination or transfer of the Metropolitan of Kiev on the condition that the Metropolitan of Kiev should be elected by a Clergy-Laity Congress and commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch.  Listen to what is mentioned in this regard in the Tome of autocephaly, which was granted by the Mother Church to the Church of Poland: ‘For it is written that the original separation from our Throne of the Metropolis of Kiev and of the two Orthodox Churches of Lithuania and Poland, which depend on it, and their annexation to the Holy Church of Moscow, in no way occurred according to the binding canonical regulations, nor was the agreement respected concerning the full ecclesial independence of the Metropolitan of Kiev, who bears the title of Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne....’”  [The act relating to the transfer to Moscow occurred in 1686, and the tomos of autocephaly for Poland was in 1924.]  In a recent interview, Metropolitan Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) of Bursa (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was quoted as saying:  “The granting of autocephaly to the local Church has for almost 1350 years been subject to the exclusive jurisdiction and competence of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople.”  https://www.pravmir.ru/mitropolit-elpidofor-chem-bolshe-slozhnostey-tem-ostree-neobhodimost-preodolet-ih/  However, the Metropolitan added that in spite of this power, the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not ignore the views of the other Local Orthodox Churches. 

    On Saturday, the day of prayer and reflection organized by Pope Francis with the patriarchs and representatives of the churches of the Middle East was held at Bari near the tomb of St. Nicholas.  The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has posted an English-language description of the event and the attendees.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/07/08/news161818/   The Facebook page of the Syriac Oriental Orthodox Church has some interesting photos of the event with its primate Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II.   https://www.facebook.com/SyriacChurch/   Good coverage with interesting photos was provided by the Egyptian media. http://en.wataninet.com/coptic-affairs-coptic-affairs/coptic-affairs/pope-tawadros-joins-pope-francis-middle-east-patriarchs-in-bari-to-pray-for-middle-east-christians/24728/    A good 3-minute video of the highlights of the day can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjaOZRhaXjI    The scene of the primates and representatives of the churches riding together through the streets of Bari in an open-air bus has been a favorite of the media.  A video of the complete prayer service for the Middle East can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjaOZRhaXjI .  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (Coptic Church) stood next to the Pope Francis in the service.  Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria was also very visible during the events. 

    Moscow Patriarch Kirill was not present at Bari.  According to Cardinal Sandri, “Patriarch Kirill sent a beautiful letter to the Pope saying that he could not come but that he would send His Eminence Hilarion as his representative.”  https://www.acistampa.com/story/il-cardinale-sandri-da-bari-un-gesto-profetico-ed-ecumenico-9077?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_newsletter   Personally, I am puzzled by the fact that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, which has suffered so much in the tragic events in the Middle East, apparently chose not even to send a delegate to Bari.  The only explanation that I can imagine is that Antiochian Patriarchate continues to refuse to participate in any service attended by representatives of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and Archbishop Nektarios of the Jerusalem Patriarchate came to Bari.  As you know, the Antiochian Patriarchate has severed communion with the Jerusalem Patriarchate because of the latter’s assertion of jurisdiction over Qatar.

    On Sunday (July 8), Pope Tawadros celebrated the Coptic divine liturgy in Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls with this famous Catholic Basilica filled with Coptic believers.  http://egittotoday.com/la-gioia-dei-copti-papa-tawadros-benedice-roma/   You can watch the entire 4-hour liturgy at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8LTFu7JTHo   Also on Sunday, Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated the Divine Liturgy over the relics of St. Nicholas in Bari.  Afterwards, the Dominican Community in Bari with the Catholic Archbishop of Bari hosted a luncheon for the Metropolitan.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/07/08/news161831/

    Lastly, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, died on July 5.  https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-07/pope-francis-telegram-cardinal-tauran-death.html  In recent years, he was particularly involved in relations with the Muslim world.  He was also a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 2 July 2018: Bucharest, Ukraine & Serbia

    The members of the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Metropolitans Ioannis, Emmanuel, and Bartholomew) have continued their visits to the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in order to discuss the Ukrainian situation.  Yesterday (Saturday) they met with Romanian Patriarch Daniel and had extensive discussions relating to the church issues in Ukraine.   http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2018/06/blog-post_32.html?m=1  Because the Romanian Patriarchate is the second largest Local Orthodox Church and is not aligned with either Moscow or Constantinople, the reaction of the Romanian Church to possible actions by the Ecumenical Patriarchate is probably very important.  I would assume that one of the factors considered by the Ecumenical Patriarchate before taking any specific action with respect to possible autocephaly for Ukraine would be to attempt to ascertain what, if any, support it would have among the other Local Orthodox Churches if it granted autocephaly.  Yesterday’s meeting occurred very quietly with no publicity on the Romanian Patriarchate’s website.  Also the delegation did not participate in the Liturgy with Patriarch Daniel this morning (Sunday).

    Metropolitan Hilarion continues to be the primary spokesperson for the Moscow Patriarchate in opposing any future action by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly in Ukraine and continues to give numerous interviews and statements on the issue.  His latest interview was by Emilios Polygenis, the founder of the Greek Romfea.gr website, with whom he has a very good long-term relationship.  The interview has now been translated into English. https://mospat.ru/en/2018/06/27/news161508/  The interview was conducted in Athens on the evening of June 25, apparently a few hours after the conclusion of the meeting of the bishops of the UOC-MP held at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.  According to Metropolitan Hilarion, the “one local church” project (“to tear the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church away from the Moscow Patriarchate and to incorporate it into two schismatic structures”) is the work of “three forces: the Ukrainian authorities, the schismatics and the Uniates.”  He argues that the Ukrainian authorities are doing this in the hope of winning the next election in spite of their low ratings.  The schismatics are doing it to justify their existence.  The Uniates are doing it with the hope that the one local church will become Catholic – “ returning to the situation as it was in 1596 when the authorities of the Polish-Lithuanian State forcibly converted Orthodox people to the Unia.”

    With respect to the June 23 meeting at the Phanar, Metropolitan Hilarion chose to focus on an analysis, made by Metropolitan Ioannis, that the transfer of the Kyiv Metropolia [headed by Metropolitan Gideon Chetvertynsky ]to Moscow [1685-86] was temporary and that Kyiv Metropolia remained subordinate to Constantinople.  Metropolitan Hilarion maintains that extensive historical research discloses that this theory has no support in fact.

    Metropolitan Hilarion disclosed in the interview that the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (I assume the same three hierarchs) will be visiting Moscow on July 9.  However, it is conceivable that an even more significant informal discussion may occur between Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitan Hilarion at Bari on July 7.  It has been definitely confirmed that the Ecumenical Patriarch will be attending the event there organized by Pope Francis, and it has been reported that Metropolitan Hilarion will attend also.

    It is very clear, to me at least, that the Moscow Patriarchate must do everything possible to prevent the loss of the UOC-MP from its jurisdiction which would occur if a unified Ukrainian church (consisting of the UOC-MP, UOC-KP, and UAOC) was created and recognized.  This can be seen from some statistics given at the last Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate.  At the Council, Metropolitan Onufry reported that the UOC-MP presently had “12,069 parishes.”   https://mospat.ru/en/2017/11/30/news153525/  At the same Council, Patriarch Kirill reported: “ In the Russian Orthodox Church there are 36,878 churches or other facilities in which the Divine Liturgy is celebrated.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2017/11/29/news153384/  The latter figure includes churches and facilities abroad and obviously includes Ukraine.  If one subtracts the 12,069 parishes in Ukraine from the Patriarchate’s present total of 36,878, the Moscow Patriarchate is left with 24,809 – one-third less.  However, the figure of 36,878 includes not only parishes but other locations where the Liturgy is conducted (such as small chapels that may exist in cemeteries, hospitals, and other locations).  Therefore, the total number of “parishes” in the Russian Orthodox Church is probably significantly less than 36,878 – maybe a figure such as 30,000.  From this, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the loss of 12,000 UOC-MP parishes could result in a loss of 40%  of the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church.  This would be catastrophic to the Moscow Patriarchate.  In addition, one must remember that the origin of the Russian Orthodox Church goes back to Kyiv and St. Vladimir.  The loss of Ukraine would essentially be cutting off the historic roots of the Moscow Patriarchate. 

    On the other hand, it is very unlikely that the schism in Ukraine can be healed (at least at the present time) without the grant of autocephaly.  The last Bishops’ Council established a special committee to engage in dialogue with the UOC-KP.  However, the UOC-KP responded that it would engage in dialogue only if the dialogue was premised on the creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian Church.  As a result no meetings have occurred.  It is unrealistic to believe that the UOC-KP and the UAOC would now agree to any control by Moscow with respect to a new united Ukrainian Church.  At the present time the schismatic churches have the advantage of strong governmental support for their position.  Their position is also strengthen by existing anti-Russian feeling among many Ukrainians caused by the existing and recent hostilities.  In my opinion, the UOC-MP and UAOC are simply not going to change their positions in the near future.

    At the same time, I think that it is extremely unlikely that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will give autocephalous status to a Ukrainian Church consisting only of the UOC-KP and the UAOC.  The rationale used by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in April to consider the possibility of autocephaly was that “the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerns itself with the preservation of Pan-Orthodox unity and the care for the Orthodox Churches throughout the world.”  From this, it would seem that any action taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate must have the goal of healing the existing schism – namely uniting the three Orthodox churches in Ukraine.  Metropolitan Hilarion in his interview with Polygenis (above) maintained that at the June 23 meeting “Patriarch Bartholomew very clearly stated that there will be no legitimation of the schism whatsoever.”  It appears that the solution must involve all three Ukrainian churches.

    From the statement unanimously adopted by all of the 71 Ukrainian bishops present at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra on June 25 (there are a total of 85 Ukrainian hierarchs), one would believe that there is no interest on the part of the UOC-MP in autocephaly.  However, the next day in Athens,  Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) asserted that the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not stand categorically against the idea of autocephaly.”  http://news.church.ua/2018/06/27/golova-predstavnictva-upc-pri-mizhnarodnix-jevropejskix-organizaciyax-vzyav-uchast-u-zasidanni-mizhparlamentskoji-asambleji-pravoslavya-v-afinax/   The prospect of autocephaly could be tempting.  Although the bishops’ statement of June 25 asserts that the UOC-MP presently has “the rights of wide autonomy,” Paragraph 10, Chapter X of the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church, as amended by the last Bishops’ Council, provides: “The decisions of the Local Council and the Bishops' Council [of the Russian Orthodox Church] are mandatory for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5082273.html  The idea of complete independence may have some appeal.  Also, if a united Ukrainian Church were formed, it would be the second largest Local Orthodox Church the world in terms of the number of faithful.  It would become a major player in the Orthodox world – a role that Ukraine does not play now.  In making a decision, the UOC-MP would probably also consider such factors as: (1) whether the granting of autocephaly is consistent with the canons; (2) the reaction of the other Local Orthodox Churches especially Russia and the ramifications of strong opposition; (3) whether the unification would cause a broader split in the Orthodox world (especially between Moscow and Constantinople); and (4) the personal ties and friendships that exist between hierarchs and clergy of the UOC-MP and their counterparts in Russia and other parts of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    It is possible that the Ecumenical Patriarchate could issue a tomos that would assert, with supporting arguments, its power to grant autocephaly to the church in Ukraine and would then express its willingness to make such a grant if the three churches in Ukraine are able to unite and form one church.  The rationale, at least in part, would be that this offer would provide an incentive for the three churches to heal the schism.  This could be an open continuing offer, which even if rejected now, could be accepted years from now.  On the other hand, the Ecumenical Patriarchate could include, especially after discussions with the other Local Orthodox Churches, that autocephaly is not a solution and the best course of action is to continue to isolate the UOC-KP and the UAOC from the Orthodox world with the hope that sometime in the future they will regret their actions and return to the fold.  However, this may take decades or longer – if ever.

    Today (Sunday) at the Phanar, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in a speech stated that “ it is reasonable to desire, as the Mother Church, the restoration of the unity of the divided ecclesiastical body in Ukraine.”  http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2018/07/blog-post_1.html?m=1  The Ecumenical Patriarch also made some historical arguments relating to the retention of jurisdiction over Ukraine by Constantinople.  This indicates to me that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is still considering taking some action.

    In other news, Archbishop Job headed the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the traditional visit to Rome on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  The Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter and the Pope’s address can be read in English at https://www.ecupatria.org/2018/06/28/the-delegation-of-the-ecumenical-patriarchate-at-the-thronal-feast-of-the-church-of-rome-2/#more-937 .  On June 25, Cardinal Kasper met with Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit in Sofia. http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=266539   Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, is now completing his first visits to Montenegro and Serbia (June 27 – July 2) at the invitations of the governments of the two countries.  It appeared to have been a very positive visit.  He is the highest ranking Vatican official to have ever visited Serbia.  He met with Serbian Patriarch Irinej on Saturday.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/serbian_patriarch_received_audience_state_secretary_vatican  The Cardinal also delivered to the Patriarch a personal message from Pope Francis.  https://www.pro-oriente.at/?site=ne20180701121433   The Cardinal had very congenial meetings with the Serbian president, prime minister, and minister for foreign affairs.  Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic agreed that the joint Stepinac commission has had positive effects on relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.  http://www.rtv.rs/sr_ci/politika/drzavni-sekretar-vatikana-u-srbiji_931008.html  In Montenegro, the prime minister expressed the hope that Pope Francis would visit Montenegro soon.  http://www.total-montenegro-news.com/lifestyle/1536-markovic-hopes-pope-francis-will-visit-montenegro-soon  The Cardinal’s declaration following his meeting with the prime minister can be read at http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2018/06/28/180628e.html .  In an all-too-familiar scenario, Montenegro unfortunately has its own small schismatic Montenegrin Orthodox Church.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montenegrin_Orthodox_Church 

    In reading this over before sending it, I have the feeling that I should express fewer opinions and stick to the news!!!  Sitting at a desk in Seattle, I certainly do not have any “inside” information.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 27 June 2018: Ukraine - not so simple

    Today’s developments show that the issue of autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine cannot be depicted in black and white terms but are really shades of grey.  In this regard, two postings on the official website of the UOC-MP are instructive.  As you recall, Metropolitan Onufry and 70 Ukrainian bishops on June 25 signed a statement which included the following critical sentence: The existing canonical status is sufficient to ensure that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church fruitfully accomplishes its mission among the people of Ukraine.  At least in my opinion, this indicates that the UOC-MP is satisfied with the status quo and is not interested in autocephaly.  However, today the website of the UOC-MP quotes from the address on June 26 by UOC-MP Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka (head of the UOC-MP Representative Office at International Organizations) at the meeting of the Interparliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy being held in Athens.  http://news.church.ua/2018/06/27/golova-predstavnictva-upc-pri-mizhnarodnix-jevropejskix-organizaciyax-vzyav-uchast-u-zasidanni-mizhparlamentskoji-asambleji-pravoslavya-v-afinax/  Bishop Victor has been involved in officially expressing the position of the UOC-MP with respect to a possible tomos of autocephaly including explaining this position to the primate of the Church of Greece.  https://spzh.news/en/news/53999-glava-elladskoj-cerkvi-nachal-izuchaty-poziciju-upc-po-avtokefalii  According to today’s article, Bishop Victor explained to the Assembly the statement made by the Ukrainian bishops at the Kyiv-Pechersk Monastery on June 25.  Bishop Victor then stated:  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church does not stand categorically against the idea of autocephaly, which today our opponents are trying to accuse us.  The position of our Church is in harmony with the common opinion of the Local Orthodox Churches on the priority of returning to the bosom of the canonical church, recognized by all of universal Orthodoxy, by our brothers and sisters who broke away from her, which will open the door for further serious discussion of the future canonical status of a single Orthodox Church in Ukraine.”  This statement by Bishop Victor reflects the position of the UOC-MP prior to the statement of June 25.  According to Bishop Victor, the bishops’ statement of June 25 apparently has not changed this earlier position.

    While in Athens for the Interparliamentary Assembly, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Archbishop Hieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece.  Among other subjects, Metropolitan Hilarion reported on the developments relating to Ukraine.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/06/27/news161448/  The Archbishop responded, “We decided that we will monitor the development of events in order to state whether or not we agree.”   The Church of Greece is therefore apparently taking a “wait and see” stance.

    Today the official website of the UOC-MP has also posted an article on the poll results, released today, relating to the attitude of Ukrainians with respect to autocephaly.  http://news.church.ua/2018/06/27/sociologi-bilshist-ukrajinciv-bajduzhi-do-cerkovnoji-avtokefaliji/  The complete results of the poll can be viewed at https://dif.org.ua/article/stvorennya-pomisnoi-avtokefalnoi-pravoslavnoi-tserkvi-v-ukraini-shcho-dumayut-ukraintsi .  The overall results are as follows:  For autocephaly: 31.3%;  against autocephaly: 19.8%;  not interested, indifferent: 34.7%;  difficult to answer:  14.2%.  Not surprisingly, the results vary by region as follows: West – 58.0% for and 11.6% against; Center – 35.1% for and 17.7% against; South – 9.5% for and 24.4% against; East – 10.0% for and 28.2 against; Donbass – 18.5% for and 27.8% against.  The poll has other interesting numbers as well.  It appears that the poll was conducted by a reputable polling organization.

