Peter Anderson - NEWS 2015

  • 25 December 2015: MP's Holy Synod meets

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met today in Moscow.  There are two journal entries relating to the pan-Orthodox Council, planned for Pentecost 2016.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/12/24/news126330/   Journal entry 92 relates to a report by Metropolitan Hilarion on the meeting in Athens, December 16-18, of the ad hoc inter-Orthodox committee responsible for drafting the procedural rules for the pan-Orthodox Council.  The report confirms the bad news, reported earlier by the Greek website Romfea.gr, that the meeting terminated when a consensus could not be reached.  Thus the report states:  “On the third day of the meeting, the work on the drafting of the rules of the Pan-Orthodox Council was broken off because there was no consensus.”  Confirming the position taken by Metropolitan Hilarion at the meeting, the Holy Synod “stated that discussions about the rules of the Pan-Orthodox Council met with difficulties, which could not be overcome.”  The Holy Synod also “expressed  concern about the fact that during the course of correspondence between the primates of the Churches of Constantinople and Moscow they were unable to reach agreement on important issues relating to the preparation of the pan-Orthodox Council.”

    On October 22, the Holy Synod had referred the proposed Council document, The mission statement of the Orthodox Church in the modern world, to the Holy Synod’s Theological Commission to consider the document further in light of the comments made at Chambesy.  (Journal entry 71)  At today’s meeting, the Synod considered the proposals of the Theological Commission for improvement of this document.  In Journal entry 93, the Holy Synod approved these proposals and also stated that it “considers achievement of a consensus on the relevant sections of the document a necessary condition for its prior approval in connection with preparations for the pan-Orthodox Council.”  In my opinion, this essential means that the Holy Synod has made some changes in view of the discussions at Chambesy, but it will not move any further with respect to these provisions.

    To me, the inability to reach agreement on the procedural rules for the pan-Orthodox Council is distressing news.  With respect to a lack of a consensus on a substantive document, the Council can still be held by eliminating that document as one of the documents to be approved by the Council.  However, if there is no agreement on the basic procedural rules, it seems impossible to hold the Council.  However, with God all things are possible.  Let us pray that with the coming of the Infant Christ, the spirit of Christmas will prevail and difficulties will be surmounted.

    With respect to a different subject, the Holy Synod took a surprising step – at least for me.  In Journal entry 98, the Holy Synod combined  the Synodal Department for Church and Society and the Synodal Information Department.  As a result, the Holy Synod released Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church and Society and a member of the Interreligious Council of Russia, expressing gratitude to him for the many years of participation in the dialogue with the authorities on the subject of legislation concerning religious organizations, as well as for participation in the work of the Interreligious Council of Russia.”  Vladimir Legoyda, the head of the Synodal Information Department, is now made the chairman of the combined Synodal Department for the Church, Society, and the Media.  After the Patriarch, Father Vsevolod may well have been the most publically visible person in the Moscow Patriarchate.  Father Vsevolod is very bright and articulate and had no hesitancy is expressing his personal views to the media on many issues facing society.

    Father Vsevolod has already discussed his dismissal with the media.   https://latestnewsresource.com/en/news/chaplin-rasskazal-o-buduschem-posle-otstavki-  In this interview, Father Vsevolod stated, “With all my sympathy to his Holiness Patriarch Kirill, as a man, I don't think he is competent in all issues and can take certain decisions alone. Today's social life is decentralized, people are interested to hear a whole range of opinion."  He added, "I allowed myself to disagree with those things that I consider wrong.”  Interestingly, Sergey Chapnin, editor of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, was discharged a few days earlier.  http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Moscow-Patriarchate-fires-Sergey-Chapnin,-editor-of-its-journal-36205.html  The following is a paragraph from the foregoing AsiaNews article:  At the heart of his [Chapnin’s] argument is the notion of "new silence", which he believes describes the current situation of the Russian Orthodox Church.  For him, “one voice, that of Patriarch Kirill, resonates across the public space," Chapnin writes, whilst "all others are mostly silent, not daring to go beyond brief comments.”

    I am sure that for many days there will be a great amount of discussion concerning the dismissal of these two individuals and what it means for the Russian Orthodox Church.  Certainly, it is reasonable for an organization to require that its public spokespersons reflect the views of the leadership of the organization.  On the other hand, some free discussion is very desirable and helpful to an organization. 

    For all of you celebrating Christmas tomorrow, I HOPE THAT YOU HAVE A VERY BLESSED AND JOYFUL CHRISTMAS AND THAT 2016 WILL BRING YOU AND ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC RELATIONS MANY BLESSINGS.

     

    Yours in the Infant Christ, Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 18 December 2015: Problems in Athens

    Two days ago, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate posted a news item which began:  On 16 December 2015, the Special Inter-Orthodox Committee for the Preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council met in Athens.  The Committee is to draw up draft procedure rules of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/12/16/news126119/  The posting then listed the names of the representatives of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches attending the meeting and stated that the Committee will be continuing its work until December 18.  Yesterday, the popular Greek religious site, Romfea.gr posted a very disturbing report.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/5163-asimantes-diafonies-dunamitizoun-tin-pio-simantiki-sunodo  The report is captioned:  'Insignificant' disagreements undermine the most important summit.  A Google translation of the posting is as follows:  The Special Inter-Orthodox Committee session on the preparation of the Great Pan-Orthodox Council of the Church, held these days in a central Athens hotel, ended without unanimity.  Information provide to Romfea.gr reported that at the Thursday session December 17, there were tensions and obstacles that caused several issues concerning the preparation of the draft rules of organization and operation of the Holy and Great Council not to be resolved.  According to participants, representatives of Orthodox Churches have expressed disagreements that threatened to destroy the necessary unanimity considered the sine qua non condition for the smooth functioning of the Great Council.  Among the dissenters was the delegation of the Patriarchate of Antioch, which among other things, said that if during the Great Council a church leaves and is not a signatory, the Synod will be dissolved and will be made void for lack of a consensus.  Please note that representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other churches delegations made superhuman efforts to reconcile the opposing points of view and to find a common ground that will make, after so many decades of efforts, the Holy and Great Council a reality.  However today, Friday, December 18, there is expected a joint communiqué of the Special Committee, which will be signed by all of the delegations.  One hour ago, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate posted a brief notice that the meeting of the Committee had ended and that “the work on the drafting of regulations of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, started by the Committee, will continue in the framework of the pre-Council process.”  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/12/18/news126195/

    I suspect that the position of the Patriarchate of Antioch is motivated by its insistence that the Qatar jurisdictional dispute be resolved in its favor.  In other words, if Jerusalem does not withdraw its claims over Qatar before the end of the Council, Antioch can walk out and the entire Council will suddenly become null and void.  Thus, Antioch is seeking to create maximum pressure on the other Local Orthodox Churches to resolve the Qatar dispute in its favor.  Antioch, in my opinion, realizes that if the Council is actually held and becomes an event of the past, it will no longer have an effective means to exert pressure on the other Local Orthodox Churches.  Antioch has already broken communion with Jerusalem, and this has been ineffective in causing Jerusalem to retreat from Qatar.

    All of this highlights, in my opinion, the great practical difficulty of requiring a consensus among all of the Local Orthodox Churches in order to reach a decision.  There have already been many mediation efforts made to resolve the dispute between Antioch and Jerusalem.  If there was a compromise solution that would make both churches happy, one believes that it would have been found by this time.  Thus, the reality is that any resolution will make one of the two churches unhappy.  However, under the consensus rule, the unhappy church can veto the resolution.  Therefore, the problem remains unsolved.  To the best of my knowledge, none of the Local Orthodox Churches require that a 100 percent consensus be reached before their respective Holy Synods and Bishops’ Councils make decisions.

    In another development, the Russian news agency Interfax has reported certain remarks made by Patriarch Kirill with respect to Orthodox – Catholic relations.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12601  In his statement, Patriarch Kirill states that dialogue with Catholics is “an opportunity to reduce persecutions of Christians across the world.”  However, at the end of the Interfax report, there is the following paragraph relating to additional remarks by the Patriarch:  Nevertheless, cooperation cannot abolish the theological differences between the two churches, he said.  Even assuming that such differences suddenly disappear and "theologians will sign everything," even that is unlikely to change anything, because such agreements will have to be accepted by everyone who considers themselves an Orthodox Christian, and that is highly unlikely, Patriarch Kirill said.   Is this a mistranslation or misquotation by Interfax?  Can the Patriarch literally mean that one person among millions of Orthodox believers can veto any Orthodox – Catholic theological agreement?  I seriously doubt that this statement reflects the actual views of the Patriarch.  Again, complete unanimity may sound like a good idea, but in practice it will often mean that little or no progress will be made in solving problems.

    Cultural events between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches continue in rapid succession.  Yesterday, the Moscow Synodal Choir and the Sistine Choir gave a concert in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.   https://mospat.ru/en/2015/12/18/news126172/  The concert occurred on the evening of the 79th birthday of Pope Francis.   At the beginning of the concert, Cardinal Koch read greetings from Pope Francis.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 December 2015: Another problem for 2016 Council?

    The Greek website Romfea.gr has reported that Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, has sent a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stating that he will not be attending, for personal reasons, the meeting of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches scheduled to be held at the Phanar in January.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/4946-ixiri-apousia-arxiepiskopou-apo-tin-sunodo-gia-tin-panorthodoji#comment-2401931352  It is my understanding that the purpose of the January meeting is to give final approval to the documents and procedures for the pan-Orthodox Council, planned for Pentecost 2016.  Romfea.gr also reported that the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece at its meeting on December 8 appointed three metropolitans to represent the Church of Greece at the January meeting.  The three metropolitans are: Metropolitan Seraphim of Karystia; Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Peristeri; and Metropolitan Germanos of Ilia.  What do we know about these three metropolitans?  All three are very senior (episcopal ordination dates of 1968, 1976, and 1981 respectively).  Metropolitan Seraphim, the most senior metropolitan in the Church of Greece, was the locem tenens after the death of Archbishop Christodoulos.  Metropolitans Seraphim and Germanos are members of the Standing Holy Synod.  Although Metropolitan Chrysostomos is not a member of the Standing Holy Synod, he is chairman of the Synodal Committee for Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations.

    The Russian state-operated news agency RIA Novesti posted a commentary yesterday concerning the Romfea.gr report.  http://ria.ru/religion/20151210/1339781616.html    Based on the views of an unnamed expert, the commentary expresses three possible reasons for the actions of the Church of Greece:  (1) the invitation by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the metropolitans of the “New Lands” of Greece to attend the synaxis of the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate ( August – September 2015) without previously notifying Archbishop Ieronymos; (2) the construction, without the consent of Archbishop Ieronymos, of a church and office by the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Athens, Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianopolis; and (3) the unhappiness of the Greek government about unauthorized flights of Turkish aircraft over Greece.  The expert added that the action by Archbishop Ieronymos can be seen "as another signal indicating the fact that the proposal by Patriarch Bartholomew to convene a pan-Orthodox Council in 2016 in Istanbul may face great difficulties.”

    The cultural exchanges between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican continue on a frequent basis.  On December  4, 2015, an exhibition, “The Light of Christ Shines for All,” by the young and very talented Moscow painter, Vassily Nesterenko, opened in Rome. https://mospat.ru/en/2015/12/07/news125848/  Among Nesterenko’s famous works are the large biblical frescos in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.  According to the DECR, the exhibition is “the first result of the work carried out by a working group for cultural cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.”  On December 6, the Choir of Christ the Savior Cathedral gave a concert in Rome at the Catholic Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs (designed by Michelangelo and located in the Baths of  Diocletian).  http://stcaterina.com/kontsert-hora-hrama-hrista-spasitelya/ 

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has given Pope Francis a gift to mark the 50th anniversary of the lifting of the mutual excommunications resulting from the schism of 1054.  The gift is a photo of Bartholomew and Francis together during the Pope’s visit to the Phanar last November.  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/12/07/gift_from_patriarch_marks_joint_declaration_anniversary/1192670  The Pope also referred to the anniversary in his Angelus address on December 6.  http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/angelus-address-on-my-own-need-for-conversion   On December 5, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was in Warsaw, Poland to lay the foundation stone for a new Orthodox church, Santa Sophia. The architecture of the new church is modeled after the famous church in Istanbul. http://ekai.pl/wydarzenia/temat_dnia/x94798/warszawa-patriarcha-bartlomiej-poswiecil-kamien-wegielny-pod-budowe-cerkwi/  Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw was one of the Catholic prelates present and spoke at the ceremony.

    The Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR reports that on November 27 an Orthodox service was held for the first time in the historic Catholic Cathedral of Köln.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/12/07/news125894/  The service was held in conjunction of the meeting of the Orthodox Episcopal Conference in Germany.  Approximately one thousand persons attended the service before the holy relics of the three magi.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 3 December 2015: Council in Istanbul??

    The downing of the Russian plane by Turkey will possibly affect religious events as well as political ones. Yesterday, the Russian news agency RIA-Novesti posted an article relating to the possibility that the pan-Orthodox Council, now planned for Pentecost 2016 in Istanbul, will not be held in Turkey.   http://ria.ru/religion/20151201/1333663857.html   In the article, Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk , Secretary for Inter-Orthodox Relations at the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, stated: “If there is a deterioration in the situation, it is quite possible that the Council will be held elsewhere.  It is difficult to talk about it. "   He stressed that the “final” decision as to the date and location of the Council can only be made by the unanimous decision of the primates of all of the Local Orthodox Churches.  The article indicates that the earlier decision of the primates to hold the Council in Istanbul was “tentative.”  Father Igor also stated:  “The next meeting of the commission on the preparation of the Council will be held in Greece.  And where the events following it will be held – it is difficult to say. This also applies to the expected preliminary meeting of the primates.”

    The news agency Interfax has reported that Metropolitan Hilarion cancelled his trip to Istanbul and his meeting with the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs scheduled for November 26.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12555   On the other hand, Patriarch Bartholomew has cancelled his very important trip to Paris because of the “complex international situation.”  http://www.aeof.fr/uploads/files/AEOF-Communiqu%C3%A9%20du%2024%20novembre%202015.pdf?PHPSESSID=24d42c7fb094a704a8295371831d27e6  Sadly, the question of the location of the pan-Orthodox Council may be another vexing problem that must be solved before the convening of the Council.  I suspect that the Moscow Patriarchate may be in favor of moving the location, while the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be strongly opposed to this.

    Pope Francis on his return flight from Africa to Rome indicated to reporters that he would be visiting Armenia in 2016.  The question and answer are as follows:  Have you considered going to Armenian for the 101st anniversary of the Armenian massacre?
    “Last year I promised the three patriarchs I would go. The promise remains.”  http://www.lastampa.it/2015/11/30/vaticaninsider/eng/the-vatican/francis-regarding-the-climate-its-either-now-or-never-we-are-on-the-verge-of-suicide-PA0Zz8zhT9o1Y8vnTLDzRP/pagina.html  The Moscow Patriarchate has stated that any future meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis would need to occur, not in Russia, but in a “neutral” location.  Is Armenia a possibility?

    On November 30, the feast of St. Andrew, a Vatican delegation was at the Phanar for the feast of St. Andrew.  The first time such a visit occurred was on November 30, 1969, when Cardinal Willebrands was the guest of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras on the feast of St. Andrew.  (See E.J. Stormon SJ, The Healing of Schism, Section 275)  The second time was on November 30, 1973, when Cardinal Willebrands was the guest of Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios.  (Section 312)  The regular exchange of delegations on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome and the feast of Saint Andrew at the Phanar began in 1977.  (Sections 354 and 357)  This year Cardinal Koch, Bishop Farrell, and Msgr. Palmieri were there.  However, Cardinal Marx of Munich was also present.  The complete English text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s address can be read at  http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=2105&tla=en   To Cardinal Marx, the Ecumenical Patriarch  extended “the warm thanks of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of our Modesty for the manifold and invaluable assistance that you provide to our beloved brother Metropolitan Avgoustinos of Germany, as well as to the Orthodox clergy and faithful there, for the smooth management of their work and ministry by means of a wonderful collaboration with their Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. “  The full English text of the letter from Pope Francis to the Ecumenical Patriarch can be read at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/11/30/pope_sends_message_to_patriarch_bartholomew_for_st_andrew/1190890 .

    Vatican Radio interviewed in English the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko after his meeting with Pope Francis on November 20.  You can hear the 3-minute interview at  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/11/20/president_poroshenko_ukraine_and_vatican_are_now_closer/1188367    At the end of the interview, Poroshenko stated that the Pope has accepted his invitation to visit Ukraine and that they are now working on organizing the visit.  Whether this is actually true remains to be seen.  There has been no confirmation by the Vatican concerning the visit.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 November 2015: Controversy over Bartholomew's Sofia visit

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew left Bulgaria yesterday amid protesters and controversy.   According to The Sofia Globe, “Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I may find himself waiting a long time, perhaps forever, before he gets invited to visit Bulgaria again.”    http://www.balkaneu.com/political-row-bulgaria-ecumenical-patriarch-continues/  (English)  The Globe stated that during the public ceremony in which the President of Bulgaria conferred upon Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Bulgaria’s highest award, “the Ecumenical Patriarch caused upset by calling on Bulgaria to return valuable liturgical items that he described as having been stolen during the Balkan Wars from monasteries in Xanthi, Drama and Serres [Northern Greece].”   Subsequently, the Ecumenical Patriarch was informed that a meeting with Bulgaria’s prime minister and a joint press conference with Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit were cancelled.  This and the controversy surrounding the relics are described in the following English-language article:  http://www.balkaneu.com/ecumenical-patriarchs-visit-bulgaria-ends-question-marks-cancelled-events/   On the other hand, the official website of the Bulgarian Patriarchate reports that the Ecumenical Patriarch and Patriarch Neofit visited a monastery together shortly before the departure of the Ecumenical Patriarch and that the conversations of the Ecumenical Patriarch with Patriarch Neofit and the Holy Synod  “passed in brotherly love and mutual respect when discussing ways to resolve important issues for both churches.”   http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=188500 

    On November 4, the feast celebrating the role of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God in the liberation of Moscow, the President of Tatarstan signed a decree directing the rebuilding of the Kazan Cathedral which had been destroyed in the 1930s by the Soviets.  http://www.kazan-mitropolia.ru/newses/eparh_newses/kaznews/?id=57752   The Cathedral was located over the spot where Matrona had discovered (at the direction of the Mother of God) the original Kazan icon in 1579.  The large cathedral was part of the Mother of God monastery, and it was from this cathedral that the original Kazan icon was stolen (and very probably destroyed by the thieves) in 1904.  The cornerstone of the new cathedral will be laid on July 21, 2016, the feast day of the discovery of the Kazan icon.

