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Found 24 results

  1. ARCHDIOCESE OF RUSSIAN CHURCHES IN WESTERN EUROPE LIKELY TO RETURN TO RUSSIAN CHURCH The administration of the Archdiocese of Russian Churches in Western Europe, formerly an Exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, has published a number of texts leading up to and resulting from its recent pastoral assembly on May 11 in which the clergy of the Archdiocese gathered in Paris to further deliberate on their future following Constantinople’s sudden revocation of Exarchate status in November. In a proposal on the future of the Archdiocese, a group of Archdiocesan clergy write about the structure’s history as the continuation of the Provisional Administration of the Russian Parishes in Western Europe, founded by St. Tikhon of Moscow in 1921. It was this structure, created by the Russian Church, that later received Exarchate status from the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1931, 1971, and 1999—and it was this status that linked the group to a Local Church in communion with the broader Orthodox community, the authors write. “Therefore, we consider that while the Patriarchate of Constantinople may indeed revoke the status of Exarchate as stated in the synodal act of November 27, 2018, it is not for it to abolish a structure that the Patriarchate did not create,” they continue. With the tomos granting Exarchate status revoked, the Archdiocese must be attached to a Local Church. The proposal notes that the Archdiocese is looking for a home that will respect its administrative independence, statutes, and liturgical and linguistic practices, grant the possibility of electing hierarchs by Clergy-Laity Assemblies, according to the principles of the Moscow Council of 1917-1918, grant the status of metropolis to the group and of metropolitan to its primate, and grant the possibility of participating in the work of the councils and hierarchical assemblies of the given Local Church. Moreover, the authors “note that at present, only the Russian Orthodox Church is likely to give an answer that would make it possible to elaborate a solution corresponding to the requirements of our principles of ecclesiastical functioning.” Likewise, in his letter of April 22, His Eminence Archbishop John of Chariopoulis, the ruling hierarch of the Archdiocese, noted that contact with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the Orthodox Church in America, and the Romanian Patriarchate did not yield results. He then notes that contact was made with the Moscow Patriarchate via His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), recalling the words of Metropolitan Evlogy who, on the eve of a receiving the tomos that provisionally linked the group to Constantinople, noted that it was not therefore separating from the Russian Church and had every intention of returning fully to the Moscow Patriarchate when conditions would allow. Abp. John notes that the dialogue with the Russian Church has been frank and respectful and allows the Archdiocese to continue its mission in Western Europe. He has openly spoken previously about his desire to see the Archdiocese join the Moscow Patriarchate, which has offered to accept it intact as an ecclesiastical body. He also writes that following the Assembly of February 23, a delegation was sent to Istanbul to ask the Patriarchate to reexamine the situation, though it was told only that it had to implement the Synod’s surprise decision of November 27 because the Patriarchate had no intention of reversing its decision. Moreover, the delegation was told that not only had the Archdiocese lots its Exarchate status, but it no longer existed at all in Constantinople’s vision. No response has been received to letters sent to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Abp. John notes. A General Assembly is scheduled for September 7. http://orthochristian.com/121549.html?fbclid=IwAR3LH-7lF1h00h3ibUjIP3hcW_xKrV0t9psVUk7BrG8lOsxF85l_cuvDvNI
  2. The Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church is about to convene within the next few days. A group of hierarchs allegedly led by Metropolitan Daniel of Chiatura and Sachkhere is up to discuss the recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which was established in Kiev in December 2018, and received autocephalous status from the Ecumenical Patriarch. Constantinople is especially interested in the recognition of the OCU. If recognized, “Metropolitan” Epiphany and his organization can augment the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s power in the Orthodox world, weaken the Moscow Patriarchate’s influence and allow the Patriarch of Constantinople to make decisions on extremely important matters for Orthodoxy by sole authority. Local Churches are in doubt: Despite pressure, none of them has recognized the OCU yet. How could autocephaly have been granted to the Ukrainian Church if it still lacks unity, and some parishes seize the churches of other parishes? Why was autocephaly granted solely by Patriarch Bartholomew, without any discussion with the other Local Churches, in total disregard of the existing canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church? Why there was so much haste with the Tomos, why did it happen shortly before the electoral campaign of Ukraine’s former president Poroshenko? Could Ukrainian autocephaly cause a schism in the Orthodox world? These and other questions were addressed to Constantinople delegations by Local Churches before and after the OCU was established. Some Local Churches have opposed Patriarch Bartholomew’s policy—including the Patriarchate of Antioch, which once granted autocephaly to the Georgian Orthodox Church; and the Patriarchate of Serbia, which claimed that the OCU hierarchy has no canonical succession. Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus and Archbishop Anastasios of Albania asked Patriarch Bartholomew to convene a Synaxis of Primates but he firmly refused. The OCU’s future is uncertain; the relations between the groups that formed it are unstable. Even now there is a conflict between Philaret Denisenko, the “honorary patriarch” of the OCU, and its formal head Epiphany. This conflict undermines the OCU’s unity and can lead to its breakup in the nearest future. If the Georgian Orthodox Church recognizes the OCU, it won’t be able to independently deal with its own issues. Abkhazians have already asked to be allowed to join the Ecumenical Patriarchate and receive the status of autonomy. Metropolitan Emmanuel of France once hinted to the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia at the fact that the Abkhazian plea could receive a positive answer if the Georgian Church doesn’t support Constantinople. But now Constantinople pretends to have the right to grant autocephaly anywhere across the world. If we recognize the OCU, we will let Constantinople into the canonical territory of the Georgian Church. During the previous meeting of Constantinople hierarchs with Ilia II in Tbilisi, one of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s representatives, Metropolitan Amphilochios of Adrianopolis, is said to have begun his speech with the words: “There is an opinion that the Orthodox Church is led by Jesus Christ. But in fact the Church is led by the Ecumenical Patriarch.” The Catholicos-Patriarch seems to disagree with this statement. Those Orthodox hierarchs who are famous for their spiritual experience and the purity of their edifying life disagree with that also, for example, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, who restored his Church after communist repressions and who is already considered to be saint by many Greeks. The Orthodox Church has never followed after the Roman Catholics. But those of spiritual clarity understand that the Orthodox Church is facing a new large-scale threat, and the Ukrainian issue is only a part of it. http://orthochristian.com/121558.html?fbclid=IwAR346GxnYyy2ZmMjxgg8cj7JHC0S6U3pcP5s3l20ZfZb6Z2mluDKTOHG4YE
  3. The ongoing Church problem in Ukraine should be solved by all Local Churches together, not each unilaterally, His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus said in an interview with Romfea in Athens yesterday. Asked whether he thought the Greek Church would be the first to recognize the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” Abp. Chrysostomos underlined that “a unilateral decision would not be helpful, and the result would be what I feared. I also could have made a decision in favor of one or another, but I find this to be wrong. That’s why we did not do it.” Meanwhile, the schismatics openly expect the Greek Church to be among the first to recognize them, and an archimandrite from the Greek Church, Epiphany (Dimitriou) will be consecrated as a bishop of the schismatic church this weekend, the Union of Orthodox Journalists learned. The Cypriot Holy Synod issued a statement on the Ukrainian problem in which they criticized the Russian Church’s’ breaking of communion with Constantinople but also expressed serious reservations about the Ukrainian schismatics being received by Constantinople without them being canonically ordained. He also considers it fair and just that none of the other Local Churches have taken a position in favor of either Constantinople or Moscow. Otherwise “we would have a definite schism, with mathematical precision,” Abp. Chrysostomos added. It is notable that he does not accuse any of the Churches of deciding in favor of Moscow, as Greek and Ukrainian media widely accuses the Serbian, Polish, Czech-Slovak, and Antiochian Churches of siding with Moscow for political reasons. His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia and His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa of Poland, however, have emphasized that their decisions to not accept the Ukrainian schismatics are based solely in the canonical tradition of the Church. All parties involved need to think only about the good of the Church, not about personal interests, the Cypriot primate emphasized. “The Church is one, and we must all help to raise it up. We must cherish Orthodoxy as the apple of our eye,” he said. Abp. Chrysostomos has taken up the role of mediator between the Churches, in lieu of Patriarch Bartholomew, visiting the primates of the fraternal Local Churches in order to coordinate and find a real solution to the crisis facing the Church. He noted in his interview that his recent visits with the primates of the Serbian, Bulgarian, and Greek Churches went well and were undertaken with the blessing of Pat. Bartholomew. In his view, Moscow and Constantinople do not need to enter into dialogue together alone, but that all the Churches will enter into dialogue when the right time comes, which he is trying to facilitate. He also explained that the idea to visit the other primates arose in conversation with His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, who cannot accompany him due to eye problems and the pressure he is under. Abp. Chrysostomos also reported that His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, will visit him in Cyprus next week. “I do not know what he wants, but be sure that I will answer him directly,” the Archbishop emphasized. In conclusion, Abp. Chrysostomos said he is confident that God will bless the Church’s work in solving the problem, undertaken with faith and love and for the interest of the Church as a whole. http://orthochristian.com/121349.html?fbclid=IwAR2XaMkBNSinAtAnoCrdwubiTMOc2Q2MVd3FyyqF5TwjQELY_P2fs50q7f4
  4. At an untold number of Christian churches and institutions, the silence on sexual abuse is deafening. Statistically, evangelical pastors rarely mention the issue from the pulpit. According to research from the evangelical publishing company LifeWay, 64 percent of pastors said they talk about sexual violence once a year, or even less than that. Pastors drastically underestimate the number of victims in their congregations; a majority of them guessed in the survey that 10 percent or less might be victims. But in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 4 women (women make up approximately 55 percent of evangelicals) and 1 in 9 men have been sexually abused. There is no evidence suggesting those numbers are lower inside the church. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/05/31/feature/the-epidemic-of-denial-about-sexual-abuse-in-the-evangelical-church/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f06aaee9a787
  5. Ukrainian media has been reporting on trouble boiling under the surface of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) for several weeks now. Factions have formed between those who support the official primate “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko and those who remain loyal to and supportive of “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko and are indignant at his minimal role in the new structure. Denisenko has been the unrivaled leader of the schismatic autocephaly movement in Ukraine for 30 years but was relegated to the role of “Honorary Patriarch” in the OCU, forbidden to put his name in for primate by the Patriarchate of Constantinople which created the new church in cooperation with President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine. The first Synod meeting for the new “church” gave him control of Kiev churches—a far cry from the primatial leadership he had imagined for himself. Now the trouble has boiled over and Philaret has openly declared that he intends to restore the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) and take those hierarchs loyal to him with him. That is, the schismatic OCU, made up of two schismatic bodies, now faces the serious threaten of breaking down into two schismatic groups again. Despite promising Constantinople that the KP was liquidated just before the “unification council” on December 15 that united the KP with the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” (UAOC) to create the OCU, Philaret has since then continually declared that the KP still exists. He has given awards on behalf of the KP and parishes of the canonical Church that decided to go into schism were re-registered to the KP, not to the OCU. He has also declared that the “unification council” was in no way a Ukrainian council, but was a function of the Constantinople Church. It has become clear that Philaret kept the KP alive as Plan B in case he wasn’t satisfied with the new OCU, and he’s openly not. “The Kiev Patriarchate exists, it does not need to be returned,” he said in a recent interview 1+1. “There is a patriarch, and if there is a patriarch, then there is a patriarchate, the Kiev Patriarchate. And there it does and should exist. And the time will come when it will be recognized. I am 100% certain,” he added. He went on to acknowledge that there is