    A bishop of the UOC-KP has stated on Facebook that the head of the UOC-KP Filaret has filed an appeal to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with respect to the sanctions and anathema imposed on him by the Moscow Patriarchate.  https://www.facebook.com/yevstr/posts/1692615960786681 

    Archbishop (a cardinal in two days) Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, referred yesterday to the proposal of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference to allow Evangelical spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist provided they accept the Catholic view of the Eucharist.  He said that a universal solution is required.  He also stated: “We are not against ecumenism, no.  [But] we have to seek a relation with not only the Protestants but also the Orthodox and the other ecclesial communities, and not only in Germany.”  https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/06/27/vatican-doctrine-czar-says-inter-communion-needs-universal-solution/  He also revealed that the commission established by Pope Francis to study the role of female deacons in the early Church has submitted its report to Pope Francis.  However, the report has not been made public.

    Today the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference has posted its proposal for intercommunion on its site as an “orientation text” for local bishops.  https://www.dbk.de/fileadmin/redaktion/diverse_downloads/presse_2018/2018-107-eng-Permanent-Council-Bishops-Conference-on-the-matter-of-inter-denominational-marriage.pdf  The full text is at https://www.dbk.de/fileadmin/redaktion/diverse_downloads/dossiers_2018/08-Orientierungshilfe-Kommunion.pdf .  I have briefly scanned the document with some knowledge of German (but not fluent), and I fail to see any discussion of the need of the Evangelical spouse to go to confession under any circumstances.  What if the Evangelical spouse has committed a serious (deadly) sin?  I think that the Orthodox view and the traditional Catholic view would require confession before receiving the Eucharist.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 26 June 2018: UOC-MP responds to Constantinople

    Yesterday (June 25) was the saint’s name day of Metropolitan Onufry, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).  For the occasion, over 70 bishops attended the Divine Liturgy at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.  http://news.church.ua/2018/06/25/u-den-tezoimenitstva-blazhennishij-mitropolit-onufrij-ocholiv-liturgiyu-u-kijevo-pecherskij-lavri/  After the Liturgy, the bishops held a meeting to hear a report from the UOC-MP delegation which had met at the Phanar with Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew and others last Saturday.  http://news.church.ua/2018/06/25/u-kijevo-pecherskij-lavri-vidbulasya-narada-arxijerejiv-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi/  After this report, Metropolitan Onufry  and the bishops of the UOC-MP signed a joint statement.  The statement was posted and made public this afternoon (Tuesday)  http://news.church.ua/2018/06/26/zayavlenie-arxiereev-ukrainskoj-pravoslavnoj-cerkvi-prinyavshix-uchastie-v-arxierejskoj-soveshhanii-25-iyunya-v-kievo-pecherskoj-lavre/?lang=ru  (Russian version)  In my opinion, this is an extremely important statement.  I also believe that the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate in Moscow should be very pleased with this statement (and perhaps also relieved).  I have pasted a Google translation of the text below.

    The bishops do not specially state their view with respect to the possibility of the UOC-MP being granted autocephalous status by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Rather, they specifically address the issue of the UOC becoming part of the structure of Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The bishops then make an extremely important statement:  The existing canonical status is sufficient to ensure that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church fruitfully accomplishes its mission among the people of Ukraine.  This statement seems to indicate that the bishops are unanimously satisfied with the status quo of being part of the Moscow Patriarchate.  To my knowledge, this goes farther than any previous statements from the UOC-MP.  The general approach previously taken by the UOC-MP has been that the schismatic churches should first return to the fold of the UOC-MP, and only then is it proper to discuss the issue of autocephaly.  This latest statement gives the impression that the UOC-MP is simply not interested in autocephaly.  It is also interesting that the statement includes a recitation that all of the signatory bishops confirm their oath of loyalty to the UOC-MP.  This was perhaps added to ensure that none of the bishops will later disagree with this position of the UOC-MP and leave for another church.

    A few hours after the posting of the statement by the UOC-MP, it was posted by the DECR in Moscow.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/06/26/news161389/  Earlier today RIA-Novesti published an interview of Metropolitan Hilarion concerning the meeting at the Phanar.  https://ria.ru/religion/20180626/1523388402.html  He states that the Russian Orthodox Church expects a delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to visit Moscow in early July to discuss the Ukrainian situation.  The Metropolitan stated that “we must understand that there is no support for the idea of ​​autocephaly in the Ukrainian Orthodox people.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    Statement of the UOC-MP:

    On June 25, 2018, at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra after the festive Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the memory of the Monk Onufry the Great and the Day of the Name-day of His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Onuphry, the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who took part in the celebrations, gathered under the chairmanship of the Primate for a meeting and discussion of the situation, formed as a result of the dissemination of information about the readiness of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople to provide Tomos about the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in ​​Ukraine and the possibility of legalization of Ukrainian schismatics.

    Bishops heard the message of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphrius and the permanent members of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the UOC delegation met with His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the members of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which was held June 23 in Istanbul.  In particular, it was reported that the Patriarchate of Constantinople denied the information that the canonical mechanism for overcoming the schism in Ukrainian Orthodoxy had allegedly been finally agreed upon, and Tomos's text on the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church was drawn up.  It was also not confirmed that the unilateral provision of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church should take place in the near future or on certain dates.  Instead, the bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople showed their Church's readiness to join the process of overcoming the Ukrainian church schism in consultation with the fraternal Local Orthodox Churches.  To this end, the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople will meet with representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church in the near future.

    Hearing the message, the hierarchs of the UOC had a judgment about the prospects of Ukrainian Orthodoxy in modern historical circumstances.  In particular, concern was voiced about the possibility of creating parallel ecclesiastical jurisdictions in Ukraine, as information appeared in the press.  The bishops noted that such a development of events will not overcome, but deepen the church schism.  In the event of the transformation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into the structure of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, our Church will lose a significant part of the rights that it has been endowed with over the past decades.

    In this regard, the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - participants in the bishop's meeting on June 25, 2018 in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra unanimously adopted a joint statement on the following.

    The existing canonical status is sufficient to ensure that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church fruitfully accomplishes its mission among the people of Ukraine.  Attempts to change this status will only lead to a restriction of the rights and freedoms that our Church is endowed with, having the rights of broad autonomy.  In addition,

    these attempts will not cure, but will deepen the split in both Ukrainian Orthodoxy and in Ukrainian society as a whole.

    The bishops unanimously confirmed their desire to observe the episcopal oath given at the ordination to keep the faithfulness of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

    For the certificate, the following signatures were put under the application:

    ...

  • 23 June 2018 (2): A very hopeful sign!!

    Today (Saturday), a high-level delegation from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) had a 5-hour meeting at the Phanar with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Metropolitans Ioannis, Emmanuel, and Bartholomew.  It appears to have been a very frank and constructive dialogue.  http://news.church.ua/2018/06/23/delegaciya-svyashhennogo-sinodu-upc-zustrilasya-z-patriarxom-konstantinopolskim-varfolomijem-onovleno-video/   This link from the UOC-MP has some encouraging quotations from Metropolitan Emmanuel of France  (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil (UOC-MP).  Metropolitan Emmanuel referred to the meeting as “a very useful and constructive conversation” and “a blessed moment for us.”  Metropolitan Anthony stated: “The meeting was long and frank, everyone spoke his vision about the situation in Ukraine and not only in it, because divisions exist not only in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, but also in many Local Orthodox Churches, and we must look for ways to help cure these split.”

    The Odessa Eparchy (UOC-MP) has posted this very interesting video of the parties initially meeting.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paipnXQz-m0  The commentary to the video includes the following statement: “Negotiations behind closed doors lasted more than 5 hours.”  The following video shows remarks by the parties at the end of the long meeting.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58D3pUPiFbc&t=63s 

    Let us pray that the great confrontation that we have all been fearing will be avoided!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 23 June 2018 (1): Geneva & Ukraine

    This week the World Council of Churches celebrated in Geneva its 70th anniversary.  For the occasion, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew gave the homily at Saint Peter's Cathedral on June 17.  The full text of the homily can be read at https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/central-committee/geneva-2018/homily-of-his-all-holiness-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-on-the-70th-anniversary-of-the-wcc  The cathedral, which dates back to the middle ages, now belongs to the Reformed Protestant Church and was the “home church” of John Calvin.  In his homily, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to the key role played by the Patriarchate in first expressing the need for an organization such as the WCC.  He stated:

    This voice was the Encyclical which the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople sent out in January 1920 "To all the Churches of Christ in the World," proposing to them the creation of a "League of Churches" (Κοινωνία τῶν Ἐκκλησιῶν) based on the model of the League of Nations, which had been created here in Geneva in the same year by President Wilson.  According to the late Visser't Hooft, first general secretary of the World Council of Churches, this Encyclical "rang the bell of our assembly."

    This homily also contains a number of other interesting points.

    Today was the turn of Pope Francis to visit Geneva for the 70th anniversary observance.  The Pope participated in an ecumenical prayer service with Orthodox and Protestants.  The entire service can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=488&v=U8Y4MUzAWEw .  Led by Cardinal Koch, the Nicene Creed was said by all with the filoque omitted (see video beginning at minute 40).  The text of the Pope’s homily can be found at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2018/june/documents/papa-francesco_20180621_preghiera-ecumenica-ginevra.html .  The Pope referred to the need to walk together, a subject that he has raised before.  The Pope then had lunch at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute, whose director is Father Ioan Sauca (Romanian Patriarchate).  After lunch there was an ecumenical meeting.  This can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=307&v=8xfsfEVlO3s and the Pope’s address read at  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2018/june/documents/papa-francesco_20180621_pellegrinaggio-ginevra.html .   In the videos, many Orthodox representatives could be seen, especially Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste (Romanian Patriarchate).  Patriarch Kirill sent a letter of congratulations to the general secretary of the WCC for the anniversary.   https://mospat.ru/en/2018/06/21/news161191/   On the return flight to Rome, the Pope answered some questions from journalists.  http://www.lastampa.it/2018/06/21/vaticaninsider/refugees-the-pope-lets-help-africa-grow-stop-exploiting-it-LVZN1sElrTRLpQSHMPG1JK/pagina.html  At the end he stated:  “Today has been an ecumenical journey.  And at lunch we have said a beautiful word, a beautiful thing and I leave it to you to make a consideration about this.  In the ecumenical movement we must take a word out of the dictionary: proselytism.  Is it clear?  There can be no ecumenism with proselytism.  You must choose.  Either you have an ecumenical spirit or you are a proselytizer.”  https://www.aciprensa.com/noticias/texto-completo-rueda-de-prensa-del-papa-francisco-en-el-vuelo-de-regreso-de-ginebra-17717 (complete text of interview)

    On June 16, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and Metropolitan Bartholomew of Smyrna met with Georgian Patriarch Ilia concerning the situation in Ukraine.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/22360-gallias-emmanouil-eixame-mia-armoniki-sunergasia-me-ton-patriarxi-ilia  They also participated in the Divine Liturgy on June 17.  http://patriarchate.ge/geo/s-ruli-ad-saq-artvelos-katolikos-patriarq-ilia-2-8081979/  As I reported earlier, they have also met with the primates of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Church of Greece.  It is very possible that they may have had meetings with other primates as well and that these meetings were not reported on the Internet.

    Church officials are not the only ones holding meetings with primates to the discuss the possibility of autocephaly for Ukraine.  On June 19, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin met with Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem.  https://twitter.com/PavloKlimkin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fprm.ua%2F162904%2F   Earlier Klimkin claimed to know the process that would be followed in granting autocephaly.  https://www.religion.in.ua/news/vazhlivo/40173-glava-mid-ukrainy-vstretilsya-s-ierusalimskim-patriarxom-dlya-obsuzhdeniya-ukrainskoj-avtokefalii.html  This would be a three step process: (1) the issuing of the tomos; (2) the creation of a single autocephalous church in Ukraine; and (3) applying the tomos to that church.  IF this information is correct, I could envision the following scenario.  First, the tomos would state the intention of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to a single Orthodox church in Ukraine.  The tomos would include a long and detailed analysis arguing that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has the canonical authority to grant this autocephaly.  Unless there is a reasonable basis for arguing this, the Ecumenical Patriarchate would have great problems with the rest of the Orthodox world.  The tomos then could invite the three existing Orthodox churches in Ukraine to form, with the assistance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a single Ukrainian church.  The UOC-KP and the UOAC are extremely likely to agree to form a single church.  The big question for the UOC-MP would then be whether to participate in this process.  If the UOC-MP could be convinced that the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are canonical, it is not inconceivable that it might opt for complete independence from Moscow.  As an inducement, it is possible that a hierarch of the UOC-MP could elected as the primate of the new autocephalous church.  Who knows what might happen? 

    The issuance of a tomos granting autocephaly to Ukraine would perhaps bring relations between Moscow and Constantinople to their lowest point ever.  Metropolitan Hilarion has given an interview describing the severe consequences that the granting of autocephaly would entail.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/06/16/news160978/  He referred to a “new, more profound and serious schism that would dissect the entire body of world Orthodoxy.”  The Serbian Patriarchate posted yesterday an interview of the influential Bishop Irinej of Backa regarding relations between the Serbian Patriarchate and the Catholic Church and also regarding the possibility of granting autocephaly in Macedonia and Ukraine.   http://www.spc.rs/sr/episkop_bachki_irinej_autokefalnost_makedonske_ukrajinske_crkve_bila_bi_velika_greshka    He indicated that the unilateral conferral of autocephaly would provoke “disagreement and opposition not only in the Slavic Orthodox world but also throughout the whole of Orthodoxy.”

    On June 13, an extraordinary meeting of the Orthodox Church of Moldova (Moscow Patriarchate) was held, and several canonical legal measures were adopted in response to the appointment of two bishops in Moldova by the Romanian Patriarchate.  http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=8&id=78462  The Romanian eparchies had been created some time ago, but bishops were not appointed until May 24.  http://basilica.ro/en/holy-synod-elects-new-bishops-reiterates-position-on-civil-partnerships/  The measures involved dialogue with the Romanian Patriarchate and inquiries to the Moldovan parliament. 

    Monday was an important milestone in the reconstruction of the cathedral at the Mother of God Monastery in Kazan.  In the early 1930s, the cathedral had been blown up by the communist authorities and leveled to the ground.  Later a tobacco factory was built at the site.  The cathedral marked the exact location where Matrona found the original Kazan icon in 1579.  Matrona had been directed to the location by the Mother of God, and the icon was found buried one meter below the ground.  The cathedral is now being rebuilt to the exact specifications of the original.  On Monday the crosses for the reconstructed cathedral were blessed by Metropolitan Feofan.  The following is an very nice video of the event.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=323&v=ihPAhaNJeA0  The project is being financed largely by the Fund for the Restoration of the Monuments of History and Culture of the Republic of Tatarstan, headed by Mintimer Shaimiev (the retired president of the Republic).  The Monastery is also the home of the beautiful Kazan icon given by Pope John Paul II to Patriarch Alexy in 2004.

    In September, the Catholic bishops of Belgium and the Orthodox bishops of the Benelux countries will be making a joint pilgrimage to St. Petersburg, Russia.  https://orthodoxie.com/communique-de-la-conference-episcopale-orthodoxe-du-benelux-ceob-obb-suite-a-sa-reunion-du-14-juin/ 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 June 2018: Latest on the cathedral in Kazan

    To those especially interested in St. John Paul II’s Kazan icon,

    Yesterday, Metropolitan Feofan in a special ceremony blessed the crosses for the five domes of the Cathedral at the Mother of God Monastery in Kazan.  (Kazan is now also a venue for some of the World Cup games!)  During the ceremony, the largest cross was lifted and attached to the top of the main dome.  The other four smaller crosses will be installed later in the construction process.  It was a beautiful day for the occasion.  The following is a great 6-minute video of the occasion by Kazan Business Online:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=323&v=ihPAhaNJeA0  I really enjoyed watching it.

    The following are the major articles, including photos, covering the event:   http://tatmitropolia.ru/newses/eparh_newses/kaznews/?id=67938 (Kazan Metropolia); https://www.tatar-inform.ru/news/2018/06/18/615744/ (Tatarstan information agency); https://kazanreporter.ru/post/2993_sobor_kazanskoy_ikony_bozhiey_materi_obrel_pervyy_nakupol-nyy_krest  (Kazan Reporter); https://www.business-gazeta.ru/article/385861 (Business Online)

    It appears that the consecration of the new Cathedral will probably occur on the November 4 feast day of the Kazan icon, which is also the Russian National Unity state holiday.  At that time the exterior of the Cathedral and most of the exterior mosaics will be completed.  Yesterday, Metropolitan Feofan revealed that he had invited Patriarch Kirill to perform the consecration and that the Patriarch had replied, "Without a doubt, I will sanctify!"  There is speculation that President Putin may also attend.

    Much of the interior work will still not be completed at the time of the consecration.  With respect to the ongoing work of interior design, which seeks to match as closely as possible the original cathedral (destroyed by the communist authorities in the 1930s), it was disclosed yesterday that the expert assistance of the Patriarchal Council of Architecture of Orthodox Buildings (http://expsovet.ru/) , located in Moscow, has been obtained for the project with the blessing of the Patriarch. 

    In monitoring the news concerning the restored cathedral during the last two years, I have seen nothing on the very important question of what will be the principal Kazan icon in the restored Cathedral.  Probably, the decision has not yet been made.  Especially with the involvement of the expert council in Moscow, it is likely that the Patriarch will be involved in the final decision.  Since 2004, the “Vatican copy” of the Kazan icon has been the main icon for veneration at the Kazan Monastery and for the processions on the two annual feast days (July 21 and Nov. 4) of the Kazan icon.  The reconstruction of the Cathedral has in many ways been the work of Mintimer Shaimiev, the father of Tatarstan and now the head of the Fund for the Restoration of the Monuments of History and Culture of the Republic of Tatarstan, which is providing much of the financing of the reconstruction project.  Shaimiev worked very hard to obtain the Vatican icon for the City of Kazan during the period prior to 2005, and it is likely that he would oppose this icon being relegated to any second-class status.  It is also an incredibly beautiful icon, and there is some current evidence that it is miraculous.  Obviously, this icon has a great deal of significance to Catholics, especially in view of the love that St. John Paul II had for this icon.