    The story relating to the rebuilding of the cathedral is told in considerable detail in the following article:  http://www.business-gazeta.ru/article/144810/.   In the article Metropolitan Feofan of Kazan states that the new cathedral will be an exact copy of the original cathedral and that he hopes that there will be benefactors helping to finance the construction project throughout Russia and beyond.  The article has two historic photos of the original cathedral.  At the present time, the only surviving church on the monastery grounds is the “gate church” of the monastery.  The “gate church” is the red-colored building in the photos, and it now contains the copy of the Kazan icon which was given by Pope John Paul II to Patriarch Alexy II in 2005.  In the article, there are photos showing Patriarch Alexy and Metropolitan Feofan holding this icon.

    On November 3-4, the Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) convened in Cairo.  Its attendees included: the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II; the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenians, Aram I; the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III; and the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Youssif III.  According to the Fides news agency, the Committee’s final declaration included a statement that the path for the promotion of Christian unity involves the adoption of concrete measures such as a common date for the Easter celebrations.”  http://www.fides.org/en/news/38812-AFRICA_EGYPT_The_Middle_East_Council_of_Churches_unify_the_date_for_the_Easter_celebrations   

    Pope Francis sent a message to the Global Christian Forum Consultation, held in Tirana, Albania November 2-4.  The message included the following statement:  “In various parts of the world, the witness to Christ, even to the shedding of blood, has become a shared experience of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, which is deeper and stronger than the differences which still separate our Churches and Ecclesial Communities. The communio martyrum is the greatest sign of our journeying together.”  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/11/04/pope_francis_shedding_of_blood_shared_christian_experience_/1184409 

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was the guest of Anglican Archbishop Welby of Canterbury, November 2-4.  The final communique includes the following statement: “The visit concluded with …. an invitation extended by His All-Holiness for a joint pilgrimage with the Archbishop of Canterbury to Nicaea and Cappadocia in 2016.”   https://www.patriarchate.org/-/joint-communique-of-his-all-holiness-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-and-his-grace-archbishop-justin-welby-of-canterbury?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2F

    On November 10, Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) was awarded with a honorary doctorate by the Ludwig – Maximilians University of Munich.  This is the only state university in Western Europe that provides a complete academic program for the study of Orthodox theology.  Metropolitan Ioannis gave an English-language address with the title, “The task of Orthodox theology in Europe.”  Cardinal Koch and Cardinal Reinhard Marx also spoke. http://www.orththeol.uni-muenchen.de/aktuelles/festakt/index.html   

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 30 October 2015: Bishop Tikhon in Rome & More

    At its last meeting on October 22, the Holy Synod elected several individuals as bishops.  I have already reported on one of these, Archimandrite Anthony (Sevruk), rector of St. Catherine of Alexandria church in Rome.  Another is Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), who was made bishop of Yegorevsk, vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.  Archimandrite Tikhon received his episcopal ordination two days later on October 24.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/10/24/news124048/   He is the superior (“namestnik” ) of the Sretensky Stauropegial Monastery and is extremely well-known in Russia.  The monastery is constructed on the site where the people of Moscow prayed before the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God for deliverance from Tamerlane.  At the time of the prayers, Tamerlane had a terrifying dream of a radiant woman who told him to abandon his plans to conquer Moscow – which he did.  http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/81946.htm  According to the ratings of rambler.ru, the website of the monastery, www.pravoslavie.ru , is and has for a number of years been the most popular religious website in Russia.  The monastery’s choir has even performed in Seattle.

    Today, AsiaNews posted a very interesting English-language article about Bishop Tikhon. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/For-Bishop-Tikhon,-something-concrete-will-come-with-respect-to-a-meeting-between-the-pope-and-the-Russian-patriarch-35727.html      The article states in part:  Tikhon (Shevkunov), Bishop of Yegorevsk, told Tass that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church "are engaged in talks" on a possible meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. The prelate, who spoke yesterday in Rome where he was presenting a book he authored, went on to say that “It is very likely that something concrete will come in the near future.”  In the last 20-30 years, “relations between the two churches have been varied, sometimes tense, but now times have changed,” he explained. “It is time for mutual benevolent attention.”   The more detailed  Tass article may be read in English at http://tass.ru/en/society/832435 .  The Tass article also states that Bishop Tikhon, who is the Executive Secretary of the Patriarchal Council for Culture, will be meeting in Rome with the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.  Today, the day after the Tass report and in response to it, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate made a statement that indicates that there are no recent changes with respect to the possibility of the meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12452

    A statement by a newly ordained bishop in the Russian Orthodox Church might ordinarily not be given much weight.  However, there has been many comments about Bishop Tikhon in the Russian media after his election.  Tikhon is reputably the personal confessor of President Putin, and there is speculation, which may be totally unfounded, that Tikhon was made a bishop so that he would be eligible to be the next patriarch.  This is discussed to some extent in the AsiaNews article above.

    An English-language review of Tikhon’s best-selling book, Everyday Saints, can be read at http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/56393.htm .  In Rome, Tikhon expressed the hope that his book, now published in Italian, will help bring churches closer together.  http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=116607   According to this last website, Tikhon was asked by journalists in Rome whether he was in fact the confessor to Putin.  Tikhon responded that he "could answer, but does not want to take away from journalists an exciting opportunity to conduct an investigation into this matter."

    Aside from Bishop Tikhon, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was also in Italy this week.   He received an honorary doctorate in the “Culture of Unity” from the Sophia University Institute in Loppiano, Italy.  The Institute is closely connected with the Catholic Focolare Movement.  He was presented the degree by the President of the Institute, Dr. Piero Coda, who is also a Catholic member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.    It was a very impressive ceremony in a large auditorium filled to capacity (1500 guests) and attended by five cardinals as well as bishops and other dignitaries.  The Ecumenical Patriarch gave a major address.  In addition, for the occasion, Pope Francis wrote a letter for the Ecumenical Patriarch.  The full text of the letter can be read in English at  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/10/26/pope_sends_message_as_patriarch_receives_honorary_doctorate/1182240 .  You can watch a video of the entire ceremony at  http://www.loppiano.it/streaming/C/Streaming_loppiano-1820762LUO5452063023 .  A short video, including an interview of Dr. Coda, can be seen at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Tvm4SMGx2g .  While in Italy, the Ecumenical Patriarch also visited  Cardinal Giuseppe Betori of Florence and visited the Bose Monastery.   http://www.amen.gr/article/synadisi-oikoumenikou-patriarxi-me-ton-kardinalio-tis-floredias-foto ;  http://www.amen.gr/article/thermi-ypodoxi-ston-oikoumeniko-patriarxi-apo-tin-adelfotita-tou-boze-foto .

    Although Metropolitan Hilarion did not attack the UGCC in his excellent address to the Catholic Synod on the Family, the DECR did issue an sharp attack against the head of the UGCC, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, three days later.  The attack related to answers given by Sviatoslav to the Austrian news agency Kathpress.  The English-language version of the statement by the DECR is found at  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/10/23/news123987/ .  RISU has now posted a English translation of the full text of the remarks by Sviatoslav to which the attack was directed.  http://risu.org.ua/en/index/monitoring/society_digest/61490

    The Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has expressed concern over “the situation developing around the preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council.”   https://mospat.ru/en/2015/10/27/news124289/   Today the Russian news agency RIA Novesti posted an article which reports that Metropolitan Hilarion has stated that the Pan-Orthodox Council may not in fact be held in 2016.  The Metropolitan stated: “The date will be determined depending on the degree of preparedness of the necessary documents.”  http://ria.ru/religion/20151029/1310049054.html

    Lastly, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has issued an interesting position statement that the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the USA should provisionally become a “Holy Synod of Bishops.”    http://oca.org/news/headline-news/holy-synod-releases-position-paper-on-canonical-regional-planning  The OCA has long argued that there should be a separate American Orthodox Church.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22. October 2015: Today's Synod meeting of MP

    Today the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate met in Moscow.  One of the important items on the agenda was to consider the results of last week’s meeting of the 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference at Chambesy.  The minutes of today’s meeting of the Holy Synod can be read at  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4250904.html .  Metropolitan Hilarion discusses the Chambesy meeting at Journal Entry 71.  As you recall from my report last Friday, both the Patriarchates of Russia and Georgia refused to sign the document,The mission statement of the Orthodox Church in the modern world.  The minutes indicate that there might be some flexibility on this document by the Moscow Patriarchate as the Synod now refers the document to the Holy Synod’s Theological Commission to consider the document further in light of the comments made at Chambesy.  The minutes also express “deep concern at the lack of a draft conciliar decision on the ‘Orthodox diaspora,’ as well as the lack of consensus on the contents of the draft documents of the pan-Orthodox Council ‘Calendar question’ and ‘On impediments to marriage’, on which work has been done for many decades.”  The minutes also add that the Synod considers “especially important the achievement of a pan-Orthodox consensus on the draft document "Autocephaly in the Orthodox Church and the manner of its proclamation” and its [the document’s] inclusion in the agenda of the pan-Orthodox Council.”  All of this confirms that to date, consensus has only been reached on three documents (i.e. the declaration of autonomy, relations with the rest of the Christian world, and fasting).

    A photocopy of the official signed communique (in Greek and French) from the Chambesy meeting has now been posted by the website Romfea.gr at http://cdn.romfea.gr/images/article-images/2015/10/romfea2/ANAKOINOTHEN.pdf  .

    The Holy Synod also announces that a Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate will be held in Moscow, February 2-3, 2016.  (Journal Entry 59)   Under the statues of the Moscow Patriarchate, such a council must be held at least every four years.  The last council was held February 2-5, 2013.  I suspect that the forthcoming bishops’ council is perhaps being held somewhat earlier than usual in order to consider and give final approval to documents that will be promulgated by the pan-Orthodox Council.  Some Orthodox have misgivings concerning the Council, and the approval of the draft documents by the Bishops’ Council will reinforce the approval given by the Holy Synod in this regard.

    Journal Entry 62 of the Holy Synod’s minutes has some very good news.  Archimandrite Anthony (Sevruk), rector of St. Catherine of Alexandria church in Rome, has been made a bishop!  He will be responsible for all parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Italy.  Congratulations to him and may God grant him many years and blessings in his new episcopal responsibilities.

    Lastly, the problems facing the Local Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia still have not been solved.  The website Romfea.gr has posted a photocopy of an August 26 letter from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Czech Church.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/3839-fanari-se-tsexous-proxoriste-se-eklogi-neou-arxiepiskopou-o-rastislab-den-anagnorizetai .  A Czech translation of the Greek-language letter was previously posted by a dissident group at http://pravoslavnacirkev.info/aktuality/zpravodajstvi/838-volba-vladyky-rastislava-je-zcela-neplatna-tzn-nikdy-metropolitou-nebyl  (a computer translation tool can be used for the latter site but not for the photocopy).  In the letter the Ecumenical Patriarch informs the Local Church that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will not recognize the election of Archbishop Rastislav as primate of the Czech church and that the Czech church should proceed with the election of a new primate as the election of Rastislav was void.  The letter also refers to a secret video, posted on YouTube ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=17&v=F1ZXSIacY_k ), of Rastislav making remarks about the Ecumenical Patriarch and Greeks in general which certainly can be considered insulting.   If the controversy over the election of Ratislav continues, there will be the question of who can represent the Czech church at the pan-Orthodox Council.

    One can only hope and pray that these many hurdles impeding the holding of the pan-Orthodox Council can be resolved so that with God’s help, the pan-Orthodox Council will be the symbol of unity that it should be.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 21 October 2015: The Orthodox and Catholic Synods

    Several websites have now posted in Greek the August 29 address of Metropolitan Ioannis to the assembly of hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate held at the Phanar.  http://thriskeftika.blogspot.ru/2015/10/29082015.html    http://aktines.blogspot.com/2015/10/29082015.html   His address related to the preparations for the Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Synod.  It found the following items in the address particularly interesting.

    (1)    Because of the inability to reach agreement, the subject of autocephaly and the manner of its proclamation in the Orthodox Church and the subject of the order of proclaiming the diptychs will remain outside the agenda of the pan-Orthodox Synod.  [Although no agreement was reached on the subject of autocephaly, agreement has been reached, as I previously reported, on the issue of granting autonomy.]

    (2)    After the holding of the fifth Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference [which has now been held at Chambesy], the next steps will be:  (a) In approximately one month, a special pan-Orthodox committee is expected to meet to prepare the message that the Synod will give to the World and to prepare draft procedures for conducting the Synod. (b)  These will be examined and approved by the new Synaxis of the Primates [of the Local Orthodox Churches], which is expected to be convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch next December or January at the latest.  The Synaxis will also decide other issues as the invitation of observers from inside and outside the Orthodox Church, the canonical validity of the decisions of the Synod, and other related issues. [The affirmation by the primates of the canonical validity of the decisions is presumably in anticipation of a likely subsequent attack by certain Orthodox that some decisions were not canonical.] (c) Then in the first part of the year 2016, His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch will formally convene the Great and Holy Synod.

    A Greek commentary has made some interesting observations concerning last week’s meeting at Chambesy.   http://aktines.blogspot.com/2015/10/blog-post_151.html  I have no way of knowing whether these observations are true.  It states that the Conference not only failed to reach final agreement on the document on the mission of the Orthodox Church, but also failed to obtain signatures on the documents relating to a common Pascha, impediments to marriage, and the Orthodox diaspora.  Thus, agreement has been reached on only three of nine documents.  The commentary raises the question of how the forthcoming Synaxis of Primates can resolve these many issues which have been discussed for so long without full agreement.  In addition, the commentary states that the Patriarchate of Antioch remains firm in its position that it will not attend the pan-Orthodox synod if the Jerusalem Patriarchate continues to assert jurisdiction over Qatar.  The commentary adds that the representatives of the Patriarchate of Antioch arrived at Chambesy late so as to avoid celebrating the Liturgy on Sunday with the representatives of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

    An international conference on “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence” was held in Athens on October 18-20.  You can watch the entire conference with English translation at  http://webtv.ert.gr/katigories/ekklisiastika/19okt2015-english-international-conference-religious-and-cultural-pluralism-and-peaceful-coexistence-in-the-middle-east/ .  The final statement of the conference can be read at http://www.mfa.gr/en/current-affairs/statements-speeches/statement-of-the-presidium-of-the-athens-international-conference-on-religious-and-cultural-pluralism-and-peaceful-coexistence-in-the-middle-east-18-20-october-2015.html .   The conference was especially unusual as its speakers included the primates of seven Local Orthodox Churches: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Cyprus, Greece, and Albania.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/10/20/news123815/  Metropolitan Hilarion was also a speaker.  The presence of the primates was an opportunity for Metropolitan Hilarion to discuss the results of the Chambesy meeting and the Moscow Patriarchate’s position face-to-face with the Ecumenical Patriarch and other primates.  Metropolitan Hilarion also protested to the Ecumenical Patriarch the activities of the Ukrainian hierarchs from North America in Ukraine.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/10/19/news123774/   This conference in Athens was also the first time that the Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem were in the same room together since Antioch broke off communion with Jerusalem.  There has been speculation that this may have been an additional opportunity for the Ecumenical Patriarch and others to attempt to solve the Qatar dispute with the two primates.  Lastly, Metropolitan Ioannis can be seen in the video of the conference which indicates that his health has improved since his illness at Chambesy.

    On October 19, Pope Francis address the Catholic synod fathers on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops.  Extensive quotations from his address are translated at http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.com/2015/10/the-synod-walking-together.html .  For example, “the path of synodality is the path that God expects from the Church in the third millennium.”  There are also other quotations relating to synodality and the pope which should make extremely interesting reading for the Orthodox.