a division in the “Ukrainian Church,” but said, “We are creating a single church—the Kiev Patriarchate. Necessarily.” The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, on the other hand, has officially stated on May 10 that the KP no longer legally exists in Ukraine as of January 30. However, the evidence shows otherwise, as the KP (and the UAOC) remains active in the state register of legal entities, individual entrepreneurs and public formations. As mentioned above, the KP has continued to receive new parishes since January 30. Philaret has also declared that only he who created the KP can liquidate it. Epiphany Dumenko was the protégé of Philaret Denisenko in the KP. Denisenko forced another KP “hierarch,” Mikhail Zinkevich, to remove his name from consideration for the primatial slot so his loyal project Dumenko could be elected. Denisenko assumed continued loyalty from Dumenko and even declared that he would continue to rule the church in tandem with the much younger Dumenko. However, the frosting of their relationship became apparent when Denisenko recently invited a number of “hierarchs” of the OCU to join him at Kiev’s Vladimir Cathedral on May 14 to celebrate the memory of St. Makary of Kiev, whose relics are kept at the cathedral. The invitations were sent on behalf of the KP, and Dumenko was not among the invitees. It is widely expected that the revival of the KP will be discussed. The Ternopil Diocese of the OCU, formerly the Ternopil Diocese of the UAOC, offered the clever response of expressing its support for Epiphany Dumenko in a letter published on UAOC letterhead. Denisenko did eventually invite Dumenko, commenting to him that he had not initially invited him because “not once after your election as the primate of the UOC—for five months—did you celebrate the Divine Liturgy with me. I had the thought, perhaps it’s wrong, that you consider it humiliating to serve with Patriarch Philaret?” The fact that Dumenko has not served with his mentor and “Honorary Patriarch” for five months indicates the growing sentiment among mainly the younger members of the KP that the future is not with Denisekno—it’s time to move on. And Dumenko’s supporters are striking back. An appeal to the supporters of Philaret, “10 Theses for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” has appealed online, imploring them not to provoke a new schism. Additionally, the administration of the schismatic Kiev Theological Academy has forbade its students from attending Philaret’s May 14 service for St. Makary. The online appeal states: “Immediately after the unification council, strange processes incomprehensible to us began, which we connect with the unacceptable lust for power and ambition of some of the church hierarchs… First of all, we are talking about several interviews of the former Patriarch of the UOC-KP Philaret.” The Orthodox world has long known that Philaret Denisenko went into schism in the first place 30 years ago after he was passed over for the Russian Patriarchal throne. As the Metropolitan of Kiev and Locum Tenens following the repose of Patriarch Pimen, Denisenko fully expected to ascend the throne, but in the aftermath of Alexei II’s election and enthronement, he betrayed Christ in His Church and became an ideologue of schismatic nationalism. He was defrocked, excommunicated, and eventually anathematized for persisting in schism. On October 11, the Holy Synod of Constantinople declared the anathema against him null and void. Its spokesmen have justified the overturning of the anathema by claiming it was never justified in the first place. Moscow had simply taken revenge on Philaret for seeking Ukrainian autocephaly they claim—it had nothing to do with Philaret’s lust for power. However, now that the Ukrainian schismatic church has autocephaly from Constantinople (though it is recognized only by Constantinople), there seems to be no justification for Philaret’s ongoing provocations, other than his egocentrism and lust for power that His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania spoke of in a 2015 interview. For his part, Epiphany Dumenko, who will not attend Philaret’s gathering, has responded that a return to the KP would mean the loss of the tomos of autocephaly from Constantinople and the isolation of the OCU. The OCU is, in fact, currently isolated from the rest of the Orthodox world, though Dumenko recently expressed the hope and belief that this will change. The current state of the OCU is only a continuation of what has always been. Before the “unification council” in December, the “hierarchs” of the KP and UAOC could not work together and the Holy Synod of Constantinople was forced to write the statutes for the schismatic church and to convene the “council,” forcing a unification of incompatible groups. http://orthochristian.com/121136.html?fbclid=IwAR1M8S0t4Ttj44C33Or8c5_ZuTrBkDHvIK9qslV_vqxNJGiEuxeCGHCst-s
  6. The consequences of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s creation of a new schismatic church in Ukraine and the granting of autocephaly to it continue to reverberate throughout the entire Orthodox world, and the monastic enclave of Mt. Athos is no exception. The issue has divided the monasteries, some of which have accepted and concelebrated with the visiting representatives of the new “church,” and some of which categorically reject them as schismatics. OrthoChristian recently published a translation of the opinion of the representatives of four Greek monasteries that sharply criticized the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian St. Panteleimon’s Monastery on Mt. Athos. Now a letter from 12 Athonite elders from various sketes and cells has been published in Greek by Romfea and in Russian by the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church. The letter is dated March 17—a month after the first schismatic delegation visited Mt. Athos and celebrated Liturgy in several monasteries. “With great sorrow and concern we learn about what is happening in the Orthodox Church as a whole because of the non-canonical granting of autocephaly to the schismatics of Ukraine without the consent of the canonical autonomous Church headed by Metropolitan Onuphry, which continues to consider the new autocephalites as schismatics, having no communion with them and, on the basis of the sacred canons, with all of those who have communion with the schismatics,” the letter opens. The Patriarchate of Constantinople granted autocephaly to a group within another Church’s jurisdiction, in clear violation of the holy canons, the Athonite fathers write, and thus the Russian Church has broken communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In the authors’ view, Constantinople’s actions threaten a schism on the scale of the 1054 split between Rome and Constantinople. The Church is still bleeding from the wounds from the ecumenist council of Crete in 2016, and now there has been inflicted a new wound, “for which the Ecumenical Patriarchate is solely responsible,” the letter reads. Further, this justification of schism places people’s souls in danger of damnation because the Holy Spirit is not active in schism, the fathers write, with reference to the teachings of Sts. Basil the Great and John Chrysostom. Heresy and schism are the work of satan, the Athonites write categorically. “When [the devil] fails to thwart salvation through heresies, then he works to provoke schisms,” they assert. The occasion of the writing of this letter, the authors write, is that they do not want to fall into this soul-destroying work of the devil. The Athonite elders continue to recognize the schismatics precisely as such, and they reject the historical revisionism of Constantinople which claims that Ukraine has always been its territory: We have left the world and the pleasures of the world and we use our souls and bodies for ascetic podvigs, to obtain the mercy of God. Would it not be inexcusable negligence and folly to render our labors and aspirations worthless by communing with the Ukrainian schismatics who are removed from Eucharistic communion and defrocked by the Russian Church to which they belonged for more than three centuries, according to the unchanging, continuous, and general recognition of all Orthodoxy, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate? The fathers then point to canons from the ecumenically-recognized councils of Laodicea and Antioch to demonstrate that joint prayer with schismatics is prohibited, and that those who enter into communion with the excommunicated ought themselves to be excommunicated. Further, only the Church that excommunicates someone can receive him back—a rule clearly broken by Pat. Bartholomew, the fathers write, which according to the Council of Antioch, makes him subject to excommunication. “In 1686, by an act of Patriarch Dionysius IV, [Ukraine] entered the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, which according to pan-Orthodox consent has remained for 333 years until this day,” the letter reads. Later, after the fall of communism, Philaret Denisenko went into schism after he lost the election for Patriarch of Moscow and was subsequently defrocked and anathematized. Thus, the Athonite ascetics reject the historical revisionism that says that Philaret was punished simply for desiring autocephaly. Additionally, the “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” of Makary Maletich traces not only to schismatics, but even to those wholly devoid of any apostolic succession, the letter states, and thus they are recognized as schismatic by all, except for Constantinople. However, the canonical Church remains that headed by Met. Onuphry, according to the Athonite elders. And the problem did not begin with the Ukrainian situation: “It has long been known that Pat. Bartholomew does not have any particular respect for the sacred canons, which he has violated and violates, especially with regard to relations with heretics, and now with schismatics.” The entire construct upon which Pat. Bartholomew’s invasion of Ukrainian Church territory is built is like a house built on the sand of inept advisors: At first, relying on insufficiently-educated or self-serving theological consultants, he tried to justify his invasion by referring to the concept of ekkliton (ἔκκλητον), that is, that he alone, as a second pope, can accept appeals and petitions from other autocephalous Churches, as he is, allegedly, according to the recently-appeared prevailing opinion of the pseudo-theologians of the post-Patristic era, not the first among equals (primus inter pares), but the first without equals (primus sine paribus). And further: But this argument immediately crashed with a bang, because it contradicts the conciliar system of Church governance, in which all patriarchs and primates are considered equal to one another, with Constantinople having only a primacy of honor, not power, as claimed by the Pope. The right to hear appeals extends only to those of his own jurisdiction, and not to the jurisdiction of other patriarchs. The fathers then refer to the comments on the 9th canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of the “God-moved” St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, “one of our greatest theologians and canonists,” to substantiate their argument about who has the right to hear which appeals. The Athonite elders then point to Constantinople’s changing tactics in regard to the Ukrainian situation: When Patriarch Bartholomew realized that he couldn’t rely upon ekkliton in his cross-border intervention within the bounds of another’s jurisdiction, then with the help of his own advisors, ready to serve him, he discovered 333 years later that Ukraine is within the jurisdiction not of the Russian, but of the Constantinopolitan Church! His inattentive or militant theologians concealed and misinterpreted many documents and opinions in order to come to the ridiculous conclusion about the temporary nature of the transfer of Ukraine to the Russian Church (a temporary character of more than three centuries!), and that now this concession is canceled. Despite these games on the part of Constantinople, every Local Church recognizes the Church in Ukraine as that headed by the “wise and modest” Met. Onuphry, as the elders write, which did not request autocephaly. As autocephaly was given to a minority group of schismatics, against the pan-Orthodox opinion, the autocephaly is highly problematic. The authors of the letter also consider it unjust and devoid of basic logic to “place a magnifying glass” on the nationalistic or ecumenistic tendencies of some in the Russian Church (past and present), though not of the canonical Ukrainian Church they note, in order to justify Constantinople’s anti-canonical invasion. The elders then testify that the majority of the fathers of the Holy Mountain rejoiced with great joy when the Sacred Community decided not to send a delegation to the enthronement of the schismatic “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko or even to send him a congratulatory letter. But they were very upset by the minority of monasteries and fathers which still participated in the enthronement. The same torn feelings were caused by the visitation of the delegation of the schismatic church to the Holy Mountain: “The exact same feelings of joy filled our hearts because many monasteries prevented the visit of ‘bishops’ and ‘clerics’ of the new false Church, but bitterness and dispassionate anger towards those, fortunately, few who courteously accepted them and/or served with them!!!” Due to the seriousness of the issue, and for the sake of the high authority that Mt. Athos enjoys in the Orthodox world, and for the sake of ensuring inter-Athonite unity, the authors of the letter entreat that the schismatics be denied access to the Holy Mountain, or at the least that their “clerics” not be allowed to serve, until a pan-Orthodox resolution is reached, given that, despite the extreme pressure, no Church has recognized the schismatics over the past three months. This decision should be made as soon as possible given the news about the schismatics planning more visits to Mt. Athos, the fathers write. Moreover, the founders of the Ukrainian schismatic movement are not only condemned by the Church, but also have the condemnation of civil courts for grave moral crimes, unthinkable even for non-Christians, the letter reads. They are also weighed down by involvement in the recent Bulgarian schism, ties with the Ukrainian Uniates, and persecution against the canonical Church, especially after Constantinople recognized them. They also lament Epiphany Dumenko’s recent statements about softening on the sin of homosexuality. Moreover, the schismatics visiting the Holy Mountain are not spiritually, but are rather politically motivated—looking only for acceptance of their illegitimate group that they can then advertise to the Orthodox world, “and to achieve their wicked plans,” the Athonite elders write. In conclusion, the fathers emphasize that they will not jeopardize their salvation by entering into communion with the excommunicated schismatics and that they will not promote the present schism on the local or global Orthodox level. “We fear an inter-Athonite schism if we do not make correct and courageous decisions,” the Fathers conclude. The letter is signed by: Elder Hieromonk Arsenios with the brotherhood of Panagouda cell of Koutloumousiou Monastery; Elder Hieromonk Abraham with the brotherhood of the kallyva of St. Gerasimos of Koutloumousiou Skete; Elder Hierodeacon Theophilos with the brotherhood of the cell of the Holy Unmercenaries of Grigoriou Monastery; Elder Nicholas of the cell of St. Demetrios of Hilandar Monastery; Elder Joseph with the brotherhood of the cell of St. Theodore of St. Paul’s Monastery; Elder Savva with the brotherhood of the cell of the Holy Archangels of Hilandar Monastery; Elder Nikodemos of the cell of St. Nektarios of Stavronikita Monastery; Elder Gabriel of the cell of St. Christodoulos of Koutloumousiou Monastery; Elder Euphrosynos with the brotherhood of the cell of St. John the Forerunner of Koutloumousiou Monastery; Elder Paisios with the brotherhood of the cell of the Holy Archangels of Hilandar Monastery; Elder Nikodemos of the cell of St. John the Theologian of the Great Lavra; Elder Arsenios of the kallyva of the Holy Monk-Martyr Gerasimos of Koutloumousiou Skete. http://orthochristian.com/120863.html?fbclid=IwAR1zff4SNu49qZZFj35lUMS7iPxGUBWZJPaVCfkYqZxCxm1KlS58nFcR1GA