    On the other hand, from the perspective of the conservative wing of the Russian Orthodox Church, having a “Vatican” icon as the primary icon at the most important national shrine to the Kazan icon is probably objectionable.  Kazan wishes to attract as many pilgrims as possible to its shrine, and many potential pilgrims are conservative.  Patriarch Kirill’s attitude toward the Vatican icon has not been very positive.  During the period of extremely bad relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican (2002-2004) then-Metropolitan Kirill said some negative things about the icon.  It may be difficult for him now to praise the icon.  On July 21, 2016, Patriarch Kirill came to Kazan and blessed the cornerstone for the new cathedral.  As far as I can determine, he never venerated the Vatican Kazan icon.  At the last minute, he decided not to participate in the procession of the cross involving the icon.  In contrast, Metropolitan Hilarion led a procession of the cross with the icon on November 4, 2011.  See attached photo.  Aside from the visits of Metropolitan Hilarion and the Patriarch, none of the most important Orthodox hierarchs have come to Kazan on the Kazan icon feast days to participate in the procession of the cross with the Vatican icon.

    There may be a solution to these conflicting considerations.  There are actually two places in the cathedral for the icon.  The original Kazan icon, presumably destroyed in 1904, was actually situated at the top of an interior arch in the historic cathedral, as shown by the second attachment.   It therefore could not be closely observed or venerated by pilgrims.  In the reconstructed cathedral, there could be one Kazan icon in this historic location, but then another icon on floor level that could be venerated and kissed by pilgrims.  Because of that, there could be two primary Kazan icons.

     

    It should also be noted that the reason for pilgrims coming to the new cathedral is not merely the presence of a Kazan icon (there are supposedly many miraculous Kazan icons in Russia), but the unique fact that the cathedral is situated on the very spot that Matrona discovered the original Kazan icon based on instructions from the Mother of God.  It is thus very sacred ground.  In the historic cathedral and now also in this restored cathedral there is a very small crypt chapel below the ground surface encompassing the very space were the icon was located.  (The original icon was found buried approximately one meter below the ground.)  Thus, even very conservative anti-Catholic pilgrims have a reason for coming to this shrine.

    As far as I know, there is not another icon that is a likely substitute for the Vatican icon.  Taking a famous Kazan icon from another location and transferring it to Kazan would very likely create strong objections from the faithful in the city in which that icon is now located.  There is a nice Kazan icon in the chapel of the Arskoye cemetery in Kazan, but it is newer than the Vatican icon and not particularly well-known.  Considering everything, I believe that the chances are good (but not certain) that the Vatican icon will have a place of honor in the reconstructed cathedral.

    The website of the Kazan Monastery of the Mother of God ( http://kazan-obitel.ru/)  has a link to the film produced by Dmitry Khafizov on the history of the Vatican icon, and the Monastery also posted the entire film on YouTube last October.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2736&v=L5ws-htz-Bw  This shows that the monks are not trying to hide the Catholic part of the history of this icon.

    Hopefully, Our Lady will aid in bringing about the proper honoring of her icon so love by her devotee St. John Paul II.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle

  • 14 June 2018: Bulgarian Synod on Macedonia & more news

    Yesterday (Tues.) the Bulgarian Synod issued an important letter, entitled Patriarchal and Synodical Epistle on the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of the establishment of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid - 10th June 2018http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=265659  The title conveys much of the message of the letter – - namely that historically the Archbishopric of Ohrid is “Bulgarian.”  The letter does not go so far as to contend that the Ohrid Archbishopric is now within the canonical territory of the Bulgarian Patriarchate, but it contends that the history of the Archbishopric “is an organic, unconditional part of the historical continuity of our native Bulgarian Orthodox Church.”   Later in the letter it is stated:  “As bishops assigned by God in His Church, we are ready even today to do everything that lies within our powers and that is in compliance with the sacred canons of our holy Church in order to help our Orthodox brothers in present-day Macedonia – in accord with the explicit and clearly stated will of the other brotherly Orthodox churches as well.”  The Synod does not claim that it is acting as the “mother church” of the Archbishopric, but rather that its role is that of “an intermediary that is to undertake the necessary and possible steps and actions before the rest of the brotherly Orthodox Churches for settling the canonical church status of the Orthodox Church in the Republic of Macedonia that has been suffering from the isolation imposed on it for more than half a century.”  The letter is signed by Patriarch Neofit and the other members of the Synod.  The return of Patriarch Neofit from his long hospital stay may have been an factor in the two previously sharply divided factions of the Synod joining together in this one letter.

    Yesterday also brought the big news that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of the FYROM have agreed upon the title “Republic of Northern Macedonia” for the FYROM.  http://www.ekathimerini.com/229617/article/ekathimerini/news/the-full-transcript-of-the-greece-fyrom-deal (complete text of agreement)  However, today FYROM President Gjorge Ivanov has stated that he would veto the proposed name.  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/13/macedonia-rejects-treaty-greece-name-row-zoran-zaev  Tsipras must also obtain the approval of the Greek parliament which will certainly not be easy.  The Church of Greece has strenuously opposed any use of the word Macedonia in the name of the country.

    On Monday, the feast day of St. Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke at length about the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in bringing the schematic churches in Ukraine and the FYROM back into canonical communion.  https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/06/blog-post_12.htmlhttp://orthochristian.com/113678.html  He stated in part:

    The existence of a schism is not an argument in favor of leaving a whole nation outside the bounds of the Church’s truth and canonicity with a pure conscience, denying our responsibility before God and history, but is rather an incentive for finding salvific and unifying solutions.  The apostolic duty then is performed by the Mother Church, when studying ways of salvation for our brothers from Ukraine and Skopje.  It is our duty and responsibility to bring the nations back to the truth and the canonicity of the Church.

    In referring to the role of Ecumenical Patriarchate, he stated:

    It has never used its mission in its historical course for its own benefit and with expansionary, colonialist moods.  It has never used the mission to forge ethnic-racial and nationalistic "chains" that stifle and ecclesiastically alienate the Christianized peoples.

    Archbishop Antony of Vienna and Budapest represented the Moscow Patriarchate at the name-day celebration at the Phanar.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/06/11/news160869/  Yesterday, he visited Patriarch Neofit in Sofia.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/06/12/news160887/ 

    It appears that the visits by the Moscow Patriarchate with the primates of the other Local Orthodox Churches is almost complete.  Metropolitan Hilarion has visited with nine of them, and Metropolitan Anthony of Vienna has visited two others.  However, the visits by the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, led by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, are still continuing.  On June 5, the delegation met with Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/high_representatives_ecumenical_patriarchate_received_serbian_patriarch  Shortly, the delegation will be meeting with the Georgian Patriarch.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14318  A spokesperson of the Georgian Patriarchate has referred to the Ukrainian issue as “a very complicated issue" determined by canonical rules.

    From June 4-7, a meeting of a subcommittee of the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches was held in Limenas Chersonissos, Crete.  One of the members of the subcommittee is the president of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies (IES) at the Ukrainian Catholic University.  The following is a press report from the IES with photos and information concerning the meeting.   http://www.ecumenicalstudies.org.ua/ekumenichni-novini/2018/06/08/5941 

    The program for the visit of Pope Francis to Bari on July 7 has been issued by the Vatican.  https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2018/06/vaticano-visita-del-santo-padre.html 

    Lastly, I have been informed by Prof. Dr. Barbara Hallensleben at the University of Fribourg’s Zentrum St. Nikolaus für das Studium der Ostkirchen (Institut für Ökumenische Studien) that all of my reports from 2011 to present have been posted on the Center’s website.  http://www3.unifr.ch/orthodoxia/en/   This came as a great surprise, and I am extremely grateful to her.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 June 2018: Pope's statement, inter-communion & Orthodox developments

    The Vatican Press Office provided this weekend a verbatim transcript of the remarks of Pope Francis to Metropolitan Hilarion and the Russian delegation on May 30.  http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2018/06/02/180602b.html  In my last report, I included a few sentences of the Pope’s remarks which were quoted by romereports.com.  However, the entire transcript now provides other sentences which are also very important.  In my opinion, these remarks are consistent with the Balamand statement that “uniatism” can no longer be accepted as a model of unity, while at the same time acknowledging the right of these Eastern Catholic Churches  (which have often undergone severe persecution in their loyalty to the Holy See) to exist and care for their faithful.   http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_19930624_lebanon_en.html  (paragraphs 3 and 12).  What is especially interesting to me concerning the remarks by Pope Francis is how passionately he believes that it is not the model of unity and that walking and journeying together must accompany the search for doctrinal agreement.  I have pasted the full text below at the end of this email.

    As Metropolitan Hilarion has often observed, there have been developments in some non-Orthodox Christian churches in recent decades that have increased the differences between those churches and the Orthodox Church.  The Orthodox Church, as is well known, has strict limitations on the reception of the Eucharist by non-Orthodox Christians.  Considerable publicity has been given by the media to a draft pastoral handout approved by more than three-quarters of the bishops at the Spring General Assembly of the German Bishops’ Conference in February 2018.  The approved document would allow a non-Catholic Evangelical spouse of a Catholic to receive the Eucharist with the approval of the pastor or the person charged with spiritual care provided the Evangelical spouse affirms the Catholic faith in the Eucharist.  https://www.dbk.de/nc/presse/aktuelles/meldung/abschlusspressekonferenz-der-fruehjahrs-vollversammlung-2018-der-deutschen-bischofskonferenz-in-ingol/detail/  (paragraph 6)  Today, there are two developments relating to this document.  First, it has been made public that the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has written a letter to the German bishops stating that the “Holy Father has reached the conclusion that the document has not matured enough to be published.”  The letter also states that the question of the admission to communion of Lutheran Christians in interconfessional marriages “has effects on ecumenical relations with other churches and other ecclesial communities that cannot be undervalued.”  https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/06/04/vatican-asks-german-bishops-to-set-aside-plans-for-eucharistic-sharing/  Second, Pope Francis met today with a Lutheran delegation from Germany.  Among the Pope’s comments were the following:  “Let us support one another in the journey, also by carrying forward the theological dialogue.  No ecumenical dialogue can advance if we remain still.  We must walk, continue: not with the enthusiasm of running forward to earn coveted goals, but walking patiently together, under the gaze of God.”   http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/speeches/2018/june/documents/papa-francesco_20180604_chiesa-luterana-tedesca.html 

    According to Romfea.gr, the Ecumenical Patriarch met today in Athens with Archbishop Ieronymos, the primate of the Church of Greece.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/22118-thermi-sunantisi-oikoumenikou-patriarxi-me-arxiepiskopo-ieronumo  Controversial issues such as Ukraine and the FYROM were discussed.    http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2018/06/blog-post_63.html?m=1  Later in the day, the Ecumenical Patriarch met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.  The Prime Minister thanked the Patriarch for his efforts to resolve the disputes with the Church of Skopje, stressing that this would provide stability in the region.  http://www.romfea.gr/oikoumeniko-patriarxeio/22124-tsipras-se-bartholomaio-sas-euxaristoume-gia-tin-prospatheia-epilusis-tou-skopianou ;  http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2018/06/blog-post_18.html?m=1 

    Metropolitan Hilarion has continued his visits to the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches by meeting with Georgian Patriarch Ilia today.  The official website of the Georgian Patriarchate states:  “The aim of the visit was to get acquainted with the position of the Russian Church in the recent developments around the Church of Ukraine.  In the nearest future, the Georgian Church will visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”   http://patriarchate.ge/geo/informacia-04-06-2018/ 

    Serbian Bishop Irinej of Backa is hosting in Novi Sad, Serbia the General Assembly of the Conference of the European Churches (May 31 – June 7).  Yesterday, the Orthodox bishops attending the Assembly held a Liturgy together in the Church of St. George.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/hierarchal_liturgy_cathedral_church_novi_sad 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    Greeting of the Holy Father to the Russian Orthodox delegation

    Thank you so much for your visit, and also for this meeting, which helps us so much to live our faith in unity and in the hope to walk together.  I am happy to take the road of unity with you: the only road that promises us something certain, because the path of division leads us to war and destruction.  And before you I would like to reiterate – in a special way before you, my dear brother, and before all of you – that the Catholic Church will never allow an attitude of division to arise from her people.  We will never allow ourselves to do this, I do not want it.  In Moscow – in Russia – there is only one Patriarchate: yours.  We will not have another one.   And when some Catholic faithful, be they laypeople, priests or bishops, raise the banner of Uniatism, which does not work anymore, and is over, then it causes me pain.  The Churches that are united in Rome must be respected, but Uniatism as a path of unity is not valid today.  Instead it brings me comfort when I find this: the extended hand, the fraternal embrace, thinking together, and journeying.  Ecumenism is made by journeying.  We walk.  Some think – but this is not right – that there must first be doctrinal agreement, on all the points of division, and then the journey.  This does not work for ecumenism, because we do not know when agreement will come.  I once heard a man of the Church, a man of God, who said: “I know which day a doctrinal agreement will be signed.”  They asked him: “When?”  –  “The day after the coming of the glorious Christ”.  We must continue to study theology, to clarify the points, but in the meantime let us walk together, let us not wait for these things to be resolved in order to walk, no.  We journey together and also do this, but walking in love, in prayer; as in this example of the relics.  Prayer together, for each other, in dialogue.  This is so good.  The meeting with His Holiness Kirill was very good for me, I found a brother.   And now, spiritually, we walk together.

    And a couple of words to finish. One on the respect of Catholics towards you, Russian Orthodox brothers: the Catholic Church, the Catholic Churches must not get involved in internal matters of the Russian Orthodox Church, nor in political issues.  This is my attitude, and the attitude of the Holy See today.   And those who meddle do not obey the Holy See.  This regards politics.  The second thing: piety.  It is important that we pray for each other, also in personal prayer.  We know new brothers and sisters, and then there is also personal prayer.  I would like to say something to you: when we met with the Patriarch, afterwards he sent me a relic of Saint Seraphim.  I keep that relic on my nightstand, and at night, before going to bed, and in the morning, when I get up, I venerate it and pray for our unity.

    Thank you very much.  Let us pray for each other.  Let us bless each other.  And let us go together. Thank you.

  • 31 May 2018: Important news at the Phanar and at Rome

    A great deal of suspense has been created as to what the Ecumenical Patriarchate will do with respect to possible autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.  Now, a new element of suspense has been added.  Today, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to consider the request of the schismatic “Church of Skopje,” supported also by a letter from FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to undertaking the initiative of reestablishing this Church to its canonical status under the name Archbishopric of Ohrid.  The Synod decided to undertake this “according to the inviolable responsibilities and privileges of the first-place (protothronos) Ecumenical Patriarchate.”  http://fanarion.blogspot.com/2018/05/blog-post_64.html?m=1http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/22043-aitima-tis-sxismatikis-ekklisias-ton-skopion-tha-ejetasei-to-oikoumeniko-patriarxeio   This action raises the issue, which continues to cause great controversy within the Orthodox world, of the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate vis-a-vis the other Local Orthodox Churches.

    Also with respect to the FYROM, there seems to be some progress in the dispute between Greece and the FYROM on the name of the FYROM state.  https://www.mia.mk/en/Inside/RenderSingleNews/92/134289384  http://www.ekathimerini.com/229125/article/ekathimerini/news/name-deal-with-fyrom-within-reach 

    The celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the Ohrid Archbishopric appears to have been celebrated in FYROM without the participation of any of the other Local Orthodox Churches.  http://english.republika.mk/formal-academy-to-celebrate-1000th-anniversary-of-ohrid-archbishopric/  However, clergy of the FYROM and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church were together at the Church of St. Clement in Rome on May 24 to mark the feast day of St. Cyril.  https://www.mia.mk/en/Inside/RenderSingleNews/382/134282858  Although together, clergy of each church held separate services.  http://www.focus-fen.net/news/2018/05/24/430774/bulgaria-and-macedonia-celebrat-legacy-of-st-cyril-at-his-tomb-in-basilica-di-san-clemente-in-rome.html 

    On May 28 Metropolitan Hilarion and a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate were in Rome to attend the second meeting of the working group of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Italy, established within the framework of the Russian-Italian Civil Society Dialogue Forum.   https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/29/news160533/  The subject of this meeting was pilgrimage and religious tourism.  As a gift, the Italian Bishops’ Conference gave a certified copy of the Shroud of Turin to the Russian delegation.  https://agensir.it/chiesa/2018/05/28/cei-incontro-di-dialogo-e-fraternita-con-una-delegazione-del-patriarcato-di-mosca/

    Today, May 30, the Russian delegation led by Metropolitan Hilarion met with Pope Francis.    https://agensir.it/chiesa/2018/05/30/delegazione-russa-ortodossa-da-papa-francesco-i-cristiani-sono-segno-di-unita-e-artigiani-della-pace/    The following is an English-language video of the Pope’s remarks which I believe will get great media attention in Russia.  https://www.romereports.com/en/2018/05/30/pope-to-patriarch-of-moscow-representatives-catholic-churches-shouldnt-meddle-in-your-affairs/ .  The remarks include the following:

    "In front of you I want to confirm, most of all in front of you, dear brother, and before you all, that the Catholic Church will never allow an attitude of division to be born on its own.  We will never allow it.  I do not want it.  In Moscow, in Russia, there is only one Patriarchate, yours.  We will not have another."