    This morning Metropolitan Hilarion, after trips to Chambesy and Athens, was in Rome.  He addressed the Catholic Synod of Bishops on the Family at the beginning of today’s session.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/10/21/news123872/   I image that some of the Catholic prelates wondered if the Metropolitan would use this opportunity to attack the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church as he did at the first session of the synod in 2014.  He did not.  He gave a marvelous address, and you can read the full English text at https://mospat.ru/en/2015/10/21/news123870/ .  It was a spirited address and reminded me of a coach (trainer) encouraging his team before an important sports game.  According to Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio, “[h]is words were music to the ears of Catholic bishops from many countries who are also wary of any changes they see as undermining the traditional teaching of the Church.”  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/10/21/synods_small_groups_seek_consensus_amid_diverging_visions/1180870   Metropolitan Hilarion also had a private meeting with Pope Francis.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/10/21/news123891/  As last year, the Vatican gave Metropolitan Hilarion exceptional treatment.  He was allowed (because of his schedule) to address the Synod several days after the interventions by the bishops and fraternal delegates were completed.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 17 October 2015: Results of Chambésy

    Almost always, it is the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate which is the first to report the results of important pan-Orthodox meetings.  However, this time the first to report is Bishop Irinej of Backa (Serbian Patriarchate), who today provided the official communique of this week’s  Chambesy meeting to the official website of the Serbian Patriarchate.    http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_pete_svepravoslavne_predsaborske_konferencije_u_shambeziju_kod_zheneve  You can translate this important document with the Google or Bing translation tool (as I did).  It appears that the meeting was very productive.  The translation of the key paragraph is as follows:

    The Conference unanimously adopted the texts About autonomy and the manner of its declaration in the Orthodox Church, Relations of the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world, and The importance of fasting and its observance today. Text of The mission statement of the Orthodox Church in the modern world was not signed by the Churches of Russia and Georgia.

    The last sentence raises a number of questions.  I suspect that the referenced document in the last sentence is a new and shorter title for the document “Contribution of the Orthodox Church in the promotion of peace, justice, freedom, brotherhood and love between people and the elimination of racial and other discrimination.”   With respect to the latter document, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate at its meeting on July 13, 2015, found it unacceptable in its present form.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/07/15/news121066/  Apparently, the Moscow Patriarchate was unable to convince the other Local Churches aside from the Church of Georgia to accept its proposed revisions.  In view of the fact that documents can only be promulgated at the future pan-Orthodox by a complete consensus of the Local Orthodox Churches, what is the present status of this document?  In view of the lack of unanimity, did the other Local Churches nevertheless go ahead and physically sign the document?

    The communique also states that the chairman of the meeting, Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas), was unable to complete the last two days of the meeting, and his place was taken by Metropolitan Emmanuel of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  I certainly hope and pray that Metropolitan Ioannis did not suffer a major health problem.

    In one of my earlier reports, I described how the Russian government has refused to recognize a doctor of theology degree.  In my description I stated:  “However, with respect to post-graduate degrees, the government has retained much more of the structure from the communist era .  In Russia there are two post-graduate degrees: a candidate of science (кандидат наук) and a doctor of science (доктор наук).  The candidate of science degree is usually received after three years of study, including original research and defense of a dissertation, following receipt of a master’s or specialist’s degree.  It is generally equivalent to a Ph.D.   A doctor of science, generally the equivalent of a habilitation degree in Germany, often involves 5 to 15 years of significant independent research and defense of a dissertation following receipt of a candidate of science degree.  The term ‘science,’ as used in the terms candidate of science and doctor of science, has been broadly construed.  ‘Science’ encompasses such subjects as philosophical sciences, historical sciences, philological sciences, political sciences, and even art criticism.  However, the State has refused to recognize theology as a ‘science,’ even though there are cogent arguments why it should.”  I am now pleased to report that the Russian government has just recognized theology as a science, and therefore the government will recognize doctor of theology degrees given in Russia.  http://www.rg.ru/2015/10/13/teologiya.html

    At the current Synod of Bishops in Rome, the Moscow Patriarchate has been represented by Archimandrite Anthony (Sevruk), rector of St. Catherine of Alexandria church in Rome.   He is a member of the first English-speaking group chaired by Cardinal Pell.   http://stcaterina.com/sinod-episkopov-v-vatikane-prodolzhaet-svoyu-rabotu/  I suspect that Metropolitan Hilarion may address the Synod next week.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 13 October 2015: 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference

    Today, October 12, the 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference had its initial plenary session in Chambesy, Switzerland.   Yesterday, the members of the conference celebrated together the Divine Liturgy.   https://mospat.ru/en/2015/10/11/news123566/  The latter report from the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR gives the following background information: The 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference has been convened in compliance with the decision of the Synaxis of Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches held in Istanbul on 6-9 March 2014 with the purpose to consider draft documents of the Pan-Orthodox Council edited by the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission and also to adopt a draft document on ‘Autonomy and the Order of its Proclamation’ elaborated by the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission in 2009.  The 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference begins its work by a plenary session on October 12.  The delegation members who are attending the Conference were listed today in the following Russian-language report by the DECR:  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/10/12/news123587/   All of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches are represented at the Conference.  The Conference is chaired by Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The last Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference, namely the Fourth, was held in June 2009.  http://orthodoxhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/2009Diasporadecision_EN_OFFICIAL-1.pdf 

    The Serbian Patriarchate has posted photos of yesterday’s Liturgy at http://www.spc.rs/sr/peta_svepravoslavna_predsaborska_konferencija .  The Jerusalem Patriarchate has posted photos at http://www.jp-newsgate.net/gr/2015/10/12/27979#more-27979 .

    As you know, the pan-Orthodox Council is planned for the spring of 2016, presumably Pentecost.  Because all decisions and procedures for the Council are to be determined by a 100% consensus of all of the Local Orthodox Churches, it would appear that the present 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference is the occasion for the 14 Local Churches to see on what matters a consensus can be achieved.  In a sense this is the real working session while the pan-Orthodox Council itself will be a formal pronouncement of the agreements reached at the present Pre-Council Conference.  Of course, if there remains unresolved matters after this Conference, a Sixth Conference might be scheduled before the Council.  Still, the present Conference is absolutely critical.  One of the outstanding matters is the action by the Patriarchate of Antioch in severing ecclesiastical communion with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem over the appointment by Jerusalem of a metropolitan in Qatar.  As far as I know, this matter remains unresolved.

    The report of today’s activities by the DECR (see above link) summarizes an attack by Metropolitan Hilarion on activities in Ukraine by the Orthodox Churches of the United States and Canada (Ecumenical Patriarchate) without the approval of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).  He asked  “that the Patriarchate of Constantinople evaluate these anti-canonical acts and require said bishops to stop such actions, destroying our pan-Orthodox unity. "

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 10 October 2015: Ecumenical Center in Crimea?

    On September 12, President Putin and Silvio Berlusconi visited the Cathedral of St. Vladimir in the Chersonesos reserve, located near Sevastopol, Crimea.  During the visit, Putin explained to Berlusconi his idea of establishing near to that location a “historical and cultural center of Christianity, which would cover all the branches of the world's largest religion.”    http://www.kremlin.ru/catalog/persons/171/events/50276     After the visit, Berlusconi answered the questions of journalists.  He stated:  “And I really like the idea of ​​creating here an historical and cultural center.  Of course, I see that here there still needs to be much work.  I think that, if Mr. Putin deems it necessary, I'll be ready to send here Italian architects so that they perhaps may help, or bring here Italian plants so as to restore appreciation of the importance of this place, which it certainly deserves.”   http://www.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/50277   An English-language report concerning these remarks may be read at http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12300   Two day ago, October 7, Patriarch Kirill congratulated President Putin on the occasion of his birthday.  His congratulations included the remark, “I see as very important and timely your initiative to create near Chersonesos, historically associated with the Baptism of Rus -- an historical and cultural center of Christianity.”  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4238436.html 

    The idea of establishing an historical and cultural center of Christianity in Crimea might, under normal circumstances, be very attractive to Catholics.  After all, two popes – Clement and Martin – were exiled to Chersonesos and died as martyrs there.   However, at the present time, there may be concerns as to whether Vatican participation in such a project might be viewed as acknowledgement of Russia’s jurisdiction over Crimea.   I have also seen no reports as to what the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), which retains jurisdiction over Crimea, thinks of the idea.  Under the present political climate in Ukraine, the UOC (MP) may be very reluctant to endorse a project for Crimea that originated with President Putin, even though Patriarch Kirill has now endorsed it.  

    Vatican Radio has a very interesting 20-minute English-language interview of Fra' Robert Matthew Festing, Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, concerning his recent visit to St. Petersburg, Russia --   which he called “a wonderful place.”  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/10/07/grand_master_of_order_of_malta_visits_russia/1176520   Although not widely known, St. Petersburg became the “home” of the Order for approximately five years after the Order was expelled from Malta by Napoleon.  Czar Paul became the de facto Grand Master.  The result was that there were both Catholic and Orthodox branches of the Order, and each branch had its own church in St. Petersburg.  In the interview, the Grand Master stressed the present cooperation with the Orthodox and the warm reception that he received from the Orthodox in St. Petersburg.  He presented relics to two Orthodox churches, including relics of St. John the Baptist.  http://mitropolia.spb.ru/news/parishs/?id=86329#ad-image-5

    The St. Andrew’s Biblical Theological Institute in Moscow recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding.   http://standrews.ru/eng/news-bbi/st-andrews-celebrates-its-25th-anniversary1.html  In my opinion, this Institute has done wonderful work in promoting better understanding between Orthodox and Catholics.  The Institute received congratulations from both Metropolitan Hilarion (http://standrews.ru/rus/news/pozdravlenie-mitropolita-illariona.html ) and Cardinal Koch  http://standrews.ru/assets/files/Bodrov0001.pdf .

    Lastly, Serbian Patriarch Irinej has given an interview concerning the possibility of a visit by Pope Francis to Serbia.  http://www.kurir.rs/vesti/drustvo/patrijarh-irinej-papa-moze-kao-drzavnik-da-dode-na-poziv-srbije-clanak-1951531  One of the Patriarch’s statements was that as the head of Vatican State, the Pope can visit Serbia at any time and the Serbian Patriarchate will not interfere.  However, for now, it is not opportune for the Pope to “visit our Church.”  He then gives reasons for this.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 October 2015: Coordinating Committee approves document

    Within the last few hours, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has posted an article with some very significant news.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/09/18/news122803/   The article states that the Coordinating Committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, of which Metropolitan Hilarion is a member, has approved today a draft document entitled, “Towards a Common Understanding of Synodality and Primacy is the Church in the First Millennium.”  According to the article, the draft document will now be sent for consideration by the plenary of the Joint International Commission in 2016.  The draft document was actually created during the course of the Amman plenary (Sept. 15-23, 2014) and significantly modified by the Commission’s drafting group meeting in Rome (June 25-26, 2015).  Because the major players (such as Moscow and Constantinople) are represented on the Coordinating Committee, I would believe that the chances of the draft document being approved by the plenary are quite good.

    It is interesting that the article states that the plenary will be held next year.  Prior to this, the assumption had been that the plenary would be held in 2017 because the Orthodox would be involved in the preparation and holding of the pan-Orthodox Council in 2016.  If the date in the article is not an error, it would accelerate the recent slow pace of the dialogue.

    If the Commission follows its past practice, the text of the document will not be made public until approved by the plenary session.  However, the very fact that the Coordinating Committee was able to reach agreement on a draft document is a very positive step in my opinion.  I honestly doubt that the substance of the draft document will be a major step in resolving the issue of universal primacy because, as far as I know, the major differences between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate on the issue of primacy still remain.  Nevertheless, today was at least a step forward for which I say “Deo gratias.”

    Prior to coming to Rome, Metropolitan Hilarion was in Milan.  He met with Cardinal Scola.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/09/15/news122664/    As reported by Vatican Radio, Hilarion expects that a meeting between Francis and Kirill will occur “in the near future” but at a neutral location.  http://www.news.va/it/news/metropolita-hilarion-a-milano-ambrogio-maestro-di   Hilarion visited Expo 2015 in Milan and also presented four volumes of the works of St. Ambrose translated into Russian.   https://mospat.ru/en/2015/09/15/news122679/ ;  http://fondgb.ru/index.php?ss=31&s=49&id=34534   In the evening, there was a concert by the Moscow Synodal Choir in the Church of St. Ambrose.  http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=64298 

    This year is the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Father Alexander Men.  A conference devoted to him was held in Moscow on September 9-10.  Metropolitan Hilarion spoke at the conference.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/09/08/news122452/    A message from President Putin was read to the conference by the son of Father Alexander.  http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=64201  An interview of the son by Metropolitan Hilarion is found at https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/09/08/news122411/ .  The conference was followed by a concert.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/09/11/news122574/  A short video of the concert can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4I_dYRz_wk .

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 September 2015: Synaxis, Sept. 1 & Patriarch Irinej

    Within the last few hours, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has posted the official English translation of the “Keynote Address By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Synaxis of Hierarchs of the Throne (August 29, 2015).”  http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=en&id=2078&tla=en   I will not attempt to summarize this address which is an extremely important document that should be read in its entirety.  Some of the items covered in the address that I found particularly interesting were: (1) the attendance at the Synaxis of metropolitans from the “New Lands” of Greece; (2) the leading role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in ecumenical relations which has been subject to an “ongoing diabolical campaign” from some;  (3) the importance of relationships with the Catholic Church; (4) the “heavy responsibility” of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in “protecting the unity of the whole Orthodox Church;” (5) the statement that the forthcoming Holy and Great Council will not be an Ecumenical Council because “because Western Christians are not invited to participate as members;” (6) the assertion by the Ecumenical Patriarch that “some of our sister Orthodox Churches, which maintain intimate connections with the government of their land and enjoy abundant financial support, strive through every means – including the planned Holy and Great Council – to promote interests and strategies of a political nature, thereby creating fractures within Orthodox unity.”  At the end of the Synaxis on September 2, a communique (but not an English translation) was issued.   http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/2814-anakoinothen-tis-sunajis-tis-ierarxias-tou-oikoumenikou-thronou   A brief English statement with photos was posted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on its website.  https://www.patriarchate.org/photo-galleries?p_p_id=flickr_WAR_flickrportlet&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_count=1&_flickr_WAR_flickrportlet_action=openSet&_flickr_WAR_flickrportlet_id=72157657676412949   Archbishop Demetrios made a report and recommendations at the Synaxis relating to the positive and negative aspects of the assemblies of canonical Orthodox bishops recently formed in various parts of the world.  http://www.amen.gr/article/i-eisigisi-tou-arxiepiskopou-amerikis-dimitriou-sti-synaksi-tis-ierarxias-tou-oikoumenikou-thronou (Greek text only).  Hopefully, more English translations relating to the Synaxis will be available in the future.

    September 1 was the day of prayer for the protection of the natural environment.  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has issued a special letter, dated September 1, on this subject.  http://www.goarch.org/news/patriarchmessageindiction2015   On September 1, Pope Francis led a special Liturgy of the Word for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/09/01/pope_leads_liturgy_for_day_of_prayer_for_care_of_creation/1168939  The Moscow Patriarchate has gone even further than the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the Vatican in directing observance of this particular day in all parishes.    On July 13, 2015, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate decided that September 1 was not an appropriate day in Russia for prayers for creation because it is the day primarily focused on the beginning of school.  Instead, the Holy Synod determined that the first Sunday of September should be the designated day as more people would be present in the churches.    http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4158601.html (Journal entry 41).   On that day, a special prayer for the saving of creation should be sung “in all churches of the Russian Orthodox Church.” The text of the prayer can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4158823.html.  In addition, pastors are “to devote a sermon to the care of God's creation.”     So far, the day of prayer has received varying degrees of attention from other Orthodox churches.  It was specifically noted by a websites connected with the Romanian Patriarchate ( http://basilica.ro/ziua-mondiala-de-rugaciune-pentru-ocrotirea-creatiei-109252.html ), the Church of Cyprus ( http://www.churchofcyprus.org.cy/article.php?articleID=5489 ), and the Orthodox Church in America ( http://oca.org/news/headline-news/study-guide-on-care-for-creation-reissued-metropolitan-tikhon-addresses-fai ).

    Beginning August 18, Serbian Patriarch Irinej made a multi-day visit to Dalmatia, Croatia, including the cities of Zadar and Split.  http://www.spc.rs/eng/serbian_patriarch_irinej_visiting_diocese_dalmatia; http://www.spc.rs/sr/istorijska_poseta_splitu  The visit included very positive meetings between the Patriarch and the Catholic archbishops of those cities.  I have pasted below the very warm remarks made by the Patriarch to Archbishop Zelimir Puljic of Zadar, who is also the president of the Croatian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, as reported by the Croatian Catholic news agency IKA.  http://www.ika.hr/index.php?prikaz=vijest&ID=172354

    Lastly, from August 30 to September 13, a summer institute, organized by the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Institute of Post-Graduate Studies, is being held in Moscow for representatives of the Catholic Church.   https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/09/02/news122263/   It is an example of the continued cooperation between the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  The Catholic representatives are headed by Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP of the Pontifical Council.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    Patriarch Irinej, the Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci, then greeted Msgr. Puljić. He addressed him as "Your Eminence" and thanked him for his words of welcome, expressing his admiration for St. Anastasia's "beautiful cathedral that is a house of God, holy temple, in which the faithful assemble in prayer and worship." "I am pleased that the Lord has given me the opportunity to visit this ancient Christian city, which also had the opportunity to welcome the Apostle Paul. It is not impossible. We lack data about this but since he was in these parts, at his time Zadar was his city. This city and this beautiful temple abundantly remind us of our time together, when there was one Christian Church. It was not a short time and was not so long ago. It was a time when the Lord was glad. I believe that if we work to bring that time back, we shall gladden our common Lord and our holy servants of God, including St. Anastasia of Rome," said Patriarch Irinej and continued: "We have much in common, despite certain differences. However, there is much more that unites us, draws us closer to each other to make us one, if not together than at least next to each other. There was a time when we did something that is not worthy of the name of Christian. When man distances himself from God, then everything is possible. We all pray to the Lord every day for the unity of the Churches and for that time in the past to be far from us and never repeat itself," said Patriarch Irinej, noting that we live in a time that leads us to one another. "…we are duty-bound and called to do something, to transcend history, the past that divides us, the past that has left its mark, of which we are not proud. The Lord wants our community. And we are all working and should be working, if we are still not together, to become closer to each other. For us and for our Churches, there is a very great responsibility. As we, specifically you and I, behave, so will our faithful because they are watching us, supporting us and do what we want. Let us make an effort to do and live as the Lord wants us to because we are all his people," said Patriarch Irinej. He pointed out that the Church unites Catholics and Orthodox Christians, drawing them together and forming a kinship. "What unites us and we share in common is much greater than what divides us. Let us try to support what we have in common, to proclaim this as the method, plan and program of our lives, and certainly many things will be better than they are," said Patriarch Irinej, concluding: "May God bless Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Orthodox Christians and Catholics, that we may try to be children of God. The Sacraments and Divine Liturgy are dear to us and, if we bear this in mind, what happened before surely will not repeat itself. At one time there were many more Serbs here than today, and the past bears witness that there was a time when we lived like brothers. Let us pray to God for that time to return. Life passes quickly. There is no greater tragedy for a person than to cultivate hatred toward anyone. Hatred destroys and kills the one who hates more than the one who is hated because it is first in us. May the Lord protect us from it, so that we may truly be like brothers, because we bear the same name, Christians, after our Lord, who is our only Savior in whom we believe. Therefore, we are obligated and called to be brothers."