  7. Despite enduring 3 months of persecutions, threats, church seizures, and promises of material goods, the clergy of the Chernivtsi-Bukovina Diocese of the canonical Church are remaining faithful to Christ in His Church, under the primatial rule of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists. According to the diocesan press service, only 2 priests have defected to the schismatic church, with 447 priests remaining faithful to the Church and the oath they gave at their ordinations. Thus, they have not abandoned the flocks entrusted to them by God. “In recent months we have seen personal threats, the seizure of churches, cut locks, buckets of slop poured out by the ‘independent’ media, the temptation of honors from state officials, promises of material benefits from the creators of the new faith… But what’s it all for if having crossed over the threshold, you can only fall down dead?” write the clergy of the diocese. In January, the clergy of the Gertsa Deanery of the Chernivtsi-Bukovina Diocese appealed to local authorities with an open letter, calling for an end to the persecution of the clergy of the canonical Church. “We will confess the faith that Christ has left us,” the statement read. “We remain faithful to the Lord God, our canonical UOC in the person of his Beatitude Onuphry Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine and we will serve, above all, God, the true Orthodox faith and the Ukrainian people, and we will be in a prayerful connection with the entire canonical Orthodox world.” In this latest report, the clergy call on all to pray for the faithful pastors of the Church, that the Lord would grant them strength to worthily withstand the present trials. The Bukovina region is home to more than 100 Romanian-language parishes, which has made it somewhat of a disputed area. In its latest statement on the Ukrainian crisis, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Patriarchate declared that it would take the fate of those parishes into special consideration and would seek a guarantee from both ecclesiastical and state authorities that the Romanian language and culture there would be protected and that a Romanian vicariate would be established to facilitate their connection with their Romanian homeland. “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, the head of the schismatic church, then declared that they were ready to meet the Romanian Synod’s conditions and open a vicariate, and later that they are preparing a delegation to send to the Romanian Church. The schismatics expect the Romanian Church to be among the first to recognize them, though the Romanian Synod called on Moscow and Constantinople to work out the issue jointly. http://orthochristian.com/120135.html?fbclid=IwAR0WGDPDBb3xE_9k_LCr9AGKIS8lCwRfLwLUB59wZAhdPCxC6D76JxbkfaU
  8. The Orthodox Churches have no right to speak on the matter of the Ukrainian crisis other than to affirm the decisions and actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, according to Patriarch Bartholomew’s reply to the Albanian Church that was recently published in Greek and subsequently in Russian. In December, Pat. Bartholomew wrote to the primates of the Orthodox Churches throughout the world, calling on them to recognize the results of December 15’s “unification council” that created a new ecclesiastical structure in Ukraine. On January 14, the Albanian Church responded that while it cannot accept the Russian Church’s decision to break communion with Constantinople, it also has serious issues with Constantinople’s decision to accept the hierarchs and clergy o the Ukrainian schismatic groups whose ordinations are devoid of grace and the action of Holy Spirit. They also lament that the creation of a new “autocephalous” church did nothing to create unity in Ukraine, but conversely, has only deepened the divisions there and threatens a schism in the entire Orthodox world. As the Albanian Church’ statement was published in full, the Patriarchate of Constantinople also published its response to the Albanian Church in full. In the reply, Pat. Bartholomew laments that the “Mother Church and the Patriarch himself” are being “slandered” by those who benefit from misinterpreting Constantinople’s actions. This echoes statements he made in early January, that he would not change course on the Ukrainian issue no matter what the Local Churches say, as they need to learn to respect Constantinople more: “We pray that the sister Churches which unjustly oppose the decisions and initiatives of the first throne of the Constantinople Church would finally begin to think logically and fairly, with great respect and gratitude to the Church of our Ecumenical Patriarchate.” ‘Therefore,” the Patriarch writes to the Albanian Synod, “it is up to you to realize the truths that have been spoken, not to ratify them.” This echoes the Patriarch’s statement from October that, in the end, the Russian Church will have no choice but to obey its decisions. For Constantinople, it is a matter of having enough respect for the Patriarchate of Constantinople to simply accept whatever decisions and actions it makes, while the Synods, primates, and hierarchs from the various Local Churches have shown that they believe that these actions and decisions should be evaluated as to whether they are true to Orthodox ecclesiology and canon law. There seems to be contradictory statements and reasonings coming from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. During the recent town hall meeting put on by the Archons of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Gaul took care to emphasize the supposed conciliarity of the Patriarchate’s actions, referring to the visits to each Local Church by a Constantinople delegation to discuss the matter. Here the Patriarch, however, openly states that conciliarity is unnecessary when Constantinople has already made a decision. As is typical for his statements on this matter, Pat. Bartholomew also states that the Patriarchate acts only out of love and the desire for good order, not out of self-interest or any other motive, including political. However, there have been voices throughout the Orthodox Church recognizing the opposite in the Patriarchate’s actions. For example, His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro of the Serbian Church said of Pat. Bartholomew in December that “His love of power has led to great sorrow in Ukraine, to discord that is catastrophic for the future not only of Ukraine and all the Slavic peoples, but at the same time for all of Orthodoxy.” Moreover, the recent news that Constantinople is in fact receiving a number of buildings, premises, and other properties in exchange for the tomos of autocephaly invalidates the claim that the Patriarchate did not act out of any self-interest. Pat. Bartholomew also repeats his Patriarchate’s assertion that the canons of the Church grant universal jurisdiction to Constantinople, to hear appeals and intervene in situations in any Church’s territory—an assertion that has been heard more and more frequently in the context of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. For example, in his letter to Alexander Drabinko, one of the two bishops who defected from the canonical Church, in which Pat. Bartholomew received him into his jurisdiction (without a canonical release from the Ukrainian Church) on the eve of the “unification council,” he wrote that Constantinople “indisputably has the responsibility to judge ecclesiastical matters everywhere and to give them a final conclusion.” The same assertion was also made in the tomos granted to the Ukrainian schismatic church. However, St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, the Church’s foremost canonist, writes that “the Bishop of Constantinople has no authority to officiate in the dioceses and parishes of other Patriarchs, nor has he been given by this Canon [Canon 9 of Constantinople—O.C.] to grant a decision in reference to an appeal on the part of the whole Church.” Further, Pat. Bartholomew notes that the newest autocephalies were granted by Constantinople, but degrades the independent statutes of these Churches at the same time. “The newest and so-called ‘autocephalies,’” he terms them, reflecting Constantinople’s conviction that the autocephaly of any Church except for the four ancient Patriarchates and the Church of Cyprus can, in fact, be revoked by Constantinople, as they were never explicitly confirmed by an Ecumenical Council. However, their autocephalous status was confirmed by the organizational makeup of the Crete Council of 2016, which Constantinople considers to be binding on all Orthodox Churches. Moreover, it should be noted that most of these autocephalous were granted to Churches that were formerly precisely under the jurisdiction of Constantinople, such as the Russian Church, whereas Ukraine is not under Constantinople’s jurisdiction and thus its intervention there is non-canonical. And despite recent examples, the Church of Cyprus received its autocephaly from an Ecumenical Council, and the Church of Georgia initially from the Church of Antioch. Thus there is ancient precedent for autocephaly begin granted not by Constantinople. And regarding the newer examples, they were not always without controversy. Constantinople granted the Polish Church its autocephaly at a time when its Mother Church in Russia was weak, and this caused no little stir. The Polish Church later sought autocephaly from the Russian Church. The autocephaly granted to the Georgian Church in the 1990s was actually a recognition of what had already been, since the Georgian Church declared its own autocephaly in 1917, which was recognized by the Russian Church a few decades later. And the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia received its autocephaly first from the Russian Church, though Constantinople issued a new tomos of autocephaly later when the Czech-Slovak Church sought to regularize its relations with Constantinople (though without actually seeking a new tomos). Also regarding the canonical tradition, Pat. Bartholomew writes that he included with his letter a study on the reality of ordinations celebrated by schismatic or deposed bishops, which would mean by extension that Constantinople recognizes the hierarchs and clergy of the various Old Calendarist groups as true clergy. “However,” the Union of Orthodox Journalists writes, “in the very document, at the very beginning, Metropolitan Basil of Smyrna recognizes that on the basis of the sacred canons of the Church, it is impossible to draw a conclusion about the effectiveness of such schismatic ‘ordinations.’” Pat. Bartholomew also offers several historical examples of schismatic ordinations being accepted by the Church: the Meletian schism in the early Church, the case of the Bulgarian Church from 1872 to 1945, and the reunion of ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate. However, none of these situations are analogous, as none of them involves one Patriarchate interfering in the life of another to cancel legitimate excommunications and anathematizations and create an entirely new structure within another Church’s territory. The case of ROCOR is especially helpful in that we see a Church body, which was never fully out of communion with the Church, returning precisely to the body from which it had separated. In the case of the Bulgarian Church, it was not excommunicated by every Local Church—concelebrations continued with other Local Churches and the Romanian Church provided holy Chrism to it for many years—and in 1945 was received back into communion with other Local Churches—it was not a case of a sect of schismatics within one Local Church being restored under the authority of another Local Church altogether. http://orthochristian.com/119888.html?fbclid=IwAR3x-cHBJEfQ_bg-nEcg1tw1idOleTjDoXNSyWArVM2auoSUCK4RSguncNc