    "The Catholic Church, the Catholic Churches, should not interfere in internal affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, not even in political matters. This is my position and the position of the Holy See today. Those who meddle, do not obey the Holy See."

    Tonight in the ancient Lateran Palace in Rome the grand opening of the exhibition "New martyrs and confessors of the Russian Orthodox Church" opened with the participation of Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov, the chairman of the Patriarchal Council for Culture.   http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Intense-cultural-exchanges-between-Russians-and-Catholics-in-the-Vatican-and-in-Italy-44023.html ;  https://ria.ru/religion/20180530/1521686599.html   It appears that Metropolitan Tikhon was not part of the group that met with Pope Francis.

    Although the Pope’s remarks above referred to Russia and not Ukraine, there will be speculation as to whether he was referring to the UGCC.  In an interview with NTV several days ago, Metropolitan Hilarion stated:

    It should be stated too that in the rhetoric about the project of the so-called one Local Church of Ukraine, one more group is often mentioned – it is the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, who are headed by Archbishop Svyatoslav (Shevchuk).  He has repeatedly stated his support of the project for a unified Local Orthodox Church of Ukraine while saying that the unity of this Church should be built on the successor of St. Peter, that is, the Pope of Rome.  In other words, it is nothing else than an attempt to involve the Orthodox in Ukraine in unia.  Such attempts were made in the past as well.

    https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/27/news160313/   Perhaps Metropolitan Hilarion is referring to the meeting of Major Archbishop Svyatoslav with Marie Yovanovitch, US Ambassador to Ukraine on April 17.  http://ugcc.ua/news/mi_pozitivno_ots%D1%96nyuiemo_zusillya_zadlya_viznannya_iedinoi_pravoslavnoi_tserkvi__glava_ugkts_do_posla_ssha_v_ukrain%D1%96_82511.html   The Archbishop told the Ambassador that the UGCC is not involved in the processes relating to the possibility of the creation of a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church because it considers it an internal affair of the Orthodox Churches.  He expresses the hope that it will be possible to heal the divisions within Orthodoxy in Ukraine and states,  “we are positively evaluating all efforts for the possible recognition of the united Orthodox Church of Ukraine by the Patriarchate of Constantinople.”   After the creation of a single Orthodox Church, “the next step is the ecumenical dialogue between the UGCC and the united Ukrainian Orthodoxy in the direction of restoring the original unity of this Church.”  The Archbishop gave the Ambassador a copy of the important 2016 document of the UGCC on ecumenism. The entire document in English can be read at http://ecumenism.com.ua/images/1011%20Ecum.%20Koncep.pdf   (scroll down for the English text).

    TASS has just issued the following report:  “As the TASS correspondent learned from sources in the Vatican, Metropolitan Hilarion will participate in a meeting of representatives of Christian churches of the Middle East, called by Francis on July 7 in Bari, where the issue of the protection of Christians will be discussed.”   http://tass.ru/obschestvo/5250565     If this is true, it appears that Bari will not be the occasion for a meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch and Patriarch Kirill – who last met several months before the Crete Council.

    Lastly, the Pew Foundation has issued a very interesting and detailed report describing the state of the Christian faith in Western Europe.  http://www.pewforum.org/2018/05/29/being-christian-in-western-europe/  For a Christian, it is not very encouraging.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 26 May 2018: Bartholomew in Rome again & much more news

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was in Rome, May 23-26.  Today, he gave an address at the conference New Policies and Life Styles in the Digital Age, held on the 25th anniversary of the Centesimus Annus pro Pontifice Foundation.  The program for the entire conference can be read at http://www.centesimusannus.org/en/sites/2018/ .   The full text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s English-language address, “A Common Christian Agenda for the Common Good,” is posted at https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/05/adrres-his-all-holiness-ecumenical.html .  Before the address, the Ecumenical Patriarch had a private 25-minute meeting with Pope Francis.  http://www.lastampa.it/2018/05/26/vaticaninsider/bartolomeo-in-vaticanoinsiemecontroindividualismo-e-deificazione-della-tecnologia-qd3aXBeHSxcWmcIyTm3uVN/pagina.html  It is likely that the two also had other occasions to meet at Casa Santa Marta during the four-day period that the Ecumenical Patriarch was there.  Yesterday, the Ecumenical Patriarch had a meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict, which the Patriarch described as “a great joy.”  https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2018/05/vaticano-patriarca-bartolomeo-ho-avuto.html  On May 23, the Ecumenical Patriarch visited the Roman Basilica dei Santi XII Apostoli, where he venerated the relics of the apostles Sts. Phillip and James (brother of the Lord).  The following is a very interesting article about this visit.  https://www.avvenire.it/chiesa/pagine/bartolomeo-dialogo-arricchisce-non-toglie-nulla  The relics of the apostles were a gift from Emperor Justinian to Pope Pelagius after the final victory over the Ostrogoths in 556.

    The important 8th International Conference on Orthodox Theology, which focused on the Crete Council, was held at the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, May 21-25.   https://analitis.gr/pragmatopoihthhke-h-eyxh-toy-oikoymenikoy-patriarxh-gia-kalh-epityxia-dhlwse-gia-to-8o-diethnes-synedrio-orthodoksoy-theologias-o-arxiepiskopos-amerikhs/  The text of a number of the presentations can be read at https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/ .  The entire program and videos can be accessed at https://www.auth.gr/news/anouncements/25480   The Ecumenical Patriarch in his letter to the Conference disclosed that the publication of the official minutes of the Crete Council was “imminent.”  https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-message-of-his-all-holiness.html  However, I found especially interesting the presentation by Metropolitan Elpidophoros Lambriniadis of Bursa (Ecumenical Patriarchate) on the subject, The Next Holy and Great Council: Agenda – Questionshttps://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-next-holy-and-great-council-agenda.html (in English)  I believe that it is an indication of the position that the Ecumenical Patriarchate may adopt with respect to steps that should be taken after the Crete Council.  In my opinion, it is worth reading.

    Metropolitan Hilarion has continued his series of visits with the primates of many of the Local Orthodox Churches.  On May 18 he met with Romanian Patriarch Daniel in Bucharest.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/19/news160116/  Later the same day he flew to Warsaw and met in the evening with Metropolitan Sawa, the primate of the Polish Orthodox Church.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/19/news160124/    The next day he participated in the first liturgy in the church of Saint Sophia in Warsaw (still under construction) on the occasion of the 80th birthday of Metropolitan Sawa and the 20th anniversary of his enthronement as primate.   Archbishop Job of Telmessos (Ecumenical Patriarchate) also concelebrated.

    While in Poland, Metropolitan Hilarion also met with Archbishop Wojciech Polak, primate of the Catholic Church in Poland.  https://zenit.org/articles/poland-metropolitan-hilarion-archbishop-polak-meet/   According to the report of the DECR, plans for future bilateral relations between the two churches were discussed “in a warm and cordial atmosphere.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/19/news160136/   As reported by the website of the Polish Catholic Bishops Conference, “both sides expressed their desire to continue the dialogue between the Catholic Church in Poland and the Russian Orthodox Church, based on the content of the Joint Message to the Peoples of Poland and Russia, signed in Warsaw on August 17, 2012, by Patriarch Kirill and Archbishop Józef Michalik , then chairman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.”  http://episkopat.pl/warszawa-prymas-polski-spotkal-sie-z-metropolita-hilarionem/   In my opinion, this is an encouraging sign.  A year after the signing of the historic agreement in 2012, the commencement of hostilities in Ukraine cast a dark shadow on the reconciliation process between the two churches and two nations.  This latest meeting raises the hope that the two churches can continue to work on the reconciliation process in spite of the tensions created by the Ukrainian situation.

    It is extremely likely that Metropolitan Hilarion’s talks with Patriarch Daniel and Metropolitan Sawa focused largely on the possible future action of the Ecumenical Patriarchate relating to Ukraine.   On May 9, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Poland addressed the situation in Ukraine in response to a letter from Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP.  The Synod concluded that violation of the dogmatic and canonical doctrines of the Orthodox Church brings chaos into the life of the Church.  http://www.orthodox.pl/komunikat-kancelarii-sw-soboru-biskupow-7/   A more detailed description of the Synod’s reply to Metropolitan Onufry is found on the website of the UOC-MP.  http://news.church.ua/2018/05/18/sobor-jepiskopiv-polskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-visloviv-svoje-stavlennya-do-cerkovnoji-situaciji-v-ukrajini/  It states in part: “the status of autocephaly can be acknowledged only for one Church existing in the state.  There are several schismatic church groups in Ukraine that must first repent, so as to return to the canonical Church.  Only then can we speak about the recognition of autocephaly.”

    It was not necessary for Metropolitan Hilarion to travel to Belgrade, because Patriarch Irinej came to Moscow on May 22 to receive the award of the Unity of Orthodox Nations international Foundation.  On May 23 Patriarch Irinej met with Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/23/news160257/  In his speech at the conferral of the award by the Foundation, Patriarch Irinej condemned “the actions of Uniats and schismatics who are tearing apart the robe of Christ at the baptismal font of the Kievan Baptism.”  He also stated: “anyone who helps Ukrainian schismatics is an enemy of not only the Russian Church and Russian world, but also all the Orthodox Slavic nations and the whole Orthodox world.”   https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/23/news160283/  These strong words from the Serbian Church are not surprising especially in view of the fact that the Serbian Orthodox Church is faced with a similar situation of schismatics in the FYROM who are also seeking to obtain autocephalous status.  From remarks on the Internet, it appears that the reference to the “Uniats” may relate, at least in part, to the fact that certain Rada delegates and government officials, who are members of the UGCC, have been active in the appeals to the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant autocephalous status to the church in Ukraine.  With respect to the latter, see the interview of Metropolitan Hilarion at https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/02/news159610/.

    On May 25, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP met.  The minutes of the meeting can be read at http://news.church.ua/2018/05/25/zhurnali-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-25-travnya-2018-roku/.  In journal entry 7, the Synod decided to send a letter to the faithful concerning the initiatives relating to autocephaly.  The full text of the letter is found at  http://news.church.ua/2018/05/25/sinod-zvernuvsya-do-virnix-upc-shhodo-informaciji-pro-mozhlivist-nadannya-tomosu-pro-avtokefaliyu-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-v-ukrajini/ .  The letter states that the UOC-MP has not received any “official communications” from Constantinople concerning the issue, and the Local Orthodox Churches have not received any “official letters” concerning the issue.  The letter from the UOC-MP states: “In particular, among the Local Churches there is a common view of the need to return schismatic church groups to the womb of the canonical Church, which will allow us to discuss the status of a single canonical Church.”  The UOC-MP adopts this position as well.  The UOC-MP letter also states:

    Autocephalous status has a purely technical ecclesiastical character, which is to promote the preaching of the Gospel in the territory of a separate state and cannot be an instrument in the geopolitical struggle.  However, autocephalous status is granted to the whole Church within a certain territory.  In this regard, it is necessary to realize that the emergence of another parallel jurisdiction in Ukraine may give rise to new confrontations within our people that not only threaten the security of the state but also questions the possibility of the future unity of the Church in Ukraine.  Our people could be divided for a long time, if not forever.

    One of the major arguments by the Moscow Patriarchate against the possibility of the Ecumenical Patriarchate granting autocephaly to the church in Ukraine is the consensus reached by the Local Orthodox Churches on certain aspects of the draft document on autocephaly during the pre-conciliar meetings before the Crete Council.  In an interview,  Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, vice-chairman of the DECR, has given a very interesting and detailed history of the pre-conciliar developments leading to agreement that all of the Local Orthodox Churches must consent to the granting of autocephaly to a specific church.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/23/news160272/  (official English translation of the interview).   In my opinion, this argument raises the question of whether agreements reached with respect to draft documents in the pre-conciliar stage are subsequently legally binding on the various Local Orthodox Churches.  For example, was the agreement reached by the Local Orthodox Churches on the various draft documents at Chambesy in January 2016 legally binding on the Local Orthodox Churches which later challenged certain provisions in those documents?

    The divisions among the bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church with respect to the FYROM Orthodox Church continue to be evident.  After the rejection by a majority of bishops at the Holy Synod of an invitation from the FYROM church to attend the celebration in Skopje of the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Archbishopric of Ohrid, the head of public relations for the Synod issued a notice on May 18 that the commission formed to negotiate with the FYROM church and the Local Orthodox Churches to establish the canonical status of the FYROM church has not been dissolved.  http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=263800   On the next day, Metropolitan Naum of Rousse, who had made the successful proposal not to attend the Skopje celebration, issued a strong statement justifying his position on this issue.  http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=263865 ;  http://orthochristian.com/113256.html (English)  To the accusation that the majority of the bishops rejecting the invitation were “national traitors,” Metropolitan Naum maintains that the Ohrid Archbishopric is part of the heritage of the Bulgarian Church, and not that of “a new church formation…created for political reasons only a few decades ago.”  On May 20, Metropolitan Kiprian of Stara Zagora, the head of the commission, issued a statement maintaining that the commission has not taken any action contrary to the canons of Orthodoxy.  http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=263879  It has also been reported that Patriarch Neofit has returned to his residence after being hospitalized for approximately one month due to his heart condition (complications from previously receiving two heart valves).  http://www.pan.bg/view_article-61-431380-izpisaha-patriarh-neofit.html  However, he did not appear at an important liturgy in Sofia on May 24, presumably because of restrictions imposed by doctors on his activities.  https://www.monitor.bg/bg/a/view/molebenyt-za-24-maj-za-pryv-pyt-bez-patriarh-neofit-100575 

    On May 25 a Bulgarian delegation headed by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and including Metropolitan Anthony of Western and Central Europe met with Pope Francis.  Metropolitan Kiprian of Stara Zagora was also part of the delegation but was not part of the smaller group that met the Pope.  A Bulgarian state delegation traditionally comes to Rome each year for the Orthodox feast day of Sts. Cyril and Methodius (May 25 n.s.).  According to one report, Borissov invited the Pope to visit Bulgaria, hopefully in 2019, and the Pope accepted the invitation. http://www.bta.bg/en/c/DF/id/1807477     Another report stated that the Vatican is prepared to consider a visit by Pope Francis to Bulgaria, Romania and perhaps a country from the Western Balkans.  https://sofiaglobe.com/2018/05/25/pm-borissov-invites-pope-francis-to-visit-bulgaria/  See also  https://zenit.org/articles/pope-francis-receives-invitation-to-visit-bulgaria/

    Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) was made a metropolitan by Patriarch Kirill on the feast of the Ascension, May 17, and has now gone to Pskov to assume his new responsibilities.  You can see Metropolitan Tikhon receiving the white veil of a metropolitan on the following video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZzsAvouqu8 (at 21:30)  Two days later, Patriarch Kirill appointed a new acting governor for Moscow’s  Sretensky Stauropegic Monastery and a new acting rector for the Sretensky Seminary – positions previously held by Tikhon.   http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5206672.html   These events have caused a great amount of speculation in the Russian media.  On the one hand, some see Tikhon’s new assignment as making him eligible to be elected patriarch in the future, as the Chapter IV of the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church requires that a candidate for patriarch have  “sufficient experience in diocesan administration.”  On the other hand, some believe that the promotion was intended to remove him from the Monastery and Seminary which have been his historic Moscow base where he has exercised great influence on the faithful and established a good relationship with President Putin.  The following is a tribute to the departing Metropolitan Tikhon written by an American Orthodox nun and writer at the Monastery, Sister Cornelia (Rees).  http://orthochristian.com/113109.html

    There have also been many other interesting news developments.  (1) Amen.gr, one of the two major Orthodox websites in Greece, has suspended its website and has thanked those who have supported it over the years.  www.amen.gr  The amen.gr website has been very supportive of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, while the more conservative website romfea.gr has not always been.  (2) The official English-language translation of the communique relating to the recent assembly of the Serbian bishops has now been posted.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/communique_holy_assembly_bishops_1   (3)  At the much-watched Prince Harry – Meghan Markle wedding, Coptic Archbishop Angaelos of London led the recitation of the Our Father.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn2rSYxjqaI (at 45:20)  (4) On May 22, Metropolitan Yuvenaly and four Russian bishops were in Bari, Italy for the feast of the translation of the relics of St. Nicholas.  Over three thousand Orthodox arrived on buses and charter flights.  http://www.baritoday.it/attualita/celebrazione-basilica-san-nicola-ortodosso-fedeli.html  (5) On Wednesday, Pope Francis met and greeted 11 Russian Orthodox priests and seminarians who are part of an annual exchange program between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican.  https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2018/05/vaticano-11-giovani-ortodossi-salutano.html  (6)   A conference of historians invited by the Russian Academy of Sciences and by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences was held in Rome May 22-23 on the subject of The Mission of Peace and Ostpolitikhttp://www.asianews.it/news-en/Russian-and-Vatican-historians-hold-new-seminar-on-%26lsquo%3BThe-Mission-of-peace-and-Ostpolitik%26rsquo%3B-43971.html   One report related to an attempt by Stalin shortly before his death to establish a Soviet embassy at the Vatican.  http://www.lastampa.it/2018/05/20/vaticaninsider/during-the-cold-war-stalin-asked-pius-xii-the-embassy-to-the-vatican-fJladcILjmNgUXR4KgvpiN/pagina.html  (7) On May 23 in Moscow, Metropolitan Hilarion made the welcoming address for the presentation of the Russian translation of the recently published book, Theology of the Liturgy by Pope Emeritus Benedict.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/05/24/news160322/   Metropolitan Hilarion gave a very positive assessment of the book and of Benedict.