  • 25 August 2015: Ukraine's independence day

    Today, August 24, Ukraine celebrated the 24th anniversary of its independence.  One of the events of the celebration was an ecumenical prayer service in the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.  http://interfax.com.ua/news/general/285552.html    A two-minute video of the service, from a Ukrainian television station, can be watched at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U73N70fIC6M .  President Poroshenko and his family were present.  According to the Interfax report, prayers were said by the head of the UOC-KP Filaret, the head of the UOC-MP Onufry, and the head of the UGCC Sviatoslav.  I found it encouraging that despite great tensions between the UOC-MP and the UOC-KP, the heads of these two churches participated in the same service.  Prayers were also offered by Bishop Ilarion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada (Ecumenical Patriarchate).  It is interesting that in spite of objections by the UOC-MP, representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches of Canada and the USA continue to have a very visible presence at important religious events in Ukraine. 

    On the occasion of the celebration, Patriarch Kirill sent a letter of congratulations to President Poroshenko.  The letter expressed the hope "for a good interaction between public authorities and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the interest of the stability of the Ukrainian society.”  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4203540.html   Pope Francis also sent a letter of congratulations.  In addition, he made an appeal for peace in Ukraine during his Angelus address on August 23.  http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/catholics/vatikan/60905/  The Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine, which includes the churches in Canada and the USA, sent a very strong letter to Ukrainians to mark the anniversary of Ukraine’s “exodus from the evil empire.”  http://www.ukrainianorthodoxchurchusa.org/news_150819_1.html

    In an item that received almost no news coverage, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew met on  August 17 with the former presidents of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yushchenko.  They were accompanied by Vasyl Bodnar, the Ukrainian Consul General in Istanbul, and by others.  The meeting was held at the initiative of the two former presidents.  In the two-hour meeting, the political and ecclesiastical problems in Ukraine were discussed.   http://www.romfea.gr/oikoumeniko-patriarxeio/2523-proin-proedroi-tis-oukranias-sto-oikoumeniko-patriarxeio;   http://www.sedmitza.ru/text/5815076.html   It is interesting that one of the individuals attending the meeting was Metropolitan Stephanos (Charalambides) of Tallinn and All Estonia (Ecumenical Patriarchate).  One wonders whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate believes that the past experience between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate in Estonia is somehow relevant to Ukraine.  On the same day as the meeting, the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a press release concerning the meeting – an possible indication that the Ecumenical Patriarchate was pleased that the meeting had occurred.  http://www.amen.gr/article/oi-proin-proedroi-tis-oukranias-leonid-kravchuk-kai-viktor-yushchenko-sto-oikoumeniko-patriarxeio  

    Finally, congratulations to the Taize community on the 75th anniversary of its foundation.  Both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ecumenical Patriarchate were represented at the August 16 commemoration by a bishop. https://mospat.ru/en/2015/08/17/news121831/   

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 14 August 2015: Constantinople, Ukraine & Sept. 1

    Today (Aug. 13), the chief secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that the Holy Synod had decided to hold an assembly of all of the bishops of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from August 29 to September 2.  http://www.amen.gr/article/anakoinothen-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxeiou-gia-tin-epikeimeni-synaksi-tis-ierarxias-tou-thronou   Among the topics to be discussed by the bishops are the path to the pan-Orthodox Council, the functioning of the episcopal assemblies in the diaspora, and the theological dialogues with the heterodox.  The bishops will also celebrate together the new Church year on September 1.

    Today, an interview of the Chancellor of the UOC-MP, Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanych), was posted on the official website of the UOC-MP.   http://news.church.ua/2015/08/13/mitropolit-antonij-pakanich-pitannya-cerkovnix-rozkoliv-v-ukrajini-ne-vklyuchene-do-poryadku-dennogo-vsepravoslavnogo-soboru/   An English translation of parts of the interview can be read at http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/orthodox_relations/60822/ .  In the interview, the Metropolitan criticizes the representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from Canada and the USA, who have come to Ukraine without the blessing of the UOC-MP and who have ignored the UOC-MP.  The Metropolitan also had an interesting comment concerning the pan-Orthodox Council.  He stated: “Thus, the issue of church schisms in Ukraine has not been brought to the agenda of the Pan-Orthodox Council.  However, the topics that will be considered at the Council include the procedure for granting ecclesiastical autocephaly and autonomy.  Currently, there is no unity on this issue among the local churches. Pursuant to the regulations for preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council, only the documents that have already been unanimously supported by all the local Churches can be presented for its consideration.  Therefore, today it remains unclear whether the question of autocephaly and autonomy will be considered at the Council.”  This is again an indication how the consensus rule will prohibit the pan-Orthodox Council from resolving any of the serious issues that divide the Orthodox world today (especially the issues that divide Constantinople and Moscow).

    At the formal presentation of the Pope’s new encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, on June 18, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas), stated:   “At this point I should like to mention that the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided as early as 1989 to devote the 1st of September of each year to praying for the environment. This date is according to the Orthodox liturgical calendar, going back to the Byzantine times, the first day of the ecclesiastical year. The liturgical service of the day includes prayers for creation and the Ecumenical Patriarchate commissioned a contemporary hymnographer from Mount Athos to compose special hymns for that day. The 1st of September each year is now devoted by the Orthodox to the environment.  Might this not become a date for such prayer for all Christians? This would mark a step towards further closeness among them.”  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/06/18/metropolitan_john_zizioulas_laudato_si_give_orthodox_grea/1152356

    Pope Francis did not take long to respond.  On August 10, he issued a letter in which he stated: “Sharing with my beloved brother the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew his concerns for the future of creation (cfr Encylical Letter. Laudato Si, 7-9) and taking up the suggestion by his representative, the Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamum who took part in the presentation of the Encyclical Laudato Si on the care of our common home, I wish to inform you that I have decided to set up also in the Catholic Church, the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” which, beginning this year, will be celebrated on the 1st of September, as the Orthodox Church has done for some time now.”  An English translation of the complete text of the Pope’s letter may be read at   http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/08/10/pope_francis_announces_day_of_prayer_for_creation/1164087.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 29 July 2015: St. Vladimir in Moscow and Kyiv

    Today, July 28, the feast of St. Vladimir on the Julian calendar, the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Vladimir was commemorated in Moscow and Kyiv.  The Moscow Patriarchate made every effort to make the Moscow commemoration into a major event.  The liturgy was held today in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/07/28/news121465/  Significantly, all of the Local Orthodox Churches, without exception, sent representatives to the commemoration.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/07/28/news121396/   Afterwards, a reception, hosted by President Putin, was held at the Kremlin.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/07/28/news121513/ 

    Metropolitan Onufry, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), did not attend the Moscow commemoration but rather led the commemoration in Kyiv.  He celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Assumption Cathedral of the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.   Representatives of four Local Orthodox Churches were present and concelebrated with him:  Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, and Czech Lands and Slovakia. 

    http://news.church.ua/2015/07/28/ukrajinska-pravoslavna-cerkva-vidznachaje-1000-littya-blazhennoji-konchini-svyatogo-rivnoapostolnogo-velikogo-knyazya-volodimira/  After the liturgy, there was ecumenical and inter-faith meeting of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations with Ukrainian President Poroshenko.  Metropolitan Onufry participated.  http://news.church.ua/2015/07/28/kijiv-predstoyatel-upc-vzyav-uchast-v-urochistij-zustrichi-prezidenta-ukrajini-petra-poroshenka-z-vseukrajinskoyu-radoyu-cerkov/  Interestingly, the meeting included three representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate who had come to Kyiv for the commemoration: Metropolitan Yuri (Kalischuk) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and Metropolitan Antony (Scharba) and Bishop Daniel (Zelinsky) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of USA.  The three met with President Poroshenko.  http://interfax.com.ua/news/general/280676.html  At the meeting of the All-Ukrainian Council, Metropolitan Yuri spoke of the 700 years when the Kyiv Metropolia was under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople and said that Constantinople, the mother church, does not forget that she has much responsible for Ukraine.  He also spoke of the need for a single Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine.   http://interfax.com.ua/news/general/280698.html 

    I previously reported on the June 8 agreement between the UOC-KP and the UAOC.  The Holy Synod of the UAOC has now rejected the agreement.  http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/150710a.html  Yesterday, the Holy Synod of the UOC-KP broke off further dialogue with the UAOC.  http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/orthodox_relations/60671/ 

    With respect to the current dispute between Antioch and Jerusalem over Qatar, the Jerusalem Patriarch has submitted an official response to the actions of Antioch in breaking communion.  http://www.jp-newsgate.net/en/2015/07/10/15575    A metropolitan of the Patriarchate of Antioch has written a response to this response.  https://www.facebook.com/Antiochpatriarchate.org/posts/593957814041269

    With respect to the pan-Orthodox Council, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate on July 13 “decided that the draft document on ‘The Orthodox Church’s Contribution to the Triumph of Peace, Justice, Freedom, Brotherhood and Love among Nations and to the Elimination of Racial and Other Forms of Discrimination’ be considered unacceptable in its present form. The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church was instructed to present principled amendments to the document to the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/07/15/news121066/

    On a personal note, I wish to thank all of you who prayed for me with respect to my mitral heart valve repair surgery on July 6.  Thanks be to God, the surgery went well.  Although the recovery will take some time, I am now back at my computer as you can see.  I am convinced that prayers really help!  Thank you so much!!!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 1 July 2015: Antioch, Jerusalem & Ukraine

    On June 27, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch severed ecclesiastical communion with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem over the appointment by Jerusalem of a metropolitan in Qatar.  Antioch believes that Qatar is within its canonical territory.  AsiaNews has posted an interesting English-language article concerning this latest development in the dispute, which has existed between the two Local Churches  since May 2013.  http://www.asianews.it/news-en/The-ecumenism-of-blood-and-Orthodox-divisions-34641.html   The actual decision of the Holy Synod can be read in Arabic at  http://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/ar/page//1139/ .   French and Greek translations can be read at http://orthodoxie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Antioche_Qatar.pdf .  Paragraph 3 of the resolution confirms: “The insistence of the Church of Antioch on compliance with the principle of unanimity during all pan-Orthodox meetings both in regard to the presence of all of the sister Orthodox Churches as well as the decisions.”

    You may recall that when the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches met in Istanbul in March 2014, it was decided that all decisions relating to the future pan-Orthodox Council would be made by consensus.  The inclusion of Paragraph 3 is perhaps a reminder that the holding of a pan-Orthodox Council is not possible without the approval of Antioch.  It may also be a reminder that no resolution of the Qatar dispute is possible unless Antioch is in agreement with its terms.  In view of the failures of the previous attempts to solve the Qatar dispute, Antioch may believe that it has no alternative but to send a signal that the holding of a pan-Orthodox Council cannot occur until the Qatar dispute is resolved on terms that are at least not objectionable to Antioch.

    The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) is attempting to decide whether to proceed with the terms of the June 8 decision by the “unity commission” of the UOC-KP and the UAOC.  As I previously reported, the UOC-KP has agreed to the commission’s decision, but the UAOC appears to have some reservations.  http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/150626a.html   Filaret, the primate of the UOC-KP, has now written a letter to the UAOC seeking to address some of the concerns.  http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/orthodox_relations/60381/ 

    With respect to the Rome meeting of the drafting committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR has reported that the drafting committee’s  “edited version will be presented to the Joint Commission’s Coordinating Committee at its meeting in September 2015 in Rome.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/06/26/news120628/  This report implies that the members of the drafting commission were able to agree upon an edited version.  The same report also discusses the meeting between Metropolitan Hilarion and the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin.

    On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Ecumenical Patriarch was represent at the Vatican by a delegation headed by Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas).  http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.com/2015/06/francis-receives-delegation-from.html   The text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter to the Pope can be read at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/06/30/patriarch_bartholomew_sends_message_to_pope_francis/1102360 .  The text of the Pope’s remarks to Metropolitan Ioannis can be read at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/06/27/pope_francis_greets_delegation_from_ecumenical_patriarch/1154436

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 26 June 2015: Drafting committee of international dialogue meets in Rome

    The Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR has reported that the drafting committee of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is meeting today (June 25) in Rome.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/06/25/news120589/  The report states that the drafting committee consists of three Orthodox members of the Commission and three Catholic members.  The drafting committee is working on a document originally prepared at the Amman plenary last September.   The title of the document is “Towards a common understanding of synodality and primacy in the Church in the first millennium.”  The report includes a small photo.  Some of the individuals who can be seen in the photo are Metropolitan Hilarion, Metropolitan Gennadios, Archbishop Roland Minnerath, and Msgr. Andrea Palmieri.

    It is my understanding from prior Internet reports that the draft document takes primarily an historical as opposed to a theological approach.  The document was almost approved at the Amman plenary, but a few of the Local Orthodox Churches had objections.  The current meeting seeks to revise the Amman document so that it meets the approval of all of the Local Orthodox Churches.  In order to reach this consensus, I suspect that the final document will be limited in nature and not involve any major breakthroughs.  If agreement is reached by the drafting committee, the hope will probably be that the document will be approved by the next plenary, presumably in 2017.

    I previously reported on the June 8 decision reached by the joint committees for dialogue between the UAOC and the UOC-KP.  http://www.uocofusa.org/news_150609_1.html    One of the statements in the decision expressed appreciation to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for sending to the dialogue his observers, Bishop Ilarion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and Bishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.  Yesterday, there was a meeting of the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP.  http://news.church.ua/2015/06/24/zhurnali-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-24-chervnya-2015-roku/   In Journal entry 25, the Holy Synod expressed concern that these two bishops engaged in activity on the canonical territory of the UOC-MP without receiving the blessing of the UOC-MP.  Metropolitan Onufry, the primate of the UOC-MP, was instructed by the Holy Synod to seek an explanation from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

    In a related development, the Holy Synod of the UOC-KP has approved the June 8 agreement.  http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/interchurch_relations/60308/  This is not surprising as it is clear under the terms of the June 8 decision that the UOC-KP will have a majority of the votes at a future “unification council” which will decide the exact terms of any merger of the UOC-KP and UAOC.  The big question now is whether the UAOC will approve the June 8 decision.  In the meantime, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP has appointed at yesterday’s meeting its own committee to engage in dialogue with the UAOC.  (Journey entry 26)

    In other developments, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has given an extensive interview on the latest encyclical by Pope Francis.  http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/inquiries-and-interviews/detail/articolo/bartolomeo-bartholomew-bartolome-enciclica-encyclical-enciclica-41834/   A short video of the meeting between Pope Francis and His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, can be seen at  http://www.romereports.com/pg161896-pope-francis-to-syrian-church-leaders-what-unites-us-is-stronger-than-what-divides-us-en .  The meeting was concluded with a joint prayer service in the Redemptoris Mater chapel. 

    On a personal note, I am scheduled for open heart (mitral valve repair or replacement) surgery on July 6.  I may or may not have another report before that depending on whether there is some interesting news to report.  After that date, I will not be able to make my daily search of the Internet for a period of time.   However, I hope that before too long, I will be back at my computer and looking for interesting Orthodox – Catholic developments!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 19 June 2015: Orthodox on the environment & more news

    This morning the Pope’s new encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, was presented at a packed press conference held at the Vatican.  The complete English text of the encyclical may be read at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html   One of the presenters was Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas), who represented Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – the first world religious leader to give great attention to the environment crisis.  A video of the complete 2-hour press conference can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYibHoWrKXo  The English presentation by Metropolitan Ioannis begins at 33:20 on the video.  The complete English text of the Metropolitan’s presentation can be read at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/06/18/metropolitan_john_zizioulas_laudato_si_give_orthodox_grea/1152356# .