  9. Gnezdichno, Ukraine, March 5, 2019 Video has appeared online showing a “priest” of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and other activists of the schismatic church and the nationalist terrorist group Right Sector beating parishioners, including women, of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, reports the site of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The video clearly shows “Father” Ivan Lesik, known for political racketeering, pushing and hitting women parishioners of the canonical Holy Transfiguration Church in the village of Gnezdichno in the Ternopil Province, and the same violence being used by the other schismatics and the Right Sector nationalists. The video also shows police standing idly by, not intervening. Despite the multitude of such cases, many of which have been caught on video, the hierarchy of the schismatic church continue to insist that no parishes are every forcefully converted. The press service of the Ukrainian Church stressed that the incident shows how unprotected believers of the canonical Church experience the gross violation of their rights and freedoms. Supporters of the schismatic church held a village meeting on January 13 at which part of the attendees to move into the schismatic church, though the parish community resolved to remain in the canonical Church. At that time, the parties managed to reach an agreement on peaceful co-existence. However, the schismatics returned and started a fight outside the church in early February, injuring the rector Fr. Stephan Balan at that time. The parishioners showed up to protect their church, though the police took the side of the provocateurs. Fr. Stephan warned at that time that they were likely planning to return and finally seize the church, which they did on Sunday. Though the church was to be sealed, with the communities alternating services on the street, they “for the third time broke their own conditions, opened the sealed church, and started celebrating the ‘Liturgy.’ When our faithful came to the church at the end of the service and asked to be given the opportunity to worship in the church, they were sharply refused,” Fr. Stephan explained. Negotiations continued for a while, while 15-20 Right Sector thugs blocked the entrance to the church. After some shouts and shoving, the supporters of the OCU, headed by the pseudo-priest Lesik, began to beat and throw the faithful of the UOC out of the church onto street, under shouts of “There will be no Muscovites here.” In a separate incident in the Ternopil Province, 15 schismatics surrounded the home of Fr. Yaroslav in the village of Trebukhovtsi, demanding that he and his family leave. They say the house also belongs to the church that was seized on February 28, reports the Ukrainian site Vesti. The schismatics have already removed Fr. Yaroslav’s belongings and plan to build a Sunday School in his house. Meanwhile, the priest and his family will have to move to Ternopil, an hour away from his parishioners. http://orthochristian.com/119723.html?fbclid=IwAR1MiMbF6cIE0zFLjNOEfmneNOUmMC13Hkx3KpjW6SXJOIctb6kTYgDn6hc
  10. Celebrations in honor of the 180th anniversary of the Polotsk Council that reunited Belarusian and Lithuanian Uniates with the Orthodox Church in 1839 were held on Sunday in the ancient town of Polotsk. The festive celebrations began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in St. Sophia’s Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in Belarus. The Divine service was headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Zaslav, the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, with the concelebration of several other hierarchs and a number of clergy, reports sobor.by. St. Sophia’s Cathedral, rebuilt after a devastating war in the 18th century on the foundations of an 11th-century Byzantine cathedral, witnessed the fateful decision of the Uniate hierarchs and clergy to return to the bosom of the Orthodox Church, the main initiator of which was the Uniate bishop (later Orthodox Metropolitan of Lithuania and Vilna) Joseph (Semashko). The Belarusian Church has discussed the possibility of canonizing this great reunifier, and 2018 was declared the year of Met. Joseph in the Belarusian Exarchate. As Met. Pavel noted during the service, 180 years ago, Met. Joseph gathered bishop and priests and, with God’s help, abolished the 1596 Union of Brest that saw a number of Orthodox bishops departing from the Church and placing themselves under the authority of the Pope, thus creating the Unia. Two years before the council, Met. Joseph initiated the collecting of signatures from Uniate clergy who desired to return to Orthodoxy. Only 2% of the Belarusian and Lithuanian Uniate clergy opposed, and the council in the Cathedral of St. Sophia opened on the Sunday of Orthodoxy in 1839. As a result of the council, more than 1,600 parishes, with more than 1.6 million parishioners were reunited to holy Orthodoxy, who are the ancestors of modern Central and Western Belarus. The Polotsk Council put an end to difficult times of hostility and hatred, Met. Pavel said. His Eminence Archbishop Theodosy of Polotsk and Glubokoe highlighted that through Met. Joseph’s efforts, the ancient Orthodox Diocese of Polotsk was able to return to its ancient and unique spiritual, ecclesiastical, social, political, scientific, and educational sources and fruits. “We continue to live in the traditions that were originally laid in our Church, that were at the origins of our state and nation. And now we enjoy their fruits by the labors of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk, and Joseph (Semashko), who was able to renew and revive all of it,” Abp. Theodosius said. During the celebrations, it was announced that an international forum decided to the 180th anniversary of the council will be held in October. In September 2016, Polish Orthodox believers also celebrated the 90th anniversary of the return of the people of Lemkos to the Orthodox Church from Uniatism. http://orthochristian.com/119602.html?fbclid=IwAR3tW60dHcYUHZFRKCsLz5lXfTUi7VRURM_Vl0W1i7VHaQijRHJnCo0NLGU
  11. According to an order from Ukrainian Minister of Culture Evgeny Nischuk, the Uniates will be allowed to serve the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of St. Sophia, one of the most ancient Orthodox churches in the city, on the feast of the Annunciation on March 25/April 7. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics Svyatoslav Shevchuk announced the upcoming service during a service on February 17. As has been stated before, the common goal of the schismatic church and the Uniates is to create a single Kiev Patriarchate that will be recognized by both Rome and Constantinople. And on January 17, Shevchuk stressed his belief that no one church can lay claim to St. Sophia’s, but that it is “a meeting place for all descendants of the St. Sophia Church of Kiev.” The church currently belongs to the Ukrainian government. However, not everyone is happy with these plans. Philaret Denisenko, the “Patriarch” of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) and “Honorary Patriarch” of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” the ideological leader of the Ukrainian schismatic-nationalist movement, is concerned about how Ukrainian Orthodox will react, and, resorting to his typical Russophobia, about the possibility of provocations from the Kremlin. In an address to Shevchuk published on the KP website, Denisenko asked him not to serve in St. Sophia’s because “it’s like if one of the Orthodox primates celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Holy Apostle Peter in Rome.” The Ministry of Culture seems to have waivered in its decision following the statement by the ideological schismatic leader. In his message, Philaret calls the Uniate plans to celebrate Annunciation in the Orthodox cathedral “unusual,” because, he says, the Ukrainian Uniates have never served there, and he recalled that the enthronement of “Metropolitan” Epiphany Dumenko, the primate of the schismatic church, was recently held there. Uniates contend, however, that St. Sophia’s was transferred to them for a time beginning in 1596. According to Orthodox ecclesiology and canons, it is forbidden for non-Orthodox to serve at an Orthodox altar, though Denisenko focuses only the possibility of negative reactions. He stresses that if the Uniates serve there, “it will cause resistance from Orthodox Ukrainians… At a time when there is a war for the independence and integrity of Ukraine in the eastern part of our country, we are called to testify and maintain peace and unity in society.” Moreover, the “Patriarch” fears, as he often does, how the Kremlin will respond: “There is a danger that this situation can be used by Russia to carry out provocations to harm the Ukrainian people.” Thus, Philaret urges Shevchuk to give up the idea of serving in St. Sophia’s and expresses hope that the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” and the Uniates will continue to develop good relations. Interestingly, following the publication of Denisenko’s letter, the Ministry of Culture posted a message on Saturday that the Uniates were not allowed to serve in St. Sophia’s, as that would harm the great UNESCO monument, though the message was soon removed, reports the Ukrainian site Strana, with a screenshot of the removed message. Many Ukrainian leaders, including the Minister of Culture himself, and the Parliament Speaker Andrei Paruby, are Uniates. Yesterday, the Information Department of the Uniate church reported that they respect the opinions of their “Orthodox brothers,” and thus a meeting between Shevchuk and Dumenko will be held to resolve the issue. http://orthochristian.com/119564.html?fbclid=IwAR0FaVLey2T8b86_8yocmgt2NkSMgcwQxl-GkyM6fwgsKA7olXZyTeyESow
  12. Two matushkas of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church were injured on Friday when the Church of St. Nicholas in the village of Zhidichin in the Volyn Province was forcibly seized by radicals from the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP). As reported by Fr. Roman Geleta, his matushka was injured when a rock hit her just below the eye, and his mother, also a matushka at the parish, was hit in the forehead. Both priests’ wives were taken away from the scene to be examined, reports the press service of the Volyn Diocese. According to Fr. Roman, the faithful of the parish gathered at their church of their own accord to try to prevent the seizure, though the schismatics were able to break through the crowd and cut the locks on the door. The group of raiders included both locals and people brought in from outside. The entrance to the church territory was blocked by a car. At the beginning of the clash, the abbot of a KP monastery in Lutsk arrived and led an akathist with the gathered schismatics. Students of the KP’s Volyn Academy were among those gathered near the church. Before the seizure, the group demanded the keys to the church from the rector, Fr. Vladimir Geleta, but he refused. They then cut the locks to the church and went inside to “take inventory.” They also lite a fire in the church yard and began to “protect” the church. It is unknown if any of the personal belongings of the parish clergy have been taken since no one from the canonical community has been allowed inside the church. Leaflets with schismatic propaganda have been distributed in the village sine the beginning of the month, and Fr. Roman even received a “decree” from Mikhail Zinkevich, a hierarch of the KP, about the local deanery’s acceptance into the KP. Zinkevich even appointed a new rector to replace Fr. Roman’s father, Fr. Vladimir, who has served in the church for 30 years. However, the priests and community of the Church of St. Nicholas have confirmed their intention to remain faithful to the canonical Church several times, in particular on February 10, when a legal parish meeting was held and the faithful expressed their loyalty to the canonical Church and its primate His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. The meeting’s results were recorded in the parish protocols. Fr. Vladimir also had to defend his parish from schismatics in the 1990s. KP representatives even kidnapped his then-3-year old son—Fr. Roman—for several hours to try to convince him to join their schism. http://orthochristian.com/119559.html?fbclid=IwAR29fFthQWZ_sBdsk6jqzO-axSV5Dxx6Daet8p7usaLRfC3UM7u7MKnqELk
  13. His Grace Bishop John of Glavinitsa of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church reposed in the Lord this morning in a Sofia hospital after a brief battle with cancer, reports Dobrotoliubie. Bp. John served as Vicar Bishop to His Eminence Metropolitan Kiril of Varna and Veliki Preslav and in recent years carried out his ministry at the world-famous St. John of Rila Monastery. He will be remembered as a hierarch who loved the service of God and the liturgical services. His Grace was born Stoyan Kostadinov Stoykov on November 29, 1949 in Sofia. He received his secondary education at the St. John of Rila Sofia Seminary, and on January 11, 1969, he took his monastic vows in the Bachkovo Monastery, and was ordained as a hierodeacon later that year. He was ordained as a hieromonk in 1971, and raised to the rank of archimandrite in 1976. n 1976, he graduated from the St. Clement of Ohrid Theological Academy in Sofia. He served as a priest in the Metropolis of Vidin, as the Deputy Rector of the Sofia Theological Seminary, and as the head of the Synodal Liturgical Department before becoming a bishop. He was consecrated as the Bishop of Glavinitsa on November 30, 2010, serving as a vicar to the Metropolitan of Varna. May his memory be eternal! http://orthochristian.com/119524.html?fbclid=IwAR2HffDPJ3aEpMVHPcsPiX8K9hj_VjinNZ1NjMsXOFgPn_BMvmG6DgS4KWQ
  14. The Archdiocese of the Russian Churches in Western Europe, officially the Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe, reportedly intends to ask to be accepted into the Russian Orthodox Church. The Archdiocese had been a part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople for decades, though it was suddenly abolished without warning by the Holy Synod of the Constantinople on November 27. The Patriarchate then officially announced that it had revoked the 1999 tomos that gave the care of the Archdiocese to its own Archbishop-Exarch and that the Russian parishes were to be integrated into the dioceses of the Patriarchate of Constantinople already present in their countries. The Archdiocese then announced that it would hold a clergy meeting on December 15 that would set a date for a General Assembly that would formulate a response to Constantinople. And today, a Russian translation of a letter sent from the Archdiocesan hierarch Archbishop John (Renneteau) of Chariopoulis to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, received by the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations (DECR), has been published on Credo Press, revealing that the Archdiocese intends to petition for canonical recognition by the Russian Orthodox Church. The letter reads: Your Holiness! After my meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion on November 30, 2018, I am allowing myself, as Archbishop, to begin a correspondence with you regarding the Archdiocese of the Russian Churches in Western Europe's new situation. My main pastoral concern is to preserve the unity, integrity, and specificity of this Archdiocese, which played an important role in preserving the theological, liturgical, and ecclesiological spiritual tradition of the Russian Church in Western Europe in a difficult historical period. We are planning to ask you for canonical recognition of the aforementioned Archdiocese, which would ensure the continuity of the inheritance and mission that is turning 100 (in 2024), and which will also allow many to enter the path of reconciliation after so many years of mutual distrust. To this end, we would like you to consider it possible to confirm to us the assurance of the legal and ecclesiastical continuity of our structure, regulated by its statutes, in accordance with the provisions of the Act of July 1, 1901 and the Act of December 9, 1905, and also the decree of May 6, 1906, in accordance with the laws of the French Republic on relations between the state and churches. Moreover, our statutes directly refer to the resolutions of the Moscow Council of 1917-1918. It is this inheritance that we would like to preserve, because it allowed for the preservation of an open Church life including the participation of the laity in the life of the community. Asking this, Your Holiness, we do not want to enter into any competition with your dioceses in Western Europe, but into cooperation with respect for our own historical path. It could be fruitful and allow us to join the Synod or Metropolia of the Russian Church in Western Europe, allowing for the better integration of all our parishes of various languages in various countries, while maintaining the integrity of this Archdiocese in the universal mission of the Orthodox Church. Requesting this, Your Holiness, I understand that we will have to deepen this return together, addressing the fundamental principles of our Archdiocese, which is within the Mother Church from which it is transferring. Being confident in your positive and pastoral attitude towards our request, I wish you a good feast of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos and we entreat your holy prayers for us all, and your blessing. Archbishop John of Chariopoulis Paris, December 7, 2018 http://orthochristian.com/117864.html?fbclid=IwAR2kAsK7LKUi-unGjzcFaNSAQDuzg_BbU17PdwdS5N35gkAdzwPv0IH-bQ4