    This is probably the longest report that I have written since I began these reports in 2008.  Sorry that it is so long, but there have been many noteworthy events.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 May 2018: Bulgarian & Russian Holy Synods

    Today I expected the most interesting news to come from the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.  Surprisingly, the most interesting news was instead from the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.  By a divided vote of 8 to 5, the members of the Bulgarian Holy Synod decided not to accept the May 9 invitation of Archbishop Stefan of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church” to send representatives to the celebrations on May 27-28 to mark the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Archbishopric of Ohrid.   http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=263400   The five metropolitans voting to send representatives were:  Ioaniki of Sliven,  Grigory of Veliko Tarnovo,  Ignatius of Pleven, Nikolai of Plovdiv, and Kiprian of Stara Zagora.  The opposition was led by Metropolitan Gavriil of Lovech.  Patriarch Neofit was not present due to the heart problem that he suffered on April 18.  Metropolitan Yosif of the US, Canada, and Australia was also not present.  In contrast to today’s actions of the Bulgarian Synod, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov is expected to attend the celebrations on May 27-28.  http://www.balkaneu.com/bulgarian-orthodox-church-rejects-invitation-to-1000th-anniversary-of-ohrid-archbishopric/ 

    The Commission chosen by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to discuss the Ukraine question with the Local Orthodox Churches has apparently now begun its visits.  Today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Press Office announced that the Commission, including Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamon, and Metropolitan Bartholomew of Smyrna, met with Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, concerning the “evolving ecclesiastical question.”   http://fanarion.blogspot.com.tr/2018/05/blog-post_14.html?m=1 

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its spring meeting in St. Petersburg today.  The complete minutes are usually made public the evening of the day of the meeting.  As of this moment, the website of the Patriarch has only posted the minutes for journal entries 16-18 with a note that the minutes will be updated.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5195102.html  The DECR has posted minutes for journal entries 16-41.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/05/14/news159986/  None of the journal entries relates to the Ukraine issue.  However, after the meeting had concluded, Metropolitan Hilarion did make a statement to journalists with respect to the issue.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/05/14/news159946/  He said that the Ukraine issue was not on the agenda of the Synod, but that it was discussed because of the number of letters that the Patriarch received from the faithful in Ukraine.  He also said:

    It is impossible to allow the adoption of decisions of canonical ecclesiastical authority on the basis of initiatives of non-canonical communities or secular authorities whose interference in the internal affairs of the Church is unacceptable.

    Granting the status of a "parallel" autocephalous Church to a schism apart from the desire of the canonical Church on whose territory it is located is church-legal nonsense.

    All members of the Holy Synod expressed support for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

    However, I have seen nothing which indicates that the Holy Synod made any resolutions with respect to recent communique of the Ecumenical Patriarchate relating to consulting with the other Local Orthodox Churches on the Ukraine issue.  Maybe more information will be available in the next few days.

    The Holy Synod decided at its meeting to make Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) the head of the Metropolia of Pskov, while still retaining his current position as chairman of the Patriarchal Council for Culture.   https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/05/14/news159986/  (Journal entry 20)  In his new position, he will doubtlessly become a metropolitan.  This is the latest step in his steady rise in influence in the Russian Orthodox Church.   Some consider him a more conservative and less ecumenical alternative to Metropolitan Hilarion with respect to the leadership of the Church years from now.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

  • 11 May 2018: Communique of Assembly of Serbian bishops & more news

    The Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which began its annual meeting on April 29, concluded its work yesterday.  The Assembly’s press release was delivered by Bishop Irinej of Backa.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_svetog_arhijerejskog_sabora_srpske  The Assembly had been presented with a draft of a new constitution for the Church which included major changes such as changing the name of the Church, changing the method of electing the primate, and elevating certain bishops to the status of metropolitans.  In spite of meeting for almost two weeks, it was decided not to finalize the changes at this time.  Instead, the hierarchs are to submit their comments on the draft to the Assembly’s constitution drafting commission by November 1.  The final decision on the constitution will apparently be made at next year’s assembly.

    The press release refers to the excellent relations that the Serbian Church enjoys with the other Local Orthodox Churches, except for Romania and Bulgaria.  With respect to Romania, there is criticism of “Romanian propagandists” among the Vlach peoples against the canonical order of the Church in the Dioceses of Timok and Branicevo.  There is also criticism of the “meaningless initiative” of the Bulgarian Church with respect to the status of the “Macedonian Orthodox Church.”  However, discussion of these points in the press release is relatively short.  The release also expresses solidarity with the UOC-MP, “subject to the worst persecution by the current regime in Kiev.”  It notes that relations with the Roman Catholic Church are constructive, except for the Croatian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  According to the release, while some of the Croatian Catholic bishops are well-intended and act in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, “there is unfortunately a good number of bishops with unhidden pro-Ustasha orientation and Ustasha rhetoric.” 

    The bishops took a number of actions.  They issued a separate statement relating to Kosovo.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/poruka_svetog_arhijerejskog_sabora_o_kosovu_metohiji  It is an appeal not to give up the efforts to retain Kosovo.  It states that Kosovo “with its one thousand five hundred Serbian Orthodox Christian monasteries, churches, endowments and monuments of Serbian culture, represents an inalienable central part of Serbia.”  In addition, the Assembly selected individuals to fill certain episcopal vacancies.  It also canonized and designated feast days for three new saints.

    Metropolitan Hilarion has visited in rapid succession a number of the primates of non-Slavic Local Orthodox Churches.  It was the Patriarch of Alexandria on May 5 (https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/06/news159681/ ), the Archbishop of Cyprus also on May 5 (https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/08/news159702/), the Patriarch of Jerusalem on May 6 (https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/09/news159760 ), and the Patriarch of Antioch on May 9 (https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/09/news159751/).  It is very likely that the situation in Ukraine and the recent decision by the Ecumenical Patriarchate were important parts of the discussions.  The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate will meet in St. Petersburg on May 14 and may also address the Ukraine issue.  https://ria.ru/religion/20180511/1520354308.html 

    On May 6, the Ecumenical Patriarch was hospitalized because of dizziness, but left the hospital the next day.  https://www.thenationalherald.com/199964/patriarch-bartholomew-hospitalized-in-constantinople/  It is reported that his doctors told him on May 9 that he is in excellent health, but urged him to try to rest.  http://www.romfea.gr/oikoumeniko-patriarxeio/21664-kala-stin-ugeia-tou-o-oikoumenikos-patriarxis-bartholomaios   Later on May 9, the Ecumenical Patriarch had a long meeting with the Patriarch of Alexandria.  http://www.romfea.gr/oikoumeniko-patriarxeio/21657-sunantisi-oikoumenikou-patriarxi-me-ton-patriarxi-alejandreias

    Today, May 11, Metropolitan Rastislav, primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. http://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-05/pope-orthodox-czech-slovak-rastislav-cyril-methodius.html   It was the first meeting between Metropolitan Rastislav and the Pope, although it is not the first meeting between a primate of that Church and a pope.   A short video of the meeting can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2rmyzKWRBo .  The full text of the Pope’s remarks can be read at http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2018/05/11/0338/00735.html .

    The International Theological Commission of the Catholic Church, with the approval of Pope Francis, has issued a document on May 3, entitled Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church.  It is the result of five years of work by the Commission.  The full text in Italian can be read at  http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_20180302_sinodalita_it.html   The document obviously has significance to the Catholic – Orthodox dialogue.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 6 May 2018: Important statements by Metropolitan Hilarion & more news

    While Metropolitan Hilarion was in Albania,  Emilios Polygenis, the founder of the influential Greek website Romfea.gr, interviewed the Metropolitan about Ukraine.   http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/21508-bolokolamsk-ilarionas-fobamai-na-skefto-ti-tha-ginei-ean-dothei-autokefalo-stous-sxismatikous (in Greek)  To the best of my knowledge, this interview was the first occasion that a high-ranking prelate of the Moscow Patriarchate has commented on the recent communique of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate relating to Ukraine.  The Metropolitan’s comments were an extremely strong warning on what might happen if the UOC-KP and the UAOC were granted autocephalous status.  Perhaps it was intentional that Metropolitan Hilarion chose to make his first statement on this issue to the Greek-language media.  The interview is now also available in French  https://orthodoxie.com/mgr-hilarion-je-redoute-de-penser-a-ce-qui-se-passerait-si-lautocephalie-etait-accordee-aux-schismatiques/ and Russian  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/05/02/news159610/.  It is summarized in English at http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=14284 .  The comments by Metropolitan Hilarion in the interview include the following:

    I am afraid to think about what will happen if the scenario of granting autocephaly to Ukrainian schismatics becomes a reality….. The division within universal Orthodoxy that will be the inevitable consequence of this erroneous step could be compared with the division between East and West in 1054.  We will bury the unity of Orthodoxy if something like this happens. 

    However, my guess is that the proposal of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will not be to grant autocephaly to just the schismatic UOC-KP and the UAOC.  Rather, the proposal will be to grant autocephaly to a unified UOC composed of the UOC-MP, UOC-KP, and the UAOC.  It is very unlikely that the primate of the new unified UOC would be Filaret, who is now 88 years old.  To the extent the position of the “mother Church” is important in granting autocephaly, the Ecumenical Patriarchate would argue, and in fact has repeatedly claimed, that historically Constantinople is the “mother church” of the ancient Church of Kyiv.  The big question is whether the UOC-MP would in interested in such a proposal.  The proposal may have some appeal to the UOC-MP if it unified the three Orthodox groups in Ukraine, especially if the new primate of the unified church is a bishop from the UOC-MP.  Also it is questionable that the UOC-MP really desires the controls from the Patriarch and Bishops’ Council such as legislated by the last Bishops’ Council.  However, the UOC-MP has been emphatic that any procedure relating to the status of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine must be canonical.  This raises the further question of whether autocephalous status could possibly be canonically granted by the Ecumenical Patriarch without the consent of all of the other Local Orthodox Churches.  Does the fact that all of the Local Orthodox Churches agreed to the requirement of the consent of all the Local Churches in the pre-conciliar draft document on autocephaly create a canonical requirement in a situation where the total draft document was never approved at the pre-conciliar level and never presented to the Crete Council?  The Moscow Patriarchate considers the Orthodox Church in America to be autocephalous and canonical even though the Ecumenical Patriarch has never recognized the OCA as an autocephalous church.  Does that have any relevance in the case of Ukraine?  Other persons are far better able to marshal the arguments on both sides than I.  It is a very complex matter.  However, the practical concern of many of the Local Orthodox Churches may be to avoid a “cold war” between the major Local Orthodox Churches and to avoid taking a step that would so offend the Moscow Patriarchate with whom they now enjoy in many cases warm fraternal relations.  The loss of the Ukrainian Church would be a severe blow to the Moscow Patriarchate, and it is very understandable that it would do everything in its power to prevent this from happening.

    Interestingly, Polygenis has now followed up the Hilarion interview with a telephone interview on the same subject with Metropolitan Anthony of Borispol (UOC-MP).  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/21560-mporispol-antonios-ena-autokefalo-stin-oukrania-tha-dimiourgouse-panorthodojo-skandalo  The Metropolitan states that the UOC-MP was very surprised by the communique and has never approached the Ecumenical Patriarchate for self-rule.  According to Metropolitan Anthony, the sacred canons require that the two schismatic churches must first return to the canonical church and that the issue of autocephaly should then be examined together.  He believes that if the UOC-MP became autocephalous with the agreement of the Moscow Patriarchate, all of the other Local Orthodox Churches would accept it unanimously.  However, granting autocephalous status to the schismatic churches in Ukraine would create a “pan-Orthodox scandal.”

    With respect to a different subject, Metropolitan Hilarion on April 29 answered a series of questions on the television program, The Church and the World.  Based on the Metropolitan’s answer to the first question, RIA Novesti posted a news report entitled, “Metropolitan told why Orthodox and Catholics cannot unite.” 

    https://ria.ru/religion/20180430/1519719284.html  This story was picked up by many Russian websites.  Following this report, even the respected English Catholic publication The Tablet has posted an article entitled, “Orthodox prelate rules out unity with Catholics.”  http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/9019/orthodox-prelate-rules-out-unity-with-catholics  Fortunately, the DECR posted on May 3 a transcript of the questions and answers.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/05/03/news159660/   The question to Metropolitan Hilarion apparently related to the comment by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on April 3 to a pilgrimage of Catholic priests from the Rome that “the journey towards the unity of our Holy Churches is unstoppable.”  https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2018/04/turchia-cammino-verso-lunita.html   

    The exact phrasing of the question to the Metropolitan in the television interview is as follows:

    Vladyka, Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew said that, in his opinion, the unification of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in the future is inevitable [неизбежно].  Do you share this position?

    In response Metropolitan Hilarion stated, “I do not share it on the basis of a very realistic analysis of the situation both within the Local Orthodox Churches and in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.”   He then referred to the issue involving the filioque and mentioned such controversies as Cardinal Stepinac and the Unia.  He concluded:  “For the totality of all these reasons, I do not share the opinion expressed by Patriarch Bartholomew.”   From the transcript, it appears clear to me that Metropolitan Hilarion was simply expressing the opinion, probably shared by most people, that unification is not “inevitable.”  Amazingly, the media, following the report of RIA, has changed the Metropolitan’s statement to the effect that there is not a 100 percent likelihood of unification into a statement that there is practically a zero percent likelihood of unification!

    It appears that Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Albania, April 28-30, went very well.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/05/01/news159599/  I was particularly interested in the very warm remarks address by Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania to Patriarch Kirill during the Divine Liturgy on Sunday.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/04/29/news159474/  He referred to the fact that he and Kirill had worked together in the early 1970s as vice presidents of  SYNDESMOS, the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth.  He also referred to the importance of Orthodox unity and the need to “make efforts to reconcile contradictions between different Christian communities in order to achieve peaceful co-existence with people of different religious beliefs.”  Archbishop Anastasios has a very closed relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarch and is also a good friend of Patriarch Kirill.  It appears to me that he is a “bridgebuilder.” 

    On April 25, the Vatican press office issued a communique that the Holy Father will travel to Bari on July 7 for a day of reflection and prayer with respect to the dramatic situation in the Middle East.  The Pope “intends to invite to this ecumenical encounter for peace the Heads of Christian Churches and Communities from that region.”   http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2018/04/25/180425f.html  Presumably, the invitation would include the Ecumenical Patriarch.  Last September the mayor of Bari had invited Patriarch Kirill to visit Bari.  A few days after the Vatican’s announcement on April 25, the mayor of Bari received a letter from Patriarch Kirill stating “I hope that with God’s help my visit to Bari will become possible."   http://www.baritoday.it/attualita/visita-patriarca-mosca-bari-kirill-risponde-a-invito-decaro.html ;  http://bari.repubblica.it/cronaca/2018/04/28/news/bari_kirill-195025016/    Was this a mere coincidence in timing?

    On April 24-26, Pro Oriente organized a seminar at the Orthodox Academy in Crete, where the 2016 Council was held.  The participants included Archbishop Job, Cardinal Koch, and selected Orthodox and Catholic representatives of the international and regional Orthodox – Catholic theological dialogues, such as the International Commission, North American Consultation, German Commission, French Committee, and St. Irenaeus Working Group.  https://www.ecupatria.org/news/    The seminar resulted in a joint recommendation “that regional bodies for theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox should be founded, especially in the Eastern European and Southeastern European region.”  http://www.pro-oriente.at/?site=ne20180427183732 

    The annual assembly of the bishops of the Serbian Patriarchate has not yet concluded.  I will send a report as soon as the final communique is issued.  In the meantime, the Antiochian Patriarchate has issued a communique at the end of the meeting of its Holy Synod.   http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/21519-patriarxeio-antioxeias-nomimi-proteuousa-tis-palaistinis-ta-ierosoluma (Greek); https://orthodoxie.com/reunion-du-saint-synode-du-patriarcat-dantioche/ (French)

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 24 April 2018: Communique of Ecumenical Patriarchate on Ukraine

    The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided at its meeting of April 19-20 to take a new step with respect to the request that has been made to it to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.  The following is the official English communique posted yesterday by the Patriarchate at  http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=2475&tla=gr :

    The Holy and Sacred Synod, under the chairmanship of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, concluded its regular session, which took place between Thursday, April 19th, and Friday, April 20th.  All the items on the agenda were reviewed and discussed and the appropriate decisions were made.
    In accordance with the Divine and Sacred Canons, as well as century-old ecclesiastical order and Holy Tradition, the Ecumenical Patriarchate concerns itself with the preservation of Pan-Orthodox unity and the care for the Orthodox Churches throughout the world—especially of the Ukrainian Orthodox Nation that has received the salvific Christian faith and holy baptism from Constantinople.  Thus, as its true Mother Church, it examined matters pertaining to the ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine, as done in previous synodal sessions, and having received from ecclesiastical and civil authorities—representing millions of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians—a petition that requests the bestowal of autocephaly, decided to closely communicate and coordinate with its sister Orthodox Churches concerning this matter.

    To the best of my knowledge, this is the first occasion that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided to initiate a process of formally consulting with other Local Orthodox Churches on the issue of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Church.  Previously, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had engaged in a process of internal deliberations with respect to the autocephaly issue.