    In the presentation, the Metropolitan stated that the encyclical was “an occasion of great joy and satisfaction for the Orthodox.”  He also stated: “The first of September each year is now devoted by the Orthodox to the environment. Might this not become a date for such prayer for all Christians? This would mark a step towards further closeness among them.”  It should be noted that not only has the Ecumenical Patriarch stressed the need to protect the environment, but this need was also made the subject of an entire chapter in the Moscow Patriarchate’s important document, The Basis of the Social Concept.   https://mospat.ru/en/documents/social-concepts/xiii/

    On June 12, Pope Francis had earlier commented on the forthcoming presentation of the encyclical  and on the subject of a common Easter date at a meeting of approximately 1,000 priests attending a world retreat in Rome.  A story by the news agency AsiaNews about the retreat (http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Pope-calls-for-agreement-on-a-single-date-for-Christians-to-celebrate-Easter-34500.html ) included the follow statements by the Pope: 

    Pope Francis today proposed that all Christians celebrate Easter at the same time. He did so, noting that “The Catholic Church has been willing since Paul VI to set a date and give up the first solstice after the full moon in March" by which Easter is established….[T]he pope [also] said that he had invited the Orthodox ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to present his encyclical on ecology. "We are friends,” he said, “ but he had a commitment, and so sent the Archbishop of Pergamum Zizoulas. This way, the encyclical will be presented by one of the greatest Orthodox theologians.”  “Ex oriente lux, former occidente luxsus,” said the pope in relation to Orthodox Christians. "From the Orthodox East and its Asian part comes the light" of spirituality, while the West exports "luxury, hedonism, consumerism," all things that are causing "decadence," said the pontiff.  Indeed, he emphasized Asia’s “spiritual reserves,” noting the cultural and pastoral contributions from the Churches in Japan, Korea, Thailand, and others.

    On June 11, Pope Francis held a 50-minute meeting with President Putin.  http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.com/2015/06/popes-audience-with-vladimir-putin.html  A short video of the meeting can be seen at  http://www.romereports.com/pg161768-pope-francis-and-vladimir-putin-discuss-ukraine-and-middle-east-during-meeting-en .  Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, stated afterwards, “The conversation was very deep, according to the President, thorough.”  http://ria.ru/world/20150610/1069341314.html

    Metropolitan Hilarion arrived in Rome on June 14.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/06/16/news120122/  That evening he met with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  The next day he met with Pope Francis.  A short video of the latter meeting can be seen at http://www.romereports.com/pg161830-pope-to-russian-orthodox-church-let-us-pray-so-that-everything-can-get-accomplished--en .

    A good English translation of the June 8 decision reached by the joint UOC-KP and UAOC commission (discussed in my last report) is now available at  http://www.uocofusa.org/news_150609_1.html .  A communique has been issued by representatives of the Catholic Church in Poland and Ukraine to work for reconciliation between Poland and Ukraine.  http://episkopat.pl/dokumenty/pozostale/6679.1,Komunikat_ze_wspolnego_spotkania_przedstawicieli_Kosciola_katolickiego_w_Polsce_i_na_Ukrainie.html  Tomorrow (Friday) morning, Pope Francis will meet with His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, elected last year as Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East.  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/06/16/pope_francis_to_receive_syrian_orthodox_patriarch/1151885 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

  • 9 June 2015: The role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and more

    On June 4, the smallest of the three Orthodox churches in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), elected a new primate, Bishop Makariy (Maletych) of Lviv, to replace the deceased primate, Metropolitan Methodios. http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/orthodox/uapc/60168/   At the same time, the delegates at the council that elected the new primate stated the willingness  of the UAOC to abandon its autocephalous status and enter the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the rights of a self-governing metropolis.  http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/orthodox_relations/60184/   As far as I know, this is something new.  Previous efforts by the UAOC were to obtain recognition by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of its status as an autocephalous church as opposed to being a part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself.  If the UAOC became of part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its status would be somewhat similar to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States  – both of which are under the jurisdiction of Constantinople.

    Yesterday, June 8, there was another extremely important development in this regard.  A meeting was held at St. Michael’s Monastery in Kyiv between representatives of the UAOC and the UOC-KP under the title, “commission for unity.”  The meeting was also attended by Bishop Hilarion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and by Bishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States.      The final decision of the commission is can be read at http://risu.org.ua/ru/index/all_news/confessional/interchurch_relations/60204/    The commission proposed that a unity council should be convened on September 14 to decide on the merger of the UAOC and the UOC-KP.  The decision of the commission also specifies that the delegates at the unity council should be the bishops of the two churches plus one delegate for every fifteen registered religious organizations.   The decisions of the unity council would be made by majority vote.

    In another development, the controversial, but most popular, Greek religious site published today what it termed a “bomb.”  The bomb involves a secret video made of remarks by Archbishop Rastislav and Archbishop Jachym of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/1155-bomba-apo-ton-arxiepiskopo-tsexias-stin-enotita-ton-orthodojon  It had been my personal hope that the agreement negotiated last February resolved the sharp divisions within this church and paved the way for the holding of the pan-Orthodox Council in 2016.  The signed English version of the agreement can be read at https://krizevcirkvi.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/myty-o-videnskych-dohodach-aneb-kdo-co-neporusil-a-kdo-co-musi-a-nemusi/ (scroll to the bottom).  Under the agreement, Rastislav would be recognized as primate of the church.  Jachym would resign as archbishop of Prague, and Michal would be elected instead.   Romfea provides a link to the video which includes English subtitles of all remarks.  The video is also on YouTube with the title, “Archbishop Rastislav insulting the Ecumenical Patriarch.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=17&v=F1ZXSIacY_k  The speaker on the right (the first speaker) is Archbishop Rastislav, and Archbishop Jachym is on the left.  There are frequent references in the video to Archbishop Simeon of Olomouc and Brno, who sought the assistance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the election disputes involving a new archbishop of Prague and a new primate.  Will the Ecumenical Patriarchate now need to take some form of action with respect to the remarks by Rastislav?  Certainly, one can say that such remarks by the primate of a church do not help in healing wounds and are a significant bump in the road to the pan-Orthodox Council.

    There are a number of other items of note:  (1) The English translation of the final communique of the assembly of Serbian bishops has now been posted on the official website of the Serbian Orthodox Church. http://www.spc.rs/eng/communique_holy_assembly_bishops_serbian_orthodox_church_4 .   (2) It has been reported that Metropolitan Hilarion has responded to the earlier invitation by Cardinal Dziwisz of Krakow for Patriarch Kirill to visit World Youth Day in 2016.  Metropolitan Hilarion supposedly stated that at the present time he cannot give a positive answer in view of the position of the Polish Catholic Bishops Conference on Ukraine.  http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/150603c.html  In response to this news report, Father Stefan of the DECR stated that a meeting between the Patriarch and Pope Francis has not been dropped from the agenda, but that a date has not been determined because of the need to evaluate certain complex issues between the two churches. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/With-Putin-set-to-meet-the-pope-on-10-June,-Moscow-Patriarchate-states-that-a-meeting-with-Kirill-is-still-on-the-agenda-34423.html  (3) The DECR has issued a statement that it does not see any prospects in maintaining official contacts with the Church of Scotland and with the United Protestant Church of France.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/06/03/news119648/   This position was taken because of the decision of the Church of Scotland to ordain gays who are in a civil partnership and the decision of the French church to bless same-sex unions. (4) On June 4, Pope Francis held an inter-faith meeting during his visit to Sarajevo.   A large delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Church attended, and Bishop Grigorij of Herzegovina was a speaker.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/papa_je_u_sarajevu_pozvao_na_mir_pomirenje  Bishop Grigorij gave a very warm address and stated that the Orthodox Christians, as do the Catholics, welcome with joy the visit to our country of “the head of our sister Church and the Bishop of Rome.”   http://www.spc.rs/sr/pozdrav_episkopa_grigorija_papi_franji_u_sarajevu  At the meeting with youth, Pope Francis answered questions from both Catholic and Orthodox youth. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/06/06/pope_in_sarajevo_urges_youth_to_build_a_more_just_society/1149674

    Tomorrow, of course, President Putin meets with Pope Francis.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 31 May 2015: Yes to dialogue on Stepinac

    The Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church had its final session yesterday (May 29).  The meeting had begun May 14.  Today (Saturday) the Serbian Patriarchate posted its final communique on the meeting.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_svetog_arhijerejskog_sabora 

    During part of this time, Cardinal Kurt Koch, the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was in Serbia.  On May 28, the Cardinal met with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić.  http://www.tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=181390  It appears to have been a positive and warm meeting.  However, the President expressed his concern about the possibility that the Catholic Church would canonized Croatian Cardinal Stepinac (1898-1960).  Stepinac was archbishop of Zagreb during the Second World War and was later imprisoned by the Communist regime in Yugoslavia for alleged complicity with Ustaše crimes.   Stephinac was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998.  Today, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats have such different perceptions of Stepinac that it is difficult to believe that they are thinking of the same person.  Cardinal Koch suggested to President Nikolić that a joint commission of experts be established by the Catholic Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church to investigate all of the historic facts.  On the same day, Cardinal Koch met with Patriarch Irinej, primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church.   http://www.spc.rs/eng/serbian_patriarch_irinej_received_cardinal_kurt_koch  Although not mentioned in the news report, it is extremely likely that the Stepinac matter was discussed.

    Meanwhile, back in Rome, Pope Francis on May 28 met with the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.  http://www.visnews-en.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-pope-receives-president-of-croatia.html   In a subsequent press conference at the Croatian Embassy to the Holy See, Grabar-Kitarović stated that Pope Francis had expressed his personal belief in the sanctity of Stepinac.   However, the Pope added that the continuation of the canonization process will involve the establishment of a commission to examine the actions of the Cardinal during the war years.  According to the Pope, the commission will begin its work in the fall and will include Orthodox, Catholic, and independent historians.  http://www.kath.ch/newsd/serbiens-staatschef-zu-kardinal-koch-keine-heiligsprechung-von-kardinal-stepinac/ Today’s final communique of the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church confirms that the Serbian Church has agreed to the establishment of this commission with the Catholic Church and the Croatian Catholic Bishops Conference. http://www.tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=181790  

    Pope Francis will be visiting Sarajevo next Saturday, June 6.  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/05/28/programme_of_pope_francis_pastoral_visit_to_sarajevo/1147434  This will include a meeting with other religious leaders including Orthodox.  Next September, the President of Serbia will visit the Vatican.

    On a different topic, a large model of Moscow’s future statue of St. Vladimir has now been completed.  http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=7&id=62599   The New York Times has published a long and somewhat critical article relating to this statue.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/29/world/europe/another-huge-statue-in-russia-not-rare-but-hugely-divisive.html?_r=0  

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 25 May 2015: Serbia, Greece, and Ulyanovsk

    Each year all of the bishops of the Serbian Patriarchate worldwide meet in Belgrade for a Holy Assembly.  This year the Assembly began on May 14.   http://www.spc.rs/eng/holy_assembly_bishops_began_its_work   The current Assembly has been faced with a challenge by certain bishops to the earlier action by the Holy Synod to remove two bishops --  Bishop Georgije of Canada and Bishop  Filaret of Mileševska.   According to the Serbian news agency Tanjug, the practice of allowing the Holy Synod to relieve bishops of their duties was introduced in 2010 when Patriarch Irinej was elected primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church. http://www.tanjug.rs/full-view_en.aspx?izb=180029   On May 20, the Assembly made its final decision that Bishop Georgije should be dismissed.  http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_20_maj_2015_godine   On May 23, the Assembly made the final decision, by a vote of 19 to 17, that Bishop Filaret should also be removed.  http://www.tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=180536 

    The Serbian daily newspaper Blic has posted a series of articles relating to the dispute.  These articles may be read at http://www.blic.rs/tag/466/SPC.  According to Blic, 21 bishops (identified by name in one article) of the total number of 47 bishops had signed a petition before the debate challenging the action taken by the Holy Synod (or at least by a majority of the Synod members).  Blic states that Bishop Irinej of Backa was the leader of the challenging group.  The newspaper also contends that the challenge, if successful, would undermine the authority of Patriarch Irinej.  The debate between the bishops has been very heated and contentious.  Blic did not identify the person or persons providing this information to the newspaper, and it is of course possible that this information is incorrect.

    The visit of the relics of St. Barbara to Greece has become one of the biggest religious events in that country in recent years.  Because of the great number of people seeking to venerate the relics, Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece, has made a special request to the Vatican and to the Catholic Patriarch of Venice to extend the visit of the relics to Greece from May 24 to June 1.  http://www.romfea.gr/ekklisia-ellados/810-paratasi-paramonis-tis-agias-barbaras .   A Catholic deacon, who is accompanying the relics during this visit to Greece, has stated in an interview his amazement at the outpouring of piety and devotion that he has witnessed.   http://www.figuro.us/catholic-deacon-impressed-with-the-faith-of-the-greeks/  He stated:  “Here I saw faith, because people have been standing here for hours in line under the sun and thirsty in order to arrive and touch the relic for one second and kiss it, and touch their foreheads to it. I saw some people arrive here on their knees, parents bring their young children, I saw many young people, many older people, many disabled, I saw a very impressive people.”  Today (Sunday) the relics arrived in Piraeus where they were welcomed with great joy by Metropolitan Serafim and the faithful in a very impressive procession.  http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/834-peiraios-serafeim-megali-eulogia-gia-ton-peiraia-i-eleusi-ton-leipsanon-foto  (includes a video and great number of photos).

    On May 20, Patriarch Kirill consecrated a monument in Ulyanovsk to Metropolitan Sergei (Stragorodsky), who headed the Moscow Patriarchate for many years until his death in May 1944.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4087621.html   Metropolitan Sergei is perhaps best known for his Declaration on July 29, 1927, in which he pledged the loyalty of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Soviet government.  However, Patriarch Kirill focused instead on the important role played by Metropolitan Sergei in calling upon the people during the Great Patriotic War to resist the foreign invaders.  In October 1941, when the German forces were threatening Moscow, the Soviet authorities evacuated Metropolitan Sergei to the Volga region.  By a combination of circumstances and not by designed, he was brought to the city of Ulyanovsk (originally named Simbirsk) – famous as the home town of Lenin.  Metropolitan Sergei arrived there on October 19, 1941, and would remain there until the August 31, 1943.  The monument consecrated by Patriarch Kirill is located at the spot where the church used by Metropolitan Sergei during those 22 months once stood.  As Patriarch Kirill stated in his remarks in Ulyanovsk, “We are at the point where in 1941 to 1943 beat the heart of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

    The church used by Metropolitan Sergei had previously been the Catholic church in Ulyanovsk.  All of the Orthodox churches in Ulyanovsk had been destroyed, and only the Catholic structure was available to the Metropolitan.  On November 30, 1941, the Catholic structure was consecrated as an Orthodox cathedral named after the Kazan icon of the Mother of God.  On December 19, Metropolitan Sergei moved into the Catholic rectory which became his residence.  Neither the church nor the rectory building exist today.  You can see an 8-minute video of the dedication of the monument by Patriarch Kirill at http://www.patriarchia.ru/ua/db/text/4091521.html .  As a Catholic, I found it interesting that a church originally built by Catholics became the “heart of the Russian Orthodox Church” for the most difficult years of the Second World War.

    A blessed Pentecost to those of you who are celebrating the feast today.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 12 May 2015: Ecumenism of relics

    There have been many references recently, especially in view of the martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East, to the “ecumenism of blood.”  However, yesterday (Sunday) there was a vivid demonstration of an “ecumenism of relics.”  The relics of Saint Great Martyr Barbara were brought from Venice to Greece for a 15-day visit.  The relics are normally kept in the chapel of St. Barbara in the Church of St. Martin of Tours on the island of Burano (not to be confused with the island of Murano), an island in the Venetian Lagoon, a few kilometers from Venice.  The relics were given by Byzantine Emperor Basil II to the family of the Doge of Venice in approximately 1003.  Unfortunately, in recent years these relics have not received the attention that they should.  In December 2000, the relics were brought to Rome, were given special honors by the Italian Navy, and were made available for veneration at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.   http://www.vicariatusurbis.org/SantaBarbara/p_storiachiesa_054.htm    On a trip to Venice in 2007, Metropolitan (now Patriarch) Kirill came to Burano and venerated the relics.   https://mospat.ru/archive/en/38915.htm   Local firefighters have conducted services before the relics.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T10tdwxq_U    St. Barbara is a patroness of firefighters, sailors, and artillerymen.

    The journey of the relics of St. Barbara to Greece is the first occasion that these relics have left Italy in over 1,000 years.  It was arranged by the Apostolic Diakonia of the Orthodox Church of Greece with the blessing of Archbishop Moraglia, the Catholic patriarch of Venice.   http://www.apostoliki-diakonia.gr/pdf/St_Barbara_en.pdf   The relics were formally received by a delegation of the Church of Greece in a ceremony at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.   http://www.amen.gr/article/i-paralavi-tou-leipsanou-tis-agias-varvaras-sti-venetia-foto  An honor guard was provided by cadets of the Italian Naval Academy.  The relics were then taken by private aircraft to Athens.

    The reception of these relics in Greece has been quite amazing.  The relics were met at the Athens airport with the honors of a Head of State.  http://www.amen.gr/article/stin-athina-to-iero-leipsano-tis-agias-varvaras-ypodoxi-sto-aerodromio-foto  The relics were then taken to the Church of St. Barbara located in a suburb west of Athens.  The Livestream video of the very large and colorful procession to the church can be seen at http://www.amen.gr/article/live-i-teleti-ypodoxi-tou-leipsanou-tis-agias-varvaras .  I think that you will enjoy spending a few minutes watching this procession.   Archbishop Ieronymos, primate of the Church of Greece, was present.  You can also see Msgr. Andrea Palmieri of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the background.   There are plans to bring the relics to a cancer hospital in Athens.  The SYRIZA’s parliamentary spokesperson, Nikos Filis, has attacked this action by the Church as conveying a false message to patients that medicine can be replaced.   http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_11/05/2015_549924

    The relics will depart on 24 May from the port of Piraeus.  This will probably involve the participation of the very outspoken conservative Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus.  Here, the “ecumenism of relics” will be subject to a real test as Metropolitan Seraphim considers any form of ecumenism to be a heresy.  