  15. The Patriarchate of Constantinople has declared that the Russian Church of the Life-Giving Trinity in Pyongyang, North Korea to it, as was stated in the calendar published by the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the occasion of the visit of Patriarch Bartholomew to Seoul, South Korea. The church is the first and only Orthodox parish in North Korea, and has nothing do with the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Russian Embassy in North Korea wrote on its Facebook page yesterday. “The question is, what relation does Patriarch Bartholomew have with our church? Why does he want it? To gratify his ambitions? To turn the fruits of the ministry of the Russian missionaries into politicking, parasitic for the faith? We will not allow him to cause chaos, as he has managed to do in Ukraine, here in DPRK,” the message reads. The decision to build the church was personally made by former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on August 22, 2002, as a sign of Russian-Korean friendship, after he visited the Church of St. Innocent of Irkutsk in Khabarovsk, Russia, according to the site of the Russian Embassy in North Korea. The foundation stone for the church was laid on June 24, 2003, and four North Korean students entered the Moscow Seminary the same year, two of them being ordained as deacons in 2005. The parish community of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity was officially established by the Russian Holy Synod in July 2006, and the church was consecrated on August 13, 2006, with the two deacons being ordained as priests. The parish is part of the Vladivostok Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, Constantinple has always considered the church to be its own, under the idea that that entire Korean Peninsula is its own canonical territory. “When the parish was finally prepared, the then head of the Russian Orthodox Department for External Church Relations and now Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, with the support of the Russian Embassy in North Korea, went into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and uncanonically consecrated the parish,” Metropolitan Ambrosios of the Korean Metropolis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate said in an interview last summer. In its post entitled “UNSEEMLY AMBITIONS,” the embassy reports: “We were very surprised that in far-away Istanbul, they seriously consider the Pyongyang Holy Trinity Church to be their own. In any case, this follows from the calendar published by the Korean Metropolis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the occasion of Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit to Seoul.” Patriarch Bartholomew is visiting South Korea from December 3 to 8. His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, also just visited China and both Koreas in late November. Further, the embassy notes that such ambitions from Constantinople have been rebuffed several times by North Korea. “Just recently, Patriarch Bartholomew was given the cold shoulder when he again asked to be received in Pyongyang. More than once, and more than twice the Orthodox Committee of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has explained its position to the Turkish subjects: The Holy Trinity Church was erected as a symbol of Korean-Russian friendship by decision of the former leader of the DPRK Kim Jong Il,” the embassy’s message reads, adding that the church has been a place of prayer for many years for diplomats of the Russian Embassy and others. “The Ecumenical Patriarch, which was brought to Korea on the bayonets of Greek soldiers in 1950, cannot, by definition, have any relation to this project,” the message further reads. The embassy also notes that the parish was built and beautified by the embassy staff and their families, together with the Koreans, and with financial support from Vladivostok. The icons and bells are Russian, the clergy were trained and ordained by the Russian Church, and the altar is blessed with the presence of relics of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church. In his interview, Met. Ambrosios also states that Metropolitan Sotirios, the previous ruling hierarch for Constantinople, had sent large containers with materials for the church three times, and that he had even sent and traveled with a crane to place the dome on top the church. He also notes that Met. Sotirios was invited by the parish to visit and serve several times, with their gratitude for his help in building the church. The parish’s permanent parishioners are all embassy staff and their families. http://orthochristian.com/117710.html?fbclid=IwAR1_hr-yS3PjoJpTeqt4F_kuzj0EuMMRAAhk5xE-YCc-h-_BTchGZCKe-lY
  16. The Church also calls for a pan-Orthodox gathering to address the Ukrainian issue. Warsaw, November 16, 2018 The official site of the Polish Orthodox Church has published its Council of Bishops’ communiqué from its Wednesday session, confirming earlier reports that they refused to recognize Constantinople’s rehabilitation of the two groups of Ukrainian schismatics. “The Holy Bishops’ Council forbids the priests of the Polish Orthodox Church from having liturgical and prayerful contact with the ‘clergy’ of the so-called Kiev Patriarchate and the so-called ‘Autocephalous Orthodox Church,’ which have committed much evil in the past,” the statement reads. According to the Polish hierarchs, persons deprived of episcopal and clerical ordination cannot be leaders in establishing peace in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. “Only the observance of the dogmatic and canonical norms of the Church and the preservation of the centuries-old tradition will protect Orthodoxy from severe ecclesiastical consequences on an international scale. The Polish Orthodox Church prays fervently for the unity of the holy Orthodox Church and for peace for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the message further reads. The portions of the communiqué concerning Ukraine read in full: I. The holy Council of Bishops has received disturbing news from Church life in Ukraine, which often affects the life of Orthodoxy in Poland. Considering the above, as well as the general Orthodox concern of the Orthodox Local Churches resulting from the instability of Church life in Ukraine, which has a devastating impact on the whole life of the Church in Orthodoxy in general, the holy Bishops’ Council, in the interest of the good of the holy Orthodox Church, upholds the position expressed in the Council’s resolution of May 9, 2018, No. 340, and reiterates its call to make a decision to gather all the primates of the Orthodox Churches together in the spirit of evangelical love, humility, and understanding, while maintaining dogmatic and canonical doctrine, with mutual respect leading to a peaceful solution to the issue of divided Orthodoxy on Ukrainian soil. Persons deprived of episcopal ordinations and priests cannot be leaders in introducing peace in the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Their actions cause even more confusion and scandal. Only the observance of the dogmatic and canonical norms of the Church and the preservation of the centuries-old tradition will protect Orthodoxy from severe ecclesiastical consequences on an international scale. The Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church prays fervently for the unity of the holy Orthodox Church and for peace for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church II. The Holy Bishops’ Council forbids the priests of the Polish Orthodox Church from having liturgical and prayerful contact with the ‘clergy’ of the so-called Kiev Patriarchate and the so-called ‘Autocephalous Orthodox Church,’ who have committed much evil in the past. The Council of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church also recently refused to accept the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics. In calling for dialogue between the various Orthodox Churches, the Polish Church echoes the call of not only the Russian Church, but also of the Romanian, Antiochian, Georgian, and Orthodox Church in America Holy Synods. The same call has also been made by the primates of the Serbian, Antiochian, Czech and Slovak Churches, and the Finnish Church, which is an autonomous body within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and also by a joint Antiochian-Serbian statement. Met. Sawa himself made the same call last month. http://orthochristian.com/117295.html?fbclid=IwAR1gsCinoQLTfaJ-OkbCVz_MPRMKH2mL3QDEs9CK_bNZDuiYEZbH8c8__M4
  17. Phanar recognized Metropolitan Rostislav only because of the threat of disruption of the Cretan Council in 2016 All the goings-on in Ukraine perfectly copy the schism in the Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia. Yet one can be sure – Phanar will not give any independence to anyone. Recently, the Czech Internet resource www.prazsky-spravodaj.cz published the full version of an article by the doctor of theology from Prague, Jakub Irji Jukl entitled “The Role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate during the Crisis of the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and Slovakia”. As a repeated participant in the Diocesan Assembly of the Prague eparchy, it was extremely useful and important for me to hear an opinion about the current events in the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia from the person in the leadership of Prague eparchy (member of the Diocesan Council) and, at the same time, a historian and theologian. I fully confirm the information presented in the article of Dr. Jukl and, based on its text, I want to focus on some details. The first actions of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Czech Republic in the 1920s plunged the local Orthodox community into a schism known in church history as Sabbatian. The attempt of the Constantinople Patriarchate during this period to subjugate the nascent Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia led to a division among the few clerics and laity, sowing distrust and hostility in the hearts of the people. On 2 March 1923, the Patriarchate of Constantinople issued a Tomos “On the establishment of the Orthodox Archbishopric in the Czechoslovak Republic” and ordained Sabbatius (Vrabts) as bishop, thus creating a parallel ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Obviously, the Patriarchate of Constantinople did not seek to help unite and strengthen Orthodox communities of Czechoslovakia, which critically complicated the local church revival. However, the people did not support the appointee of Constantinople, and got united around Bishop Gorazd (Pavlik), who later suffered a martyr's demise. In 1951, the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church was granted autocephaly from the Mother Church of Russia. Despite all the difficulties of the historical period, Orthodoxy in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, after being granted independent status, developed quite actively and dynamically: a seminary was opened that trained local clergy, liturgical books and general ecclesiastic magazines were published, new monasteries and parishes were established. It was not until 1998 that the Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized the autocephalous status of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, but with many reservations and requirements that would make the Local Church dependent on Constantinople. However, the implementation of the provisions of Tomos in the Statute of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia was delayed, and therefore, the Constantinople Patriarchate took specific steps to completely subjugate the Local Church through the creation of schism and subsequent “healing” on its own terms. On 19 October 2013, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France arrived in Prague and took part in the Diocesan Assembly of the Prague eparchy, convened to elect a new archbishop of Prague after retirement of Metropolitan Christopher (Pultz). In his speech, Metropolitan Emmanuel stated that the Patriarchate of Constantinople did not recognize any of the candidates for the position of archbishop of Prague, thereby effectively disrupting the voting procedure. This was the first step in the generation of the split and an attempt to subjugate the Local Church. The next step, according to the Constantinople Patriarchate, consisted in the complete seizure of administration in the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. Taking advantage of the ambitions of the aged Archbishop Simeon of Olomouc (then elected as Metropolitan Throne's Locum Tenens by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia), at his invitation in December 2013, two delegates of the Constantinople Patriarchate arrived at the meeting of the Synod of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia: “expert” in schism, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France and his colleague, Metropolitan Arseniy of Austria. Archbishop Simeon agreed to admit these two hierarchs of the Constantinople Patriarchate to the Synod also with the right to vote, hoping with their help to become the Primate of the Church. As you know, Archbishop Simeon at this meeting of the Synod tried to dismiss, under false