    Today, the DECR of the UOC-MP issued a statement at http://news.church.ua/2018/04/23/komentari-do-rishennya-sinodu-konstantinopolskogo-patriarxatu-shhodo-ukrajinskogo-pitannya/  with the following conclusions:

    1. Since the Patriarchate of Constantinople, not only in this text but in many other official texts, emphasizes that it positions itself as a Church bearing the "responsibility for all-Orthodox unity," this means that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will not take any steps that would undermine such unity.
    2. The Patriarchate of Constantinople makes it clear that the consideration of this question will be carried out in close communication with all of the other Local Orthodox Churches in the world and to agree with the mentioned Churches.  This moment is self-evident, since any new possible autocephalous Church must be accepted in prayer and Eucharistic communication by all of the Local Orthodox Churches.  Thus, there are reasons to think that visits of representatives of the Constantinople Patriarchate to the Local Orthodox Churches may begin in the near future.  Recall that none of these Churches recognizes the "UOC-KP" and "UAOC" as canonical Churches and does not confer with them.  Therefore, if we talk about Ukrainian autocephaly, then this question cannot be considered without the participation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the only canonical Church of Ukraine.
    3. The text in the communiqué of the millions of Orthodox Ukrainians, on whose behalf the representatives of the UOC-KP and UAOC allegedly act, does not reflect the position of the millions of believers represented by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is the largest religious association in Ukraine.  (Google translation)

    Also today, Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich of the DECR of the UOC-MP participated in a press conference on the subject.  http://news.church.ua/2018/04/23/u-informacijnomu-agentstvi-golosua-vidbulasya-pres-konferenciya-shho-naspravdi-stojit-za-stvorennyam-jedinoji-pomisnoji-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-video/  This link includes a video.  Interestingly, in the above statement, the UOC-MP does not appear to object to the conducting of a pan-Orthodox dialogue on the issue of autocephaly for Ukraine, but rather insists that the UOC-MP be an indispensable participant in any discussions.  As of this moment, I have not yet seen a statement from the Church in Moscow on this subject.  It is possible that Moscow may take the position that autocephaly should not even be a formal topic of discussion between the various Local Orthodox Churches unless all of the Local Orthodox Churches agree that it should be a topic of discussion.

    On a different topic, Patriarch Kirill had a telephone conversation with Pope Francis on April 14 concerning the situation in Syria.  The website of the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has posted at https://mospat.ru/en/2018/04/17/news159202/  an English translation of the joint appeal which was discussed.  Although the text of the appeal has apparently not been released by the Vatican, there has been no denial of the accuracy of the text.  The primates that supported the text include the Orthodox patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.  Aside from the Pope and these three patriarchs, Patriarch Kirill also telephoned Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on April 14 concerning the situation in Syria.  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/04/14/news159136/  There is nothing on the website which indicates the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch. 

    Metropolitan Hilarion has confirmed that the UOC-KP has not yet expressed any interest in working with the joint commission established by the Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate to resolve the schism.  https://ria.ru/religion/20180417/1518855951.html?inj=1 

    There should be more interesting news shortly.  Patriarch Kirill is expect to visit Albania April 28-30.  https://ria.ru/religion/20180417/1518827789.html  The annual assembly of the Serbian bishops will begin on April 29.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/holy_assembly_bishops_serbian_orthodox_church_convened_0 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 13 April 2018: Ecumenical Patriarch and FYROM & more news

    On Tuesday, the President of the FYROM, Gjorge Ivanov, met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar.   http://www.president.mk/en/media-centre/news/5144.html;  http://fanarion.blogspot.com.tr/2018/04/fyrom.html?m=1 (video).   Among other subjects, the two discussed issues related to the status of the non-canonical FYROM Orthodox Church.  According to the statement from the President’s office, “President Ivanov stressed that the MOC-OA is a living church, while the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed hope that the issue will be resolved.”  Yesterday (Wednesday), Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met with a group of teachers and graduate students from the Skopje Seminary of St. Clement of Ohrid, part of the non-canonical FYROM Orthodox Church.  http://fanarion.blogspot.com.tr/2018/04/blog-post_12.html?m=1  (statement by the Press Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate).  According to this statement, the Ecumenical Patriarch raised with the teachers and students the subject of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church assuming “ecclesiastical motherhood" of the FYROM Church.  The following is a quotation of the Ecumenical Patriarch from the press statement (Google translation of the statement which is in Greek):

    "I am thinking about this because I want to be perfectly honest with you.  This action of the sister Church of Bulgaria was wrong.  It does not help.  It complicates things.  The Mother Church of all the Balkan peoples is Constantinople.  This is what unbiased history says.  What is being discussed is a fictitious mother.  And Bulgaria cannot introduce you to canonicity, in canonical relations with the other Churches.  In inter-Orthodox dealings, there must be straightforwardness, honesty and sincerity," he noted and added: "Every time an Orthodox synaxis of primates is convened either here or in Chambesy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate's attempt is to put all subjects on the table and to discuss them with honesty and sincerity.  We did so in the matter of the Holy and Great Synod, which we all prepared together with the Churches.  The last synaxis of the Orthodox primates was in January 2016 in Chambesy, and we discussed, even with difficulties sometimes there, all of the issues and prepared the texts which the Holy and Great Synod would approve.  We prepared the Rules of Operation and said, ‘Until we meet again in June in Crete.’   Everyone signed them and spent three, four months without something new, without complaining, and at the last moment four churches said we will not come.  But the Synod was done.  But that does not show honesty and sincerity on the part of these four Churches, since we had agreed and we had signed them all." 

    The Ecumenical Patriarch told the students that they were welcome to come to the Phanar whenever they want, that they are loved, and that they should feel at home there.

    In my recent report on the visit of Patriarch Kirill to Bulgaria, I referred to the comment by the Patriarch’s press secretary that the Moscow Patriarchate is monitoring the negotiations that are occurring, with the apparent participation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, to resolve the uncanonical status of the FYROM Church.   http://news.bnt.bg/bg/a/ruskiyat-patriarkh-kiril-se-sreshchna-s-blgarskiya-patriarkh-neofit   Perhaps the Ecumenical Patriarch’s reference above to putting all subjects on the table and discussing them with honesty and sincerity implies that the FYROM Church issue should be negotiated with broader participation, including the participation by the Ecumenical Patriarchate which considers itself the true mother church.

    On Monday the Ecumenical Patriarch met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.  http://fanarion.blogspot.com.tr/2018/04/video.html?m=1  The private meeting, which discussed many issues, lasted one and one-half hours.   On April 3, the Ecumenical Patriarch met with a pilgrimage group of approximately 70 Catholic priests from the Diocese of Rome.  https://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2018/04/turchia-cammino-verso-lunita.html   The Patriarch told the priests that "even if slowly, even if at times with difficulty, the journey towards the unity of our Holy Churches is unstoppable” because God wants it.  He also expressed his desire eventually to see a unified date for Easter.

    On April 5, Pope Francis blessed in the Vatican Gardens the newly-installed bronze statue of St. Gregory of Narek, the great tenth-century Armenian monk and theologian.  https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/04/05/pope-blesses-statue-of-10th-century-armenian-saint-in-vatican-gardens/  Those attending included Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians, Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, and Armenian Catholic Patriarch Gregoire Pierre XX Ghabroyan.  A short video of the event can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY8XD81Fegw.

    The Croatian Council of Catholic Bishops issued on April 10 an important statement urging Croatia not to ratify the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (“Istanbul Convention”) because of its incorporation of “gender theory.”  http://www.ika.hr/index.php?prikaz=vijest&ID=199293 (official English translation)  This is similar to the action taken in January by the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bulgaria-church-treaty/treaty-opposing-violence-against-women-will-lead-to-moral-decay-bulgarian-church-says-idUSKBN1FB2LS  In February both Bulgaria and Slovakia refused to ratify.  https://www.sott.net/article/378425-Bulgaria-and-Slovakia-rebuke-gender-ideology-by-refusing-to-ratify-Istanbul-Convention  However, many European countries have already ratified the Convention including such countries as Italy, Poland, Georgia, Serbia, Romania, and Albania.  For the latest tally of signatory and ratifying countries, see https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/210/signatures .

    Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has given an interesting interview that has been translated into French and appears in the April issue of Unité des Chrétienshttp://unitedeschretiens.fr/Metropolite-Kallistos-Ware.html  The following are some interesting observations made by the Metropolitan with respect to the Chieti document:

    As for the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, in previous years, it has addressed the crucial question between our two Churches: the position of the Bishop of Rome in world communion or if you prefer the relationship between primacy and synodality.   In 2016, the dialogue produced an excellent agreement in Chieti.  This document envisions the Church as the image of the Holy Trinity.  It emphasizes the link between Church and Eucharist without mentioning "jurisdictional power or jurisdiction," by adopting much more pastoral language, characteristic of the ancient Church.  The Chieti's document emphasizes that in the first millennium the pope did not exercise canonical authority over the Christian East.  It admits, to reformulate it in our modern language, his universal jurisdiction of appeal.  In other words, it is the possibility of the other patriarchs to turn to Rome, in case of insurmountable disputes by themselves.  This document, in a surprising way, was not adopted only by the Orthodox, but also by the Catholic delegation and from the outset in a unanimous manner.  Then how could we reconcile that with, for example, the decisions of Vatican Council I, establishing, among other things, a universal and ordinary jurisdiction of the Pope?  For the time being, the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue has not worked on the second millennium.  In my opinion, the work of the group must continue in this direction.   The Vatican Council II must also be studied closely.  It approaches the Chieti's document, saying that the pope does not intervene directly in the relations of the Churches of the Christian East. 

    Metropolitan Kallistos also observed:

    The goal of ecumenical dialogue is the restoration of Eucharistic communion.  But to be able to commune together at the Lord's table, we must share the same faith.  The Eucharist cannot be separated from our faith.  Also, to restore Eucharistic communion, we must seek and deepen our common paths in the common faith.  However, we must add, there is a distinction between dogma and theologoumena between faith and theological opinions.  One of the most important tasks of theological dialogues is to balance things out.  It is a question of discerning on the one hand what is essential and irreducible in the field of faith, where our agreement is indispensable. Then we establish theological views where differences can be tolerated, as long as they do not jeopardize the common repository of faith.  This is how I hear the terms "unity in diversity" or "reconciled diversity".  The bilateral committees of the theological dialogue are particularly suitable structures for this exercise.  Their final goal remains the restoration of Eucharistic communion.  (Google translation of the French)

    Lastly, a Serbian bishop and a Romanian bishop participated in a procession together and prayed together on Holy Saturday in the city of Vršac in the Serbian Eparchy of Banat, bordering on Romania.  http://basilica.ro/episcopul-roman-si-cel-sarb-s-au-rugat-impreuna-in-noaptea-de-pasti-la-varset/   I hope that this is a sign of lessening of tensions between the two Patriarchates.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 March 2018: Ecumenical Patriarchate's metochion in Kyiv and Lviv??

    In early February there were unconfirmed reports on the Internet that the Ecumenical Patriarchate was planning to establish a metochion (a representational or diplomatic church) in Kyiv and Lviv.  http://orthochristian.com/110448.html  Yesterday, RISU posted an exclusive interview which gives greater credence to this report.  https://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/orthodox_relations/70605/  In the interview, Andriy Yurash, Director of the Department for Religious Affairs and Nationalities of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, stated that it is too early to speak of the exact date of the opening of the representations of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.  He remarked: “This topic has been discussed for a long time.  Negotiations have been held for several years.  At all levels, both church and politics.  This is the exchange of information and model building, in what form it could operate.”  Although the Moscow Patriarchate is very opposed to this plan, Yurash contends that “the opening of the residence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine is an irreversible process.”  He acknowledged that the form of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s presence in Ukraine may “ be some kind of a compromise model.”  From the foregoing, it certainly appears that discussions are actually occurring with respect to the establishment of a permanent presence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Ukraine.  Whether this will actually happen remains to be seen.

    In a somewhat similar issue, the Church of Greece is contesting the right of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to own and operate the St. George chapel located on the Prompona estate in the outskirts of Athens.   http://www.kathimerini.gr/954615/article/epikairothta/ellada/patriarxeio-kata-ierwnymoy-gia-to-kthma-prompona ; http://www.romfea.gr/diafora/20531-sto-ste-to-oikoumeniko-patriarxeio-kata-tis-ieras-arxiepiskopis  It appears that the estate donated the chapel as a bequest to the Ecumenical Patriarch, who in turn placed it under the administration of his Stavropegic Vlatadon Monastery.  To prevent the abbot of the Monastery from celebrating Divine Liturgy in the chapel, the Church of Greece filed a lawsuit and had the chapel sealed.  A special meeting of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece was called to consider the matter.   http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/20430-epibebaiosi-romfeagr-dis-gia-prompona-to-thema-na-luthei-eirinika-kai-nomima   The Ecumenical Patriarchate has now filed an appeal to the Council of State.

    The Serbian Patriarchate will be considering at its May annual assembly of all of its bishops certain suggested changes to its constitution.  The most detailed description of the proposed changes, which have already been sent to the Serbian bishops, is found at http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/naslovna/drustvo/aktuelno.290.html:715176-PREDLOG-NOVOG-USTAVA-SPC-Patrijarha-ce-birati-dve-trecine-vladika .  The changes include: (1) changing the name of the church to the Serbian Orthodox Church – Pec Patriarchate; (2) changing the procedure for the election of the patriarch from a draw of one of three sealed envelopes, each containing the name of one of the top three candidates, to an election by a two-thirds majority; and (3) elevating the status of 13 existing bishops to metropolitans and their dioceses to metropolia.  According to the article, the Church adopted the existing procedure of selection of the patriarch by lot in 1967 to avoid the influence of the communist authorities.  The article also contains other interesting information concerning the proposed changes. 

    During the Ecumenical Patriarch’s recent visit to Vienna, Cardinal Koch and the Catholic bishop of Eisenstadt, Austria presented to the Patriarch a donation of 100,000 euros from Pope Francis to assist in the construction of the first Orthodox monastery in Austria.  http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/8686/pope-donates-100-000-euros-90-000-towards-first-orthodox-monastery-in-austria  The Holy See has also given a grant of 500,000 dollars to assist in the restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and an equal amount for the restoration work at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  http://it.custodia.org/default.asp?id=4&id_n=32807   On March 13, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew attended the Mass at the Catholic cathedral in Istanbul to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Francis.  https://agensir.it/quotidiano/2018/3/14/turchia-anche-il-patriarca-bartolomeo-alla-messa-celebrata-ieri-sera-per-i-5-anni-di-pontificato-di-papa-francesco/  According to this article, the Ecumenical Patriarch will again be at the Vatican on May 26.  He will participate in the conference, New policies and new lifestyles in the digital age

    On March 14, Cardinal Koch visited the seminary of the Moscow Patriarchate located at Epinay-sous-Sénart near Paris.  https://www.seminaria.fr/Cardinal-Kurt-Koch-Il-est-remarquable-que-ce-seminaire-soit-devenu-le-lieu-privilegie-de-rencontre-entre-l-Eglise_a1140.html   In his remarks, the Cardinal stated in part: “[I]t is particularly remarkable that this seminary has also become in a short time the privileged meeting place between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in France.  Among many initiatives, I particularly welcome the fraternal links that unite your Seminary with the Seminary Saint-Sulpice, which can be witnessed by his former Rector, Bishop Didier Berthet.  This Seminary is therefore the setting for a true ‘exchange of gifts’ which is the privileged way of Christian unity: not only the seminarians trained here can better know Western Christianity, but they are also, for many Christians of West, faces - dare I say icons? – of Orthodoxy, which allows them to know your tradition and your Church better.  I therefore very sincerely welcome, as President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, the existence of this Seminary, which is not only an exceptional place of formation but also a real bridge between the Christians of the East and West. I am grateful to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill for initiating it, and to Bishop Nestor, Bishop of the Diocese of Chersonese, and to you, Father Alexander, who is the Rector and the soul.”  A nice video of the visit can be viewed at https://www.seminaria.fr/Reportage-sur-la-visite-au-Seminaire-du-cardinal-Kurt-Koch_a1142.html .

    The Economist has published an article which is critical of the recent acquittal of Greek Metropolitan Amvrosios of Kalavryta for his remarks relating to homosexuals.  https://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2018/03/orthodoxy-homosexuality-and-hate  The acquittal has been appealed.  http://www.ekathimerini.com/227083/article/ekathimerini/news/prosecutor-appeals-decision-to-acquit-amvrosios-over-homophobic-rant 

    While relations between the Russian Federation and certain Western nations have been becoming worse, the Russian ambassador to the Vatican has given an interview stressing the improvement of relations with the Holy See.  http://www.lastampa.it/2018/03/16/vaticaninsider/eng/inquiries-and-interviews/the-russian-ambassador-dialogue-with-the-vatican-proceeds-we-feel-the-pope-close-to-us-pkOEohBSX3MBznjjlaiEXL/pagina.html

    To those of you who are celebrating Easter this Sunday and to those of you who are celebrating Pascha a week later, I wish you a very joyful and holy feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 March 2018: Negotiations in Bulgaria

     

    Patriarch Kirill completed today his March 2-4 visit to Bulgaria.  It was his second trip to Bulgaria since becoming Patriarch.  The first was in April 2012.  This year’s visit was in response to an invitation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to join in the celebration of the 140th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano on March 3, 1878.   The treaty marked the end of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 and included major concessions by the Ottoman Empire.  The Treaty established a Principality of Bulgaria which was granted self-governing status and which included Skopje and parts of what is now northern Greece.  At the insistence of the western powers, the size of the Principality of Bulgaria was greatly reduced at the Congress of Berlin four months later.  Although Bulgaria did not obtain complete independence until 1908, the victories in the Russo-Turkish War and the Treaty of San Stefano marked the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule which had begun in 1396.   March 3 is now observed as a national holiday -- “Liberation Day.”  The major national observance occurs at the monument in Shipka Pass (in the Balkan Mountains approximately 200 km east of Sofia).  Here, Russian troops and Bulgarian volunteers heroically held the Pass in four separate engagements.