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 9 May 2015: The narrow line of the UOC (MP

    Today (Friday) an event occurred which graphically demonstrates the very narrow line that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) is seeking to walk with respect to current events in Ukraine.  A special commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany was held today at the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada).  During the ceremony, President Petro Poroshenko criticized an alleged attempt by Russia to “monopolize” the anniversary and to minimize the contributions of Ukraine to the victory.   https://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/poroshenko-address-nation-chastises-putin-on-70th-anniversary-of-victory-in-europe-day-388114.html    During the course of the ceremony, Poroshenko read the names of the 21 Ukrainian soldiers who were being given the “Heros of Ukraine” award for their valor in the present conflict.  With the reading of the names, everyone present stood and applauded except the three representatives of the UOC (MP) -- its head Metropolitan Onufry, Metropolitan Anthony, and Bishop Jonah.  This was captured by photos which are now being disseminated by the media.  https://ukr.media/ukrain/236071/   The UOC (MP) immediately posted an explanation on its website that Metropolitan Onufry did not stand in order to stress that the war should be stopped immediately.  http://news.church.ua/2015/05/08/shhodo-vidviduvannya-blazhennishim-mitropolitom-onufrijem-urochistogo-zasidannya-verxovnoji-radi-ukrajini-8-travnya-2015-roku/

    On May 3, with the blessing of Metropolitan Onufry, Metropolitan Anatoly of the UOC (MP) opened the celebration in Milan, Italy of the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Vladimir.  http://news.church.ua/2015/05/05/italiya-delegaciya-upc-vzyala-uchast-u-vidkritti-urochistostej-z-nagodi-1000-littya-z-chasu-konchini-svyatogo-knyazya-volodimira-velikogo/   There was a large crowd for a spiritual and cultural event hosted that evening by the UOC (MP) in the “Pope Pius XII Hall” provided for the event by the Catholic Archdiocese of Milan.  The Archdiocese also made available the church of St. Anthony in downtown Milan for an exhibit by the UOC (MP).

    On May 2 and 3, the Bulgarian Patriarchate celebrated the 1,150 anniversary of the conversion of Bulgaria to Christianity.  Representatives of 14 of the autocephalous Local Orthodox Churches were present.  The Moscow Patriarchate was represented by Metropolitan Onufry.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/05/05/news118662/   A long video showing the coverage on Bulgarian television can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW08cBQ00Dc .   As far as I determine, no representatives of other Christian denominations were invited to attend.  One aspect of the celebration that has been controversial is the decision of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate to include, in its liturgical commemorations, Simeon Saxe-Coburg (who received an important church award at the celebration) as “His Majesty Simeon II, Tsar of the Bulgarians”.  http://www.balkaneu.com/bulgarian-orthodox-church-includes-blessing-saxe-coburg-tsar-bulgarians-liturgies/   The President of Bulgarian has requested that the Holy Synod reconsider its decision.  http://sofiaglobe.com/2015/05/02/bulgarian-president-urges-rethink-on-church-honouring-saxe-coburg-as-tsar-of-bulgarians/   At least some metropolitans of the Bulgarian Patriarchate now appear to be rethinking the matter. http://sofiaglobe.com/2015/05/07/bulgarian-top-clergy-backtrack-on-honouring-saxe-coburg-as-tsar-of-bulgarians/   Today, the Bulgarian Patriarchate posted a letter to the Patriarch from Saxe-Coburg in which the latter attacked the biased interpretation of those criticizing the traditional commemoration of the tsar.  http://bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=173208 

    The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate, in its session on May 5, voted to refer the two documents approved by the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council at its last session in Chambesy to the Moscow Patriarchate Holy Synod’s commission on theology.  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4067545.html  (Journal entry 18).  As you recall, the two documents are “Contribution of the Orthodox Church in the promotion of peace, justice, freedom, brotherhood and love between people and the elimination of racial and other discrimination” and “The importance of fasting and its observance today.” 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 1 May 2015: Ecumenism of blood and other topics

    Today, Pope Francis met with members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission.  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/04/30/pope_meets_members_of_anglican-roman_catholic_commission/1140721  During the audience, the Pope made some remarks that are relevant to Orthodox as well:  There is a strong bond that already unites us which goes beyond all divisions: it is the testimony of Christians from different Churches and traditions, victims of persecution and violence simply because of the faith they profess.  The blood of these martyrs will nourish a new era of ecumenical commitment, a fervent desire to fulfill the last will and testament of the Lord: that all may be one (cf. Jn 17:21).  The witness by these our brothers and sisters demands that we live in harmony with the Gospel and that we strive with determination to fulfill the Lord's will for his Church.  Today the world urgently needs the common, joyful witness of Christians, from the defense of life and human dignity to the promotion of justice and peace.

    Together let us invoke the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to be able to respond courageously to "the signs of the times" which are calling all Christians to unity and common witness.   The need for a common Christian witness on various world issues is a theme that Metropolitan Hilarion has repeatedly stressed.

    Yesterday, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, spoke at a conference in Bari, Italy, sponsored by the Community of Sant'Egidio and entitled, “Christians in the Middle East: What Future?”   Among the Orthodox participants were Archbishop Chrysostomos II (primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus), Metropolitan Emmanuel (Ecumenical Patriarchate), and Metropolitan Vikenty of Tashkent and Uzbekistan (Moscow Patriarchate).  http://www.santegidio.org/pageID/7456/Partecipants.html   In his address, Cardinal Sandri compared the indifference and inaction of the international community with respect to Christians in the Middle East to that of Pontius Pilate washing his hands.  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/04/30/cardinal_sandri_indifference_and_inaction_on_middle_east/1140726 

    Today, Patriarch Kirill received an honorary doctorate from the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/04/30/news118498/   Foreign Minister Lavrov  spoke at the presentation.  The apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation was one of the guests present.  In his acceptance speech, Patriarch Kirill stated that “Pope Francis and the State Secretariat of the Holy See maintain a balanced position on the situation in Ukraine.”  In this regard, the Patriarch stated that the Vatican position on Ukraine coincides with the position of the Moscow Patriarchate.  At the same time, the Patriarch severely criticized the actions of the “Greek Catholics and the schismatics.” According to His Holiness, only the UOC (MP) has the potential for peacekeeping.  http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=58700   The Patriarch also stated his belief that the pan-Orthodox Council will take place in 2016, but added that the preparation for it has not been easy.  He added, “As ever around historical events there are some intrigues, undercurrents and attempts to influence, including on the part of political forces. We are seeing all that, especially in connection with the Ukrainian crisis”  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12008   

    Although Patriarch Kirill had only harsh words for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, he had a genial meeting yesterday with Catholicos-Patriarch of Cilicia Nerses Bedros XIX, the head of another of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the relatively small Armenian Catholic Church.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/04/29/news118485/ 

    A video of the entire service of the canonization of the Armenian martyrs can be seen at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgMA34GzZFY .  The canonization service was attended by many of the Local Orthodox Churches, but not all.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/04/24/news118292/  Presumably concerned about repercussions from the Turkish government, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was apparently not represented at the Yerevan service.  However, the Ecumenical Patriarch personally attended a service at the Armenian Apostolic Church in Istanbul.  http://www.amen.gr/article/o-oikoumenikos-patriarxis-stin-teleti-mnimis-gia-tous-armenious-tis-mikras-asias-pou-vrikan-tragiko-thanato-sta-gegonota-tou-1915   The neighboring Georgian Orthodox Church did not send a representative apparently because of some disputes with the Armenian Orthodox Church.  http://www.jamestown.org/regions/thecaucasus/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=42732&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=643&cHash=689f30634ae6f824d26f96b6e741d27c#.VUJvNst0y4R

    I have previously reported on the latest meeting of the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council (concluded on April 2) and on some of the articles posted on romfea.gr to the effect that certain Commission members were seeking to undercut the Orthodox teachings on homosexuality.  The chairman of the Commission, Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas), has now written a very strong letter to romfea.gr accusing the website of “defamation of myself but also other members of the said Committee.”  This letter has been posted on the official website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in English.  https://www.patriarchate.org/-/communique?redirect=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.patriarchate.org%2Fhome%3Fp_p_id%3D101_INSTANCE_03OPCWysZcX6%26p_p_lifecycle%3D0%26p_p_state%3Dnormal%26p_p_mode%3Dview%26p_p_col_id%3Dcolumn-1%26p_p_col_pos%3D1%26p_p_col_count%3D2   The letter makes a demand through the legal counsel of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that the defamatory articles be permanently deleted and that this letter be posted on the website.  Romfea.gr has now posted this letter under a large photo of Metropolitan Ioannis.  http://www.romfea.gr/oikoumeniko-patriarxeio/271-dilosi-tou-mitropoliti-pergamou-gia-dimosieuma  Of all of the available photos of Metropolitan Ioannis, romfea.gr selected a photo of the Metropolitan at St. Peter’s Basilica with a Catholic cleric and a Swiss Guard clearly visible behind him – apparently a not-so-subtle message by romfea.gr to conservative Orthodox viewers as to where the Metropolitan’s true sympathies supposedly lie.  The Metropolitan’s letter is emphatic that not a single member of the Commission advocated support for the homosexual lifestyle.  However, reading the letter closely, it appears to me that it leaves open the possibility that there may have been some discussion by the Commission as whether homosexuals should be subject to discrimination in society generally.

    In other news, a very historic church in Mexico City has been given by the Catholic Church to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=62147   I was also interested in seeing that the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia, with the blessings of the newly installed Archbishop of Prague Michal, invited Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev to give a lecture in Prague.   http://pravoslavnacirkev.cz/Novinky/Pednka-o--dikona-prof--Andreje-Kurjeva/   Kuraev is a very controversial person and was removed by the Moscow Patriarchate from his teaching position at the Moscow Theological Academy.   However, the topic of the talk was not controversial, “Why should I become Orthodox if I were an Englishman.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 22 April 2015: Armenia, Koch, and Varsonofy

    Today, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, flew from Rome to Yerevan, Armenia in connection with the observance of the centenary of the Armenian genocide.  On Thursday, he will attend the canonization service for the martyrs of the genocide.  On Friday, he will attend the commemoration ceremony at the national genocide memorial.  Cardinal Koch will deliver a message from Pope Francis.  Vatican Radio has just posted an 8-minute English-language interview by Philippa Hitchen of Father Gabriel Quicke, who is responsible at the Pontifical Council for relations with the Oriental Orthodox Churches and who is accompanying Cardinal Koch to Yerevan.  I found the interview extremely interesting.  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/04/22/cardinal_koch_attends_armenias_centenary_commemorations/1138830   

    You can watch the canonization ceremony live on Livestream this Thursday at 3 p.m. Paris time and 9 a.m. New York time.  For further information concerning the telecast, see http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/2015/04/canonization-of-the-martyrs-of-the-armenian-genocide-to-be-held-on-23rd-april-2015/   The official delegations to the centenary events will include the presidents of Cyprus, France, Russia and Serbia.  http://massispost.com/2015/04/more-than-60-foreign-delegations-to-attend-armenian-genocide-centennial-events/   This will be the first formal canonization by the Armenian Apostolic Church in over 500 years.  Bells will ring at churches throughout the world including Christ the Savior in Moscow, Notre Dame in Paris, and St. Patrick’s in New York City.  http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=62076 

    The Moscow Patriarchate announced today that its delegation will be headed by Metropolitan Varsonofy (Sudakov), the head of the St. Petersburg Metropolia and the Chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The delegation will include: the Metropolitan’s brother, Archpriest Sergei Sudakov (chair of the Financial and Economic Department of the St. Petersburg Metropolia); Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov (DECR secretary for inter-Christian relations); and P. Yermoshkin (the Metropolitan’s assistant as Chancellor).  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/04/22/news118210/   I found the selection of Metropolitan Varsonofy to head the delegation very interesting.  It is further evidence that he is becoming an extremely important person in the Moscow Patriarchate.

    As an archbishop, Metropolitan  Varsonofy was appointed as acting chancellor at the first Synod meeting following Kirill’s election as Patriarch.  He replaced the existing chancellor, Metropolitan Kliment, who had been Kirill’s prime competitor in the election for patriarch.  Metropolitan Varsonofy subsequently became chancellor.  The chancellor is the chief administrative officer of the Patriarchate and must work very closely with the Patriarch.  A year ago, Metropolitan Varsonofy was appointed by the Holy Synod to be the head of the very important St. Petersburg Metropolia.  I believe that it was assumed that a new chancellor would then be selected.  However, now, a year later, Metropolitan Varsonofy continues to hold both of these extremely important positions and spends part of his week in Moscow and part of the week in St. Petersburg.

    However, Metropolitan Varsonofy has had very little international exposure.  He has a great interest in Mt. Athos and the Holy Land and has been there on numerous occasions.  However, aside from that, he has had relatively few international travels and ecumenical contacts.  He did go to Japan with the Patriarch two years ago.  With respect to Western Europe, he went to Italy, but that was in February 1999.  Perhaps his heading the delegation to Armenia is intended to give him greater international exposure – consistent with his extremely important positions in the Moscow Patriarchate.  The Armenia assignment is especially important as President Putin is also going.

    Prior to tomorrow’s events, a forum was held today in Yerevan on genocide.  Speakers include Oriental Orthodox patriarchs and Maronite Cardinal Rai.   http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/2015/04/orthodox-patriarchs-attend-opening-ceremony-of-against-the-crime-of-genocide-global-forum/

    With respect to Armenia, Catholicos Aram gave an interesting interview with Vatican Insider following the commemoration by Pope Francis.   http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/inquiries-and-interviews/detail/articolo/aram-i-40372/   Father Lombardi, the head of the Holy See’s press office, has stated that the comments by Turkish President Erdogan to open the Turkish archives and creating a joint commission on the events of 1915 was “interesting”.  http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/francesco-francisco-francis-armeni-armenios-armenians-40420/  Mefail Hızlı, the mufti of Ankara, has stated that the Pope’s remarks concerning genocide will accelerate the rededication of Istanbul’s Saint Sophia as a mosque.  http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Armenian-Genocide:-Turkish-politicians-criticise-the-EU;-Mufti-reacts-to-pope’s-words-threatening-to-turn-Saint-Sophia-into-a-mosque-34009.html 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 13 April 2015: Today in Moscow and Rome

    Christ has Risen!  ХРИСТОС ВОСКРЕСЕ!   Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!   I wish all of you, who celebrated Easter last night, a very joyful and blessed Pascha!!

    Last night, Patriarch Kirill celebrated the Paschal liturgy at Christ Our Savior Cathedral in Moscow.  The very beautiful service, as shown live on Russian television, can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DcUK3rXXx4  .  The Patriarch’s letter to the heads of the non-Orthodox churches can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/2015/04/05/news117459/ .  Following the Regina coeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square today, Pope Francis greeted all those who are celebrating Pascha today.  http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-julian-easter-greetings-at-regina-coe

    This morning Pope Francis celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica for the members of the Armenian Rite.  The Mass marked the centenary of the “Medz Yeghern” (the “Great Crime”) – the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman government.  At and after the Mass, great honor was given to His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians and to His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, both of whom addressed the faithful.  Serž Sargsyan, the President of the Republic of Armenia, was also present.  Armenian Catholics were represented in the celebration of the Mass by His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia.  During the Mass, the Pope declared the Armenian monk and theologian, Saint Gregory of Narek (951 – 1003), a Doctor of the Church (the 36th saint to be given this honor in the history of the Catholic Church).

    In his opening address at the beginning of the Mass, the Pope stated:  “In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first, which is widely considered ‘the first genocide of the twentieth century’ (JOHN PAUL II and KAREKIN II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001), struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks. Bishops and priests, religious, women and men, the elderly and even defenseless children and the infirm were murdered. The remaining two were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism.”  http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2015/04/12/0261/00575.html#salen   At the end of the Mass, the Pope presented a letter to all of the Armenian people.  The official English translation may be read at http://www.news.va/en/news/message-of-pope-francis-to-armenians  .

    The media today has focused on the strong reaction of the Turkish government to the Pope’s remarks.  http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/turkey-recalls-ambassador-over-popes-armenia-genocide-words  However, what I found most interesting is the participation together of the heads of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the head of the Armenian rite of the Catholic Church at this event.  You may watch the entire event at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYCQZVIDAx8 .  In watching some of the video, the scene that made the greatest impression on me was the final blessing with Francis, Karekin, Aram, and Nerses standing side-by-side and blessing together the faithful.  You may see this at 1 hour : 57 minutes on the video.  I also found the English remarks by Catholicos Aram at 2hr : 22min to be moving.  An Armenian choir sang with the Sistine Choir, and parts of the liturgy was in Armenian.

    Two days ago Pope Francis met with the president of another transcaucasian republic, Georgia.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=11967

     

    Yours in the Risen Lord, Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 3 April 2015: Third session ends at Chambésy

    The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has just posted an article that the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council completed yesterday (April 2) its third session in Chambesy, Switzerland.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/04/03/news117382/  According to the article, the Commission has now completed its work on the draft document for the Pan-Orthodox Council, Contribution of the Orthodox Church in the promotion of peace, justice, freedom, brotherhood and love between people and the elimination of racial and other discrimination.  The article states that the Commission also edited the 1986 document, The importance of fasting and its observance today.  The next step will be that the completed work of the Commission will be considered at the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference.  I believe that the Conference will be held later this year and will be the last step before the holding of the Pan-Orthodox Council in 2016.