pretexts, two bishops of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. Thus, only two bishops would remain in the Synod – Archbishop Rostislav of Presov and Archbishop Simeon, who, as Locum Tenens, had a decisive vote and authority to admit the bishops of the Constantinople Patriarchate to the Synod. Only the position of all the bishops of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia (except Archbishop Simeon) and the support of the Russian Orthodox Church did not allow the Patriarchate of Constantinople at that time to completely seize leadership in the Church. Having suffered an insulting defeat, Constantinople did not sit idle and continued its struggle to subordinate the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. The Patriarchate of Constantinople did not recognize the actions of the Local Council of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia regarding the election of His Beatitude Metropolitan Rostislav as Primate, and continued to support Archbishop Simeon as Locum Tenens. What is this all about – the desire to preserve the purity of the canons or the requirement of strict execution of the Statute of the Local Church? No, the Statute (Chapter 2, Article 2, Paragraph 3) clearly articulates the election of the Locum Tenens by the Holy Synod, which was fully performed by the Bishops of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. At the same time, Archbishop Simeon of Olomouc, being Locum Tenens, violated the Statute in Part 2, Art. 2, Para. 4, which states: "If the post of the metropolitan is vacant, the Holy Synod is obliged to organize the election of a new metropolitan within a period not exceeding 40 days." After the retirement of Metropolitan Christopher in April 2013, Archbishop Simeon did not convene a synod to prepare for the Local Council, fearing to lose power. In this sense, it was necessary to change the Locum Tenens in order to convene the Local Council and elect the Primate. The letter of the Patriarchate of Constantinople dated 26 August 2015 (about the non-recognition of His Beatitude Metropolitan Rostislav as Primate and the demand for new elections – see Dr. Jukl’s article) completely destabilized the inner life of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia and gave the schismatics a chance to seize the leadership of the Church. However, quite soon, namely on 14 January 2016, an absolutely amazing event happened – the signing of the communique on the recognition of Metropolitan Rostislav as Primate of the Church. What outstanding, on the verge of a miracle, happened in this short period? Or maybe, finally, in ancient Constantinople, they understood the details of the problems or made a really weighted decision!? The answer is extremely simple and the solution is pragmatic: in a few days, namely on 21–27January 2016, there was a run-up to the Pre-Council Conference of the Heads of the Orthodox Churches and the absence of one of the Local Churches jeopardized the preparation and convocation of the Pan-Orthodox Council. And in this case, a well-known firm position of the Russian Orthodox Church about the impossibility of convening the Council without the participation of one of the Local Churches, prompted the Constantinople Patriarchate to the forced recognition of Metropolitan Rostislav as Primate. Indicative in this case is the “canonical principle” of the Constantinople Patriarchate, its deft exploitation of the “historical tradition” and the use, if necessary, of the “salvation oikonomia”. Having conducted the Cretan Council, the Patriarchate of Constantinople did not give up its plans to seize the Local Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, changing only its tactics. Now, instead of including its bishops in the Synod, the Patriarchate of Constantinople demands a change in the Statute of the Orthodox Church, according to which the Local Church will in fact lose its autocephalous status. Again, the main lever of pressure is the threat of intensification of the split through supporting the schismatics who are waiting for revenge. Epilogue Schism has always existed as an element of church life. The devil is the father of the schism and the first schismatic of the spiritual world; Christ's disciple Judas is the first schismatic of Christianity. Ambitions and lust for power being sources of all schisms have been and will, unfortunately, remain in church life like a sin. Being in the Church does not guarantee correction, which is based only on one’s personal choice. The Church responds to those sewing schisms, feuds, splits with the words of Christ: “If he refuses to listen even to the Church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17). But the Church must be in unity and unequivocally express its attitude to schism and schismatics, not splitting in itself and not dividing schismatics into good and bad. A common and unified attitude towards any schism is a key to minimizing splits in the future. Unfortunately, at present we are witnessing the cultivation of splits as a tool of pressure and the achievement of goals by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The “elder sister” from the family of the Local Churches always had a chance to be truly an example for all the Churches – in terms of mutual aid, consolidation and unification, as well as cessation of intrigue and enmity. The deep crisis in which the Patriarchate of Constantinople fell at the beginning of the 20th century made it possible to unite all the Churches in support of the Great Church – with a view to healing its plight and integrating World Orthodoxy. However, tempted by the commotions in the Russian Orthodox Church that occurred after 1917, the Patriarchate of Constantinople chose the path of expansion as an element of survival with the subordination of "poorly lying" territories. From that moment on, the schism became the breeding ground for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, whose instrument is pseudo-healing. The history of the Church confirms there will always be career-conscious and power-hungry people in Her Body who, in order to achieve their goals, will agree to any intrigue and schism, only if they have a chance to be legalized. While the “grace” of the schismatics is centered on the “tip of the pen” of the Patriarch of Constantinople, the trend towards schism will be only expanding. Currently, one of the priority issues of the inter-Orthodox dialogue should be to exclude the possibility of maintaining a split in any form and manifestation. In each Church, there are those who are disgruntled and offended, who can easily be used to put pressure on the canonical Church through appeals to the Patriarchate of Constantinople (although the Patriarchate of Constantinople itself is not an exception ...). The problems of recent years in the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia are a vivid example of the absolute man-made split with the use of a completely specific technology. One can sincerely regret that the activities of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in recent times are not suggestive of possible peaceful life of the Holy Local Churches without the obsessive “care” of the Mother Church… In conclusion, I will express my opinion on church events in Ukraine. Everything that happens in Ukraine is an exact copy of the schism in the Orthodox Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia – there are offended men, there are ambitious careerists, and, most importantly, there is a conviction of schismatics in their legalization – the only thing that keeps the schism from falling apart. But one can be absolutely sure that the Patriarchate of Constantinople will not grant any complete independence to any church structure in the Orthodox world. If the Charter of the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, which has the autocephalous status, is subjected to change so that it will make the Church absolutely dependent, then what can one say about the supposed new “independent” church entities? P.S. On 20-21 August 2018, Arseny of Austria, Metropolitan of Constantinople Patriarchate again visited Moravia (center of schism in the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia). At the suggestion of the “vicar” of the Olomouc diocese, Isaiah Slaninka, Metropolitan Arseniy chose a place to open a metochion (mission) of the Constantinople Patriarchate in this diocese. All the actions of the leadership of the Olomouc diocese and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as far as is known, take place without the consent of the Primate of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia, His Beatitude Metropolitan Rostislav. The rationale of recent developments in the Czech Republic and Ukraine gives a firm conviction that should one of the Local Churches be subordinated to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the same fate awaits all other Churches, since a fundamental precedent is created that changes a conciliar mechanism in the relations between Orthodox Churches. The method for implementation, obviously, has already been chosen: if one feels disgruntled and offended by the local church leadership (and such ones do exist!), then the “love and protection” of the Constantinople Patriarchate is rushing to embrace you! Obviously, local schismatics want to enlist the support of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, who in turn expects to form in the Czech Republic human resources for leadership of the Church. By the way, on 1-2 September 2018, the Olomouc diocese was visited by Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko), having handed Isaiah Slaninka a gift “with a hint” – a primate tee, while Isaiah himself regularly visits the famous bay on the shores of the Bosphorus ... It is a pity that Christ did not know the canons as they are interpreted by the Patriarchate of Constantinople – maybe, in this case Judas would not have hung himself (by oikonomia) ... http://spzh.news/en/zashhita-very/57477-illyuzija-nezavisimosti-gorykij-opyt-avtokefalii-cerkvi-v-chehii-i-slovakii?fbclid=IwAR2n7snBBOIW4MxZR1NkOR_aI8pxITNu1r4dNcJyUoko2GZpub7HNbfffaQ
  18. The patriarch was added to a government-backed doxing website after referring to nationalist politicians as enemies of all Slavs. In a tit for tat move, the Ukrainian government has added the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church to its doxing website “Mirotvorets” (“Peacemaker”), labeling him an “enemy of Ukraine.” It seems Ukrainian nationalistic politicians and religious schismatics didn’t appreciate that he referred to them as enemies of all Slavic peoples, as The Duran previously reported. Mirotvorets styles itself the online presence of the Center for Research of Signs of Crimes against the National Security of Ukraine, Peace, Humanity, and the International Law. It proclaims that it provides “information for law enforcement authorities and special services about pro-Russian terrorists, separatists, mercenaries, war criminals, and murderers.” “Anyone who helps the Ukrainian schismatics is an enemy not only of the Russian Church and the Russian world, but also of all Orthodox Slavic nations and the entire Orthodox world,” His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia declared while receiving an award from the International Public Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples on May 23 at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. The patriarch was referring to President Petro Poroshenko’s recent encroachment into Church life in Ukraine, wherein he appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople to grant an independent and canonical status to a new Ukrainian Church that would be an amalgamation of the nation’s two schismatic ecclesial bodies. His appeal was sent with the backing of the Verkhovna Rada and the hierarchs of the unrecognized “Kiev Patriarchate” and “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.” The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a self-governing part of the Russian Orthodox Church, does not back the bid to legitimize the schismatics who are helping to drive violent wedges into Ukrainian society. The “peaceful” nationalists For example, as orthochristian.com reports, the self-proclaimed “Patriarch” Philaret Denisenko of the “Kiev Patriarchate,” the darling of all Ukrainian nationalists, publicly preached in November 2016 that Donbass residents affected by the ongoing conflict there are to blame for their afflictions, due to their “sin of federalization,” and deserve to die: Meanwhile, Metropolitan Vladimir of Pochaev, the abbot of the historic Pochaev Lavra, has been added to Peacemaker as an enemy of Ukraine for calling for believers to “convince not by force of arms, but by the power of words.” “Peacemaker” indeed… Whereas Patriarch Irinej of Serbia was focusing on the unity of the Orthodox faith that itself has been a central point of union between Slavic peoples for over a millennium, the Ukrainian government’s response demonstrates a focus on the Ukrainian nationalistic ideology that, in fact, divides the Ukrainian people from their Slavic brothers, and indeed, from themselves. It is ironic that the government’s site is entitled “Peacemaker,” given that Ukrainian nationalism and the politicians who tout it are often backed by violent terrorist groups such as “C-14” and “The Right Sector,” whose members aren’t afraid to preach their ideology with their fists, or worse. They often turn on their Ukrainian brothers and sisters, attacking the clergy and faithful of the canonical Church, and seizing or destroying their parishes. Governmental ties While the site declares the Mirotvorets Center to be an independent NGO, it isn’t hard to establish the many links. The site was launched in December 2014 by politician and activist George Tuka, as he announced on his Facebook page. Tuka served as the governor of the Luganks Oblast from 2015-2016, and has served as Deputy Minister for the Ukrainian Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs since April 2016. The Mirotvorets Center is led by Roman Zaitsev, a former employee of the Lugansk branch of the Security Service of Ukraine. Further, the site is curated by the Security Service of Ukraine and promoted by Anton Gerashchenko, an MP and aide to the Interior Minister, according to the International Business Times. Russophobia It is sadly typical that the Serbian patriarch would be lumped in with “pro-Russian terrorists” and deemed a danger to Ukraine’s national security for his views on Ukrainian-nationalism-fueled religion. If you’re not gung-ho about Ukrainian schismatics being legitimized overnight, just so they can be separate from the Russians they so hate, you must be under the evil sway of the evil Kremlin! The Ukrainians can’t see any other way to process the patriarch’s