    The first person to greet Patriarch Kirill as he emerged from his plane in Sofia was Metropolitan Kiprian (Kazandzhiev) of Stara Zagora.   https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/03/02/news157401/  As you may recall, the Bulgarian Holy Synod last November appointed Metropolitan Kiprian to be the head of the Commission to  “negotiate with the Orthodox Church of Macedonia and the other Local Orthodox Churches to establish the canonical status of the Orthodox Church of Macedonia.”   In December the Holy Synod also appointed him to be its spokesman in all matters.  Last month, he joined Bulgarian President Radev on this trip to the FYROM.

    Patriarch Kirill’s first stop was a prayer service at the chapel of the Holy Synod dedicated to St. Tsar Boris.  There was then a meeting in the Synod chamber in which both Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit and Patriarch Kirill gave short addresses.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2018/03/02/news157417/ ; http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=257489 (includes videos of the addresses).  Patriarch Kirill pointed out:

    The Russian Orthodox Church has always remembered that it was the Bulgarian missionaries - the disciples of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius - who in the 10th century enlightened our ancestors by the holy Orthodox faith, attached them to the Slavonic script, and opened for them a treasure trove of Christian culture and patristic thought.  Without Bulgarian Orthodoxy, there would be no Russian Orthodoxy, or, if it were, it could have been quite different, because through the Bulgarian Orthodoxy, the Russian people received the foundations of the Orthodox faith in their native Slavonic language.  Therefore, tens of thousands of Russian soldiers who sacrificed their lives for ridding Bulgaria of bitter and inferior slavery returned this great historical duty to the Bulgarians, attesting to everlasting brotherly love between our churches.

    The opening addresses were followed by a closed meeting between the members of the Holy Synod including Patriarch Neofit and Metropolitan Kiprian and key members of the Russian delegation including Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion.  The official program provided that a briefing would be given to journalists and the mass media following this meeting.  http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=257461  However, the briefing, which was to be given by Metropolitan Kiprian and Metropolitan Hilarion, was cancelled immediately before it was to be held.  The cancellation is described in this very interesting report by Bulgarian National Television: 

    After this program meeting, there was to be a press conference.  The questions were expected to be what the Russian Orthodox Church thinks about the Macedonian Orthodox Church's wish that our church should become its mother church.

    To the surprise of the journalists, the press conference of the Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk and the Metropolitan Kiprian of Stara Zagora was cancelled; instead a short statement was made by the press-secretary of the Russian patriarch.

    Father Alexander Volkov, the press secretary of the Russian Patriarch Kirill: “This is a complex and very important subject, which we are glad to have the possibility to solve by both our churches.  We cannot say in advance what the solutions will be.  But, in any case, the Russian Church follows carefully and in depth this negotiation process that is going on now.“  http://news.bnt.bg/bg/a/ruskiyat-patriarkh-kiril-se-sreshchna-s-blgarskiya-patriarkh-neofit (includes video with the statement by Father Alexander at the end)

    The Russian delegation then traveled to Stara Zagora where they were hosted for the evening and the night by Metropolitan Kiprian.  http://www.nbp.bg/nbp/%D1%80%D1%83%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D1%8F%D1%82-%D0%BF%D0%B0%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%85-%D0%BA%D0%B8%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BB-%D0%B8-%D0%B1%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D1%8F%D1%82/#prettyPhoto   On Saturday morning there was moleben served by Patriarchs Neofit and Kirill at the Church of the Nativity near the town Shipka, south of the Pass itself.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5156038.html  The church is a memorial to the Russian and Bulgarian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.  There was then the official state ceremony at the Freedom Monument (a seven story stone tower built in the style of a medieval Bulgarian fortress) located high in the Pass itself.  I think that you might enjoy watching this 4-minute YouTube video which captures some of the spirit of this event with all of the snow, singing, and flags.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlKqfZO-Ltk   In the video you can see Metropolitan Kirprian, whose diocese includes Shipka, standing between Patriarch Neofit and Metropolitan Hilarion.  The group of singers, bundled up in their winter clothing, is, I believe, the Moscow Synodal Choir so closely associated with Metropolitan Hilarion.  Bulgarian President Radev spoke at the event, and Patriarch Kirill performed a litany.   http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5156047.html   I found the following words by the President quite moving:

    There are many bones buried under the snow, in the earth of St. Nicola, Okolchitsa [a mountain peak], the Eagle’s Nest and the surrounding redoubts.  Some 140 years later you can hardly tell which are the bones of the Bulgarians and which are the Russian ones.  However, Bulgaria's freedom was built on the foundation of these bones.  https://www.president.bg/news4281/president-rumen-radev-shipka-is-the-capital-of-national-dignity-in-history-and-we-should-never-waste-this-capital.html

    During the remainder of Saturday, the Russian delegation met in Sofia with the Bulgarian Prime Minister and with the Chairperson of Parliament (Metropolitan Kiprian was also there).  The delegation also attended the evening state celebration concluding with festive fireworks at the National Assembly (Narodno Sabranie) Square with its large equestrian statue of Russian Tsar Alexander II, the “Liberator.”  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5156346.html  Today, Sunday, the two Patriarchs and others celebrated the Liturgy in the huge Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky – named after the patron saint of Tsar Alexander II and built in memory of the Russian soldiers who died in the 1877-78 War.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/5156395.html ; http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=257632   A video of the Liturgy may be watched at https://www.bnt.bg/bg/a/180327-sborna-sveta-liturgiya-na-ruskiya-patriarkh-kiril-i-blgarskiya-patriarkh-neofit.

    Not surprisingly, it was Metropolitan Kiprian who accompanied the Russian delegation to the airport from its return flight to Moscow.   At the airport, Patriarch Kirill did mention his irritation at some state officials who credited other countries, in addition to Russia, in the liberation of Bulgaria.  http://glasove.com/categories/na-fokus/news/patriarh-kiril-mnogo-me-ogorchi-oficialnata-retorika-na-bylgarskite-vlasti-za-rolyata-na-rusiya-v-osvoboditelnata-vojna 

    However, in reading the speeches given on both the Bulgarian and Russian sides, it is difficult to imagine a greater tribute to and praise of the close relationship between the Bulgarian and Russian peoples and churches.  I believe that from the perspective of both Churches, it was a very successful visit.  It was also, in my opinion, the perfect opportunity for the Bulgarian Church to seek to obtain the aid of the Russian Church in solving the long-standing problem of the non-canonical status of the FYROM church.   I believe that the Bulgarian Church ensured that the program of the visit provided the maximum opportunity for Metropolitan Kiprian to talk to Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion.  As stated above, Metropolitan Kiprian is the head of the Commission to “negotiate with the Orthodox Church of Macedonia and the other Local Orthodox Churches to establish the canonical status of the Orthodox Church of Macedonia.”   Metropolitan Kiprian has already had discussions with the FYROM Church (the first part of the mission of the Commission), and this weekend was the opportunity to open discussions with one of the Local Orthodox Churches about this issue (the second part of the mission).  The Russian Church seems to be a good choice.  It has very strong relations with the Bulgarian Church plus it also has a very strong relationship with the Serbian Church.  There can be no real solution unless the Serbian Church joins in the resolution.  It is unlikely that Moscow will broker any settlement that will provide autocephaly to the FYROM church as that would create a precedent for Ukraine.  Still, it might be possible to have a settlement somewhat short of full autocephaly.  All of this is speculation on my part.  However, I believe that the words of Father Alexander Volkov show that negotiations with the involvement of the Moscow Patriarchate are already underway to solve the FYROM issue.

    In a number of way, Metropolitan Kiprian reminds me of Metropolitan Hilarion.  Both received major responsibility at an early age.  Metropolitan Kiprian was ordained a bishop at the age of 31.  He is now 41 years old.  Both have great musical talent.  While bishop of Vratsa, Kiprian conducted the “Choir of St Sophronius, Bishop of Vratsa,” which has won many international prizes.  http://www.festivalveronagardaestate.eu/en/cori/St_Sophronius_of_Vratsa_Bishop  The following is a short YouTube video showing Kiprian conducting the choir at a festival in Verona, Italy in 2014.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POkkEC5FbBY  Last year on the Wednesday of Holy Week, he conducted a concert of Mozart’s Requiem in the Stara Zagora Opera.  The following is a YouTube video describing this.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59o-JsEPvsM   Like Metropolitan Hilarion, he worked for a period of time in the English-speaking world.  In the period 2006-07, he held assignments in the United States, Canada, and Australia.  http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=221567 

    Meanwhile, the controversy over the name of the FYROM continues unabated.  Here are some of the names being considered.  https://sofiaglobe.com/2018/02/27/macedonia-mulls-four-name-changes-to-resolve-dispute-with-greece/  The controversy has even come to the United States.  On March 18, Archbishop Demetrios (Ecumenical Patriarchate) will participate in a rally near the United Nations building in New York City to express “opposition to the unacceptable use of the name of Macedonia by FYROM.”  https://www.goarch.org/-/archiepiscopal-encyclical-invitation-to-participate-in-un-rally-for-macedonia 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 February 2018: Skopje & Bucharest

    On February 16-17, President Rumen Radev of Bulgaria visited the FYROM at the invitation of FYROM President Gjorge Ivanov.  President Radev was accompanied by Metropolitan Nikolai of Plovdiv and Metropolitan Kipriyan of Stara Zagora.  Metropolitan Kipriyan heads the Commission created by the Bulgarian Patriarchate to “negotiate with the Orthodox Church of Macedonia and the other Local Orthodox Churches to establish the canonical status of the Orthodox Church of Macedonia.”  (For an interesting article about this young Metropolitan Kipriyan, see https://sofiaglobe.com/2016/12/11/bulgarian-orthodox-churchs-holy-synod-elects-kipriyan-as-new-metropolitan-of-stara-zagora/)  Metropolitan Nikolai is a member of the Holy Synod.   During the visit, the President and the two metropolitans were very warmly greeted at the spectacular and historic St. John the Forerunner Bigorski Monastery ( http://bigorski.mk/), which is the largest monastery in the FYROM and which is located approximately 40 miles southwest of Skopje. The details of the visit to the monastery are described at  http://www.bgnes.com/bylgariia/politika/4568334/  and  https://www.mkd.mk/makedonija/politika/radev-ja-cenam-ulogata-na-bigorskiot-manastir-za-zacvrstuvanje-na-prijatelstvoto .  The highlights of the visit to the Monastery are seen in the following 3-minute video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWtgiDdFEx4  Aside from the monastery visit, contacts between the two metropolitans and the Macedonian Orthodox Church - Ohrid Archbishopric (MOC-OA) appear to have been limited.   A prayer service was conducted by the two metropolitans in the presence of President Radev at the grave of Gotse Delchev (a leader of a revolt against the Ottoman Empire), but the MOC-OA was represented only by priests and not by hierarchs as expected.  At a luncheon hosted by FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev for the Bulgarian President, MOC-OA Bishops Clement and Hilarion were present.  At a dinner hosted by FYROM President Ivanov, MOC-OA Archbishop Stephen and Metropolitan Peter were present.  https://www.mkd.mk/makedonija/politika/bugarskite-vladici-odrzhaa-moleben-na-grobot-na-goce-delchev  However, it is likely that many others attended as well.  On February 18, Patriarch Neofit was asked in Sofia for his reaction to the visit.  He said, “What has happened is joyful , and the details will be discussed further in church relations.”  http://www.bgnes.com/bylgariia/politika/4568513/  It is possible that the reference to “church relations” (“в църковно отношение”) could mean discussions with other Local Orthodox Churches.
    The influential Greek Orthodox website Romfea.gr has called “incredible” this “official reception of hierarchs of the Bulgarian Patriarchate by schismatics.”  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/20145-apisteuto-episimi-upodoxi-ierarxon-tou-patriarxeiou-boulgarias-apo-sxismatikous   However, the actions of the Bulgarian Patriarchate must be viewed with the realization that there is great popular support in Bulgaria for a strong relationship with the FRYOM.  For example, when President Radev met the president of the Assembly of FYROM, the President stated that when the Bulgarian Parliament considered the Agreement of Friendship between the two nations, “all political parties voted for it unanimously.”  https://www.president.bg/news4239/president-rumen-radev-bulgaria-and-the-republic-of-macedonia-enjoy-a-strategic-partnership-and-this-is-the-stance-adopted-by-all-bulgarian-political-parties.html   As a national church it may be difficult for the Bulgarian Patriarchate to resist this national wave of support for the FYROM, and it may be unrealistic to expect that the Bulgarian church would refuse to have any contact with the largest church of the FYROM.  The fact that the two metropolitans were essentially accompanying the President of Bulgaria during this visit shows its political nature.   Even the heated dispute over the name of the FYROM has important geopolitical consequences.  If the dispute can be resolved before the NATO Brussels summit in July, it is extremely likely that the FYROM will be able to join NATO.  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-macedonia-foreignminister/macedonia-hopes-to-settle-name-row-with-greece-by-july-idUSKCN1G30R0  

    Several websites have reported that the Ecumenical Patriarch has “denounced” the actions of the Bulgarian Patriarchate with respect to the MOC-AO.  The report was based upon the communique relating to the February 7-9 meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=en&id=2410&tla=gr   The communique is posted at a very hard-to-find (at least for me) location on the Patriarchate’s website.  The communique includes the following sentence:  “Ἐξητάσθησαν ἐπίσης καί αἱ ἐπ᾿ ἐσχάτων ἐκδηλούμεναι ἀντικανονικαί ἐνέργειαι τῆς Ἐκκλησίας Βουλγαρίας ἐπί τοῦ θέματος τῆς ἐν τῷ κράτει τῆς FYROM Ἐκκλησίας” (“They also examined the highest manifested [??] anticanonical activities of the Church of Bulgaria on the subject of the State of FYROM Church.”)  There is no further explanation.  A clue may be provided by the February 2 press release of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in which the Patriarchate “as the Mother Church of all Orthodox Churches on the Balkans” urged calm on the Macedonia-name dispute.  If indeed the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the mother of each and every Orthodox Church on the Balkans and if each of these Churches can have only one mother, the Bulgarian Patriarchate can obviously not be the mother church of the MOC-OA.

    Romanian Patriarch Daniel has announced that the Ecumenical Patriarch will attend the celebrations relating to the consecration of the new national cathedral, November 25-30, 2018.  http://basilica.ro/en/ecumenical-patriarch-to-attend-consecration-of-romanias-national-cathedral/  The fact that Patriarch Kirill came to Bucharest last October and Patriarch Daniel went to Moscow in December makes it very likely, in my opinion, that Patriarch Kirill will also come to Bucharest for the major celebrations next November.  If this happens, it will be the first meeting between these two very important patriarchs since before the Crete Council.  With the likely attendance of many of the other primates of the Local Orthodox Churches in November, the celebrations could also be the occasion for a “summit” to determine the future course of Orthodoxy.  I am sure that Romanian Patriarchate would enjoy being the host for such a summit and being a facilitator between Constantinople and Moscow.  The Romanian Church is the second largest Local Orthodox Church in terms of the number of faithful, and the Romanian church is not closely allied with either Constantinople or Moscow.   You may recall that at the Crete Council, Patriarch Daniel offered to host the next Orthodox Council.  It will be interesting to see what will happen in November.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 February 2018: Vienna & Zagreb

    Yesterday (Monday) was the second anniversary of the Havana meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill.  The anniversary was observed by the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican at a concert and conference in Vienna hosted by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.  As was the case for last year’s observance at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), it appears that the location of this year’s observance was chosen by Metropolitan Hilarion.  The Metropolitan has a strong relationship with the University of Fribourg, where he has been granted an honorary professorship.  He also has a strong relationship with Vienna, where he served as bishop for six years and developed a friendship with Cardinal Schönborn.  The conference was devoted to the situation of Christians in the Middle East and was held in the Wiener Erzbischöflichen Palais.  Metropolitan Hilarion and Cardinal Kurt Koch were the keynote speakers.  The complete English text of the Metropolitan’s address was posted today at   https://mospat.ru/en/2018/02/13/news156637/ .  The conference is summarized at  https://mospat.ru/en/2018/02/13/news156628/  (English) and  https://www.erzdioezese-wien.at/site/home/nachrichten/article/63487.html (German).  Among the participants were Metropolitan Ignatius (Al-Houshi) of the Antiochian Patriarchate and Bishop Andrej (Cilerdzic), vicar of the Serbian Patriarch.

    The concert of Russian church music, performed by the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra and the Moscow Synodal Choir, was held Saturday evening at the Wiener Konzerthaus.  There is an excellent description of the concert on the website of Pro Orientehttp://www.pro-oriente.at/?site=ne20180211085957  At the end of the concert, there was, according to this article, tumultuous applause (“stürmischen Applaus”) for Metropolitan Hilarion and his compositions.  Among the guests of honor at the concert were:  Metropolitan Arsenios (Kardamakis)(Ecumenical Patriarchate); Metropolitan Serafim (Joantă)(Romanian Patriarchate); Metropolitan Mor Dionysios Isa Gürbüz (Syriac Orthodox Church); and Bishop Armash Nalbandian of Damascus (Armenian Apostolic Church).  Both the conference and the concert seem to have been great successes.  On Sunday, the Moscow Synodal Choir flew to Rome.