    In the last few weeks, certain Orthodox conservatives have expressed concern that the Commission was discussing a provision that homosexuals should not be subject to discrimination in connection with the part of the document relating to “the elimination of racial and other discrimination.”  There was a posting on the Internet by an anonymous author who essentially attacked the chairman of the Commission, Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, for suggesting such as provision.  This posting and a rebuttal by Prof. Theodore Yiangou have been translated into English at https://orthodoxword.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/homosexuality-the-bone-of-contention-for-the-orthodox-hierarchs-present-at-chambery-geneva/  .  The Greek Orthodox website romfea.gr has given considerable attention to this matter.  It reported that during the third session, Metropolitan Ioannis requested that members of the Commission not discuss with the media the subjects that are being discussed at the session.   http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita/31201-2015-04-01-10-40-48  It also posted a letter by conservative Metropolitan  Seraphim of Piraeus (Church of Greece)  that the supposed proposal by Metropolitan Ioannis contravenes what is taught by the Bible and patristic tradition concerning homosexuality. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita/31219-2015-04-02-08-42-37   Finally, it posted a statement by Metropolitan Chrysostom of Messinia (Church of Greece), a member of the Commission, that the subject of homosexuality was raised simply by chance in the Commission’s discussions, that the subject was not on the agenda, and that he subject will not be included in the final draft document.  http://www.romfea.gr/ektakta-nea-2/31228-2015-04-02-12-00-31

    Today, the Commission issued a very short communique concerning the third session.  http://www.amen.gr/article21101   The communique states that the report “concerning the alleged acceptance of positions contrary to the teaching of the Church is absolutely incorrect. and unsubstantiated.”

    The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has posted an article entitled, “For the first time since 90s, Uniates tried to capture an Orthodox church by force.”  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/04/01/news117317/  The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon, March 22, at the Nativity of the Mother of God parish (UOC-MP) in the town of Stenka (population approximately 3,000) in the Ternopol region.  I have tried to obtain more information concerning this incident on the Internet.  Approximately one week before the posting of the DECR article, the March 22 incident was reported on the websites of both the UOC-MP and the RISU information service of the UGCC.  The two articles emphasized different aspects of the incident.  The RISU article provides some background information concerning the church in Stenka. http://risu.org.ua/ua/index/all_news/confessional/interchurch_relations/59535/    It states that the present stone church was built by the UGCC in 1921, but given to the Moscow Patriarchate after Stenka became part of the Soviet Union.  In 1998 a decision was made (apparently by the governmental district) that the church should be shared alternately by the UOC-MP and the UGCC, but the Orthodox subsequently refused to share the church building.  During Lent of this year, the UGCC priest made a request that a procession of the cross being organized by the priest be able to stop at the church to pray by the grave of the UGCC priest, who built the church in 1921 and whose grave was located in grounds surrounding the church.  The Orthodox pastor denied permission to enter the grounds and to pray before the grave.  This denial caused inter-religious tensions in the town.  Hearing of the tensions, a group of political activists, the “Right Sector,” arrived in Stenka on the day of the procession of the cross.  They contended that they were there in support of the right to conduct the religious procession.  The “Right Sector” already had a dispute with the pastor of the church because the Sector had earlier placed posters urging young people to join the Ukrainian army and the pastor had ordered that these posters be taken down.  The article by the UOC-MP can be read at http://news.church.ua/2015/03/24/ternopilska-oblast-uniati-pid-prikrittyam-bojovikiv-namagayutsya-zaxopiti-pravoslavnij-xram-na-ternopilshhini-video/  The article states that approximately ten UGCC priests staged a provocation near the church grounds.  It also states that over 50 young people in balaclavas and camouflaged uniforms , impersonating Right Sector representatives, were present.  These militants tried to enter the church allegedly to pray.  They were told that anyone can enter the church during liturgy, but only without weapons and masks.  Additional facts are given in the DECR English-language article above.  Of course, in Seattle, it is impossible for me to determine the true facts.  However, the UOC-MP did provide a link to a four-minute video of the incident.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lEWYs9HnfE   The video shows a great deal of arguing and people standing around, but fortunately no actual use of force or violence.  I also saw no weapons.  You can see several persons who are carrying the cross used in the procession.  The UGCC priests were vested presumably because they were participating in the procession.  Also it is fortunate that apparently no incidents have occurred in Stenka after March 22.

    In its meeting on April 1, the Holy Synod of the UOC-MP approved the establishment of a monastery in the Crimea.  http://news.church.ua/2015/04/01/kijiv-svyashhennij-sinod-blagosloviv-utvorennya-novogo-monastirya-na-teritoriji-krimu/   Perhaps this action was intended, in part, to dispel accusations that the UOC-MP has surrendered jurisdiction over Crimea to the Church in Russia.

    Lastly, I saw on the Catholic website, catholicculture.org, that the Jesuit periodical La Civiltà Cattolica is publishing an extensive interview with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.  The full text of the interview has been posted in English on the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  https://www.patriarchate.org/la-civilta-cattolica 

    For those of you celebrating Easter this Sunday, I wish you a very blessed and joyful Easter!!

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    Interview of Ecum Pat.  https://www.patriarchate.org/la-civilta-cattolica

    Approve monastery in Crimea  http://news.church.ua/2015/04/01/kijiv-svyashhennij-sinod-blagosloviv-utvorennya-novogo-monastirya-na-teritoriji-krimu/ 

  • 31 March: Commission again meets at Chambésy & more

    Today, the third session of the  Special Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council opened its third session in Chambesy, Switzerland.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/03/30/news117295/   As you may recall, the second session was held in Chambesy, 15-20 February 2015.  As was true in the second session, the 14 autocephalous Local Churches are in attendance.  In the third session, the Commission hopes to complete its work on the draft document for the Pan-Orthodox Council, Contribution of the Orthodox Church in the promotion of peace, justice, freedom, brotherhood and love between people and the elimination of racial and other discrimination.  A drafting committee, headed by Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro (Serbian Patriarchate), met over the weekend.  The Commission is chaired by Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    Last weekend, the Moscow Patriarchate initiated the first of a series of celebrations to honor the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Vladimir.  These celebrations will continue in various metropolia until the end of the year.  The first celebration was held in Kazan, and Metropolitan Hilarion was there for this occasion.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/03/28/news117077/   The Metropolitan’s first liturgy in Kazan was held on Saturday morning at the Mother of God Monastery, which was built at the location where Matrona found the original Kazan icon in 1579.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/03/28/news117088/   The most revered icon at the Monastery is now the “Vatican copy” of the Kazan icon which was given by Pope John Paul II to Patriarch Alexy in 2004. 

    It has been reported that a 25-meter high statue of Saint Vladimir will be erected this year in Moscow to commemorate the anniversary.  http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article.php?id=516827  The statue will be built on Sparrow Hills overlooking the Moscow city center.

    Last Friday morning, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, gave his fourth Lenten sermon in the Mater Redemptoris chapel at the Vatican.  Pope Francis and various members of the Curia were present.  The title of the sermon was “East and West Before the Mystery of Salvation.”  An English translation of the full text may be read at  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/03/27/fr_cantalamessa_gives_fourth_lenten_sermon_in_the_vatican/1132545 .

    Pope Francis has sent his condolences on the death of Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Dinkha IV.  An English translation of the full text of the Pope’s letter can be read at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/03/28/pope_francis_mar_dinkha_iv_a_courageous_and_wise_pastor/1132865 .  An article describing the Patriarch’s relationship with the various popes can be read at http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Mar-Dinkha-IV,-Patriarch-of-the-Assyrian-Church-of-the-East,-has-died-33835.html

    For those of you who are observing Easter next Sunday, I wish you a very blessed Holy Week.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 9 March 2015: Ukraine & Czech Church & more

    The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has repeatedly criticized the Ukrainian media for its attacks against the Church.  Yesterday, the attacks continued.  The major Ukrainian news agency UNIAN published a report entitled “UOC (MP) legally recognized annexed Crimea part of Russia and gave her two dioceses.”  http://www.unian.net/society/1053189-upts-mp-yuridicheski-priznala-anneksirovannyiy-kryim-chastyu-rf-i-peredala-ey-dve-eparhii.html  The article was based on a report by the television station TSN.  The foregoing article provides an opportunity to see the entire 8-minute TSN report by clicking on the arrow.   The UNIAN article also stated that the leadership of the UOC (MP) has never spoken words of support for the Ukrainian army and has never spoken of Russia as the aggressor.  Later in the day, the legal department of the UOC (MP) issued an denial of the TSN report.  http://news.church.ua/2015/03/09/komentar-yuridichnogo-viddilu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-z-privodu-syuzhetu-u-programi-tsn-tizhden-na-telekanali-11-vid-8-bereznya-2015-roku/   Although the denial does not dispute the existence of the documents, it states that the documents were not accepted by the Holy Synod of the UOC (MP).  As I have repeatedly reported in the past, the UOC (MP) has issued statements in favor of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.  The UNIAN article states that “People's deputies have already prepared a collective appeal to the leadership of the state and law enforcement agencies” based on the information in the TSN report.

    There appears to be continued progress in resolving the election dispute relating to the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.  On March 3, the representatives of the two disputing sides met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and others at the Phanar.  This was reported by the Press Office of the Presov Eparchy.  http://pravoslavnacirkev.cz/Novinky/Tiskov-zprva-o-jednn-zstupc-Pravoslavn-crkve-v-eskch-zemch-a-na-Slovensku-v-Konstantinopoli-/  According to this report, both sides supported the agreement concluded February 6, 2015 in Vienna.  The next step will be for the Vienna agreement to be formally ratified by a convened session of the Holy Synod of the Local Church.  The report also stated, “There was also general agreement that the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church will seek to implement in the future the Tomos of the Patriarchate of Constantinople granting autocephaly to our church in 1998 in its Constitution.”  As you may know, the Czech Church was originally granted autocephalous status by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1951, but this was not recognized by Constantinople.  Constantinople granted the Church autocephalous status in 1998. The meeting in Vienna occurred very quietly without any apparent publicity.  Although the terms of the agreement have not been officially released, they are available on the Internet.  https://krizevcirkvi.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/myty-o-videnskych-dohodach-aneb-kdo-co   The signed original document (in English) from this website has been copied and is attached.

     

    On Wednesday, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, will begin a four-day visit to Belarus at the invitation of the government of Belarus.  The visit will include a meeting with Metropolitan Pavel, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate in Belarus.  The announcement, made in all Catholic parishes in Belarus, yesterday can be read at http://www.catholic.by/2/home/news/belarus/bishop-conference/124855.html .   An interview of Archbishop Kondrusiewicz concerning this important visit can be read at http://www.catholic.by/2/home/news/belarus/hierarchs/124859.html .  In my opinion, Belarus generally gets very good marks for its Orthodox – Catholic relations.

    The spokesman for the Latvian Catholic bishops conference has been interviewed by Catholic News Service (USA).  http://www.catholicnews.com/data/briefs/cns/20150227.htm   The following excerpt was taken from that article:  Catholic officials in Latvia are trying to stay out of the region's ideological war with neighboring Russia. "Latvia is home to a large Russian population and there are Russian-speakers in the Catholic Church. We're sensitive to historical animosities here, which could be reignited and used politically," said Msgr. Paul Klavins, spokesman for the bishops. "It would be easy and dangerous for us to become involved in this ideological warfare -- so our bishops have tried to stay calm and avoid taking sides," he told Catholic News Service. "We know we'll always have to live with our big neighbor, Russia -- this is a historical reality. But we can do so in a friendly, peaceful way, even without much closeness," he added Feb. 26.

    The Vatican and the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate have established a “Working Group on Cultural Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.”  The group held its first meeting in Moscow on February 20.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/02/24/news115814/ 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 20 February 2015: Pope to Ukrainian Catholic bishops & Chambésy

    Today (Friday) Pope Francis met with the Latin-rite and Greek Catholic bishops of Ukraine who were in Rome for their ad limina visit.  The complete English translations of his address to the bishops can be read at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/02/20/pope_francis_receives_bishops_of_ukraine_on_ad_limina_visit/1124628 .  You can watch a short video of the meeting at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrkmVxJqXOs .   An article relating to the meeting can be read at http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/francesco-francisco-francis-ucraina-ucrania-ukraine-39286/   On February 17, the bishops of the UGCC met with Archbishop Gallagher at the Vatican State Secretariat.  According to a report by RISU, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, head of the UGCC, stressed the need to tell the truth and defend the truth in any circumstances.  “This is what the citizens of Ukraine expect today from the Holy See as the highest moral authority,” he said.  According to the same report, the Major Archbishop stated during his address at a liturgy at St John Lateran Basilica on the same day that the bishops came to the Holy Father to tell him the truth about aggression that Ukraine sustains today.  http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/ukraine_and_world/international_relations/59159/  Although the UGCC is probably disappointed, the Holy Father in his address today chose to say nothing about Russia or aggression.

    The Interfax news agency carried an article today by pro-Russian Vasily Anisimov.  According to Anisimov, the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches share the same opinion about the Ukrainian tragedy, but that "their point of view contradicts the official Ukrainian propaganda."  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=11846   John Allen, a well-known Catholic commentator, wrote a short analysis on February 5 entitled, “Is the pope’s view of Ukraine blurred by 'ecumenical correctness'?”  http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/02/05/is-the-popes-view-of-ukraine-blurred-by-ecumenical-correctness/   The commentator Sandro Magister has also posted an article, “Assaulted by Moscow and Abandoned by Rome.”  http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350996?eng=y
    On the other hand, Apostolic Nuncio in Ukraine, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, has again made very strong statements in favor of Ukraine.  In an interview, Gullickson has stated that the annexation of the Crimea was a clear violation of international law and the Russian Federation should stop the transportation of militants and weapons in the Donbas.  http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/ukraine_and_world/international_relations/59150/   The actual Italian-language interview of Gullickson can be read at http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/nel-mondo/dettaglio-articolo/articolo/ucraina-ucrania-ukraine-39183/   It is certainly possible that the remarks by Gullickson could reflect an intentional compromise solution by the Holy See  – to speak of violations of international law at the nuncio level but not at the papal level.

    The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has posted a report that the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission has completed its latest session at Chambesy today (Friday).  The following is a Google translation of the report on the results of this session:  “The Commission has completed the editing of most of the draft document for the Pan-Orthodox Council, ‘Contribution of the Orthodox Church in the promotion of peace, justice, freedom, brotherhood and love between people and the elimination of racial and other discrimination.’  There was also the procedure for further work on the revision of the document and editing the other projects of conciliar decisions.  The Special Inter-Orthodox Commission will continue its work in March-April 2015.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 16 February 2015: Chambésy session begins

    The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has posted within the last few hours a brief report (including one photo) of the opening today in Chambesy of the second session of the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Preparation of the All-Orthodox Council.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/02/16/news115604/  According to the report, the Moscow delegation includes Metropolitan Hilarion and the deputy chairman of the DECR Archpriest Nikolai Balashov.  A more detailed report, with a complete list of delegates and more photos, can be read at the following Greek site:  http://www.synodoiporia.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1791:ksekinise-tis-ergasies-i-deyteri-synedria-tis-eidikis-diorthodoksou-proparaskevastikis-epitropis-tis-agias-kai-megalis-synodou&catid=63&Itemid=184  According to the later report, fourteen Local Orthodox Churches are represented at the session.  Most significantly, this includes a delegate from the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia.  The delegate is Archbishop Juraj of Michalovce and Kosice, who has led the discussions with the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the disputed elections within that Local Church.  The fact that this Church now has a delegate at Chambesy indicates that some progress is being made with respect to the latter dispute.

    To put this second session in perspective, I thought it would be helpful to repeat a quotation from the Romanian Patriarchate ( http://basilica.ro/stiri/prima-intrunire-a-comitetului-interortodox-special-pentru-pregatirea-sfantului-si-marelui-sinod-al-bisericii-ortodoxe_20965.html ), made in my report of October 4, 2014:

    The objectives of the meeting [the first session) were to review the following three texts: 1) Contribution of Local Orthodox Churches to promoting Christian ideas of peace, freedom, brotherhood and love among nations and the elimination of racial discrimination; 2) Orthodoxy and the ecumenical movement;  and 3) the Orthodox Church’s attitude to the rest of the Christian world.  These texts relate to the last three topics from the list of ten proposed to be submitted to the Holy Council, as adopted by the Third Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference, held in Chambésy, Switzerland, between October 20 - November 6, 1986.  At that time, these texts were intended to be presented as such to the Holy Council, but in view of the 28 years that have elapsed, their review and updating is strictly necessary. During its first meeting, the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission reviewed only the last two topics, although at its next meeting the first topic will be discussed.  Given the great responsibility that has been invested, this Commission has worked with much attention, striving to elaborate texts that meets the expectations of all believers from all of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.  The texts drawn up by consensus of this Commission will be sent to all of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches for study and then to the next Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference, which will most likely take place during the year 2015.  After this, as adopted by consensus by the Conference, the texts will be transmitted directly to the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which is expected to take place in the spring of 2016.  The next meeting of the Special Inter-Orthodox Commission will be held at Chambésy, Switzerland, between 15-21 February 2015.  

    From this earlier report, it appears that the second session now being held will discuss topic (1) and perhaps have further discussions on topics (2) and (3).  After this work has been completed, the agreed-upon texts will be send to the Local Orthodox Churches for study, and then a Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference will be held later this year.

    On a different topic, the 80th birthday of Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia was celebrated by the Friends of Mount Athos in a symposium held in Cambridge, February 6-8, 2015.  http://orthodoxlondon.org/2014/12/03/rightly-dividing-the-word-of-truth/   Metropolitan Hilarion was one of the speakers.  While in England, Metropolitan Hilarion also gave an address at the Universities of Winchester and Cambridge on the subject, “Is There a Future for Ecumenism?”  The complete English text of his address can be read at:  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/02/08/news115201/  To Metropolitan Kallistos, who has had such a position influence on ecumenical relations, I join in wishing you: May God grant you many years!!

    On February 10, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, of which the UOC-MP is a member, issued a very pro-Ukrainian appeal against aggression and for the defense of Ukraine.  The full English text can be read at  http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/auccro/59084/  The official website of the UOC-MP reported its participation at the meeting and the adoption of the appeal, but did not reproduce the text of the appeal on its website.  http://news.church.ua/2015/02/11/kijiv-vidbulosya-chergove-zasidannya-vseukrajinskoji-radi-cerkov-i-religijnix-organizacij/ 

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 4 February 2015: Positive sign from Moscow

    Today the “Bishops’ Conference” of the Moscow Patriarchate concluded its two-day meeting.  It is important to note that this was a “conference” and not a Bishops’ Council.  The statutes of the Moscow Patriarchate provide for a Bishops Council which has decision-making authority.  Because the Patriarchate’s statutes do not provide for a “Bishops Conference,” the Conference can only make recommendations.  In this case, the calling of a “conference” was a method of consulting with a majority of the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate in a situation where the issues presented were not ripe for final decision by the Bishops Council.  https://mospat.ru/en/2015/02/02/news114987/

    At the beginning of the Conference, Patriarch Kirill made an address.  The full Russian text of the address is attached to this email.  The Russian news agency Interfax posted today an interesting English-language report on the Patriarch’s comments relating to the Patriarchate’s relationship with the Catholic Church.  The article is entitled, “Patriarch thanks Vatican for Balanced View on Ukraine Crisis.”  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=11810  For those of you who are Russian speakers, the Patriarch’s discussion of inter-Christian relations can be found at pages 18-20 of the attached document.  I have pasted below a poor Google translation of the Patriarch’s complete text relating to the Catholic Church.

    In reviewing the translation of the full text below, I found three items of special interest.  First, with respect to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the Patriarch’s statement indicates that the prior concerns of the 2013 bishops’ council relating to the draft document have now been resolved as the parties decided at the Amman plenary to reject this draft.  Significantly, the Patriarch voices no express concern relating to the latest draft document, which was actually prepared during the course of the Amman plenary and which almost received unanimous support at the plenary.  The Coordinating Committee of the Commission will seek to resolve any remaining difficulties in the latest draft at its meeting later this year.

    Second, although the Patriarch criticizes the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, his remarks seem to focus on the past activities of the UGCC.  There is no specific mention of UGCC conduct which is presently occurring.  If the Patriarch were expressly asked if there are still problems with the UGCC, I am sure that he would answer in the affirmative.  However, the important point is that he chose not to mention it in his address.  The Patriarch’s comments concerning the UGCC also do not seem as harsh as certain earlier pronouncements.

    Third, the Patriarch speaks of the UGCC and the Holy See as separate entities and treats them very differently.  The Patriarch in his address does not attempt to make the Holy See responsible for the activities of the UGCC.   The Patriarch goes out of his way to note the “balanced position” taken by the Holy See on the Ukraine situation.  In this regard, the Patriarch seems to focus exclusively on the statements made by Pope Francis and those in Rome.  If the Patriarch wished to paint the Holy See in a negative light, he could have mentioned the pro-Ukrainian statements by Archbishop Thomas Edward Gullickson, the Holy See’s nuncio to Ukraine.  The nuncio was not mentioned in the Patriarch’s remarks.

    All of these three items indicate that the Patriarch is generally portraying the relationship in a positive light, as opposed to seeking out items with which to criticize the Catholic Church.  In my opinion, this is a good development.

    In his address, the Patriarch also reported on progress relating to the holding a pan-Orthodox council in 2016. https://mospat.ru/en/2015/02/02/news115086/ (in English)  His comments can be read at pages 16-17 of the attached Russian text.  He summarized the well-known resolution made by the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches last March.  He again insisted that the status of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia needs to be resolved.  As I previously reported, the next meeting of the preparatory commission for the pan-Orthodox Council will be held 15-21 February 2015 in Chambésy, Switzerland.  The Czech and Slovak Church was not invited by the Ecumenical Patriarch to the last meeting of the commission, held last October.  If the leadership situation of this Church is not resolved in the next few days, it appears that the Czech and Slovak Church will not be at the next meeting of the commission either.

    In a separate development, Archbishop Jovan (Vraniskovsky) of Ohrid (Serbian Patriarchate) has been released from prison as a result of a court order in the Republic of Macedonia. https://mospat.ru/en/2015/02/03/news115108/   As described in the foregoing report, it appears that Metropolitan Hilarion played a significant role in securing the Archbishop’s release.   You can read a summary of the complex developments that led to the imprisonment of Archbishop Jovan at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archbishop_Jovan_VI_of_Ohrid.  I am sure that the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate and the canonical Orthodox world in general are delighted at the news of the release and very appreciative of the efforts of Metropolitan Hilarion.

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

     

    “Inter-Christian relations. In the decree of the Council in 2013 expressed concern about the divergence of approaches, manifested in the development of pan-Orthodox-Catholic theological dialogue, as well as in connection with the question arises according to its documents on the subject of sobornost and primacy in the Universal Church, the Orthodox doctrinal and canonical tradition (paragraph 66). In September 2014 a meeting of the Amman XIII plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. We cannot say that it is easy, because its focus is a complex topic, sobornost and primacy in the Universal Church. However, at a meeting of our delegation managed to achieve what previously prepared document that caused us serious opposition, was rejected, and started to prepare another project.

         Today, the reasons for concern for relations with the Roman Catholic Church is the new aggravation of the problem of the unia in Ukraine in connection with the recent political developments in the country. Starting with the first protests in Kiev at the end of 2013, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church supported one side of the conflict, which under nationalistic and often Russophobic slogans sought to overthrow the government. Leadership and many members of the UGCC made extremely politicized statements that have not helped to overcome civil conflict. The Moscow Patriarchate, for its part, has always condemned the direct intervention of any church in politics, especially in the difficult social and religious situation which has developed in Ukraine. We are convinced that the involvement of churches in the civil conflict will contribute to even deeper divisions within Ukrainian society. However, I am pleased to note that the Holy See has always taken a balanced position on the situation in Ukraine and has avoided any lop-sided estimates, calling for peace negotiations and an end to the fighting.

         In general, the Russian Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church have positive development, primarily due to a clear understanding of the need to unite the efforts of the Orthodox and Catholics to defend traditional Christian values and confront the challenges of today such as secularization, discrimination of Christians, family crisis, the erosion of moral principles in private and public life.”

     

    Patriarch Kirill's address ...

  • 31 January 2015: Agreement reached on document

    A few hours ago, Vatican Radio posted a report on the conclusion of the Rome meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/01/31/oriental_orthodox-catholic_meeting_concludes_in_rome/1120902  The report includes an English-language 7-minute interview with Father Mark Sheridan, an American Benedictine at the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem.  Father Mark is an expert on ancient Coptic language and literature and a patristic scholar.  You can read more about him in an interesting interview last August.  http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/hope-for-the-holy-land/   In the latter interview, Father Mark made the following comment concerning the Commission:  “I think we’ve made considerable progress, yet a lot needs to be done. But getting to know others is a very important part of it. We have become friends over the years, and it has become much easier to talk now.  Unfortunately, what we do is very little known, either in the Catholic Church or in the other Churches.”

    The good news from the Vatican Radio report is that agreement was in fact reached on Friday on the document, “The Exercise of Communion in the Life of the Early Church and its Implications for our Search for Communion Today.”  The members of the Commission met with Pope Francis yesterday and gave him a copy of the document.  It is my understanding that the document is not released to the public immediately so that it may first be reviewed “at home” by the member Churches.  The Commission has reached agreement on one prior document: “Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church” (2009).  http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/anc-orient-ch-docs/rc_pc_christuni_doc_20090129_mission-church_en.html  I expect that an official “Report” or communique concerning this week’s meeting will be issued shortly.

    The full English text of the Pope’s remarks yesterday to the members of the Commission can be read at  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/january/documents/papa-francesco_20150130_chiese-ortodosse-orientali.html .  A very short video of the meeting with the Pope can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1422579428&v=yjGLnzLRbBI&x-yt-cl=85114404

    On a different subject, an article describing an interview with Archbishop Nikolaos Printezis, general secretary of Greece's six-member bishops' conference, can be found at  http://www.catholicregister.org/home/international/item/19614-archbishop-welcomes-greece-s-new-government-hopes-for-changes .  The article includes the following statements:  In 2006, the Greek Parliament voted to review the official status of the Orthodox Church, and last October Catholics, Protestants, Copts and other denominations gained greater legal autonomy under a new law, the first on religious minorities for 68 years.  However, in his interview, Printezis said the Catholic Church's six dioceses and archdioceses were still being denied "official acceptance." ….He also said Orthodox bishops shunned contacts with Christian minorities, insisting "their faithful would object."

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 28 January 2015: Dialogue with the Oriental Churches & More

    The International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches is now holding its 12th meeting in Rome, 27-30 January.  Today, Vatican Radio has posted an interesting interview by Philippa Hitchen of Father Gabriel Quicke concerning the meeting.  You can listen to the 6-minute English-language interview at  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/01/27/oriental_orthodox,_catholics_work_to_finish_joint_document/1120264 .  Father Quicke, a priest of the Diocese of Bruges, Belgium, is on the staff of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and is responsible for the dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches.  The most interesting news from Father Quicke is that he is optimistic that the dialogue will be able to reach agreement at this meeting on the document, “The Exercise of Communion in the Life of the Early Church and its Implications for our Search for Communion Today.”

    It appears that the dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches is experiencing smoother sailing than the dialogue with the Orthodox Churches.  It is interesting that the meetings of the dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches are held every year, as opposed to the plenaries of the dialogue with the Orthodox Churches which are generally held only every two years.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if the goal of reestablishing communion between the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches occurs before communion between the Catholc and Orthodox Churches!  You can access the full texts of all of the prior work of the Commission at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/sub-index/index_ancient-oriental-ch.htm .

    On Sunday, Pope Francis closed the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a vesper service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.   Metropolitan Gennadios was the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch at the service.  You can watch a video of the entire service at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCXD4F0sTx0 .  An English translation of the Pope’s remarks at the service can be read at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/01/25/pope_francis_concludes_week_of_prayer_for_christian_unity/1119936 .   In his remarks, the Pope stated: So many past controversies between Christians can be overcome when we put aside all polemical or apologetic approaches, and seek instead to grasp more fully what unites us, namely, our call to share in the mystery of the Father’s love revealed to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit.  Christian unity will not be the fruit of subtle theoretical discussions in which each party tries to convince the other of the soundness of their opinions.  We need to realize that, to plumb the depths of the mystery of God, we need one another, we need to encounter one another and to challenge one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who harmonizes diversities and overcomes conflicts.”  The Pope also stated: “Our shared commitment to proclaiming the Gospel enables us to overcome proselytism and competition in all their forms.”   Beginning at 1:02:55 in the video, the Pope meets the individual members of the dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches as well as representatives of other churches including Father Anthony (Sevruk) of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    On January 21, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow.  I was very pleased to see that the Moscow Patriarchate was represented at the service by Father Stefan (Igumnov), the head of the DECR’s Secretariat for Inter-Christian Relations.  http://www.cathmos.ru/content/ru/publication-2015-01-23-12-45-03.html  Father Stefan was one of the speakers at the service.

    Last week in Rome, a colloquium was held on “Consecrated life in the Christian tradition.”  The first day of the colloquium was devoted to consecrated life in the Catholic Church, the second day in the Orthodox Church, and the third day in the Anglican and Protestant Churches.  https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/01/26/news114646/   Father Anthony (Sevruk), rector of St. Catherine of Alexandria church in Rome, hosted the attendees of the colloquium at a vesper service on the evening of the second day at his church.  http://stcaterina.com/uchastniki-mezhdunarodnoy-konferentsii-posetili-ekaterininskiy-hram/ (with many photos)  The attendees also met with Pope Francis.  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/01/24/pope_francis_religious_pray_for_christian_unity_/1119789  An English translation of the full text of the Pope’s remarks can be read at http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-ecumenical-colloquium-of-religious-men-and-women .

    Patriarch Kirill has now made some very strong statements condemning the publication of cartoons by the French weekly Charlie Hebdo.  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=11792  Although the vast majority of Russians condemn the armed attack, a public opinion polls shows that 30 % believe that a root cause was the insulting of religious beliefs by French journalists and another 25% believed that the cause was the failure of the French government to prevent such journalistic insults.  http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=111655   The Patriarchate of Georgia has now issued a statement that the State should limit freedom of expression to prevent insults to religious feelings.  http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=27978

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA

  • 15 January 2015: Pope Francis is not "Charlie"

    I am sure that everyone is horrified by the terrible attack in Paris on January 7.  It occurred on the same day that many in the Orthodox world were celebrating the birthday of Our Lord – the Prince of Peace.  Since the attack, millions have shown their support for the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.  Many of the supporters have carried signs -- "Je Suis Charlie" [“I am Charlie”] – to show that they personally identify with the magazine.  In a sense, the magazine has been portrayed as a martyr-hero for the cause of freedom of expression.

    What have been the official responses from the Local Orthodox Churches with respect to the events of January 7?  As far as I can determine from my search of the Internet, the response from the Orthodox has been very muted.  I have seen no statements from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The Moscow Patriarchate often sends letters of condolence in case of national tragedies, but I have discovered none in this case.  Father Vsevolod Chaplin, who often speaks for the Moscow Patriarchate on issues affecting society, did state in a television interview yesterday, “We need to fight against terror, terror can't be justified, but it doesn't mean that we have to side with provocative blasphemy or insult of certain personalities.”  http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=11759  Still, I have found no statements by Patriarch Kirill or Metropolitan Hilarion on the subject of the Paris massacre.

    Most of the other Local Orthodox Churches have been silent.  I have found four exceptions.  The Churches of Greece and Serbia have condemned the violence, but also referred to the need to respect the feelings of believers.  http://www.romfea.gr/ekklisies/ekklisia-tis-ellados/29505-1-ianouariou (Greek Synod); http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_povodom_blasfemichnih_karikatura_u_srpskim_medijima (Serbian Patriarch Irinej).  It appears that the Churches of Cyprus and Georgia have only condemned the violence.  http://churchofcyprus.org.cy/article.php?articleID=4930 (Archbishop Chrysostomos II); http://www.interpressnews.ge/en/society/65404-georgian-patriarch-sends-letter-of-condolences-to-francois-hollande.html?ar=A (Catholicos-Patriarch Illia).

    Today, Pope Francis, answering questions from journalists on his flight to Manila, jumped into this issue with both feet.  A translation of the full text of his remarks can be read at http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/world-news/detail/articolo/francesco-filippine-38560/.  The media has already extensively reported on following part of the Pope’s remarks: “while it is true that it is wrong to react with violence, if Mr. Gasbarri [standing next to the Pope during the interview], who is a friend, insults my mother, that’s asking for a punch. Provoking and insulting other people’s faiths is not right.”  You can watch the Pope’s gestures when he said this in a video at http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/01/15/after-charlie-hebdo-pope-says-free-speech-has-its-limits/ .  The video has English subtitles.

    As a retired attorney, I know that imposing limits on free speech involves very difficult issues.  There may be situations where a person has a legal right to say something, but it is wrong for them to say it.  I think that is what the Pope was saying.  I also think that the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church may have the very same view on this issue.  Metropolitan Hilarion has spoken on the need for the two Churches to speak with one voice on certain social issues.  Maybe this is one of those issues.

    On a different subject, the Week of Prayers for Christian Unity (Jan. 17-25) is quickly approaching.   To observe this week, the press office of the Patriarchate of Romania has announced a program in which different Christian denominations will host the event on successive days during the week.   http://basilica.ro/programul-sAptAmAnii-de-rugAciune-pentru-unitatea-cretinA-2015-103472.html  In my opinion, this is a wonderful idea.  I dream that something like this may someday occur in Moscow.

    Lastly, Catholic Archbishop Pezzi from Moscow gave an interview to RIA Novesti on December 25.  http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=111149  I found the following comments made in the extensive interview especially interesting: “Even during the Synod, which was held in Rome in mid-October, a meeting took place between Metropolitan Hilarion and the head of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine Sviatoslav Shevchuk.  It seemed to me that after this meeting, the situation has changed.  I'm not saying that they have become friends, but my impression is that something has changed.  I think that this is the way we should go, including in Ukraine, when a variety of Christian denominations and religious denominations have to find time and space for dialogue among themselves, find an opportunity to meet and discuss problems.  In the case of Ukraine, as it seems to me today to show any concrete initiatives of mutual love, to find the courage to forgive one another. In Ukraine there is a big chance to show that Christian love can overcome hatred and evil.”

     

    Peter Anderson, Seattle USA