words. They can’t seem to fathom that his focus is on something other—on the unity of the Church and its people. Patriarch Irinej’s entry on Mirotvorets identifies him as an “Anti-Ukrainian propagandist,” and an “adversary of the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Russian-controlled (an aggressor country) Russian Orthodox Church.” He has been given the honor of an entry on the site for “Inciting international and inter-confessional strife.” Also included is his birth name, birthdate, his position as patriarch of the Serbian Church, the date of his election to the primatial throne, and the full text of his offending quote. In a sense, he is lucky—much more sensitive information has been publicized on the site about other people. Mirotvoret’s bloody history Ukrainian author Oles Buzina and former Verkhovna Rada Deputy Oleg Kalashnikov were assassinated just days after the site published their home addresses in April 2015. Site founder Tuka responded, And, as orthochristian.com reports, RT notes that it wasn’t fringe journalists who had their information exposed, but rather, Several of the journalists began receiving threats via phone and email after the site went public with their personal information. Anton Gerashchenko, an MP, aide to the Interior Minister, and high-ranking Mirotvorets supporter has called for the leaking of the personal data of Russian soldiers fighting in Syria so that ISIS could find and kill them. He has also compared modern-day Russia to Nazis and communists, praising the “patriot hackers” for exposing “a powerful propaganda machine that has an impact on par with the propaganda by [Nazi Germany’s] Goebbels or Stalin.” And it all comes full circle when we learn that, in return for demonizing anyone who stands in the way of the illegitimate legitimizing of religious schismatics, Mirotvorets has been given high praise by the likes of “Patriarch” Philaret himself. Congratulating and “blessing” the team behind the site on Counter-Intelligence Day, December 27, 2017, he bestowed a medal “For the sacrifice and love for Ukraine” upon them. It remains to be seen if, how, and when Patriarch Irinej will respond to his inclusion on the doxing website. But then again, it’s hard to imagine that it’s something worth the hierarch’s time. After all, it’s hard to take such things seriously, when you read that Steven Seagal is also considered a threat to Ukrainian national security… http://theduran.com/ukraine-calls-head-of-serbian-church-as-enemy-of-ukraine/
  19. His Eminence Metropolitan Cornelius of Tallinn, the head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, has reposed in the Lord, Sputnik reports. He was 94 years old. Met. Cornelius (Vyacheslav Vasilievich Jacobs in the world) was born on June 19, 1924 in Tallinn into the family of a Royal Army colonel. He graduated from high school in 1943 and preserved as a chanter in the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos in the Estonian capital. He was ordained as a deacon on August 19, 1945, and as a priest on February 8, 1948, being appointed as the rector of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Haapsalu. He graduated from the Leningrad Theological Seminary by correspondence in 1951. He was arrested by the Vologda Region KGB on February 27, 1957 for “anti-Soviet agitation,” and was sentenced to 10 years in political camps in Mordovia. The sentence was later reduced to 5 years, and on September 7, 1960 he was released early on parole. He returned to Estonia in November 1960 and was appointed as the rector of St. John the Baptist in Tallinn. He was appointed as the bishop of Tallinn and vicar to His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II on July 20, 1990. He was tonsured as a monk at the Pskov Caves Monastery on August 21, 1990 with the name of Cornelius. He was elevated to the rank of archimandrite on September 6 and consecrated as a bishop on September 15 at the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn. He thereby became the primate of the Estonian Orthodox Church which was simultaneously granted autonomy by the Moscow Patriarchate. He was elevated to the rank of archbishop in 1995, and to that of metropolitan on November 6, 2000. Before his death he was the oldest bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. May his memory be eternal! http://orthochristian.com/112373.html
  20. (About G. V. Martini - G. V. Martini works as a senior product manager for a software company and is a subdeacon in the Orthodox Church. He and his family attends St. Innocent Antiochian Orthodox Church in Everson, Washington) October 10, 2017 · G. V. Martini Editor’s Note: This article is part of an October 2017 series of posts on the Reformation and Protestantism written by O&H authors and guest writers marking the 500th anniversary of the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. Articles are written by Orthodox Christians and discuss not just the Reformation as a historical event but also the spiritual heritage that descended from it. December, 1524. A French wool carder named Jean Leclerc inconspicuously removes a bull of Pope Clement VII from the doors of the cathedral in Meaux. The bull promised indulgences, but Leclerc would not have it. In its place, he offered a rendering of Clement as the Antichrist. He was soon found out, sentenced to a brutal and public lashing after a short trial in Paris. And in March of 1525 he received his punishment, being thereafter exiled from his home. But this did not deter Leclerc from future trouble making. In the town of Metz, he continued his trade as a wool carder. For a while, he kept his contrary views to himself. But eventually, Jean found an opportunity to make a statement. He decided that on the occasion of the next holy procession to a shrine, he would make a definitive stand. The night before the procession was scheduled to take place, Leclerc took all of the icons and relics at the shrine and destroyed them. The next day, worshipers were obviously in shock. Leclerc was discovered and arrested for his actions, being immediately sentenced to death. On July 22, 1525, tortured alive for all to see, he reportedly spoke in a calm voice: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.” Leclerc is but one example of the radicalization of Protestant Christians in sixteenth century France. Perhaps most well-known are the Huguenots and the bloody Protestant-Catholic wars that persisted to a climactic St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572. And while torturing people to death for their religious beliefs is not something any of us would either condone or accept, the high stakes during this period of history make it clear there were passionate, and deeply held beliefs on either side. But where did this anger come from? Why were common folk in France and other parts of Europe so suddenly angry at the very sight of images and relics? Calvin and the French Influence While he was forced to leave France by 1534, humanist and student of the law John Calvin published his first edition of Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536, dedicating it to the king of France. And in 1539, the first Synod of Paris officially sought to organize the Protestant Church in France as a “Calvinist” one. Absent or not, Calvin and his theology were at the heart of the Protestant movement both in France and elsewhere in the sixteenth century. Throughout his magnum opus, Calvin writes on a number of theological topics. Divided into four books, the eleventh chapter of his first volume deals specifically with the issue of sacred images or icons. Being so influential over Christianity in France, his words carried substantial weight. And while Calvin would later condemn the violent and public acts of iconoclasm (much like Luther), this did not prevent him from holding a pointedly negative view regarding their use both within the Christian church and in the private devotions of Christians. As Orthodox Christians, we obviously hold icons to be holy and important objects. They are “windows into heaven,” as some have put it, and are a real way for us to be connected in the great communion of the Saints. They bridge the apparent divide between heaven and earth; between the heavenly eternity and the mutable present. And so, on this monumental anniversary of the Reformation, I thought it might be prudent to examine what Calvin himself had to say about icons and then consider what we as Orthodox Christians believe. Public execution and torturing those who disagree with us is not the answer—as I’m sure we can all agree—but if these matters were so serious in the sixteenth century, they are no less serious today. Theology is important, and something as seemingly innocent as the images of Saints deserves a serious examination—and a serious response—when charges of idolatry or heresy are made. All Images Are Idols? Calvin first argues from the standpoint that we are forbidden by scripture to make any depiction or pictorial representation of God (Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.11.1). Following the instructions given to Moses, we should not make “… an idol nor a likeness of anything, whatever is in the heaven above and whatever is in the earth below and whatever is in the waters under the earth.” And before these objects we must not “bow down” or “worship” (Exodus 20:4–5). This seems relatively straightforward, until one considers the implication and the actual intended message. As Orthodox Christians, we wholeheartedly agree that the invisible God, who is immaterial and uncircumscribable, cannot be depicted. Even if we wanted to, we could not accurately or faithfully represent God the Father. But who we have in the Incarnation is the “express image” (Heb. 1:3) of God the Father, the “icon of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). In Jesus Christ we see God, and in his Incarnation, God reveals himself to us. While the Father and Spirit are both formless and invisible (1 Tim. 1:17; Heb. 11:27; 1 John 4:20), the Person of the Son is revealed to us in the God-Man Jesus Christ: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (John 1:18). And so as Calvin laments a straw-man of false idols made from stone and silver (1.1.1), the Orthodox Christian need only reply that we are receiving and venerating the image of God he himself has given to us. If making an image of Jesus Christ is “superstitious” or “falsehood,” the first violation belongs to God himself. Calvin goes on to reinforce his argument by citing the example of Moses hiding in the rock (1.11.2), yet this is obviously a pre-Incarnational example of the immaterial God being hidden from our eyes. In Christ, we need no longer turn away, for God has given us a face to behold. Images and Statues Contrary to Scripture Following on his previous point, Calvin suggests that the very idea of images or forms depicting the invisible God is contrary to scripture. How dare anyone “confer God’s honor upon idols” (1.11.4)? For Calvin, scripture clearly associates superstitions with being the “works of men’s hands,” and not from God. However, every example Calvin provides from the old covenant is an example of God’s people worshiping other gods or demons, not the one, true God. As Orthodox Christians, we must also guard against superstition, and ensure that our veneration of icons and relics is pointed towards the one, true God. We must remember that our hope is in him and not any material thing. But to reject something good and holy just because it has potential for abuse would be, as Martin Luther himself once argued, to abolish the sky, food, and everyone we hold dear. Images Make Bad Teachers Next, Calvin reflects on the words of Pope Gregory the Great, who once wrote to Serenus, Bishop of Marseilles regarding an act of iconoclasm. Apparently, Christians in Marseilles were worshiping images and so the local clergy had them destroyed and removed from their churches. But Gregory rebukes Serenus and his fraternity for this act, explaining that of course they should not be worshiped (“adored”)—which is due to God alone—but are to remain in the churches so those “ignorant of letters may at least read by looking at the walls what they cannot read in books” (Letter 105). But to Calvin, images are not useful for instruction at all, especially when compared with books. Whatever can be learned from images is “futile” and “false” (1.11.5), an opinion he holds to be in line with the Prophets themselves. To this point Calvin returns in several more instances throughout the chapter (e.g. 1.11.7, 1.11.12). But is this really the case? It seems possible Calvin was especially insistent on this point because a good portion of the Roman statuary and images of Saints in his day were influenced by a more Renaissance style (1.11.7). He notes that even some of these images were inappropriate for church, due to how they were dressed or positioned. Leaving that bit aside, how should Orthodox Christians respond to this historical (and scriptural) example? Orthodox Christians do not approve the adoration or “worship” of icons, which should only be offered to the Holy Trinity. We do not worship icons as idols but rather pay them respect, as we might kiss the precious photograph of a loved one, or as an American citizen might salute the American flag. We are not worshiping the paper of a photograph or the fabric of a flag, but are rather paying respect and affection (“service” or δουλεία) to their prototype. We affirm the words of St. Gregory the Great that any abuse or superstitions related to icons and relics should be condemned. In fact, the Church did this very thing during the deliberations of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. The letter to Serenus is not an opposing, patristic voice to the proper use of icons. St. Gregory stands firmly in the same tradition as Orthodox Christians to this day. Gregory’s belief—contra Calvin—that icons could not only instruct the illiterate, but also lead men of all ages and educations to a proper contemplation of and encounter with the Divine, was a belief shared by many fathers of the Church. St. John of Damascus once wrote that “we are led by perceptible icons to the contemplation of the divine and spiritual” (PG 94:1261a). St. Gregory of Nyssa remarked that he could not see an icon of Abraham with Isaac “without tears” (PG 46:572). And finally, the Seventh Ecumenical Council reflects on Nyssa’s tears: “If to such a Doctor the picture was helpful and drew forth tears, how much more in the case of the ignorant and simple will it bring compunction and benefit?” (NPNF2 Vol. 14, p. 539). Images Reflect a Later Corruption of the Church Calvin also suggests that icons and statues were an abuse not found in the early Church. He claims that “for about five hundred years, during which religion was still flourishing, and a purer doctrine thriving, Christian churches were commonly empty of images” (1.11.13). And while he does not expand on this point to a great extent, the insinuation is commonly held by enough authorities throughout the Reformation that it warrants a brief response. By archaeology alone, we know today that images and pictorial representation were inextricably linked with the worship and piety of the earliest Christians. The catacombs of Italy, for example, make this plain for anyone to see. The relics of martyrs were routinely placed beneath Eucharistic altars, with images of Mary, Saints, and Christ with his disciples on the walls and ceilings around those partaking of the most holy of Christian mysteries. And in Syria, we have the amazing house church of Dura Europos, a place with iconography in the Baptistry and place of worship (not to mention a nearby Jewish synagogue with much of the same). There is also very little to suggest in the writings of the Church fathers that iconography, the veneration of icons and relics, or their placement in churches was any sort of later “corruption” or invention. Instead, we see a continual strain of support and respect for their proper usage, and the ultimate vindication of iconodules in the eighth century’s Second Council of Nicaea. “Childish” Arguments of the Seventh Ecumenical Council Calvin next turns his attention to the Second Council of Nicaea, held near the great city of Constantinople in the year 787. He laments that “a wicked Proserpine named Irene” was responsible for the Council dictating that images in church “should be worshiped” (1.11.14). Much like the Franks before him, Calvin is utterly impaired in his evaluation of this Ecumenical Council due to a poorly (mis-)translated Latin edition. He in fact references the text of Charlemagne in this very section. Instead of an orthodox nuance between veneration and adoration (or “worship”), he sees an assembly of bishops and priests arguing for the worship of icons as if they were God himself. Unfortunately, most of Calvin’s evaluation of this event is based on the misleading fiction of the Carolingians, who had political—not theological—reasons for wishing to overturn and ignore the conclusions of this Council. That said, it is worth pointing out that the Ecumenical Council does not promote the worship of images as God, and goes to great lengths to promote their proper and orthodox use. All scriptural arguments made in their deliberations (e.g. from Gen. 28:18, 47:10,31; Ps. 44:13; 98:5,9 LXX; Heb. 11:21) are ignored by Calvin, being merely dismissed outright as treating Scripture “childishly” and “foully” (1.11.15). And so really, since Calvin fails to present any substantial or meaningful argument outside of a false translation of the Council and ignoring the actual arguments made therein—including from scripture—there is not much more to be said on our part. I do find it ironic that a man so passionate about all theology being based upon the scriptures is so quick to avoid an interaction with them and the holy fathers of this Council. Misquoting and Misrepresenting Augustine The final area we’ll cover is Calvin’s citations of Augustine as a supporter of his aniconic position. Here again Calvin assumes that the earlier, more pure Christians would’ve obviously rejected images as impious and idolatrous. They certainly saw in images “no usefulness” (1.11.13). He then cites Augustine as an agreeable authority. Calvin writes: However, if these letters of Augustine are read in context, it becomes immediately clear that the Bishop of Hippo has in mind the false idols of other religions. For example: In other words, idols and the veneration of false gods or “demons” are of course to be rejected, because these other religions are parroting the true worship and liturgy of Christianity. They are using our forms for the worship of a false deity. And for Augustine, the offerings and prayers of our Christian liturgy—including images—are “true religion,” when done according to the traditions of the Church (and when offered to the one, true God). Later, Augustine emphasizes: Far from “the work of men’s hands,” Augustine speaks of “divine authority” in contrast to “human presumption.” Calvin’s appeals to Augustine on the subject of icons and relics is much like his appeal to the minutes of the Second Council of Nicaea: they are appeals based on both fiction and misrepresentation. Concluding Thoughts So what can Orthodox Christians take away from all of this? First, it must be noted that there is much we hold in common with our Reformation brothers and sisters. Not everything that took place during the Reformation, and especially during the Magisterial Reformation, was in vain or without justification. The Western church of that era was certainly one in need of reform and correction, and we must remember that figures such as Martin Luther were not necessarily setting out to create a new church in their own image, but rather reform the church from within. In some cases, the latter meant appeals to the worship, theology, and practices of the “Greek Christians,” as with both Luther and the later Tübingen theologians. Second, it may be possible that some of Calvin’s arguments or positions on the issue of images and relics was excessively influenced by both bad translations and the abuses of the Western church in his day. For the former, we may give him the benefit of the doubt to some degree—though this is more difficult in the case of his use of Augustine’s letters. For the latter, we likely agree to a certain extent on the impropriety of superstition and misuse when it comes to both images and relics. However, Eastern Christians are not entirely without blame in terms of abuses, as (for instance) the Patriarchate of Constantinople was known to (in the eighteenth century) offer indulgences—though this was isolated and not a widespread or accepted practice elsewhere in the Church. Finally, we must also stand firm in our own beliefs related to iconography, as this is not some optional or secondary aspect of our beliefs as Orthodox Christians. This was made plain both during the first wave of Byzantine iconoclasm at the Seventh Ecumenical Council and in the ninth century by authorities such as Theodore the Studite. For example, the Studite writes: “If anyone should say that, when the image of Christ is displayed, it is sufficient neither to honor nor to dishonor it, thus refusing it the honor of relative veneration, he is a heretic.” As Orthodox Christians, it is not enough to take a fence-sitting stance on this issue, as we believe the very doctrine of the Incarnation is at stake. And so on this we depart, willfully, from our Reformed friends (and from the counter-arguments of the Carolingian Libri Carolini). It is also worth noting that the defense of icons and their proper veneration was not entirely a Byzantine affair. No, the Church was rather united on this point, even outside the confines of the Second Council of Nicaea or the ninth century in Constantinople. For a more Western or Roman Catholic perspective, one need only reference the Councils of Rome in 727 and 731, the Council of Gentilly in 767, and the Council of the Lateran in 769. In the veneration of icons, Orthodox Christians see an importance that transcends even our best or most elaborate written arguments. In the Incarnation, God has made himself known to us. He could be seen, felt, and heard. And through his friends, our Saints and Fathers, we see what it means to act, live, and love like Christ. We are provided examples of how to mold our own lives to be patterned after him. We pay honor to them, because they have imaged Christ to us. We follow in their footsteps because they have sought to follow in the footsteps of our God and Savior. And so we chant on every Sunday of Orthodoxy a refrain that has deep meaning and significance for every Orthodox Christian—a staunch reminder that the veneration of icons is no mere secondary concern or the imaginations of human presumption:
  21. On August 31, the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church His Holiness Patriarch Kirill will celebrate the glorification of the newly-proclaimed saints the Roslavl elders Theophan and Nikita in the Dormition Cathedral in Smolensk, reports the site of the Smolensk Diocese. During the December 27, 2016 meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church a report was heard from the chairman of the Synodal Commission for the Canonization of Saints, Bishop Pankraty of Troitsk, regarding the petition received from Metropolitan Isidore of Smolensk and Roslavl about the local canonization of Schemamonks Nikita and Theophan, desert dwellers of the Roslavl Forest (Journal no. 126). The Holy Synod decided to canonize Schemamonks Nikita and Theophan, desert dwellers of the Roslavl forests, for local veneration in the Smolensk Diocese. The memory of Venerable Nikita is to be kept on March 29/April 11, the day of his departure to the Lord. The memory of Venerable Theophan—June 15/28, the day of his departure to the Lord. On the same day, Pat. Kirill will celebrate a moleben for the beginning of the academic year, after which, a memorial to the holy Prince Vladimir Monomakh will be consecrated on Cathedral Hill. The patriarch will be in his native Smolensk for the celebration of the 880th anniversary of the establishment of the Smolensk Diocese by the holy Prince Rostislav, according to Metropolitan Isidore of Smolensk. “The memorial, which His Holiness Pat. Kirill will consecrate, is timed to this event so important for our region, inasmuch as Prince Vladimir Monomakh brought the wonderworking Hodigitria Icon and installed it in the Dormition church, as the chronicles testify, and his grandson Prince Rostislav of Smolensk officially established our Smolensk Diocese,” the diocesan head stated. *** The future Schemamonk Nikita was born in Orel in 1695. When and by whom he was tonsured into monasticism is unknown. As a young man he departed from his family’s home and relocated to one and a half miles from the Beloberezhsk Hermitage (now the Bryansk Diocese), attending services at the monastery. There he remained into old age. In 1780 Schemamonk Nikita moved to a cell he built in the Roslavl forests, on the south side of “Monk’s Ditch,” near the village of Akimovka. There the elder spent no less than ten years in monastic podvigs known only to him. Then he again moved to the Beloberezshk Hermitage, but before death, in 1792, he wanted to return again to his desert. His disciple Dositheus, receiving the blessing of the Beloberezshk Hermitage, took Nikita to the Roslavl forests. There Nikita died on March 29, 1793. The body of the reposed Schemamonk Nikita was buried in the ditch near his cell. Because there was constant water in the ditch, within a few years Dositheus dug up Nikita’s coffin to move him to another place. The coffin was intact and Nikita’s body and clothes were incorrupt. They moved his body into a new coffin and, having served a Panikhida, buried him on a hill on the northern edge of the ditch. One sick monk attended the burial, suffering from a stomach sickness. Drinking some water from the coffin, he was healed from his sickness. Fifteen years after Fr. Nikita’s death his grave was again opened: as before his body remained incorrupt. From the time of his death the faithful have honored the memory of Fr. Nikita. As many as 5,000 people gather at his grave on his name’s day. The grave of the elder is revered to this day and has witnessed many instances of healing. Not far from the burial of Fr. Nikita is the grave of another ascetic—Schemamonk Theophan. Little information has been preserved about his life—it is mainly the following recollections of Archimandrite Moses, the venerable Optina elder. “Fr. Theophan, a native of Vladimir, served in the Black Sea Cossack army; before his tonsure he was called “Cossack Theodore Talunin.” At first he lived in the Sophroniev Hermitage, then he left for Moldavia, where he stayed with Elder Paisius [Velichkovksy—trans.]. Upon his death he returned to Russia and entered the brotherhood of Optina Pustyn in 1800. He labored in extreme non-acquisitiveness, in meekness of spirit, in the active virtue of fasting, prayer and prostrations with fervent zeal. < … > The Elder departed to the Lord on June 15, 1819. A few minutes before his death I asked him: ‘Is your soul calm? Don’t you fear anything in the hour of death?’ He replied: ‘I joyfully desire to be delivered from this life.’ And his end began immediately: he raised his hand to make the Sign of the Cross and gave his soul into the hands of God. He was buried in the wilderness.” The venerable Optina elder Anthony, in the arms of whom Elder Theophan died in the Roslavl forests said that he forgot to beseech his prayers before his death. On the fortieth day the reposed appeared to him in a dream and promised to pray for him. Fr. Anthony said the following about Fr. Theophan: “In life this elder had such a face shining with grace that I lacked the spirit to look him straight in the eyes, but only secretly looked at him from the side.” The grave of Schemamonk Theophan is revered by pilgrims in modern times. http://orthochristian.com/106069.html
  22. St Petersburg's governor, Georgy Poltavchenko, has announced that St Isaac's Cathedral — officially a museum — will be handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church. Russia’s TASS agency has reported that the Orthodox Church will receive the 49-year lease free of charge, citing a statement by St Petersburg’s Property Affairs Commission. Nikolay Burov, director of St Isaac’s Cathedral Museum, assures that during the transfer period, which could last up to three years, the museum will continue to take responsibility for all maintenance costs. Among the biggest changes will be the removal of a charge for entering the cathedral, which currently costs 150 — 250 rubles ($2.5 — $4.5), while paid tours will continue. “Nobody charges people for entering a church,” Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoyda stated yesterday at a press conference. The decision to transfer the cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church has been met with considerable opposition. This is largely due to fears that the organisation will be unable to adequately maintain the building — partly because of the huge expense of maintaining it, the building has always been the property of the government. St Isaac’s Cathedral is an iconic landmark and one of St Petersburg’s most popular attractions, welcoming 3.5 million tourists every year. The building, which was completed in 1858, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is the world’s fourth-largest cathedral. http://www.pravmir.com/st-isaac-s-cathedral-st-petersburg-transferred-orthodox-church/
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