    While the persecuted Christians were remembered on Saturday and Monday in Vienna, Pope Francis and Patriarch Youssef Absi of the Melkite Church celebrated Mass together today (Tuesday) at the Vatican for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.  https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/02/13/pope-patriarch-says-mass-persecuted-christians-middle-east/  On Sunday, Patriarch John X of Antioch in an interview with RIA Novesti stressed the help that the Antiochian Patriarchate has received from Russia.  He stated:  “Yes, of course, some help comes from other countries.  But Russia is our main assistant.  We are grateful to Vladimir Putin, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, and the whole Russian people in general for the help they provide.”  https://ria.ru/religion/20180211/1514380323.html

    With respect to Austria, the major Catholic website Kathpress.at has developed a new product entitled Information Orthodoxy.  https://www.kathpress.at/information-orthodoxie  It is produced every two weeks and will be emailed to interested persons without cost.  It includes all of the Kathpress news items for the two-week period relating to Orthodoxy.  You can view the first issue, running 44 pages, at https://www.kathpress.at/dl/poLsJKJKknJqx4KJK/Information_Orthodoxie_00_2018_01_10.pdf   Kathpress is undertaking this project in cooperation with the foundations Living Together and Pro Oriente and with the support of the Austrian Orthodox Bishops Conference.   The Serbian Patriarchate have approximately 300,000 faithful in Austria, followed by the Romanian Patriarchate, Bulgarian Patriarchate, and Moscow Patriarchate with about 40,000 each.  The estimate for the Ecumenical Patriarchate is approximately 35,000 faithful.   https://www.katholisch.at/aktuelles/2018/01/23/kathpress-verstaerkt-berichterstattung-ueber-orthodoxie

    Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic completed today a two-day visit to Croatia at the invitation of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.   The two Presidents spent consideration time together.  At the conclusion of his visit, Vucic stated: “we have to have a dialogue, we have to listen and hear each other.”  https://www.nacionalno.hr/vucic-nakon-posjeta-hrvatskoj-potreban-je-dijalog-brzo-ce-se-osjetiti-napredak/  As part of the visit, the two presidents met with Cardinal Bozanić of Zagreb.   http://zg-nadbiskupija.hr/dokumenti/aktualnosti/kardinal-bozanic-primio-predsjednika-republike-srbije  The Serbian president later described the conversation with the Cardinal as “fair, open and honest.”  The two presidents also visited Orthodox Metropolitan Porphyry of Zagreb-Ljubljana.  The Metropolitan told the two presidents:  "Looking at all the events today I must say that I was first of all thrilled with your moods and the words you both directed to the Croatian public, above all the words of responsibility and concern for normal relations between Serbs and Croats, here and everywhere."  The Metropolitan referred to the invitation and the visit as “a courageous step and a call to peace.”  http://www.ika.hr/index.php?prikaz=vijest&ID=197487; http://www.spc.rs/sr/predstavljen_projekat_budutshnost_srba_u_hrvatskoj    Both presidents appear committed to the fair treatment of Serbs in Croatia and the fair treatment of Croats in Serbia.

    Other news:  The Orthodox Bishops’ Conference of Germany has issued a letter to youth about love, sexuality, and marriage.   http://rum-orthodox.de/2018/01/brief-der-obkd-an-die-jugend-ueber-liebe-sexualitaet-ehe/   The letter appears to take a very pastoral approach without expressly condemning certain practices sins.

     

    It has been reported that Patriarch Kirill will lead a 160-member delegation to Bulgaria in early March to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire.   http://orthochristian.com/110586.html

    On February 4, approximately 140,000 demonstrators filled Syntagma Square in Athens to protest against the use of “Macedonia” by the FYROM.  A video of the entire demonstration can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OJd-D3zYHU .   At 2:16:00 in the video, Orthodox Metropolitan Dorotheos of Syros, surrounded by many Orthodox bishops, addressed the demonstrators.  He stated, "Macedonia is in the hearts of all Greeks, God is with us and our homeland."  https://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/19929-mitropolitis-surou-apo-sullalitirio-i-ekklisia-leei-oxi-ston-oro-makedonia  On February 2, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had issued a press release stating: “The Ecumenical Patriarchate, as the Mother Church of all Orthodox Churches of the Balkans, on the occasion of the discussion on the name issue of FYROM, appeals to all parties concerned for calmness and self-restraint in order to address the crucial and sensitive issue peacefully and wisely.”   As far as I can determine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as “the Mother Church of all Orthodox Churches of the Balkans,” is not taking a position on the name controversy.  https://www.thenationalherald.com/189486/ecumenical-patriarch-calls-self-restraint-calmness-fyrom-name-issue/ 

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has written a letter in English to the Sant’Egidio Community praising the community and its founder Andrea Riccardi on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the community.  http://www.santegidio.org/downloads/saluto-patriarca-bartolomeo-per-50-anni-santegidio.pdf 

    Father Vsevolod Chaplin, joined by three other individuals, has filed a formal complaint with a diocesan church court in Moscow charging Father Alexei Dikarev of the DECR with violating church norms in engaging in joint prayer with the heterodox at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity observance, held in the Catholic cathedral in Moscow last month.  http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=129828 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
     

  • 31 January 2018: The "great Inter-Orthodox Theological Conference" announced

     

    You may recall that last June I reported that Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew made the following statement in a recorded conversation with Archbishop Ieronymos in Athens on June 5, 2017:  "Now, together, we must implement the decisions of the Council.  Already many theological schools and individual theologians are developing them.  A great Inter-Orthodox Theological Conference in Thessaloniki in April 2018 is being prepared, and the aim is to spread the decisions of this Council broadly as possible to become the possession of the Orthodox faithful."  See http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/15239-thermi-sunantisi-arxiepiskopou-me-oikoumeniko-patriarxi-foto .  This conference has now been formally announced.  http://www.orthodoxconference.theosch.auth.gr./   The conference will be held under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is entitled The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church: Orthodox Theology in the 21 st Century.  The Conference will be hosted by the School of Theology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and will held in Thessaloniki, May 21-25, 2018.  It appears to me that the Ecumenical Patriarch intends this to be the first major post-Crete event.

    As you know, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concluded on January 25.  I was particularly impressed by the observance in Bucharest, Romania.  Patriarch Daniel wrote a special letter for the occasion, and a prayer service was held each of seven consecutives days at a church of a different Christian denomination.   http://www.aidrom.ro/proiecte/saptamana-de-rugaciune-ecumenica/   A similar program of services on consecutive days was held in Jerusalem.  The first day was hosted by the Orthodox Jerusalem Patriarchate.  https://www.lpj.org/prayers-unity-christians-world/   In Poland, the main national event involving Orthodox, Lutherans, and Catholics was hosted by the Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity in Siedlce.  http://episkopat.pl/the-week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity-in-poland/  Metropolitan Sawa celebrated a special service in Warsaw for Christian unity.   http://episkopat.pl/the-week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity-in-poland/  The Serbian Patriarchate participated in services at several locations including the involvement of Orthodox Bishop Grigorije at Dubrovnik.  http://eparhija-zahumskohercegovacka.com/?p=37154  The Moscow Patriarchate participated again this year in the ecumenical service in Minsk, Belarus.  https://catholic.by/3/news/belarus/7413-malitva-za-ednasts-minsk  There was also participation by the Moscow Patriarchate in Moscow.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HZzi5fISTM  In Rome, there was the traditional vespers for Christian unity at the tomb of St. Paul presided by Pope Francis.  A video of the entire service can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=6hHyn2tVCX4 .  Metropolitan Gennadios represented the Ecumenical Patriarch at the service.  The service was also attended by other Orthodox clergy and by Orthodox students studying in Rome.

    Of course, there are those who criticized Orthodox involvement in such ecumenical events.  The following is a video of  part of the Moscow service posted on YouTube by Father Vsevolod Chaplin, who accuses Father Alexei Dikarev of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR of engaging in joint prayer with “Catholics” and Protestants.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=37&v=Tqaf2ACzdok  During the singing of the Our Father (from the video one cannot determine if Father Alexei is singing or not), the photographer turns the camera sidewise.   Interestingly, Father Vsevolod himself was deputy head of the DECR from 2001 – 2009.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vsevolod_Chaplin  Father Alexei also participated in the service last year, so his participation this year is nothing new.  http://www.cathmos.ru/content/ru/publication-2017-01-24-16-40-00.html#.WnERxainGbh

    On Sunday, Pope Francis visited the UGCC Cathedral of St. Sophia in Rome.  The following is a video of the entire visit.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Fe7YVA6WIY   The complete text of the Pope’s remarks can be read at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/speeches/2018/january/documents/papa-francesco_20180128_comunita-ucraina.html .  I was especially interested in the Pope’s story about his kissing every morning and evening at his Vatican residence an Ukrainian icon of the Mother of God of Tenderness (Eleousa).  He stated:

    And I would also like to give you a confidence, to tell you a secret.  At night, before going to bed, and in the morning, when I wake up, I always "meet with the Ukrainians."  Because?  Because when your Major Archbishop came to Argentina, when I saw him I thought he was the "altar boy" of the Ukrainian Church [presumably because of his young appearance]: but it was the Archbishop!  He did a good job, in Argentina.  We met together quite often.  Then, one day he went to the Synod and returned the Archbishop Major, to say goodbye. The day he took leave, he gave me a beautiful icon - so, half [fold in half the sheets in his hand to show the size] - of the Madonna of tenderness.  And I took her to my room in Buenos Aires, and every night I greeted her, and in the morning, too, a habit. Then it was up to me to make the trip to Rome and not be able to return - he could come back, I do not!  -  And I had the three books of the breviary I had brought, and the most essential things, and that the Madonna of tenderness.  And every night, before going to bed, I kiss the Madonna of the tenderness that your Archbishop gave me, and in the morning also, I greet you.  So you can say that I start the day and finish it "in Ukrainian."

    The following are some other developments of interest:  The Synod of the Church of Greece has again condemned any use of the word “Macedonia” by the FYROM.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/19703-iera-sunodos-kathe-ekfrasi-uperaspiseos-ton-dikaion-tis-makedonias-mas-einai-epaineti    The English website of Pravaslavnie.ru has posted an article quoting government officials stating that the per capita consumption of alcohol in Russia has decreased 80% in the last seven years.  http://orthochristian.com/109945.html  The article also states:  “The Russian Orthodox Church has played a key role in reducing the amount of alcohol consumption in the country.”  An article (taken from a speech) by Rev. Archdeacon John Chryssavgis has been posted at https://publicorthodoxy.org/2017/12/01/a-renewed-diaconate-completes-the-church/ .  In the article, Father John concludes: “A creative revival of the diaconate for men and women in our age can become the source of resurrection for the ordained ministry as a whole, thereby playing a crucial role in the broader mission of the church.”  Antiochian Patriarch John X has inaugurated a new cathedral in Abu Dhabi on land donated by the UAE.  http://byztex.blogspot.com/2018/01/antiochian-patriarchate-opens-church-in.html  The establishment of this cathedral on the Arabian peninsula must give the Patriarchate of Antioch some solace in view of the jurisdictional challenge presented on the peninsula to the Patriarchate by the establishment in neighboring Qatar of a bishop by the Jerusalem Patriarchate.  The four Catholic bishops of the Russian Federation met yesterday with Pope Francis for their ad Limina visit.  Their private dialogue with the Pope was very long – lasting for two hours.  The following is an article about the meeting including an interview with Archbishop Pezzi.   http://www.vaticannews.va/it/papa/news/2018-01/l-udienza-di-papa-francesco-con-la-conferenza-episcopale-russa.html 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
     

  • 19 January 2018: January events of interest

    Today, the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published a very interesting article on the Catholic – Orthodox theological dialogue by Msgr. Andrea Palmieri, who is co-secretary of the Joint International Commission.  http://ilsismografo.blogspot.com/2018/01/vaticano-nuova-fase-del-dialogo-con-la.html#more  I was especially interested in his description of events relating to the time period after the Leros meeting of the Coordinating Committee last September.  At Leros, two drafting subcommittees were established.   The first subcommittee, consisting of four Orthodox and four Catholic members, will work on a new document entitled Towards unity in faith: theological and canonical questions.  This document will have two parts: first, there will be a summary of the fruits resulting from the dialogue to date and second, the theological and canonical questions will be identified that remain to be resolved in order to re-establish unity in the faith between Catholics and Orthodox so as to open the way to Eucharistic communion. The text will also suggest the methodology to be used to examine open issues.  In this regard, the Leros meeting recognized the importance of distinguishing between "the differences which are compatible with the Eucharistic communion and those which are incompatible and which require that a solution and a common agreement be found." (quotation from the Plan to Set Underway the Theological Dialogue, adopted by the parties at Rhodes in 1980).   The second subcommittee, composed of five Orthodox and five Catholic members, will draft a document entitled, Primacy and synodality in the second millennium and today.  The subcommittees have now conducted their first meetings, which were both held December 12-14, 2017, at the office of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at the Vatican.  These meetings clarified goals and prepared work plans.  Both subcommittees will meet again in June 2018.   A meeting of the Coordinating Committee will then be held at the Bose Monastery, November 13-17, 2018.

    The president of the CEC and the president of the CCEE issued a joint letter yesterday with respect to this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  http://www.ccee.eu/news/89-2018/325-17-01-2018-ccee-cec-presidents-message-week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity-2018  It includes the statement:  “Today, Europe needs hope!  It is the underlying cry which shines through the faces of many citizens in our countries.  It is the sense of emptiness reached by a God-less life.”  There is also a statement expressing “solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters and others who are persecuted for their faith, especially in the Middle East, in Africa and in Asia.”

    Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, who handles relations with the Slavic Orthodox churches at the Pontifical Council, has given an interesting English-language interview to Philippa Hitchen at Vatican Radio.  http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2018-01/progress-in-catholic-relations-with-russian-orthodox-world.html  He stated that the observance of the second anniversary of the Havana meeting will be hosted by Cardinal Schönborn in Vienna on February 12, 2018.  Both Cardinal Koch and Metropolitan Hilarion will attend.  The observance will include a concert of Russian church music in the Great Hall of the Wiener Konzerthaus on February 10.  https://www.konzerthaus.at/konzert/eventid/55593  With respect to improving relations between the UGCC and the Moscow Patriarchate, Father Hyacinthe mentioned in the interview the need for direct communications between the UGCC and the Moscow Patriarchate.  In this regard, he referred to the suggestion made by Cardinal Koch at the observance of the first anniversary of the Havana meeting to establish a joint commission of the Moscow Patriarchate and the UGCC to discuss their issues.

    Yesterday, January 17, a meeting was held at the UN Headquarters between diplomats of Greece and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the 27-year dispute relating to the proper name of the latter country.  https://www.rferl.org/a/macedonia-greece-talks-un-name-dispute-nimetz-naumovski-vassilakis/28980222.html  After the meeting, the UN mediator stated, "I am very hopeful that this process is moving in a positive direction."  In the last few weeks, the Greek religious media has contained strong statements by hierarchs of the Church of Greece against any use of the word Macedonia in the name of the FYROM.   See, for example, http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/19406-dis-i-ekklisia-den-mporei-na-apodexthei-tin-aponomi-tou-orou-makedonia (statement by the Holy Synod); http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/19420-arxiepiskopos-se-prothupourgo-den-mporoume-na-apodexthoume-to-oro-makedonia (letter from Archbishop Ieronymos to Prime Minister Tsipras);  https://orthodoxie.com/lettre-de-larcheveque-dathenes-premier-ministre-grec-alexis-tsipras-de-macedoine-fyrom/ (French translation of the Archbishop’s letter).  From such statements, it is apparent that the concern is not only that the word Macedonia should relate only to Greece, but also that the term as applied to the FYROM gives support to the schismatic Macedonian Orthodox Church.

    Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian of Tehran (Armenian Apostolic Church, Holy See of Cilicia) has ordained a 24-year-old female anesthesiologist as a deaconess.  https://massispost.com/2018/01/historic-ordination-deaconess-tehran-diocese-armenian-church/  This article states:  “Even as the office of deaconess had existed in Armenian Church convents for centuries, this was a historic first.  It is the first time that a lay woman, not a nun, was ordained a ‘parish deacon.’”  On the other hand, 40 Orthodox priests and lay theologians have issued an English-language letter opposing the ordination of women as deaconesses.  https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2018/01/a-response-by-conservative-mostly.html (text of letter).

    On January 3, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia gave a long (over one hour) Christmas interview to a Serbian television station.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4237&v=DCqGJhDsnO4   An English-language report summarizing the Patriarch’s remarks concerning the “Macedonian Orthodox Church” can be read at http://english.republika.mk/patriarch-irinej-solution-for-moc-can-only-be-found-through-soc/.  According to this article, the Patriarch said that the request of the MOC for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to be its mother church has no canonical or historical basis and is only proof of immaturity.  The problem can only be resolved in a community with Serbia “which is their sincere friend.”  Instead the MOC wishes to resolve a canonical problem “with a putsch.”   The Patriarch also said that a papal visit is not a possibility at the present time because the memory of certain injustices relating to Croatia are still fresh.  https://www.blic.rs/vesti/drustvo/patrijarh-irinej-spc-ne-moze-da-zamisli-srbiju-bez-kosova-i-metohije/szc3tyq  He also said, “The church in Croatia is silent.  Even today many events are happening, and the church is silent, which is not good.  People say - silence is a sign of approval.  There is a desire for the real unity of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, but the Orthodox Church expects the desire for unity to be honest."

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA